When car fanatics get revved up with excitement, it's safe to say it’s rarely about a van. However, this van is no ordinary box on four wheels. We are talking about the Trakka Jabiru, a next generation motorhome 12 years in the making.
Based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, the Jabiru is the latest offering from Trakka, a specialist motorhome conversion business. Combining luxury and robust functionality, it is an exciting time for the motorhome industry.
There are ample DIY experts out there who will claim buying a stock van and remodelling it yourself is cheaper and just as good. They aren’t entirely wrong, but there are a plethora of points to consider which can see the costs stack up pretty quickly. Engineering and roadworthiness approvals depend on one’s DIY proficiency. And it's a safe bet to say many DIY van conversions don’t meet basic safety requirements.
Trakka is the frontrunner in the conversion of vans to superior motorhomes in Australia. All building works are engineered to not impact the performance of the vehicle and, most importantly, not jeopardise the existing onboard safety features.
On the Road
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is a typical workhorse van. Highly reliable and robust, the second-generation Sprinter - introduced in 2006 - was well overdue for an update. Those updates have come with the third-gen Sprinter which made its public debut in 2019. Some tried and true features remain the same, but others have received a much-needed revamp. Available in both a two- and four-seat configurations, we’re putting the 2S (two-seater) Trakka Jabiru to the test here.
The Trakka features the same 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel under the bonnet as found in the previous generation, still producing 140kW and 440Nm. The transmission is now a seven-speed auto (over the outgoing model's five-speed) sending drive to all four wheels. It’s a smooth and steady experience too, yet with enough oomph to glide into your next destination, the seven-speed auto adept at finding the right gear for almost any situation.
Cruising into a comfortable note on the freeway, the 2S has all the torque required to get its considerable load up to coasting speed. Sadly, despite the presence of AWD, we were unable to take the Jabiru off-road. That said, the only real off-roading upgrade at the time of our test on the four-tonne GVM platform was an off-road tyre and wheel package. This was previously impossible in the dual rear-wheel model.
But, in an exciting development from Trakka, more off-roading kit is currently being designed for this new platform. Engine, transmission, and rear shock guards are on their way as are recovery points, a rear diff slider and long-range fuel tank to name just a few of the additional off-road friendly items. We can’t wait to take one off the beaten track when it lobs later this year
Inside, the driving position and visibility are both excellent. Cruise control makes light work of driving, as you clock up the long kilometres on the open road. The steering is both firm and responsive. The Trakka Jabiru really is a breeze to drive, both on the freeway or in tight suburban streets. As you'd expect though, of a vehicle over seven metres long, the turning circle isn't its greatest strength.
The 360-degree parking pack fitted to the Jabiru was difficult to navigate. The enlarged image beaming through the Mercedes-Benz MBUX infotainment unit was challenging to compute when attempting to park the vehicle. I ended up parking the old-fashioned way and hopped out of the car to verify my handiwork. The infotainment system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, but I am not sure if it was my cable (which worked in my car) or the system that gave me only an intermittent connection.
The big changes with this new-gen Jabiru are evident across the interior, Trakka significantly upping the ante when it comes to comfort, luxury and safety technology. The internal colour scheme is tasteful; soft greys, whites and blacks dominate the joinery and complement the ever-present aluminium shutter doors on the storage compartments. There are no gaudy colours or finishes here. The LED strip lighting is slightly overdone, with a feature on the external wall of the bathroom. Thankfully, this feature, as well as all LED lighting, is dimmable.
Built for long journeys, the addition of MB's Attention Assist is an excellent safety feature. This feature alerts drivers when they begin to show signs of fatigue behind the wheel. Active Brake Assist (autonomous emergency braking) has also been included in this revamp, notifying the driver when too close to vehicles in front and engaging the brake if the safety threshold is crossed. Additional features include blind-spot assist, crosswind assist and lane-keeping assist. All, we'd venture, vital systems for anyone doing big kilometres.
Our tiny window of getaway time was steadily shrinking. With my partner ready to pop at any minute with our first child, there would be no long-distance adventures, nor sneaky weekends away. Close and simple was the order of the weekend, opting for the NRMA Lakeside Holiday Park in Narrabeen, conveniently located between home and the hospital.
Possibly the best suburban camping/caravan park in New South Wales, this holiday park is a stone’s throw to the beach, wedged right in the middle of North Narrabeen, one hour north of Sydney's CBD.
The Trakka Jabiru is all about convenience and comfort. The Switch Mode bathroom incorporates a retractable toilet that sits under the vanity when not in use, leaving more space in the bathroom. There is a hot and cold shower facility located behind the driver. The combined internal diesel heater unit provides the hot water as well as ducted room heating.
When your partner is pregnant, having ample space becomes more important than ever before. On this front, the Jabiru didn't disappoint. The open-plan style of the long-wheelbase Sprinter platform allows for a large entrance adjacent to the inside/outside alfresco console. Once inside, there is a small nook behind the driver’s seat. This is where the seats would be in the four-seater version. Next is the left- or right-hand opening slimline fridge and then the toilet. Opposite, on the left, is a kitchen, with plenty of storage options above and below.
The rear of the internal space converts from single beds to a massive north/south bed, easily as comfortable as a king size bed and with just as much space. The bed is made of cushion infills. While I slept soundly, I would consider a mattress topper for a longer road trip.
The Trakka Jabiru is all about getting off the grid. The vehicle allows you to be fully self-sufficient for days and what’s better than kicking back under the electric awning enjoying a beer? The Jabiru's Alfresco Pack was clearly designed by someone who loves a weekend away from it all. The clever centre piece of this pack is an indoor/outdoor fridge (the second one in the Jabiru) and it allows you access to the fridge from outside. You can relax under the awning and grab a frosty one without leaving your chair. Nice!
The pack also adds a removable bench which attaches to the external surface of the side sliding door, complete with space for a wash tub. Roof mounted solar and a power outlet both connect to the in-car optional inverter. Coffee anyone? Finally, behind a hatch door is a magnetic shower head offering water from the 140-litre tank.
The bench top and table have been constructed out of a thin, strong and lightweight laminate material available in multiple colours. Both aesthetically appealing and robust.
All the windows and the sliding door in the test vehicle came with built in fly screens and shades. The fly screens are midge proof too. The abundant windows provide excellent airflow throughout the cabin. There was an optional air conditioning unit installed, which could be a useful luxury depending on where you plan to travel.
On a hot and sticky summer night, to make the most of the airflow and openness, leaving the large sliding door open really helped, but in doing this, the kitchen window will be your nemeses. If you leave the kitchen window open, you cannot leave the sliding door open, and if you have the sliding door closed and the kitchen window open, the automatic door is going to make a mess of your kitchen window. A sliding window instead of a pop out would fix this issue.
Opening the kitchen window is crucial when cooking on the internal diesel-powered stove. Just like an old electric cook top at home, the stove does take some getting used to with very little difference between heat settings. The optional portable induction cook top used outside seemed a more natural way to cook.
The diesel hot water is similarly difficult, or could it have been those beers I had earlier? In any case, I couldn’t quite get the hang of getting the hot water to run.
Running the entire package behind the scenes is an Enerdrive electrical power system which consists of a 200Ah lithium battery, 240V charger and DC2DC solar five stage lithium charger. You can monitor the system via an app on your phone which also provides information on water levels, battery draw and supply, plus vehicle levelling. The Alfresco pack adds an extra solar panel (total 300-watt).
While You’re Away
The crystal-clear waters of Sydney’s northern beaches were only seconds away from the NRMA Lakeside Holiday Park in Narrabeen. There are a multitude of headland walks, quality cafes and restaurants to enjoy in the area, and a local shopping centre less than a kilometre away. The park is well hidden despite being located just metres from a main road. It’s easy to forget where you are once you are tucked away inside.