Thanks to the sophisticated independent suspension systems fitted to most popular tow vehicles, most people are blissfully unaware of the hammering a caravan gets when it’s taken offroad.
Corrugations, potholes, rocks and exposed tree roots extract a harsh toll on every component, from the chassis and structure to the furniture and fittings. Screws and nuts can unwind, while cupboard doors and drawers sometimes open, spilling their contents with demoralising results.
This is not a new problem, but a growing one, with more Australians taking their caravans to faraway places.
Whereas trusty beam axles and leaf springs were good enough for cars and caravans in the past, modern caravans benefit from independent suspension systems to iron out the bumps.
AL-KO is at the forefront of this significant transition in the caravan industry, with its locally designed, tested and manufactured Enduro independent trailing arm suspension systems.
Enduro comes in two versions: Enduro Outback for caravans and camper trailers designed specifically to venture offroad regularly; and Enduro Cross Country for caravans that spend most of their travelling on sealed roads but need to access main unsealed roads when touring.
Enduro Outback ticks all the boxes for adventurous travellers. Its sturdy trailing arms employ coil springs manufactured from high quality, high stress, Australian-developed King Springs made from local X5K steel that is up to 30 per cent lighter than standard grade steel alternatives, reducing unsprung weight without any detriment to performance.
Thanks to this high level of technology, AL-KO Enduro Outback suspension system weighs only 10 to 15 per cent more than an equivalent similarly-rated single leaf spring or roller-rocker suspension system, which is very little considering the benefits it offers.
Consistent performance over sustained corrugations in high temperatures is often the Achilles’ heel of shock absorbers unless they are properly designed and matched to the weight of the vehicle. And with Enduro suspension, this critical task is entrusted to AL-KO Premium heavy-duty shock absorbers manufactured in the company’s world class facility in Spain, but specced for Australian operation.
Two shockers are usually fitted per wheel on single-axle systems such as the one we tested on the Golf Savannah 499 caravan, with available ratings of 2.5 tonnes, two tonnes, 1.6 tonnes and 1.2 tonnes, depending on the weight of the caravan or trailer, along with a drop axle option to lower the suspension by 50mm for on-road applications.
Twin shock absorbers per wheel are also available optionally on AL-KO’s non-load sharing tandem Enduro Outback systems that can be rated at up to 4.1 tonnes.
The most reassuring thing about AL-KO’s Enduro suspension is that it is truly designed and tested in Australia for the harshest local conditions. In the real world of the remote area traveller, this can mean hours of corrugations in high ambient temperatures and to replicate these conditions, AL-KO tested its Enduro Outback to destruction at Australia’s premier independent endurance testing facility, the Australian Automotive Research Centre in Anglesea, Vic.
The principal reason why it’s in your best interest to option AL-KO Enduro suspension on your next caravan or camper is that it will ensure it and its contents survive harsh road conditions better, require less maintenance than most comparable systems and achieve a better price when it comes time to sell or upgrade.
For a start, Enduro’s polyurethane bushes are lubricated in assembly and then sealed for life, so there are no nipples to grease or joins to run dry.
While Enduro’s on-bitumen performance on a caravan like the Golf Savannah offers only marginal benefits over a good leaf-spring, beam-axle system, deleting the central beam delivers greater under-body ground clearance and up to 40 per cent more wheel travel. In practice, this means that its progressive rate suspension and tuned shock absorbers can ‘swallow’ potholes more easily without transmitting the full shock to the caravan chassis or body.
More suspension travel combined with better wheel control also means that the van will track better over corrugations, rather than skip sideways.
Another important feature of AL-KO Enduro Outback is that it is adjustable for both camber and toe-in, so that wheel alignment can be checked and set at any service interval to ensure it tracks as true as new.
A final but major point in Enduro Outback’s favour is that it is fully backed by the global market leader in caravan and trailer suspension systems, with an impressive Australia-wide network of specialist dealers.
For all these reasons, AL-KO Enduro Outback is now standard equipment on the entire range of Golf Savannah offroad caravans, with most other caravan manufacturers offering it either as a buyer choice or extra-cost option over traditional leaf spring systems.
So how does Enduro Outback work in the real, rough world? On the single-axle Golf Savannah I sampled, impressively.
The real measure of a caravan’s suspension is how well it tracks behind your tow car on rough and rocky surfaces and it’s no exaggeration to report that the Golf felt like it was hard-bolted to the rear of my airbag-sprung Land-Rover Discovery on even the harshest roads we took it on.
The longer wheel travel of the coil spring suspension was really appreciated on the rain-ravaged Victorian Alpine roads we travelled, with the Golf remaining impressively steady as its wheels rose and fell to negotiate the heavily pot-holed surface. The extra ground clearance was also really appreciated when we had to negotiate some heavily rutted tracks to access several deep creek crossings.
However, it’s fair to say that just as impressive was the sure-footed feel the Golf had when negotiating many kilometres of twisting and slippery sealed roads in the High Country, with the twin shockers per wheel controlling body roll in an impressive manner. Nor could we find any on-road compromises in Enduro Outback.
In my opinion, it’s a ‘no brainer’ to specify trailing arm coil spring suspension like AL-KO Enduro Outback for your next caravan if you are planning to head offroad.
It may cost you a few extra dollars if it’s not part of the van’s spec, like it is on the Golf, but you and your van will enjoy your travels more. You will also be increasing the value of your travelling asset, which will ultimately make it more attractive to its next owner.
For more information about AL-KO Enduro Outback and AL-KO Enduro Cross Country, visit www.alkoenduro.com.au. When purchasing a new caravan make sure you ask for AL-KO Enduro Suspension.