Buying a caravan is all about making a list of priorities based on what you intend to do with it. When we were planning AL-KO’s Toughest Tow Test, that looks a little something like this: lightweight and easy to tow; offroad capable; capacity for outdoor living; and a straightforward, user-friendly interior with everything we needed and nothing we didn’t. For us, the Golf Savannah 499 was ideal.
Priced at a shade under $55K, this is a compact caravan that doesn’t mess around when it says it can hack it in the rough stuff.
1. PERFECT SIZE FOR OFFROADING
As the name suggests, the Savannah 499 is a wee thing with a body of just 4.99m (or 6.8m garage length) and 2.39m wide. It weighs 1620kg Tare with an ATM of just 2000kg, meaning it’s fair game for medium-sized tow vehicles with 2.5 tonne or less towing capacity. The model we dragged through the High Country was a pop-top, but it’s also available as a hardtop if that’s your preference. Again, this will come down to personal circumstance and intended usage; the pop-top saves weight, money and height, the latter making it easier to garage and more nimble on tight, overgrown bush tracks. And we found plenty of those out here! The benefit of the hardtop is increased insulation, a quicker set up at camp and more interior overhead storage.
2. SUSPENSION AND HITCH
The Savannah 499 has insulated sandwich panel walls with an internal laminated veneer frame, a ply reinforced outer skin and smooth aluminium cladding atop a hot-dipped 150x50mm galvanised chassis with a separate 150x50mm A-frame.
All of that rides on the more-than-capable AL-KO Enduro Outback independent trailing arm suspension, the wind beneath the wings of this mighty little adventurer. Add to the mix heavy-duty electric brakes and AL-KO’s new Off-Road Ball Coupling which proved to have exceptional articulation and you’ve got a van that’s ready to shake, rattle and roll over lumps, bumps and everything in between.
The beauty of the AL-KO hitch is that it combines offroad-ready engineering with a standard 50mm ball coupling, so there’s no need to shift receiving ends when you want to tow your boat or a conventional trailer. And boy, does it shine offroad.
3. OFFROAD PERFORMANCE
There were several times on the Toughest Tow Test when the group held its collective breath as the vans approached what can only be described as gnarly terrain. From brutally steep climbs paired with perilously tight switchbacks on loose gravel to bumpy creek crossings with giant, humorously placed rocks and nasty departure angles back up to the track, we asked a lot of these vans. The Golf was more capable than most in these conditions – its amiable dimensions, excellent rear departure angle and light weight were an unstoppable team, especially when paired with the aforementioned AL-KO running gear.
We flicked the Jeep into low range and sniffed out the best path to simultaneously demonstrate the extent of the van’s abilities and also get out alive. It’s a fine balance, you see. I’m pleased to report we nailed it, and we have the video footage to prove it.
It’s unlikely any caravanner with their full faculties would push the van further than we did on this trip, so I reckon it’s safe to say if it’s offroading you plan to do, this van is worth your close consideration.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Free-spirited, teller of ripper yarns, and with an incredible eye for detail, Adventures Field Editor Emma Ryan is widely travelled and loves a challenge. As the field editor of Camper Trailer Australia, Emma is also well versed in camper trailers and the challenges of the bush and outback.