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Volkswagen Transporter Trakkadu 400 AWD camper van 2018 review

Aussie company Trakka has been getting campervans and motorhomes adventure-ready since the 1970s. Trakka’s Volkswagen T6 Trakkadu range is a purpose-built line-up of pop-top campervans designed for fun and the outdoors.

Trakkadu VW models include the 2WD/103kW Trakkadu 340, the "high end" 2WD Trakkadu 340 Plus, the Trakkadu 400 AWD camper van, a "sophisticated yet simple" model, and the Trakkadu 400 Plus, an "ultimate high-end on-road camper van", according to Trakka's Alex Berry.

The most Adventure-friendly model, the off-road Trakkadu AT, is aimed at people who want to travel off the beaten track, Alex says. The AT has an upgraded GVM, increased ride-height, diff lock, and engine protection, among other features.

We drove the Trakkadu 400 AWD long wheelbase (LWB) for a few days to get a taste of the camper van craze.

Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Trakkadu 400 AWD is priced from $101,000. The Trakkadu 400 AWD is priced from $101,000.

The Trakkadu 400 AWD is priced from $101,000. Our tester costs $104,110 but it has several options fitted, including a Volkswagen 'Light & Sight Pack' (with rain-sensing windscreen wipers, automatic headlights, auto-dimming rear vision mirror, coming/leaving home headlight function; $510); a 120W solar charging system ($1500); and a roof bed with gas-strut-assisted lift ($1100).

The 400 retains the LWB Transporter TDi 400’s standard tyres and suspension set-up.

It has rear parking sensors (but no reversing camera), 'Composition Media' system (ours had Apple CarPlay) with 6.3-inch touch-screen, multi-function steering wheel, and driver/passenger front and side airbags. The rear seat has two ISOFIX points.

Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

If a van exterior – all sharp-ish edges and load-friendly rectangular-shape – somehow unsettles you, then look away because this really is a van. But inside, that open space has been maximised for the Trakka fit-out and jam-packed with pretty much all of the gear you will likely ever need for a self-sustained trip away.

Up-front remains mostly Transporter-standard with a big plastic dash surface, leather-wrapped steering wheel, classy controls and clear-as-crystal read-outs. The rest of the interior has been well and truly Trakka-fied – more about that soon.

If a van exterior somehow unsettles you, then look away because this really is a van. If a van exterior somehow unsettles you, then look away because this really is a van.

 

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

From the dash-top cupholders (one for the driver, one for the front-seat passenger), glove box, and door pockets, all the way back to the Trakka-fitted extendable shower hose at the rear, the interior is on the right side of practical.

While there are some downsides to the camper van’s generous dimensions, mostly when driving, there are huge positives when it comes to the interior’s practicality; let’s face it, if this van wasn’t so big it wouldn’t be able to fit the couch/bed, the stove top and all of the other touring-friendly stuff.

Both passenger and driver seats come standard with swivel bases, so they can be turned to face inwards for when your camper van is stationary.

The interior of the Trakkadu is definitely on the right side of practical. The interior of the Trakkadu is definitely on the right side of practical.

When the van is parked, the pop-top roof can be raised on its gas struts, creating plenty of headroom inside the living area of the van. There is also a roof-bed up top, really only for kids, but with the pop-top raised, it also allows for greater ventilation throughout the van as it has three large screened mesh windows. (Before you drive again, make sure you lower the pop-top and secure it down with its sturdy clips – a bit of a tricky operation but something you’ll improve at the more you do it.)

An extendable Anthracite awning is built into the side of the van at roof height. It winds out over the passenger-side sliding door and has two adjustable struts that lock into place on the side of the van while you’re raising or lowering the awning, or those struts can be used as poles on the ground when the awning is fully extended. (Again, a tricky operation for a camper van novice and best tackled with two people, rather than one, to be on the safe side and avoid any strife. I had assistance from my videographer/photographer.)

The kitchen area inside has a glass/ceramic diesel-fuelled stove (no other fuel type required, no open flame in vehicle) with a meal-prep table, bench space, utensils, a stainless-steel sink (with folding tap and glass lid) and an 80-litre 12-volt/240-volt compressor fridge/freezer. 

Both passenger and driver seats come standard with swivel bases, so they can be turned to face inwards for when your camper van is stationary. Both passenger and driver seats come standard with swivel bases, so they can be turned to face inwards for when your camper van is stationary.

Below, there are shutter-door openings to storage spaces, as well as soft-close drawers. There is shelved wardrobe space towards the rear of the camper, as well as on the floor, and a hidden drawer under the bench seat/couch. There are nifty spaces throughout to neatly tuck things away, so they don’t rattle around and cause any strife while you’re on the move.

There is an easily moveable indoor/outdoor table that clicks into place, either on the side of the kitchen bench or on the passenger-side of the van.

An easy-to-read electronic digital control panel allows you to switch on/off 12V power, the electric water pump, as well as monitor air temperatures, battery levels (vehicle and camper*) and water levels (there is a fully protected 55L water tank hidden away in the Trakkadu). (* It has a 100Ah deep-cycle house battery, and there are extra-cost lithium upgrade and solar options available. Starting and house batteries are charged automatically from the alternator and mains 240V power.)

There is a built-in 12-volt fan on a swivel base inside as well as 12-volt and USB charging points.

When the van is parked, the pop-top roof can be raised on its gas struts, creating plenty of headroom inside the living area of the van. When the van is parked, the pop-top roof can be raised on its gas struts, creating plenty of headroom inside the living area of the van.

When night comes, you can use the two metres of high-powered LED strip-lighting; some of it can even be dimmed.

At bed time, you slide the bench seat forward, fold down the head-rests, fold down the seat-back so it’s horizontal, then slide the entire now-flat seat towards the back so it meets the back bed platform. Pull the window blinds, clip on the shade cloths and then it’s simply a matter of throwing your bedding on top. It’s a basic set-up but adequately comfortable – well suited to short-stay trips, not lengthy stops. It’s certainly not the worst sleeping arrangements I’ve ever had on a camping trip.

Note: The Trakkadu 400 does not have a toilet but that’s a problem easily solved: take a portaloo – or shovel – on your trips away, or simply use the toilets at your next caravan park or campsite.

There are nifty spaces throughout to neatly tuck things away, so they don’t rattle around and cause any strife while you’re on the move. There are nifty spaces throughout to neatly tuck things away, so they don’t rattle around and cause any strife while you’re on the move.

What's it like as a daily driver?

The Trakkadu 400 is 2060mm tall, 5290mm long, 1900mm wide and weighs 2480kg, so you must adjust your driving style to suit the vehicle’s dimensions. But be mindful of its size at all times and you won’t have a problem, especially when parking or reversing into an overnight spot or carpark, as it doesn’t have a reversing camera, only rear parking sensors.

The little engine is a punchy unit and nudges this hefty beast along at a fair clip and with little urging. It does, however, tend to hold gears for too long – especially up and down hills – and that happens enough to be annoying.

There’s a fair bit of body-roll through corners due to its height and weight and the camper’s high sides are prone to copping wind gusts as this one did in the high-wind areas we’ve driven through. But you don’t climb into something like this – a purpose-built campervan – and expect sportscar ride and handling. If you do, you need some serious counselling.

However, the Trakkadu’s length and long wheelbase actually help it to feel stable and settled once you hit the open road. It has standard suspension – coil springs front and rear – and rides on 17-inch tyres on steel rims.

The little engine is a punchy unit and nudges this hefty beast along at a fair clip and with little urging. The little engine is a punchy unit and nudges this hefty beast along at a fair clip and with little urging.

What's it like for touring?

It’s easy enough to spend a lot of time driving this camper van without complaint. The steering has that well-weighted VW feel and the cabin is functional and roomy inside, even if it tends towards the workmanlike side of things with hard plastic surfaces and hard-wearing carpet.

The front seats, with lumbar-support adjustment, are quite comfortable and the armrests are a nice touch for long spells at the wheel. There is visibility enough through all sight-lines.

Though it is an AWD, this Trakkadu is not intended for off-road driving beyond well-maintained dirt or gravel tracks. If buyers want to be more adventurous, they can opt for the Trakkadu AT with its upgraded GVM, increased ride-height, diff lock, and engine protection.

This Trakkadu's load/living space is open and easy to use with plenty of touring-suited storage spaces throughout  the interior. It has a 520kg payload, a 2500kg towing capacity (braked) and a GVM of 3000kg.

Though it is an AWD, this Trakkadu is not intended for off-road driving beyond well-maintained dirt or gravel tracks. Though it is an AWD, this Trakkadu is not intended for off-road driving beyond well-maintained dirt or gravel tracks.

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?

The claimed fuel consumption is 8.3L/100km (combined). After 250.3km of driving, including a smattering of dirt roads, we recorded a dash readout of 8.6L/100km. Our actual calculation worked out to be 9.5L/100km. It has an 80-litre fuel tank.

 

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

An ANCAP safety rating is not available for this van. The Trakkadu 400 AWD’s driver aids include driver and passenger front and side airbags, driver alert, and rear parking sensors. 

Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

It has a three-year Trakka warranty and the vehicle’s own three-year/unlimited km warranty.

Sure, at $104,110 the Trakkadu 400 is a wedge of cash and I’m sure there are people who would argue a strong case that rather than buy this, it’d be better to get a second-hand 4WD and a camper-trailer or caravan and then still have money left over to pay for camping gear and national parks fees.

But the campervan’s appeal is undeniable: it has a stack of the mod cons you need for a self-sustained trip away and the bonus is: you can set up in minutes – and you can pack up in minutes and be heading off to your next destination in no time at all.

$104,110

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Adventure score

3.5/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

Price Guide

$104,110

Based on new car retail price