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Windsor Rapid RA521
Windsor Rapid RA521


The pop-top Windsor Rapid RA521, with its fold-out beds at either end, makes perfect sense behind the family car for an escape with the kids.

It had been too long since my last caravanning holiday and the familiar whisper at the back of my mind was getting louder. “Get out there,” it said. “Work will wait.”

Work waits for no one, but at least mine can sometimes be combined with pleasure. As I write, lorikeets chirp in the trees of the Coffs Harbour caravan park I’m staying at. My view from outside my Windsor Rapid RA521 pop-top test van is of a tidal lagoon, sand bars rising here and there like the humps of lazy camels. Fishermen ply the water but I am yet to see them raise a fish. Their luck seems much the same as mine the night before – lots of bites, but that’s all.

   

My wife, three-year-old son and I hitched up the Rapid in Melbourne for a 10-day trip to the mid-north coast of NSW. Our tow vehicle was an admittedly overkill Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series GLX. Its mighty V8 turbodiesel engine did a very acceptable job of towing the van. In fact, after half and hour into the trip, it was like there was nothing behind us at all. The Rapid stuck nicely to the road for the two days of driving that it took to get to our destination. Swaying and buffeting from passing trucks was negligible. It was just a straightforward cruise – which you might expect, towing a 1442kg (Tare) van with something that has a capacity of 3500kg.

LIVING AND COOKING


The layout of the Rapid RA521 is extremely liveable. Having lived in it for seven days with wife and child at the time of writing, I am happy with how everything performs.


Overall, there’s a good balance between the cooking and cleaning area, and the dining/living area. With 4.05m (13ft 3in) of internal floor space (excluding the bed-ends), two adults and two kids would manage nicely.


The kitchen consists of an angled benchtop, with a four-burner Smev cooktop, stainless steel rangehood, three overhead lockers, five drawers, a few cupboards, and decent benchtop space for meal preparation. I’m no Jamie Oliver, but I have managed to cook a number of good dinners in this kitchen (though my wife would debate my use of the word “good” here). It’s 12V-pumped, cold water only in the kitchen.

   


We have found the 90L three-way Dometic fridge to be sufficient for about two days’ worth of food, and have no complaints. Mostly we’ve been plugged into caravan park mains power, so have relied upon 240V to power the fridge. Again, no complaints.


Opposite the kitchen, left of the entry door as you step inside, is a full-height cabinet split between a wardrobe that’s great for keeping your folded clothes, and a two-shelf cupboard below. Adjacent is a small bench (a good spot for your kettle and toaster) with locker above and storage below.


To the right of the entrance you get a higher bench (where we kept things like sunscreen, wallets, keys, etc.) and a few shelves below.


The living area towards the rear contains an offside dinette and nearside lounge. This area is quite a versatile setup. The dinette is a straightforward arrangement that will seat two adults and two kids comfortably. There is some storage beneath the seats, accessible only by lifting the cushions. I found this a little bit awkward and at first wished that Windsor had fitted some slide-out drawers for easier access until I realised that the 500mm walkway between the dinette and lounge is too narrow for such a setup. For access to the rear fold-out bed-end, however, the walkway is plenty wide.

SLEEPING


The two-person lounge is a cinch to set up as a double bunk. A tri-fold base locks against the nearside wall, and easily unfolds. With that done, just sit the backrest of the lounge on top of the bed base and your kids or guests are ready for bed. Points to Windsor for including a 12V halogen reading light for each bunk.


On the topic of lights, it’s all 12V halogen. Multidirectional spot/reading lights are all in the right places, and downlights are the main source of illumination. The downlights, I should point out, are wired to two separate switches: one controls the front four; the other the rear three. Should a family member retire early to their end of the van, this will be appreciated.


The fold-out bed-ends are wonderful. My son has always needed near-perfect sleeping conditions to nod off, but he was out in seconds each night. The block-out curtains for each bed are terrific, and the canvas walls are trouble free. The mattresses measure 1.3x1.9m.

 

   

The bed-ends take no more than two minutes to set up – just unlock the handles (for safety’s sake always have them locked when towing) and the hard lid will automatically rise. Gently pull down the base – the canvas will position itself – and ‘lock’ the diagonal hinges by giving them a nudge upwards. Should the canvas be wet when packing up, the water will run into a channel of galvanised steel and drain through plugs at either end. A good setup.


The rear fold-out takes about 30 seconds longer than the front – the rear spare wheel is mounted on a galvanised steel strut that must be lowered horizontally (just remove a pin) before the bed lid can swing up and out.


An Axis CD/MP3/stereo connected to two ceiling speakers is fitted – a flatscreen TV is a dealer option.

CONSTRUCTION


The Windsor Rapid RA521 rides on 14in wheels, leaf spring suspension and a 4in DuraGal chassis. The floor is 12mm ply.


It’s not an offroad setup (though offroad packs are available), but our Rapid, towed with care and common sense, behaved well on the beach, which had appropriate access.


The drawbar is home to an Al-Ko ball coupling, 8in centre-mounted jockey wheel and a single 4.5kg gas cylinder with provision for another. A battery is an option on purchase from a dealer.


The van comes standard with one 80L water tank, protected by galvanised sheeting. For park-based trips, this supply is generally sufficient especially considering the van is not fitted with a bathroom.


A full-length Carefree awning – quick and easy to set up – is standard, as is a Camec triple-lock security door – if you value fresh air and security, you’ve got to have one.

THE BOTTOM LINE


I said earlier that this van has a liveable layout, but in case you’d like a second opinion I asked Stacey, my wife.


Max: “What do you like best about the van, dear?”
Stacey: “The dining area. The kitchen works well, but it’s at dinner when the family comes together, and the dinette feels homey.”
Max: “What would you change about the van?”
Stacey: “I’d perhaps like a little more wardrobe space… but then again, there’s a lot of storage that we haven’t even made use of yet.”


Like with any van, you can add your options and touches, but in its standard form you and yours will be cosy and comfy. With an ATM of 1742kg, you’ve got the RVMAA-recommended 300kg of payload for a single-axle van, and its ball weight of 146kg is quite reasonable.


And even though I had a current-model ’Cruiser at my disposal, you’ll be fine with your family Falcon.


Meanwhile, I’m off to join those fishermen down at the lagoon. Wish me luck.


 

 
 
 
 
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