With the focus on providing both luxury and simplicity, Olympic’s 2015 Marathon is wellequipped to go the distance.
Olympic is an Australian caravan manufacturer of long-standing and, here, we are testing its 2015 luxury tandem-axle van, the Marathon. According to Olympic, the Marathon is intended for buyers who have already owned a van and want to upgrade into something bigger and better. It might not exactly follow Henry Ford’s, ‘any colour you like so long as it’s black’ philosophy for the Model T, but the Marathon is all about simplicity. This 2015 van was only available in the one body size (6.3m) and with one layout choice – the island bed, cafe dinette and rear bathroom setup.
As for the Marathon’s inclusions, there was one in particular that Olympic was keen to have onboard after much customer feedback – a washing machine.
THE STARTING BLOCKS
An Al-ko 50mm hitch is attached to the 4in A-frame on which two 9kg gas cylinders are housed. The jockey wheel is centrally-mounted on a cross beam that links the A-frame. This allows for better placement of weight distribution hitch torsion bar brackets, without the fiddly problem of extricating the jockey wheel from a position on the A-frame side rail.
The external tap mounted on the A-frame is not protected, as such, but is mounted relatively high up behind one of the gas cylinder mounts. The gas cylinder (if in place in its bracket) would do a lot to protect the tap from stone damage. While the A-frame does have tubular bracing underneath the
frame lengths, it lacks the mesh plate between the frame lengths that some vans have for firewood or storing bulky items.
The A-frame runs to just before the wheelset and is welded to the 4in chassis members. A 2in riser is used from the wheelset to the rear of the van. C-channel supports run across the van and also along the length of the van body within the chassis frame lengths. The plumbing and some wires hang low underneath the van – perhaps something that could have been better located to avoid damage.
The suspension is the familiar live-axle, rollerrocker tandem leaf spring arrangement, attached to drum brakes and 14in alloy wheels. At the rear of the van, a steel bumper is bolted to the chassis and serves as the mounting point for the (alloy) spare wheel. An Al-ko drop-down stabiliser leg is found at each of the four corners of the van.
External storage is in the form of a traditional front boot. The locking boot lid is held up with gas struts and reveals quite a generous amount of storage space. The boot’s internal walls are lined with galvanised sheet steel and it houses the Trail-a-mate jack, wheelbrace, battery, Ctek MXS 15 charger and Motormate battery protection. Also housed in this space is the Brake Safe breakaway controller.
An external powerpoint is fitted on the nearside wall but no external TV or audio speaker provision has been made. One external LED light is fitted below the roll-out awning. A locking picnic table is mounted mid-way along the nearside, too.
The body is framed with meranti timber, clad in familiar aluminium sheeting – although, in a welcome departure from the usual white, metallic silver has been used instead. The front lower half is protected with padded vinyl and the wheel arches are nicely capped off with plastic mouldings.
GET SET TO STEP INSIDE
Access to the van’s interior is via a rear door which combines an exterior flat-sheet door with a detachable security door that locks and comes with a flyscreen.
No fold-down step is required; the body is lower at this point, so you walk straight in and up a step inside the van. Here, you are presented with the walk-in bathroom on the right (at the rear of the caravan) and the living and sleeping quarters on your left (towards the front).
The bathroom is a reasonable size – it can’t lay claim to being overly generous, but neither is it short on space. It has a stone finish and looks like an upmarket home bathroom, with a sink that has a mixer tap and a large mirror above it. There are two cupboards above the benchtop and also cupboards below. There is also, of course, the 2.2kg washing machine, set in the bench.
The toilet is a Thetford cassette and the separate shower with hinged shower door has an extraction fan mounted in the ceiling. A small screened window is located on the offside of the van, allowing in plenty of natural light and ventilation.
Moving out into the living area, there’s a pair of coat hooks and magazine pockets on the entry wall. A padded section is fitted just above the entry door to take the pain out of bumping your head on the egress if you’re particularly tall.
The cafe-style dinette on the nearside of the van is roomy for two adults and could sit four at a pinch. There are small cupboards under the table and three large storage lockers above.
Across from the dinette is the kitchen, which has quite a large amount of food preparation space, albeit somewhat compromised. With the cutting board that covers the sink and the fold-up bench section that reveals the cooktop both in place, there is ample room to get food ready to cook. The
and above the bed are three generously-sized lockers. Reading lights are fitted to the sides of the wardrobes.
The large hopper windows allow plenty of light into the van, and have pelmeted curtains and lace screening as well as flyscreens. In the ceiling there is a large, opening skylight and plenty of LED downlights.
I felt the overall effect of the dark brown interior decor was let down a bit by the tan cap moulds. Perhaps the idea is that this provides a contrast to the dark timber and soft furnishing materials, but I’m not so sure it works.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This is a luxury van from a long-standing Australian manufacturer, with a focus on simplicity in the layout. And with this 2015 model only available in one body size and one layout option, the decisionmaking process might just be a little easier.
The 2015 Marathon is a fully-stocked van and provided a lot of equipment at a reasonable price, as new. While it is, in many respects, a traditional van, it has mostly well-chosen colours, which give it a contemporary feel.
The rollout of new technology in both caravans and tow vehicles has made it easier for travellers to cut their traditional umbilical cord – the 240V power lead – and go bush for longer.
Multiple water tanks, solar panels and banks of deep-cycle batteries have already taken us well down that remote track and are now as commonplace and fashionable as checkerplate. But banishing the gas cylinders has been a step too far for most caravan manufacturers... until recent years.
Sure, smaller specialist hybrid makers offer diesel cooking, hot water service and central heating as
Like its bigger brothers in the 2014 Terra Sportz range, this is a distinctive caravan, with the satin silver of its smooth aluminium composite walls contrasting smartly with its lower black checkerplate and bright orange Nova decals and logo.
It’s not the lightest solution for caravan construction, with the walls weighing around three times more per square metre than the conventional timber-framed and ribbed aluminium alternative found on other Nova on-road touring vans, but it’s strong and gives you the feeling that it’s built to last many adventures.
A Vehicle Components DO35 offroad coupling, a high checkerplate front panel, a large three-quarter tunnel boot, 12in Al-ko electric brakes and rugged 16in alloy wheels with 245/75 Light Truck tyres are all clues that this van is designed for serious use.
Unlike the usual four-burner cooktop, griller and (perhaps) oven in the kitchen, our review van sported a smart Webasto Diesel Cooker X 100, with just two burners beneath its flush-fitting glass ceramic top – the larger one delivering cooking power of up to 1800W, and the smaller for simmering.
It all looks sleek and stylish, if a little minimalistic at first, with the obvious question being ‘how do I cook toast?’ But if you are planning to travel without dependence on gas refills, you’ll probably do that over a portable barbecue flame or open fire outside. And the absence of an oven could be covered by having a microwave fitted, or by using a portable barbecue, but that wasn’t this customer’s choice.
It wasn’t just about the cooker. Taking full advantage of the alternative diesel path, Nova also equipped the van with a combined diesel-fuelled Webasto Dual Top Evo integrated hot water service and central heating unit.
Located under the lift-up queen-size bed, the system’s 11L-capacity, 20kg boiler occupies nearly one quarter of the available storage space, but
or take a few hundred dollars if you were replacing all three of these appliances, and that’s really not much in the total cost of a serious offroad caravan, given the extra travelling freedom it offers.
Despite the boiler under the bed and the diesel tank above the rear bumper, the 16ft 6in 2014 Terra Sportz remains the well thought-out, roomy and practical caravan that an Nova customers have come to love.
The front north-south bed flanked by goodsized wardrobes and cupboards, central kitchen with leather-trimmed café dinette opposite, and compact but workable separate shower-toilet ensuite across the rear of the van, make the 16ft 6in Terra Sportz seem roomier than you’d expect in a caravan of its size. This is an impression heightened by the review van’s predominantly white décor with contrasting black leather lounge.
But it’s the little touches, like the recessed LED pelmet lighting, the careful angling of the kitchen benchtop for easy bedroom access, and the solid sliding door to the ensuite, that show Nova understands its customers and their needs.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The 2014 Nova Terra Sportz is a strong, wellbuilt caravan designed to take sustained offroad punishment. Yet, despite its compact overall dimensions, its layout makes it an inviting place to spend quality time well off the beaten track.
Even with its additional cost, the availability of diesel cooking, hot water and central heating on the options list will enhance the appeal of the Terra Sportz to adventurous long-term travellers.
Even if you forego the diesel option and opt for conventional gas appliances, the 16ft 6in 2014 Terra Sportz deserves your serious consideration when shopping for a van to enjoy well off the bitumen. 2014 • $44,500 • NSW • 0401 322 736 Nova Terra Sportz Family 20ft 6in 2015 • $79,995 • QLD • 07 3073 8062