For a more effortless and secure experience on our site, please consider updating your browser

Coromal Compac and tandem Excel as they put easy towing freedom into caravan outdoor lifestyle

December 07, 2007
Coromal Compac and tandem Excel as they put easy towing freedom into caravan outdoor lifestyle

If something is a pleasure to use then it gets used often.

Both the Coromal Excel tandem E541 pop-top and the light Excel Compac E402 pop-top we tried fit that criteria.

Part 1 in a series on towing and Recreational Vehicles (RV's).

Sometimes a marketing call to action hits the bullseye. Coromal Caravans is an example with its Experience the lifestyle. Discover the freedom and that is exactly what we did with their Excel tandem E541 pop-top and the light Excel Compac E402 pop-top.

The easy living the two caravans provide is a major reason we made time to be kids again at KidsTown, Adventure Playground the awarded Outstanding Recreational Facility at Shepparton.

Comfortable with the manoeuvreability of the Coromals' we just pulled the two caravans into the roomy front carpark at KidsTown and went to play.

KidsTown is on the Midland Highway (A300) Shepparton off the Mooroopna Causeway, minutes from the CBD.

It is part of the Shepparton Shared Path Network and we rolled up after Mark and Linda Ryan, managers of Goulburn Valley Motor Village sent us off after a pleasant stay on their generous drive-through sites to see what the 1994 vision of local Geoff Allemand has led to.

Mark and Linda have already up-graded Goulburn Valley Motor Villages cabins and facilities and Mark, who is ex-Army, is hooked into change.

As community projects go KidsTown is an example of what can be done with goodwill, open handed sponsorship and determination. KidsTown has giant slides, tree houses, a barbecue shelter, monkey bars, family cafe, sandpits, a flying fox, swings, a maze, fruit bin pyramid and fenced toddler area.

Picnics can be shady under some of the most beautiful pepper trees in Australia.

It's all about that marketers word lifestyle and with our comfortable Coromal homes in tow we had the freedom to discover and experience it.

Generally if something is a pleasure to use then it gets used often. Both the Coromals we tried more than fill that criteria.

Both caravans have Coromal's independent suspension. It is a predictable road-runner benefit we first enjoyed behind our Magna with the awarded Coromal Silhoutte in tow.

Some of that experience was in extreme storm conditions so that evaluation was all too real.

The Excel E541 as the 541 implies is a 5.4m (17ft 8in) tandem pop-top caravan with a tare (unladen weight) of 1314kg.

The Excel Compac E402 is a real lightweight pop-top with a tare of about 890kg. With nothing in it the Compac is only 2080mm high with the pop-top down. And the bigger E541 tandem shares this wind-cheating 2080mm low profile when its on the road, but even with the pop-top down both are still comfortably accessible.

<!--mo1####mo2-->KidsTown Maroopna trains a young engineer<!--mo3-->
KidsTown Maroopna trains a young engineer

A solid shove pushes the pop-tops up and headroom is a generous 2480mm in both caravans. Both benefit from extruded aluminium frames, internal lining and aluminium cladding glued and rivetted to the frame.

The caravans have full-length galvanised steel chassis with the ply floor glued and fastened to it.The light truck steel belted radial tyres are 8 ply.

We found comfort in the twin single-bed E402 version of the Excel Compac, but it is noteable that the E401 Compac version comes with a double bed of 1680mm which has a 150mm extension.

That is the same as in the bigger Excel E541 tandem we tried. We swapped Coromals and tow vehicles and agreed single or double bed we got a comfortable nights sleep on the standard foam rubber mattresses. Inner spring mattresses are available as an option but our female crew member slept well on the E541's standard double mattress.

She was unaware that it was not an inner-spring. For those new to Recreational Vehicles a first class bed is not just important it is essential.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Push the pop-top up<!--mo3-->
Push the pop-top up

Always look for home comfort and keep at it until you get it. Both caravans make full use of design to provide plenty of easy to use storage space.

The kitchen and cooking layout is small but adequate in the Excel Compac and generous by caravan standards in the bigger Excel E541 Tandem.

We used our Captiva diesel automatic and the company's restored 1985 Retro Toyota Sahara to mix and match the diverse Coromals in variety of towing situations.

With the help of caravanning equipment icon Hayman Reese the Captiva is set-up with tailored tow equipment from towbar fit-out, to Weight Distribution Hitch and Guardian Electric Brake Controller.

The Sahara is an original and its Hayman Reese towbar, fitted in 1985, still does the job.

The fully restored HJ60 4 litre manual diesel Sahara Land Cruiser has a modified ARB suspension, upgraded (for towing) manual gearbox and a gentle (non-standard) 6lb boost turbo.

Yes 10lb boost is an option but we like reliable understressed motors and dislike blown head gaskets and overheating. To give context to the benefits of that attitude to engines the 22 year old diesel has covered 340,434km without motor problems.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Double bed comfort Excel E541 tandem<!--mo3-->
Double bed comfort Excel E541 tandem

As Spencer Kelly of Caravans West, said as we hooked the Excel Compac 890kg lightweight behind the bulletproof old workhorse at the Sunshine Coromal caravan dealership - The Toyota won't even know it is there. He was right.

Once on the Hume Highway on the two hour run to Shepparton the Coromal Compac made no real difference to the 4litre understressed diesel.

The Captiva diesel led the parade with the heavier Coromal Excel E541 tandem and we cruised all the way in highway running to Shepparton at between 90 and 98kmh.

The Compac is such an easy tow most of the run was done by the Sahara at between 2000 and 2500rpm in 5th overdrive with a few shifts back to 4th to take the stress off the gearbox in hilly sections.

Days later when we swapped the Coromals for the run back to Melbourne we battled strong headwinds to Seymour and the old Tojo warrior showed its worth.

In fourth at 2600rpm with the heavier low-profile pop-top 1280kg E541 tandem in tow it cruised at an easy 85 to 90kmh into the wind.

Hard work does not bother a Toyota truck and when towing gets serious it is a comfort to have tractor characteristics work for you.

<!--mo1####mo2-->The Excel Compac is easy towing behind the Retro Toyota<!--mo3-->
The Excel Compac is easy towing behind the Retro Toyota

On the short run to Seymour from Shepparton we towed without the Hayman Reese Weight Distribution Hitch on the Toyota Sahara.

After stopping at Seymour on drive-through sites at the Goulburn River Caravan Park we completed the trip back to Caravans West in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine with the Hayman Reese Weight Distribution Hitch fitted.

Even with a heavy tow vehicle (about 2.5 tonnes unladen) like the Toyota there is a significant difference in handling and ride with the Weight Distribution Hitch on.

It is important to note that Holden rates the automatic and manual Captiva diesel maximum towing capacities differently.

The Manual Captiva Diesel is rated at 2000kg and the automatic diesel 1700kg (as tested). The V6 automatic petrol version is rated at 2000kg.

Which we think thismeans the auto transmissions are different in the diesel and petrol versions.

So while we are on the subject of vehicle builders and their towing numbers let us look at what Ball Weight really means -

Simon Rodwell, Product Manager of Cequent/Hayman Reese says many people ask about the issue of ball weight decreasing with the use of a Weight Distribution Hitch.

<!--mo1####mo2-->No WDH and extended safety  chain on Toyota<!--mo3-->
No WDH and extended safety chain on Toyota

A Weight Distribution Hitch transfers weight on the ball to the front of the vehicle and the rear of the caravan it does not, however, in any way reduce the ball weight and does not therefore allow you to increase your vehicles ball weight capacity by using a Weight Distribution Hitch.

The principal of weight distribution is about taking the ball weight that is pushing down behind the rear of the vehicle and spreading that same downward force over a larger area. This ensures the front wheels maintain good contact with the road and allows for a more stable towing setup.

Editor's Note: The GoSeeAustralia web site has a Vehicle Towing Compatability module courtesy of Hayman Reese in the GoSee TravelSmart Club section. It's free to join.

Just go to the Good Stuff! option on the Home Page. It is the 11th option down. Give it a click. Sign up as a GoSeeTravelSmart Club member and we will send you an email. When you confirm that email free access to the best in professionally based information is available.

From Shepparton to Seymour we deliberately towed without the Weight Distribution Hitch on the Toyota. The truck managed strong winds and bad sections of highway surface well.

But the ride was lively and required plenty of concentration and correction as bullets of wind buffeted the Coromal caravans and our tow vehicles as B-double interstate truckers blasted past.

But with the Weight Distribution Hitch on after Seymour the whole rig was much more predictable, and certainly a more relaxed handling experience on the wet highway which had plenty of badly patched undulating sections.

Road surface changes, holes, ruts, strips of dirt roadworks and road camber changes will wrong-foot a towing combination. The major benefits from the Weight Distribution Hitch are far better steering control, superior ride and less stress on the driver.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Hayman Reese WDH fitted to Toyota for Coromal Excel 541<!--mo3-->
Hayman Reese WDH fitted to Toyota for Coromal Excel 541

With Coromal designs there is also the big plus of independent suspension which certainly helps keep the show on track.

Overall we rate the Captiva auto diesels Sports Utility Vehicles towing performance as eight out of 10.

On the run to Shepparton the Active Select Mode (manual) override abilities of the five-speed gearbox were tried and then rejected.

The Captiva is a modern Sport Utility Vehicle with plenty of sensors to help it do its job. Pulling the shift into third only increased the rpm to 3500 and made no noticeable difference to pulling power or speed. So the auto was left to its own choices.

This means most towing is done in fourth gear at 2300rpm. Fifth comes in occasionally in downhill and flat easy going. It can of course be brought in manually but as this produces no gains in the towing performance we don't bother stick shifting now.

We do not regard fuel consumption as a first priority when towing. Put weight behind a vehicle and you will use more fuel. But the Captiva did well by any consumption standards.

It returned 13.8 litres per hundred kilometres in 4th on route to Shepparton with the Coromal Excel E541 tandem at about 95kmh.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Underbody and suspension Coromal Excel tandem 541<!--mo3-->
Underbody and suspension Coromal Excel tandem 541

Pushing into the strong headwind on the run back from Shepparton to Seymour with the light Excel Compac behind the four-cylinder Captiva drank 14.2 litres per hundred kilometres with the rpm at 2600 in 4th and cruise speed 90kmh.

There is no doubt that the wind-cheating low profile of the pop-top Coromals makes a significant contribution to economy and easy handling. This is further enhanced by the Coromal's independent suspension.

The Retro 1985 Toyota and the brand new Captiva diesel are chalk and cheese in their technologies.

In essence the Captiva is designed primarily as a passenger vehicle. The Toyota Sahara diesel is a 4WD off-roader work truck.

But in all-round towing in mixed conditions the Captiva returned about 14 litres per hundred kilometres and the six-cylinder Toyota about 16 litres.

And despite being 22 years of development apart both motors are comfortable at 2600rpm in 4th towing into a strong headwind. Neither motor showed any signs of overheating.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Captiva diesel hauls Coromal Excel tandem 541<!--mo3-->
Captiva diesel hauls Coromal Excel tandem 541

With the Captiva the Excel tandem was far better with the Weight Distribution Hitch fitted.

No big deal, but in windy going the rig felt a little flighty until the Weight Distribution Hitch went on.

The Guardian Electric Brake Controller System on the Captiva needed adjustment to even out the braking as we swapped the Coromals around.

With the Excel E541 tandem maximum braking was set at 3.3 on the handy units readout.

With the lighter Excel Compac trailer brake pressure was eased back to 2.5 maximum.

The Toyota uses a Hayes Lemmerz Engergize 111 Electric Brake Controller. It is effective but uses a red lights intensity to indicate the level of the braking setting.

Overall we found the Coromal E541 tandem smooth, easy towing.

To give more context to that comment. We particularly compare with a popular 17'6'' single-axle Compass caravan pulled by a Holden V8 SS ute and a Ford Escape 4WD over thousands of kilometres.

With both tow vehicles the Compass needed watching and was prone to sway in gusty going. It did not like wind buffetting from passing trucks.

Overall we have towed a lot of loaded tandem trailers. We can say that the Captiva, using the Hayman Reese Weight Distribution Hitch and Guardian Brake Controller in combination with the independent suspension of the Coromals, has it all over the Compass hauled by the Holden and the Ford.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Fitting Hayman Reese WDH tensioning hooks<!--mo3-->
Fitting Hayman Reese WDH tensioning hooks

As we came off the Great Dividing Range on long downhill sections of the Hume we towed easily at the posted 110kmh limit with the Captiva and the Toyota.

Usually we prefer to tow at 25 percent under the posted speed limit. But to extend the standard independent suspension of the Coromals and evaluate its benefits in conjunction with the Hayman Reese Weight Distribution Hitch we broke our rule.

There were no problems. The result was predictable towing in the circumstances, but around 90kmh allows safer travel with much more margin for the unexpected and better fuel economy so that is how we completed the towing tour to Sunshine.

We enjoyed the lifestyle and freedom all the way.

About the Coromal caravans:

Excel Compac E402.

Rear door. Available in two layouts. One double bed (E401) or two singles (E402).

Kitchen has 4-burner stove/grill, microwave and 3-way fridge.

Tow ball weight 79kg.

Tare (unladen weight) 875kg.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Retro Tojo and Coromal friends Seymour<!--mo3-->
Retro Tojo and Coromal friends Seymour

Editor's note: Weights are a guide only and vary between models. Caravans with showers and other options fitted will be heavier.

As tested: E402 two single beds model.

It has a rollout awning.

Easy to handle. Easy to tow.

Independent suspension.

Excel 402 Compac 13' x 7'

E402 caravan Rec Retail Price (Melbourne) $A22,990

Plus on Road Costs.

Standard features: Extruded Aluminium Frame, Internal Lining And Aluminium Cladding Glued And Riveted To Frame

Independent Suspension

Rollout Awning

Full Length Pop-Top Roof


Stove - 4 Burner (1 Electric) Grill

Front Storage Boot Fitted With Moulded Boot Lid With Gas Struts - Lockable, Lined And Sealed To Store Gas Bottle And Spare Wheel - Gas Approved

Full Length Galvanised Steel Chassis

Light Truck Steel Belted Radial Tyres 8 Ply

Annexe Track Standard Pop-Top Extrusions

All Side Frames Sealed To Body

Pop-Top Skirt - Mildew Resistant - Waterproof - Uv Resistant

Insulated Roof And Walls

Removable Flyscreens On Pop-Top Roof Skirt

Pop-Top Vinyl Section Held In By Nylon Keeper (Not Screwed Or Stapled)

Aluminium Water Tank Protector

Mains Pressure Tap

4 Corner Stabiliser Legs

Mud Flaps

Triple Lock Security Door

Ply Floor Glued And Fastened To Chassis

Galvanised Steel Plate Above Main Door

Solid Ply Bench Tops

Double Ply Cupboard Doors

Dual Gas Lift, Boxed In Double Bed

Outside Power Point

Annexe Light

Positive Locking Door Catches

Self Closing Hinges

Pressure Hatch

Excel E541 tandem.

E541 2.

Kitchen has 4-burner stove (1 electric 3 gas)/grill, microwave and 3-way fridge.

Tow ball weight 135kg.

Tare (unladen weight) 1314kg.

E541 caravan Rec Retail Price (Melbourne) $31,900 plus on road costs.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Set up for the night Excel Compac<!--mo3-->
Set up for the night Excel Compac

Editor's note: Weights are a guide only and vary between models. Caravans with showers and other options fitted will be heavier.

As tested: E541 double-bed.

It has rollout awning.

Towing height 2080mm unladen.

Three sliding baskets under the stove.

Toilet storage provision.

Standard features:

Extruded aluminium frame, internal lining and aluminium cladding glued and riveted to frame

Full length Pop-Top roof


Stove - 4 burner (1 electric, 3 gas) grill

Front storage boot with moulded boot lid, gas struts, lockable, lined and sealed to store gas bottle - gas approved

Full length galvanised steel chassis

Light truck steel belted radial tyres 8 ply

Rollout awning

All side frames sealed to body

Pop-Top skirt - mildew and UV resistant. Waterproof

Insulated roof and walls

Removable flyscreens on Pop-Top roof skirt

Pop-Top vinyl section held in by nylon keeper (not screwed or stapled)

Aluminium water tank protector

Lockable water tank filler

Mains pressure tap

Tap on A-frame

Triple lock security door

Towing height 2080mm unladen (Except E547S)

Ply floor glued and fastened to chassis

Galvanised steel plate above main door

Double bed extension

3 sliding baskets under stove (most models)

1 basket under single bed

1 flap door under single bed

Solid ply bench tops

Gas struts to double bed

Outside power point

TV shelf (most models)

Positive locking cupboard door catches

Self-closing hinges

Pressure hatch

Toilet storage provision

Battery compartment with diode protection

12v lighting system

Factory fitted options:

Air-conditioning, inner spring mattress, Oven. Sports pack.

Standard features: Independent suspension, Aluminium frame, Awning, Battery system, Gas/Elec stove.

Towing height unladen 2080mm.

Overall height with pop-top up 2480mm.

From: Caravans West. 1 Berkshire Road, Sunshine.

Caravans West. Ph: 03)93117211 Fax: (03) 9311 7255



Manfacturer: Australian built by Coromal Caravans, 25 Harrison Road, Forrestfield, WA.

Editor's Note: Also See -

<!--mo1####mo2-->Good kitchen space and equipment E541 tandem<!--mo3-->
Good kitchen space and equipment E541 tandem
<!--mo1####mo2-->32psi Excel Compac tyres<!--mo3-->
32psi Excel Compac tyres
<!--mo1####mo2-->Awning clutch locked down for travel<!--mo3-->
Awning clutch locked down for travel
<!--mo1####mo2-->Awning going up Excel 541. Alan is in the hand jammed danger zone<!--mo3-->
Awning going up Excel 541. Alan is in the hand jammed danger zone
<!--mo1####mo2-->Big  drive-through sites Goulburn Valley  Motor Village Shepparton<!--mo3-->
Big drive-through sites Goulburn Valley Motor Village Shepparton
<!--mo1####mo2-->Cabins go up-market at Sheppartons Goulburn Valley Motor Village<!--mo3-->
Cabins go up-market at Sheppartons Goulburn Valley Motor Village
<!--mo1####mo2-->Cupboard space Excel Compac<!--mo3-->
Cupboard space Excel Compac
<!--mo1####mo2-->Divided door Excel Compac<!--mo3-->
Divided door Excel Compac
<!--mo1####mo2-->Get it right. Get  it wrong and it hurts - a lot<!--mo3-->
Get it right. Get it wrong and it hurts - a lot
<!--mo1####mo2-->GoSee Coromal Excel campsite Seymour<!--mo3-->
GoSee Coromal Excel campsite Seymour
<!--mo1####mo2-->Handy campsite Shepparton Goulburn Valley Motor Village<!--mo3-->
Handy campsite Shepparton Goulburn Valley Motor Village
<!--mo1####mo2-->Kitchen-hands love this roll-out strorage rack E541<!--mo3-->
Kitchen-hands love this roll-out strorage rack E541
<!--mo1####mo2-->No oven but good cooking space E541 tandem<!--mo3-->
No oven but good cooking space E541 tandem
<!--mo1####mo2-->Oops check that  canvas<!--mo3-->
Oops check that canvas
<!--mo1####mo2-->Retro Toyota Excel 541 and Captiva Excel Compac swap tows<!--mo3-->
Retro Toyota Excel 541 and Captiva Excel Compac swap tows
<!--mo1####mo2-->Sliding space Excel 541 tandem<!--mo3-->
Sliding space Excel 541 tandem
<!--mo1####mo2-->Roll down for air and light<!--mo3-->
Roll down for air and light
<!--mo1####mo2-->Stabilisers wind down easily. They are not jacks<!--mo3-->
Stabilisers wind down easily. They are not jacks
<!--mo1####mo2-->Storage under the double bed<!--mo3-->
Storage under the double bed
<!--mo1####mo2-->Tap position  just a fit with the Hayman Reese  gear. Does not fit with  torsion bar kit.<!--mo3-->
Tap position just a fit with the Hayman Reese gear. Does not fit with torsion bar kit.
<!--mo1####mo2-->Tension WDH hooks at equal points we tighten down<!--mo3-->
Tension WDH hooks at equal points we tighten down