Husband and wife team Vlad and Vesna Markoski kicked off XTOUR in late 2020. I reckon it takes a lot of courage and self-belief to launch a company in the middle of a pandemic. The company might be new, but Vlad comes with 20 years of experience in caravan manufacturing. Vlad oversees manufacturing and Vesna takes care of administration. The two ‘Vs’ told me they had put everything on the line and have been able to capitalise on the surging demand for caravans. But as a small newcomer they initially had to battle harder than most to source components from suppliers that just didn’t have stock. Vesna says they worked hard to establish commercial relationships with suppliers who provide good quality components consistent with the high standard of caravan they build. They are planning not to get ahead of themselves and aim to build 50 vans over the next 12 months.
Van on Review
Vesna tells me the Atlas is XTOUR’s number one seller. It comes in couples and family versions with multiple layouts available. There are on-road, semi offroad and full offroad variants listed on the website mainly differentiated by the suspension selected. Vesna also tells me the full offroad variant is the most popular. The van reviewed is a full offroad, twin bunk version (triple is also available) with the bunks located on the door side known as ‘bunk east’. There is also a version with the layout reversed and the bunks located on the ‘offside’.
XTOUR take a traditional approach with a few of their own subtle variations. They feature meranti frames which have been used for decades and many manufacturers still swear by. The marine-coated ply floor is a traditional material too, but I like the fact that it is one piece. I suspect it would be more forgiving if some of the bonding or fastening to the chassis happened to let go down the track. The roof is a fibreglass skin over a timber frame with foam insulation. The walls are flat composite aluminium that seem to be regularly taking the place of profiled aluminium cladding.
Underneath the Atlas is a Road King steel chassis with 6in main rails. It appears to be well braced with supporting members and neat welding. XTOUR opt for a painted chassis instead of galvanised coating to save some weight.
A plethora of seriously good componentry is attached to the chassis. Up front is a Cruisemaster D035 hitch. I won’t bang on about this fantastic hitch other than to say it has become so popular that I reckon I have reviewed more vans with it than a regular 50mm ball hitch. Next, we have the little guardian angel BMPRO Trail Safe that you hope you never need but is there to stop the van in its tracks if it somehow uncouples from the car. Sway control is pretty much standard these days on medium to high end vans. Atlas however offer AL-KO ESC as an option on this van — certainly a feature I’d be asking for if I bought one.
As mentioned, this van has the offroad suspension variant fitted in the form of AL-KO Enduro X. AL-KO tout that it has been designed, manufactured, and tested for extreme offroad conditions, providing significant weight reduction through an effectively hollow clam shell design.
Family Liveable Layout
It’s funny, the first things that can strike you. I try to be respectful, and I usually take my shoes off if I think I am going to track dirt into the van. When I first stepped in, I thought I was walking on carpet. Eventually, I realised it was a vinyl floor with a really nice soft underlay feel, which I liked a lot.
The next impression was that the ceiling felt a bit low. I am a very average 5ft 9in and was in absolutely no danger of hitting my head. As I continued to look around the van, I soon got used to it. Later on, I asked 6ft 2in Vlad to step in, and he also was in no danger of hitting his head. However, in the middle of the ceiling there is a bulkhead that sits a little lower. Vlad cleared it by about an in inch or so and told me it would be no problem to build the van without the bulkhead for people who need the extra height.
I think XTOUR has got it right with offering an east-west double bed configuration. The upside is it opens up a lot more space in the van. The downside is the bed occupant on the wall side is going to have to crawl over the bed occupant on the open side to get out of bed. If you have to get up multiple times during the night or you aren’t so agile, the downside can be too much. I think for couples young enough to be travelling with kids it shouldn’t be a big deal, though.
The dining seating will fit two adults plus two kids, and will appeal to people who like a firm, upright seated position. I really liked the feel of the kitchen, the window allowed plenty of natural light and the sink in the corner made the space feel bigger. The benchtop also seems bigger because it doesn’t have a draining board. The upside is you have more even more benchtop for meal preparation. The downside is you have to be more careful about where you put wet dishes.
I don’t mind the up high position of the microwave in this layout, you just need to be mindful of kids trying to operate it due to the risk of tipping hot food on themselves. I’ve got to say it’s not a criticism —finding the perfect place for a microwave always seems to be a challenge — and I was pleased to see that the small amount of space above the fridge had been used for storage. Sometime this void is just closed off, ending up in dead space.
This is a relatively short van to feature bunks. What comes as a pleasant surprise is that XTOUR has managed to fit in a separate shower and toilet rather than a combination unit. At a macro level, more room has been created for a bigger bathroom by running with an efficiently placed east-west bed. At a micro level, the space within the bathroom has been created by opting for quite a compact vanity. Clever use of a large bowl on top of a horizontal surface means there is plenty of room for splash free handwashing — for adults, anyway. I’m not sure if that’s even possible with kids. The compromise is the under-sink storage is small. XTOUR has made up for it with plenty of storage in the passage next to the bunks. There’s even room for a washing machine to accommodate small doses of washing.
The Atlas was fitted with a diesel heater, which can be extremely effective. On this particular installation, I feel it could’ve been improved with a very simple modification that would cost nothing. The inlet to draw in air to heat and the outlet that blew out heated air were positioned very close together, which could cause only a small proportion of the air in the room to be circulated. This means it would require more runtime to warm up the van. Vlad agreed to investigate increasing the distance between the heater inlet and outlet.
Towball Weight and Using Forward Storage
We towed the Atlas empty, and I noticed the rear suspension on the Nissan Navara didn’t move much when we took the van on and off. A towball weight at tare of 142kg is on the light side for a van with a total tare of 2575kg. The rule of thumb for stable towing is for the ball to be around 10% of the total van weight. This van comes in at 5.5% unladen. However, you have to think about what the towball to total van weight ratio will be when it is loaded.
When you look at the Atlas, you can see it is designed to carry most of its weight forward of the axle. It has an A-frame mounted toolbox which would generally get loaded with heavy stuff. There is also a handy tray on the A-frame for stowing grey water hoses or a bit of firewood. This is only rated to carry 20kg, but it adds up. There is underbed storage well forward of the axles accessible via external hatches and an internal door. The two freshwater tanks holding 190L (190kg) are also forward of the axle. The takeaway from this is it is good practice to weigh your towball and overall van weight as you would load it, so you can do real calculations. As an aside it's worth noting that some of your weight will shift from the front of the van to rear over time. Every time you run fresh water down the sinks or shower it goes from the forward mounted tanks into the rear mounted grey water tank.
The Bottom Line
XTOUR as a company may be the new kid on the block, but there is a lot of history with ownership that brings 20 years of previous caravan manufacturing experience. A blend of proven constructions methods combined with contemporary technology tells me the Atlas should be taken seriously as a genuine contender.
Weights and Measures
Body length 6m (19ft 7in)
Overall length 8.6m (28ft 2in)
Width 2.3m (7ft 5in)
Height (roof) 3.2m (10ft 5in)
Payload 642kg (calculated)
Ball weight 142kg
Frame Marine meranti timber
Cladding Composite aluminium
Chassis Road King 6” steel
Suspension AL-KO Enduro X Full Offroad
Coupling Cruisemaster D035
Brakes Cruisemaster 12”
Wheels 16” alloys with Mudzilla offroad tyres
Water 2x 95L fresh and 1x 100L grey water
Battery 2x 100Ah lithium
Solar 2x 195W
Air-conditioner Gree heating and cooling
Gas 2x 9kg
Sway control AL-KO ESC
Cooking Swift cooktop 4 gas burner, oven and grill
Microwave 25L NCE
Fridge 274L Thetford
Bathroom Separate shower and toilet
Hot water 28L gas/electric Swift
Price From $92,000
Raptor external kitchen
AL-KO Electronic Sway Control
Concertina privacy door
Price as Shown $102,000