After our detailed experience with the Mk1 version, we eagerly got our hands on a van to review the Ezytrail Parkes 15 Quad Mk2.
Of all caravan brands, I have spent more time living with an Ezytrail than the rest. And that’s living in, not testing for a day here and there. During filming for our TV show, Foodie Trails, I lived in a Parkes 15 Mk1 for three weeks solid. In that time and environment, you discover what works and what doesn’t and subsequently what a company might take on board in terms of criticism. Ezytrail is one of those companies that tends to listen. So, when the Parkes 15 Mk2 was released, I was very keen to see what’s changed. It appears, quite a lot.
New heavy-duty hardware
Firstly, the introduction of the F5 galvanised chassis and associated lifetime warranty. The Parkes 15 is an off-road van and requires a tough undercarriage. While the Mk1 versions could be criticised as being heavy for the van size, what’s been achieved is a structurally stronger chassis and drawbar, made from Q345 steel. The new steel construction has shaved a few kilos from the total, but while it’s not a huge difference in weight, the warranty means you can have much more confidence in the quality. In terms of dimensions, the chassis is 120 x 50 x 3mm and the drawbar 150 x 50 x 3mm.
Suspension-wise, the Ezyrider independent trailing arm system is new. Developed in partnership with Pedders, it offers heavy-duty coils and twin Pedders shocks on each side; it performs very well. The Kenda 10-ply mud-terrain tyres are new for the Mk2 model, and whereas we don’t often remark upon the van tyres, I have cause to do so here. Chasing a new photo location due to an unadvertised park closure, we unexpectedly found ourselves in very steep and muddy terrain on red clay, in the rain. Not my ideal choice with a tow vehicle on highway tyres but it proved a point. Given a peaky V8 in hectic conditions the muddies on the Parkes meant that it stayed in line behind us, only occasionally becoming a little sideways, thanks to lateral traction, which we found very reassuring.
Out on the road
And on the subject of handling, the Parkes 15 we collected had almost full water tanks, meaning it was a bit under its 2900kg ATM, from a 2330kg Tare. Twin 120-litre fresh water tanks (and there’s an optional 75-litre grey tank) will add roughly 240kg to your payload when full and, for us, in that set-up, we enjoyed predictable towing characteristics. The standard AL-KO ball coupling behaved, and we didn’t experience any shunting. We were on the lookout for hitch misbehaviour because our last three-week tour with a Parkes Mk1 used a McHitch Uniglide coupling (an available option from Ezytrail) and we enjoyed the experience.
Given the power on tap from the RAM’s 5.7-litre HEMI petrol V8, we encountered overtaking sessions with semi-trailers on the M4 out of Sydney to the Blue Mountains, both passing and being passed. All were free of tension-inducing sway, although in the set-up we had this side of 95km/h was the happiest cruising speed for the motorway.
In a testing scenario, we mostly travel without all the touring gear you’d normally expect. Still, it’s worth pointing out that we had no gas cylinders in the new toolbox lockers – there’s provision for two – and you may choose the optional internal fridge and microwave package that’s a payload consideration to think about.
Let’s be upfront, shall we?
The front end of the Parkes Mk2 has been treated to a stylised but tough three-bin toolbox, as mentioned, with a brand-new laser-cut nameplate proudly announcing what you’ve bought. The lockers have great automotive compression seals – used throughout – and lockable lids. There’s tons of room here and ball weight of 180kg notwithstanding, you can store lots upfront. A heavy-duty ARK 750kg jockey wheel, breakaway brake system and wiring harness with Anderson plug for a vehicle alternator boost to charging rounds out the F5 drawbar fixtures. Oh, given the toolbox acts as a stone guard, the massive front mudflaps catch a lot of track debris, as we discovered.
The cargo trade-off you have with the Parkes 15 Quad, as opposed to the two-berth version, is that since the twin bunks run across the front of this one, the tunnel boot isn’t an option. However, you get a generator slide on the offside along with a smaller locker to compliment the huge fridge slide you have next to the entry door. This larger section is lit, has a fan for cooling, a further Anderson plug and the switches for the Truma hot water service in electric or gas mode.
The kitchen facilities
Moving along the chequer-plate-clad sides, past the lockable fold-out table, external speakers, TV mount, and the deep pantry drawer, you reach the kitchen. The Parkes 15 Quad Mk2 benefits from the internal sink and two-burner stove for when your needs dictate cooking inside, but the main event is the stainless-steel set-up that glides out of the van’s rear section.
It’s now permanently plumbed in for hot and cold water, which is a boon. I’d say you’d only forget once to switch on the pumps in the Mk1 without connecting the pipes … however, I’d be lying.
Ezytrail has made a few changes to the kitchen. It’s still a four-burner gas stove, but with new lids, catches to lock the lids together when they’re up and the drying rack on the sink has been enlarged. A couple of points here; be wary that your drawers are properly latched closed before sliding in your kitchen, and the cooktop windshield brought up one of two quality control issues. One pin meant to secure the windshield in position wouldn’t marry up to the hole for it. (The other was a small electrical case at the back of the 24-inch HDTV that wouldn’t close.)
None of these things detracted from a great kitchen that offers plenty of preparation, cooking and cleaning-up space to meet its design brief.
A wind-out Dometic awning covers your external living area very well, just make sure your awning is up high enough not to collect the top of the entry door on the awning arm.
The door itself is now a talking point too, and it’s a huge improvement. It’s an Aussie Traveller Premium unit, with security mesh and heavily tinted windows that should hopefully block light intrusion more than the Mk1 version. An electric entry step is now an option with a manual unit being standard. Neat new Ezytrail logo LEDs light the stairwell.
Let’s have a look inside
The Parkes 15 is still an aluminium-framed van that uses composite panel walls for strength and insulation plus the interior walls are gel-coated FRP. It’s inside where the biggest difference with the Mk2 over the previous model can be seen. It still has the same dimensions, the large ensuite and the king-size bed, but what’s changed is the walkthrough space. Ezytrail has swapped the furnishings to use a two-seat leatherette-trimmed dinette with a multi-adjustable table on the off-side, opposite the internal kitchen and the wardrobe. The wardrobe is where the optional fridge and microwave would go, so that’s a choice you will have to make; facility or storage. The top section of the wardrobe is now the home for the electrical control panel and water gauges; new design, same great functionality.
Light and power
The Parkes 15 relies on three, standard 100 AH deep-cycle batteries, in our test van boosted with three, roof-mounted solar panels to supply plentiful electrical energy for days of free camping. In what was lacking in the Mk1 Parkes, the new van has more 240 outlets and lots of 12-volt CIG and twin USB sockets, in fact, now two of these units per bed! Plus, the 12V reading light styles have been renewed and LED strips added to softly light the van when the main lights aren’t needed. Ezytrail has made a point of the night light in the ensuite too, which is a nice touch.
While the Parkes 15 Mk2 has the same number of windows (and vents in the pop-top roof) as the Mk1, it seems lighter and brighter as moving the wardrobe to the opposite side has allowed a bigger window above the dinette and it shows. All windows are insect screened and have privacy blinds. The large window over the main bed is a winner in that it offers a panoramic view.
The big bed and other comforts
The main bed is huge. It’s a new, triple-density foam mattress and while we didn’t sleep on this one, we can vouch for its predecessor being comfy, if a tad firm. The bunks also receive new dual-density foam mattresses.
Similarly, with the main bed, you use a strap to pull and fold it in half back to you when packing up the bedroom module. In hindsight, it must be to grab the strap, push the base away from you as you pull the strap; otherwise, the whole mattress seems too high for the roof – trials and tribulations (and first-world problems…).
One small but vital change in the Mk2, is the DVD/stereo head unit has been installed above the TV, meaning you can operate it from the bed now, via remote.
Storage is adequate, with under-seat and drawer capacity, but your trade-off mentioned with the wardrobe/fridge choice might be an issue if you need hanging space.
In addition to the night light and attractive shower hardware, the large ensuite is now a one-piece moulded fibreglass unit, instead of composite construction. It receives the improved shower drainage via a better-looking coloured grille over the plughole.
The set-up and pack down procedure has been aided with the use of new catches and locks on the bedroom module, which is the same straightforward operation. While inside, the arms used to raise and lower the pop-top roof seem much easier to use, even one-handed. Also at the rear, the twin spare wheels are easier to move and secure.
It’s nice to be listened to. Whether that’s comments we’ ve made, more likely Ezytrail owners, but the changes we thought necessary have certainly been made in the Parkes 15 Mk2, and then some. Functional changes, such as the power outlets and a quieter water pump, through to thoughtful inclusions like night-lights, the table and the beds. There are new colour choices too, for inside and out.
With its off-road designation, the Parkes 15 Mk2 lives up to its design brief and in our experience with other Ezytrail Parkes models, should only be an improved offering with the existing, proven hardware and new inclusions. Not only that, the price has to be a major consideration to obtain a fully-equipped off-road, four-berth pop-top caravan with attitude.
Chassis/drawbar and warranty
New interior space/ensuite
Small quality control issues (as mentioned)
Top bunk only for smaller bods
Model Ezytrail Parkes 15 Quad Mk2
Height 2460mm (travel)
Options included: Aircon, solar panels, Off-Grid Pack, Sirocco fan, grey water tank
Price as tested $52,990
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