Bailey Rangefinder Comet
Features of Bailey Australia’s new slide-out model may find their way into British vans
Written by Michael Browning – October 10, 2016
‘Slides’ are becoming the gold standard on Australian touring caravans. Just about every major maker offers one – and not just on range-topping models.
You can order two models from Jayco’s ‘budget’ Starcraft range with one and now Rangefinder, the true blue Aussie outpost of British caravan giant Bailey, has one too with its new Comet that is being launched simultaneously in October in Britain and Australia.
Based on the layout of the 21ft 7in (6.59m) interior length Nebula, the Australian-designed and built Comet with its extendable off-side bedroom currently sits at the top of the Bailey Australia Rangefinder line-up, although we understand there are more slide-out models to come in 2017. However what sets the Comet apart from other slide-outs on the Australian market is its weight.
While most local ‘slides’ put on belly fat due to the extra wall strengthening and the electrical mechanism required, the Comet tips the scales at a comparatively slim 2200kg, which is significantly less than other locally built slide-outs of a similar 26ft 8in (8.12m) travel length and about 250kg more than the fixed-wall model on which it is based.
In practical terms, this means it’s technically ‘Prado friendly’, although with both of its large 105-litre fresh water tanks full and other living essentials on board, you’ll have to pack lightly to achieve this. In reality, most owners will put something with at least a 2800-3000kg tow rating ahead of their Comet, whereas most other comparable Aussie ‘slides’ require a beefier 3500kg-capable Jeep, Land-Rover, LandCruiser or crew cab ute.
This light weight comes thanks to the happy marriage of Bailey’s patented Alu-Tech frameless monocoque construction with the first local application of Lippert’s new American designed and built cassette slide-out.
Despite sitting on a conventional Austrail ladder-frame Duragal steel chassis equipped with either leaf or – as on our review Comet – Cruisemaster CRS trailing arm independent coil spring suspension, Aussie Rangefinders are consistently among the lightest full-height caravans in their class, starting with the 20ft 2in internal length Astro (front queen) and twin front single bed Cosmo models.
The new Lippert slide-out adds another special dimension, as its worm drive mechanism extends the Nebula’s width by 600mm to a total of 3090mm.
It may not seem a lot, but that 600mm makes a world of difference in terms of extra living space. Moving the transverse centre queen-size bed out of the way not only gives occupants near straight-line access to the across-the-rear separate shower, toilet and vanity ensuite, but also allows the van’s standard 32-inch TV to rise out of the cabinet at the foot of the bed.
Importantly for an Australian touring caravan, the TV’s pop-up mechanism like the slide-out operates off the caravan’s 100Ah onboard deep cycle battery, so you can free-camp off the grid and still enjoy all the home comforts, which is something few of its rivals can do. And as the slide-out is flush with the floor, there’s no annoying raised section to trip over.
Outside, the other good thing about this new cassette-style slide-out is that when retracted it’s almost invisible, save for a narrow frame around the wall section, so it looks part of the Comet’s overall design, not tacked on. From the door side, the Comet looks pretty much like its Bailey Rangefinder Nebula sibling, with the impression of solidity given by its smooth fibreglass sandwich wall construction and enhanced by the solid-looking Dometic quad-lockable entry door and security screen.
A full front tunnel boot is standard, as is a quality Dometic roll-out awning, a drop-down picnic table and a manual-fold double aluminium step.
This all gives a positive initial impression when you enter and trip the switch to activate the slide-out, an operation that takes about 25 seconds from go to whoa. With the bed out of the way, the feeling inside is of much greater overall internal space than the Comet’s dimensions would suggest.
Much of this impression comes from the van’s spectacular front club lounge immediately left of its entry door, whose panoramic ‘skyview’ front window design it shares with the Nebula. This area is the Comet’s light-filled ‘wow’ factor and makes it the place all your friends – new and old – will want to congregate.
Adding to its ambiance, all cabinetry in the latest Rangefinder models is now the high gloss, flat-pack style that local buyers prefer, following negative feedback to the matt and satin European-style finishes employed on the first Australian-built Rangefinders.
The well-equipped kitchen is part of this ‘entertaining’ area and while marginal on bench space for a caravan of this size, is well laid out, with everything in easy reach.
On the offside there’s a stainless steel sink and drainer next to a Thetford 3+1 gas/electric cooktop with a grill and oven below, sandwiched between the 900W Sphere microwave and a slide-out double-decker pantry.
Meanwhile, opposite there’s a roomy Thetford 185 litre, three-way fridge-freezer, flanked by a cupboard containing both a second pantry and the caravan’s large, separate dining table.
Bailey Australia is well aware that many buyers would rather have this table fixed in the middle of the front U-shaped lounge and are offering a gas-strut single pedestal version that can double as the base for an additional front queen bed, as a dealer-fitted option.
There’s plenty of storage here, both above the lounge and in the kitchen area, with the overhead cupboards featuring sturdy domestic-grade European Blum hinges and soft-close positive locking mechanisms. As a result, the overall feeling is one of style and sturdiness.
Rather than block off the bedroom from the front of the van, occupants progress to the rear ensuite through a wide corridor past the foot of the queen bed. Some may wish this area could be cordoned off and a concertina door would offer this solution, however there’s a lightweight sliding door separating the ensuite from the bedroom.
Thanks to its slide-out wall, the bedroom is both roomy and functional, with a small opening window with blackout and fly mesh cassette blinds in the padded bedhead wall, large clothes storage cupboards above and handy bedside tables with both 240v and 12v power points on either side.
The TV opposite rises out of the centre of a cabinet and cupboard-filled wall that houses the Comet’s standard Sphere 2.5kg top-loading washing machine adjacent to the ensuite wall. The only negative here is this profusion of cabinets and drawers necessitates fairly small windows in the bedroom area.
Without a rear window and only a single high-mounted single vertical one above the toilet, the ensuite also relies largely on the Comet’s excellent recessed and direct LED lighting, but everything you need is here, albeit without the ‘bling’ of the Comet’s front ‘skyview’ lounge.
An Ecocamel showerhead that will save you water when not plugged in to mains supplies is a thoughtful standard feature in the large fibreglass shower.
A Dometic Freshjet 3200 reverse cycle air conditioner is also standard and a Truma E2400 gas heater is an option that was fitted to our review van.
Given its British heritage, many potential purchasers may need reassuring that the new Rangefinder Comet is tough enough for Australian touring conditions, but having towed two prototype Rangefinders across the entire girth of Australia from West to East last year I can put those fears to rest.
Despite their relatively light weight, they are tough ‘mothers, with their strength coming from clever design and use of materials rather than sheer bulk.
Beating rival Swift to the punch with the first UK-backed, Aussie slide-out van, the new Rangefinder Comet is impressive in many areas.
It’s not cheap with pricing starting above $80,000, but its comparatively light weight puts it right up there with the best Australian touring caravans.
>> Light towing weight
>> Quality slide-out
>> Interior ‘wow’ factor
NOT SO MUCH:
>> Small kitchen bench space
>> Dining table not fixed
>> A concertina sliding wall to the bedroom would be good