By Richard Robertson
It only seems like five minutes since Melbourne kicked-off the 2022 RV show circuit. Yet, here we are looking back on the Brisbane show, which ran from 7-12 June at the Brisbane Showground and completes the trifecta of east coast capital city shows for this year.
Visiting on the first day, crowd numbers seemed down on previous opening days. This probably had something to do with the unseasonably cool weather right across Australia’s South East, but perhaps also knowledge of the long lead-times buyers face on many new RVs. Talking to those in the motorhome sphere, projected delivery dates of late 2023 to mid 2024 are now common. However, given the rise in inflation, the cost of living and falling property prices, it will be interesting to see how many buyers pull their cancellation ‘triggers’ on long lead-time deliveries.
Things appear to be a bit different in the caravan business, however, with plenty of models on display and some promising immediate delivery. At least caravan manufacturers don’t have to contend with base-vehicle supply issues (shipping delays are a major headache for Fiat, Iveco and Mercedes-Benz), but all RV manufacturers still rely on many imported body components and appliances.
Such issues aside, here’s what I found new or interesting at this year’s Brisbane Show, in alphabetical order, of course!
Australian Adventure Vehicles 4x4 (AAV4x4) is a family-owned business based in Brisbane that manufactures serious expedition-grade motorhomes. It’s Global Explorer 4x4 motorhome on the Mitsubishi Fuso Canter was on display, but it was an Isuzu NPS75/155 Crew Cab truck prepped for serious Outback work that stole the limelight. Priced at $164,795 it featured a long list of extras from 37-inch Super Single wheels to front-and-rear 17,000 lb winches, 290-litres of fuel and fresh water, and a whole lot more. Inside, Stratos suspension seats look after the driver and front passenger, as does a ‘toughened-up’ airconditioning system, while the engine has been retuned for efficiency. Up front, an array of STEDI LED lighting shows the way after dark. The model is available in 4500 kg or 7000 kg GVM ratings and would make a spectacular tow vehicle thanks to its 4500 kg rating at either GVM.
It’s worth visiting the AAV4x4 website as it details many other 4x4 expedition vehicles, motorhomes and trucks, and not only makes fascinating reading, it’s a great resource for those thinking of seriously venturing off the beaten track.
Apollo was excited about the release of the new Otway, under its Windsor brand. A Fait Ducato van-conversion motorhome, the Otway is intended to replace the Adria Twin, which apparently Apollo is no longer able to import due to supply issues.
Adria’s Twin has basically been the gold standard in six-metre van conversions. That’s because of its ability to provide a practical dinette for four, a small-but-workable kitchen and a wet bathroom with a clever hinged divider that separated the shower from the toilet and vanity-unit, thus keeping them dry. It also featured an east-west bed without windows at either end, but which gained extra length as a result (opening windows in the rear doors kept fresh air circulating).
With that in mind, the Otway has much to live up to. Sadly, the designers failed to grasp the Adria’s advantages and have produced a bit of a dog’s breakfast. Ironically, Windsor’s website says the Otway “Is designed to impress with profound practicality & slick styling that leaves other forms of RVing in its rear-view mirror.” In their dreams…
Where the Otway particularly falls down is in the bathroom and bedroom. Gone is the Adria’s elegant and practical bathroom, its place taken by a rudimentary white cubicle with just loo and shower, and befitting a rental van (funny that). Chalk and cheese were never more different.
Then there’s the bedroom. To its credit, Apollo has retained the lift-up east-west bed that allows you to load in a bike or other bulky lifestyle item/s while travelling, but that’s where the credit ends. Copying Adria, Apollo’s designers have deleted the bed-end windows, but apparently only to save money. Instead of using the extra body space to extend the bed they’ve filled-in the spaces with padded boards! Then, they’ve retained the fixed-glass windows in the back doors, meaning there is absolutely no natural ventilation in the bed area! There’s not even a roof hatch, because that’s where the aircon sits). Talk about a triumph of design. Not…
Perhaps I should give Apollo the benefit of the doubt by hoping this was just the prototype and production models will redress these issues. If not, the Otway is destined for obscure mediocrity as there are many superior competitors around its base price of $141,190 ex-factory (which is well above what they used to sell Adria Twins for).
Under new management, Explorer Motorhomes has long been highly regarded for producing compact 4X4 C-class motorhomes with a one-piece fibreglass body. The company says it is the first in the RV industry to be granted permission to display the ‘Australian Made’ logo and is proud of being Australian made and Queensland built. There are five models in the Explorer lineup – Vision, Spirit, Pathfinder Xtreme and Discovery – and the company says that 23% of its owners are solo women travellers.
Four models were on display, but it was the three-axle Discovery that (naturally) attracted most interest. Built on an extended-chassis Toyota Hilux, the Discovery is available in 6x4 (4WD) or 6x6 (6WD) configurations. Explorer teamed up with Geelong-based Multidrive Technology to develop the Discovery chassis extension, which has full load-sharing suspension. Featuring an overall length of 7-metres, a height of 3.2-metres and a width of 2.1-metres, the Discovery can be driven on a standard car licence.
Two floor plans are available, with the one on display featuring an east-west bed over the cab, a mid-kitchen and bathroom, and a U-shaped lounge at the rear. The alternative has a north-south double bed over the cab, a mid-positioned cafe-style dinette with kitchen opposite, and a rear-corner bathroom on the driver’s side. Either way it’s an impressive machine with a host of features, from a pair of 100 Ah lithium house batteries to a 200-litre compressor fridge/freezer and 150-litres of freshwater. For ultimate adventures the 6x6 combination would be the way to go, and about the only drawback is the lack of practical through-cab access (common to all motorhomes of this style). Oh, and a Lotto win to accommodate the $320,000 tag for the 6x4 (add $30,000 for the 6x6). Ouch!
It was full steam ahead on Horizon Motorhomes’ stand and the company had a large line-up of its own models, plus an array of Frontline campervans. Pride of place taken by the new Boronia (pictured), which is now Horizon’s flagship model and one of the best equipped 4x4 van-conversion motorhomes available.
Here’s what I wrote about it when it debuted at the Sydney show: Built in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4 419 medium wheel-base van, the Boronia encapsulates all of Horizon’s real-world Outback travel experience. The display van had 300-watts of solar, 300 amp-hours of lithium batteries, a 2000-watt inverter, 180-litre long-range fuel tank, 145-litres of fresh water and 55-litres of grey, an external water feed for pumping from rivers/etc, full-length sidesteps, a 175-litre fridge/freezer, air-conditioning, diesel hot water and space heating, specialist dust suppression and five all-terrain tyres, while the Sprinter was optioned with the MBUX Navi pack and 10.25-inch infotainment screen. The Boronia starts at $203,000 and the good news is I’ve scheduled a drive and will be reporting on it in-depth in the not too distant future. Watch this space!
Working alongside the CMCA, KT Insurance was well represented and strategically positioned (close to the pork roll fast food stand!) on the lower level of the Royal ICC building. I dropped by first thing and was pleased to see a stack of window chamois waiting to be gifted to visitors, as I can attest to their usefulness. Did you drop by and pick-up one? If not, be sure to find the CMCA/KT stand at the next show, and take along any RV insurance questions you might have. The team will be only too pleased to help!
New on the Sunliner stand was the compact B-class Pinto motorhome, based on the new Volkswagen Crafter with 4Motion all-wheel drive. Layout-wise, the Pinto has a drop-down bed over a pair of inwards-facing lounges just after of the cab, a decent sized kitchen opposite the entry door and a generous rear bathroom. It's a very liveable, compact layout, but the real appeal of this particular model is its Volkswagen underpinnings.
The new Crafter is a cracker, with a super smooth two-litre turbo diesel engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. The 4Motion all-wheel drive system works seamlessly with no driver intervention required and adds an extra degree of driving security and confidence, particularly in wet/muddy/snowy conditions. All Volkswagen's now come with a five year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and you can pre-purchase a five year capped-price servicing plan that makes it an attractive ownership proposition.
Priced from $168,635, the Pinto is a neat 6.7-metres long, 3.2-metres tall and 2.3-metres wide. As Sunliner says, it’s “Not too big, not too small”.
Fifth-wheelers have never cracked the big time in Australia, which is a shame as they are far more stable and easy to tow and reverse than a caravan. I was pleased to find Winjana tucked away in one corner of the show, as the company is one of the quiet achievers in the Australian RV industry.
Toowoomba-based Winjana has been around for more than 20 years and started out building small fifth-wheelers compatible with Australian utes. These days it specialises in units for towing with Japanese 4x4 utes and in particular, dual-cabs. Until recently, Winjana fifth-wheelers had wooden frames made of imported Canadian spruce and were aluminium clad. Now, the company has moved into solid-wall construction, using 30 mm StyroMAX panels and a 3/4” composite fibre floor. The result is a more modern look that’s easier to keep clean, plus a more rigid body.
On display was the Ormiston 630, with an external length of 6.95-metres, a height of 3.05-metres (over the airconditioner) and an overall width of 2.43-metres. It was hitched to an Isuzu Dmax dual-ute via a Hayman Reese turntable. With a tare weight of 2500 kg and an ATM of 3500 kg, the Ormiston has a 1000 kg payload. Importantly, its 400 kg hitch weight sits directly above the rear axle, meaning the ute’s suspension is carrying the load, not towing it behind (as in having it pivoting a metre or more aft of the rear axle).
Priced from $107,500, the Ormiston 630 comes standard with Timbren Silent Ride fifth-wheel suspension, 3 x 150-watt solar panels, 2 x 100 Ah house batteries and includes the hitch and fitting for a standard vehicle. Add another $50k or so for a new dual-cab 4x4 and you have a complete Outback-capable touring package for around the same price as a top-spec Toyota LandCruiser. Food for thought, eh?
Like all RV shows, this one had the usual, myriad number of stands selling everything from folding clothes lines to complete off-grid power solutions. Of particular interest was this portable Eberspacher D2 2.2 kW diesel heater – the first portable unit I’ve come across – on the Lifestyle Equipment & Supplies stand.
Housed in a rustproof 304 stainless steel enclosure it features an integrated 3-litre fuel tank, exhaust and inlet silencers, and a plug-in controller. All you need do is add 12 V power and you're in business. Designed by Dieselheat in Tasmania, the portable unit has been built to withstand light rain and plenty of bumps, the company says. Run time is claimed at 10 hours on high or 30 hours on low.
Priced around $1650, this handy little unit could be swapped between a boat, RV or camping set-up, as long as you had a length of hose to duct the hot air inside. Obviously, being diesel-fired it produces carbon monoxide and must not be used in an enclosed area, but it’s an innovative solution with a wide range of applications.