What do they say about Queensland? Beautiful one day. Perfect the next. Yeah, I think that's how it goes. Well, in the case of this little story, it was more like this: “Thunderstorm from hell one day … perfect the next!”
On the Monday afternoon before our review of Wonderland’s Amaroo 2100 was to take place, the mother of all storms unleashed on the northern side of Brisbane all the way to the Sunshine Coast and beyond, dumping plenty of rain and bringing down trees.
Early on Tuesday morning, when picking up the van from Aussie Escape Caravans, the sun had not long risen and there was barely a cloud in the crisp, blue sky. Yep, perfect.
Our target for the day was the Glasshouse Mountains, nestled in behind the beautiful Sunshine Coast. It’s an area comprising of several peaks, remnants of a volcanic past, pine forests and farming land.
Thanks to national parks and logging vehicles, there are a maze of tracks that wind their way through the pine plantations and eucalypt scrub. These can go from mild to very wild.
Add in a bit of that overnight rain to the red clay tracks and you've got yourself a great day out testing the offroad spec’d Wonderland Amaroo 2100.
Leaving the Aussie Escape Caravans yard behind, we had ourselves a good 30-odd minutes of highway cruising ahead of us before we took our exit onto Steve Irwin Way towards the township of Glass House Mountains.
It was a great opportunity to not only get a feel for the Amaroo behind the mighty 200 series LandCruiser, but to also have a good chat with Andrew Bruce and his wife Jess. Andrew has been in the caravan game for more than 20 years, running his own business since 2005, relocating to bigger and better premises in 2016.
Looking for a new challenge, Andrew wanted to become an agent for a premium grade, Aussie-made caravan, and in November 2018 became the Queensland dealer for Wonderland RV. This has proven to be a great decision, with more than 20 sales since then of this ever increasingly popular caravan.
Aussie Escape Caravans is a 'one stop shop', offering everything from new sales, second-hand vans, servicing and repairs and, since bringing the new marque on board, Andrew found many customers are returning to upgrade to a new Wonderland.
Heading west from the Steve Irwin Way and using our Hema Maps app, it wasn't long before the bitumen gave way to the gravel, and then the gravel gave way to the rutted, red clay tracks.
Whoa boys — washouts, gullies, short climbs and deceptively deep puddles were all encountered and conquered with a minimum of fuss. That was until we took a track through the pine trees. All was going well until the track started to get a little more slippery, a little more rutted and a little bit steeper. Downhill. What's that saying again? “What goes down, must come up!” or something to that effect.
A quick recce of the track was undertaken, with the exit point deemed to be just a little bit too much for a 'Cruiser with a 6.5m (21ft 4in) van hanging off the back to handle. In the dry it would be no problem, but after that storm only 12 hours ago, we decided that discretion was the better part of valour. There was, however, still a slight problem. We, or should that be Andrew, still had to reverse the van back up the slippery and rutted slope that we had just come down.
After many attempts and a lot of skilful wheel work (and Jess not breathing for about 20 minutes!) we were back up on the flat without so much as even a scratch on the duco, performing a three-point turn and heading back the way we came in.
THE NITTY GRITTY
The Amaroo series is the most popular model within the Wonderland range, and to be honest, it's not hard to see why. It's got the right blend of sophisticated blacktop tourer and offroad warrior: a tough exterior with a plush interior.
This particular model on test is the 6.5m (21ft 4in) caravan, however the range goes from a 5.05m (16ft 7in) unit, all the way up to a 7m (23ft) model. Wonderland is also a full custom builder, so you can choose from a large range of standard layouts, or tweak them to suit your own needs.
Almost everything is a standard fitting, giving you a lot of bang for your hard-earned buck. For those who want to upgrade the suspension or electrical systems, this is definitely available.
Designed to be taken all over the country, this offroad van is built to a high standard from the ground up, and incorporates some pretty tricky construction methods.
Just like a good house needs solid foundations, an offroad caravan needs a solid chassis. Thankfully, the team from Roadking know a thing or two about hot-dipped galvanised steel. A 6in extended drawbar makes way for the 4in + 4in double box chassis, which provides strength as well as all important clearance for those offroad obstacles. A 2in SHS frame sits atop the chassis to support the structural grade marine ply base.
An upgraded suspension package had been fitted to our test van, namely a Cruisemaster XT fully independent coil suspension with twin shocks. Keeping the van rolling along are 16in alloys with 265/75R16 all terrain tyres. With the majority of new vehicles these days capable of towing this van running 17in rims, I found it surprising that these weren't standard fitment. A single spare hangs off the rear bar along with twin jerry can holders.
Hiding underneath there's the fresh and grey water tanks, protected by metal shrouds. Electrical cabling, gas and water lines have been run mostly up high and relatively well protected, however, a couple of items caught my eye.
First was the location of the external gas point for hooking up your BBQ or the optional slide-out kitchen. To me, this was in a highly vulnerable position, with a high likelihood of it being damaged in offroad situations. The other item of particular note was the use of single screw cable connectors on the sway controller wiring. For an offroad van that is subject to dust, dirt, mud and water crossings, this is definitely sub par.
The drawbar plays home to the usual suspects. Twin 9kg gas bottles, twin 20L jerry can holders, a checkerplate storage box and a freshwater tap fit neatly behind the stone guard. The offside of the storage box has a swing -open door with a slide inside. If you need somewhere to hide the genny, then this would be it.
In front of the stone guard, you'll find the Cruisemaster DO35 hitch, Breaksafe trailer breakaway unit, HD handbrake, reverse camera connection, Anderson plug, Hayman Reese sway bars and safety chains.
Above the chassis and the one-piece floor, and going against the grain of traditional Meranti 'stick' frame construction, the framework here is still timber, just not how you know it.
CNC router-cut, jigsaw interlocking structural plywood panels piece together to create a frame with increased strength, but not weight. The body is finished with either a silver stucco aluminium or, as in our case, smooth Dibond aluminium composite panel.
One of the many features of this product is that it is extremely lightweight whilst being incredibly strong.
The other is the range of eye-catching colours that are available within the Wonderland range. Aluminium ‘X’ plate surrounds the lower third of the van, to further ward off evil spirits and stray branches that may wish to bring damage to your pride and joy.
AROUND THE OUTSIDE
After a hard week at work (who am I kidding, it was only Tuesday!) setting the van up in a cracking location, with views towards the mountains and an ice cold frothy in your hand, you start to wonder, “Can life really get any better?” It can if you've got your partner and a cheese platter to go along with it.
The massive awning along the passenger side provides all the shade you need to kick back and relax once the day is done. The tunnel boot at the front can have an external slide-out kitchen fitted, and would be one of the first options I would add if this van ever found its way to my house.
There's a fold-down table for the Jatz crackers, as well as LED lighting, an AV hatch so you can bring the telly outside, waterproof speakers, while bringing up the rear is the access hatch for the Thetford toilet cassette.
On the offside, a rear storage hatch can also be accessed from inside, beneath the bunk beds. Filler necks for the water tanks along with an external shower are located just forward of the wheel arch. The tunnel boot at the front can also be accessed from the driver's side.
At 6.5m (21ft 4in), this isn't the smallest van on the block, but it's by no means the biggest either. But clever design has enabled the team at Wonderland to fit a queen-sized bed, two bunks, an L-shaped dinette that can convert into an additional bed, galley kitchen as well as an ensuite bathroom, complete with its own shower cubicle, toilet and vanity unit. Phew, I nearly ran out of breath on that one!
Let's have a bit of a closer look at exactly what goes into this family-friendly layout.
The hub is the kitchen/dinette area, and it's located right in the middle, conveniently separating the master bedroom from the kids’ bunks. The colour scheme is modern, with clean, gloss white overhead cupboards, laminate benchtops, acrylic splashback and timber doors.
Charcoal 'pleather' on the couches complements the darker, hard wearing vinyl flooring and LED lighting throughout means there are no dark corners. Blue mood lighting above the overhead cupboards adds a nice, modern touch.
Those who don't mind swinging a spatula will feel right at home in the kitchen. Bench space is limited, but with the height-adjustable dining table just behind you, I'm sure you'll find a way. There's a large stainless steel sink, complete with a filtered water tap, a four-burner cooktop (3 x gas, 1 x electric) and grill, a 25L Sphere microwave and recessed rangehood. Kitchen storage is taken care of by a slide-out pantry, cutlery and pot drawers, as well as overhead cupboards. A 220L Dometic fridge/freezer keeps your food fresher for longer.
As previously mentioned, the dinette has a height-adjustable table. Apart from being able to move it up and down, it can also go left, right, in and out. Taking up residence under the seats are two lead crystal batteries which supply power to the van. These are supplemented by a pair of 150W solar panels, while a 40A Voltech battery charger makes sure you leave home with your batteries full of juice.
Below the cushions are a double 240V GPO, twin USB and 12V socket as well as an LPG gas detector and fire extinguisher. There are overhead lockers above the dinette, one of which houses the electrical panel, comprising of fuses, hot water controls, water pump and battery monitoring.
At the front of the van, the main bedroom sports a queen-sized pillowtop bed (yep, it was as comfy as it sounds!), mirrored robes with ample hanging space, overhead cupboards and bedside tables with more storage underneath.
A sneaky little cut-out facing the bed in the bottom of the robe provides a great little nook to store your book and reading glasses. To help you read that book, each side of the bed gets their own LED reading light. For the storage of big and bulky items, the whole bed hinges up with the assistance of a pair of gas struts.
Located beside the bed on both sides are 240V power sockets and USB charging points. Considering everything else is so well thought out and colour coordinated in the interior, the black USB sockets stood out like the proverbial.
White USB sockets have been used elsewhere in the fit out, so I'm not too sure why they weren't here?
Hot summer nights are easily counteracted with a Sirocco 12V fan and, if that isn't enough, an IBIS 3 A/C unit will soon have you reaching for the doona.
On the other side of the kitchen, and separated by a curtain divider for a little bit of extra privacy (for you and them!), is where you'll find the kids’ bunks. Located conveniently above each of the bunks is a handy little tablet/phone holder complete with its own USB charge port, so the kids could head to bed and watch an episode of Bluey or Dora the Explorer while you kick back watching Friday Night Footy on your 24in LED television from the comfort of your own bed.
Opposite the bunks on the near side of the van is the ensuite bathroom with separate moulded one-piece shower, Thetford swivel cassette toilet and vanity unit complete with mirrored medicine cabinet. Located between the bunks and bathroom is a large linen cupboard on the top and a 2.5kg top-loading washing machine concealed below. To make life just that little bit easier, the washing machine is fitted to a pull-out slide.
THE LAST WORD
If you're looking for a genuine offroad-equipped van with a lot of luxuries from home that will allow your family to happily head off into the wild back blocks of Australia, I don't think you could go far wrong if a Wonderland Amaroo was following behind you.
Out of the box it comes very well appointed, and with an 800kg payload capacity, you can easily get another water tank, battery and solar panel fitted to enable longer forays into the bush, and still have plenty of load capacity available to you.
Just remember, you'll need a big and powerful vehicle to pull it to wherever you want to go. But if that's the price you have to pay, then I say do it. You only live once!
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Length (caravan) 6.5m (21ft 4in)
Length (overall)8.8m (28ft 10in)
Width 2.43m (8ft)
Travel height 3.05m (10ft)
Internal height 1.98m (6ft 6in)
Ball weight 155kg
Frame CNC router-cut jigsaw interlocking marine grade ply
Cladding Diabond composite aluminium panelling
Chassis fully galvanised
Suspension Tandem axle, XT Cruisemaster fully independent coil suspension with twin shocks
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35 offroad coupling
Brakes Cruisemaster 12in electric
Wheels 265/75R16 all-terrain tyres on 16in alloy rims (six-stud) with 1 x spare
Water 2 x 95L tanks (potable), 1x100L grey water
Battery 240Ah Lead crystal battery system (2 x 120Ah)
Solar 2 x 150W panels
Air-conditioner Ibis 3
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control Hayman Reese
Kitchen Modern CNC cut double laminated ply with laminate benchtops and high gloss acrylic splashback
Cooking Swift stove (3 x gas burner, 1 x electric hotplate), oven and grill with automatic ignition
Fridge 190L upright Dometic
Microwave Sphere 25L
Bathroom Ensuite with separate shower/toilet/vanity
Washing machine 2.5kg NCE top-loader
Hot water 28L gas and electric
Bed size 1.905m x 1.524m (6ft 3in x 5ft
XT Cruisemaster fully independent coil suspension with twin shocks, Dibond aluminium composite panel exterior, Dexter Sway Control
Price as shown $88,990 (including on-road costs)
To enquire about this caravan, contact Wonderland RV, ph: (03) 8692 0032, (QLD dealer), ph: (07) 3465 0933