Sunland Caravans enjoys a reputation as one of the more boutique offroad caravan manufacturers in Australia.
That means it is a specialist builder, which also means its vans come with something of a pricetag.
However, in recent times Sunland has reworked its Blue Heeler model to create a van that sits under the $90K mark. The idea is to build a van with the essential Sunland features but while also reducing some of the more expensive items.
A PAWFECT MIX
The Blue Heeler has some great statistics. For a start, it has an external length of 6.02m (19ft 9in) which means it offers buyers that happy combination of a caravan that isn’t difficult to tow, yet has enough space for an internal layout with few compromises.
In addition, the weight factor is also impressive. Whilst the van has a GVM of 3500kg, it also has a Tare mass of 2282kg, which gives a massive payload of 1218kg.
Now, the 190L water tank will take up a bit of that but it’s still impressive by industry standards. Certainly the LandCruiser that I was using for towing had no trouble in handling the caravan.
Just to clarify something here which seems to confuse a few people. Although the van has a GVM of 3500kg, it does not need a tow vehicle of that rating, just whatever the loaded weight of the van is.
Let’s say your van is carrying a load of 600kg, that means the tow vehicle has to be rated at 2282kg plus 600kg, ie 2882kg. So if we round things off, that would be 3000kg.
This makes the Blue Heeler more than ideal for any of the number of utes on the market these days that claim to have a 3500kg tow rating but is actually something less when the Gross Combined Mass (GCM) figure is taken into account.
Although the van has a galvanised steel chassis — built to Sunland’s design — it also has fewer cross members than the usual box section arrangement, thus keeping the weight down. For a good ride, the tandem 16in alloy wheels are fitted with Cruisemaster XT independent suspension complete with coil springs and two shock absorbers per wheel.
From the front, the drawbar looks almost bare, sporting only essentials such as the Cruisemaster DO35 hitch, handbrake and jockey wheel. However, the gull wing alloy checkerplate box rather neatly hides the two 9kg gas cylinders on one side and storage space on the other.
Also keeping the weight down is the frameless, fibreglass composite body structure that includes a one-piece roof. Just a footnote here, an aluminium framed, fibreglass clad body is also available.
At the rear, the cutaway ensures a good departure angle. The lower edges of the side walls are protected with a Raptor urethane coating but the front and rear walls use alloy checkerplate.
There seems to be more than the usual number of external bin doors around the Blue Heeler. Some, such as the front tunnel storage, are for general use but the rest are for utility items such as the Dometic toilet cassette and Girard instantaneous water heater.
At the rear are a couple of what I would call service hatches. It’s something I have seen on many European-built motorhomes and a great idea that Sunland has fitted to a number of its caravan designs. These are designed to provide easy access to items such as the water pump, 110Ah battery, battery management system and even 12V fuses. And all at a user-friendly height.
I noted with interest that the battery compartment even included a laminated copy of the van’s wiring diagram. I give Sunland a big tick for that one!
SIT, AND STAY...
Inside the Blue Heeler, the forward door entry design looks quite familiar with a front island bed, rear bathroom, nearside kitchen and offside dinette. Except for the grey upholstery, the interior is mostly done out in lighter colours, including the glossy white ceiling. As with many a contemporary design, there’s a multitude of shiny LED lights everywhere, including the ‘bulkheads’, for want of a better term, above the kitchen and dinette.
A feature of this van is the sizeable kitchen bench. It comes with the usual items including a Thetford four-burner hob and grill, side by side with a stainless steel sink and a microwave oven above the cooktop. But there’s still a good chunk of benchtop working space and, in addition to the two overhead lockers, there are four soft-close drawers, a double cupboard and a wire basket pantry. A fuse panel is mounted in the top panel in the overhead locker by the microwave, which does make it a tad awkward to reach.
For those who like to cook on the road, this kitchen scores quite well. Given the area between the sink and the entry door, the wall space makes a handy mounting point for the 24in LED flatscreen TV. Somewhat better than the more usual place in the bedroom area, it means minimal head twisting for both the dinette occupants.
Much of the opposite wall of the van is occupied by the cafe-style dinette and the 186L Dometic fridge that butts up against the bathroom. The dinette layout is fairly basic but the contoured cushions are certainly comfortable and I always like a panorama window for watching the world go by. Between the seats is a multi-fold table and below the rear seat are both a 240V mains powerpoint and a 12V outlet.
Sunland’s tried-and-trusted logic certainly works here. A 2.03m x 1.52m (6ft 2in x 5ft) island bed sits neatly between the bedhead that consists of the usual overhead lockers, side wardrobes and bedside drawers. Like the rest of the van, the door and drawer handles are all of the easy-to-grab variety.
Fresh air and natural light are assured by the large windows on either side but instead of the more common marine-style hatch, a Camec Four Seasons hatch has been installed in the ceiling.
Some caravan bathroom layouts do look similar. This one may look a bit familiar but the nearside shower cubicle is a Sunland design and one with a purpose-designed drainage system that works well.
Facing the shower cubicle is a Dometic cassette toilet with a large (for a bathroom) window above for ventilation. That leaves the space across the rear wall for the vanity cabinet that includes a moulded-in sink and a large shelved cupboard which could also be used for an optional washing machine. Overhead lockers and an offside corner cupboard fill the rest of the space and offer some very useful storage.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Sunland’s Blue Heeler has been around for a few years but I reckon this latest edition is great for those who would like to get into a Sunland caravan but cannot stretch the budget to the Phoenix or Longreach models.
It certainly has all the essentials for offroad caravan travel but is also relatively light weight (ie requires a cheaper tow vehicle). And, for those who want more, there’s a long options list (see breakout page 132).
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.36m (27ft 5in)
External body length 6.02m (19ft 6in)
External body width (incl awning)
2.41m (7ft 11in)
Travel height 3.93m (9ft 11in)
Internal height 1.96m (6ft 5in)
Ball weight 174kg
Cladding Fibreglass composite
Suspension Cruisemaster XT coil independent
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35
Brakes 12in electric
Wheels 16in alloy
Water 1 x 190L
Battery 1 x 110Ah
Solar 1 x 180W
Air-conditioner Aussie Traveller
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control Optional
Kitchen (external) Optional
Cooking Thetford Minigrill, four-burner and grill
Fridge Dometic RM4606 186L
Bathroom Dometic cassette and separate shower cubicle
Hot water Girard GSWH-2 instantaneous
PRICE AS SHOWN
$89,9990 (drive away in QLD)
To enquire about this caravan,
please contact Sunland Caravans,
1 Strathvale Court, Caboolture,
Ph: (07) 5499 2250