I’ve never started a review with so many misgivings. My misgivings grew because we’d usually head bush and rumble this style of rig over uneven ground somewhere. But circumstances meant there was no opportunity for an adventure, big or small.
Nonetheless, here’s a yarn of heroic proportions, of promise and of hope and of a production team with a love and passion for the work they do. Working midnight shifts to meet a tight deadline, they’ve made one of the most memorable rigs ever featured in Caravan World. Let me explain.
ROAMING BEYOND THE HORIZON
Global roaming rigs, or expedition vehicles as they’re called in up-market circles, are the type of RV that’ll carry you over any landscape, from the haunting back country of Iceland to the ancient, harsh Sahara.
While all are the product of powerful engineering qualifications, the global-roaming motorhome lives or dies on four simple words — efficiency, reliability, safety and comfort (seasoned with more than a sniff of luxury). That mix requires travellers to have the financial wherewithal to buy one and the burning desire for unforgettable adventures, anywhere, anytime.
As it happened SLRV Expedition Vehicles had a client brief that went well beyond anything they’d built before. In fact, it went beyond anything any Australian manufacturer had produced, is likely a world first and was done on an extraordinarily tight deadline. The deadline was so tight it demanded long hours from every team member — sometimes to midnight, night after night. After all, all they had to do was design and build a rig that demanded inventing new technology and a new computer system.
In the midst of that build, Caravan World had exclusive access at every stage. Over the months of work, Caravan World headed to the SLRV Gold Coast headquarters to see this beast coming together and, finally, to see if SLRV could actually build a successful double storey expedition vehicle they’d call the Commander 8x8. This rig needed to hit the right engineering mark, be technologically advanced yet rugged and ready to tackle any remote adventure it’s owner should choose.
FROM THE GROUND UP
If you’ve got a lazy $2 million, you’re likely going to want to start with a remarkable base. SLRV used a MAN TGS 8x8 with a wheelbase that’s a smidge over 6 metres long. That’s a foundation that boasts a 12L engine that produces 353kW at 1900rpm and a ripping 2300Nm at 1050-1400 rpm of mind-boggling torque.
What that amounts to is an impressive foundation for an eye-popping power machine ready to churn up any landscape. Marry that with the truck’s 8x8 configuration and this beast is set to rumble over the landscape as if it were riding on caterpillar tracks. It has the ability to go over, around or through any obstacle you’re likely to encounter. Clearly, the MAN is a fine example of German engineering.
While our exploration of this expedition vehicle was limited to a short drive along the tarmac from the SLRV factory to nearby Sanctuary Cove, even on that banal trip it was clear the motorhome’s incredible mechanical advantage doesn’t mean an agricultural ride. Instead, the MAN offers a cabin ride as smooth as silk thanks to cabin seats resting on cushions of air. Don’t worry, a luxurious driver’s seat doesn’t mask an uncomfortable ride.
Driving-wise, this enormous truck is just what the would-be adventurer would demand thanks to a power distribution with two-speed transfer case, planetary axles with higher ground clearance, differential locks, and stabilisers. This means drivers can work secure in the knowledge that their 8x8 AWD will back them all the way.
Even on a short, simple drive it was clear this rig handles the corners exceptionally well thanks to 4-wheel steering, load-share front suspension and hub reduction drive axles.
There’s no point in an all-terrain motorhome if all the good bits are in the underlying truck platform and the motorhome isn’t up to the task of a global adventure. This is where SLRV’s innovative approach set a new standard.
THE NEW STANDARD
If a rig that’s got a 6-metre wheelbase with an overall length of 12 metres and is over 4 metres tall isn’t enough, don’t worry, there’s more.
Pull up at a campsite under a shady Acacia at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and this monster grows bigger. That’s right, the roof lifts up, revealing a second storey and raising the lid to around 6 metres. To pull this off the SLRV team had to invent a new lift system.
Australia is developing quite a reputation for building impressive off-road rigs of all sorts. SLRV has added to that reputation by building this world-beating expedition vehicle to house a family of eight, and the lift system and associated tech is at the top of a long list of what makes this an amazing build.
FROM DESIGN TO FINAL BUILD
Caravan World met the SLRV 8x8 soon after MAN delivered the base vehicle. We watched it being built and saw the chirpy SLRV team work long hours solving technical and design challenges to produce an enormous vehicle with a second storey for a large family to bunker down in the wilderness somewhere.
Built for a media-shy owner who wasn’t keen on an interview, it’s safe to say the new owner clearly loves outings with the entire family and friends given the size of the beast.
Parents get to sleep in blissful isolation in the downstairs master. Upstairs, in what amounts to a pop-up loft bedroom are six single beds, each nestled deep in its own plinth with an adjacent individual storage locker. The kids are kept happy thanks to a pop-up tv.
Better still, when the mobile nest finally empties, Mum and Dad will be able to invite a gaggle of mates knowing that downstairs will keep the party rolling thanks to a large kitchen and lounge able to keep up to 10 mates comfortable and fed.
POWER AND WATER
All of that means you need some serious off-grid wizardry so you’re not giving up watching giraffes to race into town and recharge batteries. Power needs are self-sufficient on this one thanks to an electrical supply that includes 3-phase 240V, 48V and 24V systems. Battery wise, there is a Mastervolt Lithium 48V battery bank providing 540Ah and a Mastervolt 12V bank providing 180Ah, not to mention more solar power than you’ll need, a sizable invertor and 48V alternator charging from the truck. This makes it the first RV in the world to use this alternator to charge at 9.5kVA. It’s like having second large generator while driving. On top of this there’s a 230V generator on board.
Power isn’t the only boast on the self-sufficient stakes. When it comes to water, nobody is going to go thirsty as the SLRV Commander 8x8 can haul around a total of 1000 litres of water across two storage systems.
Running out of fuel shouldn’t be an issue either considering it’s hauling 1000 litres of diesel. The trouble is, there is, as yet, no fuel consumption data. The best MAN advertise for this particular model is ‘low consumption’. That’s a problem, because that 1000 litres might be burnt in around 30 hours of driving. Then again, in terms of the SLRV, nobody knows what low consumption means. After all, a truck like this has never been built before.
AROUND THE OUTSIDE
A walk around the outside revealed a great array of features, from its fibreglass composite construction, recessed awning, front and rear cameras, custom-made double-glazed windows to its lifting spare tyre rack and storage boxes.
Hose off the dust with an external hot and cold shower and the travelling gourmand will love the external kitchen that features a slide-out barbecue complete with a sink and a portable induction cooktop. However not all the magic is outside.
AROUND THE INSIDE
If the interior layout has you intrigued considering its popup second storey, you’re not alone.
Feeling sleepy and want some privacy, enter via the main door and scoot up a loft-style ladder to the second storey bedroom. When it’s time to lower the second storey to hit the track again, a sophisticated computer system means a pre-flight check like no other. You simply can’t move until it’s done and that means no nasty accidents if a recalcitrant child decides to stay upstairs. Again, it was a tech innovation built through the hard work and emphasis on safety inherent in SLRV design.
Downstairs is the master bedroom, galley kitchen and leather lounge cum dinette. In the event yet another bed is needed, there’s a drop-down king-sized bed.
In the kitchen there’s almost a his and her everything, including double convection oven, double cooktops, and double fridges.
A Fusion marine sound system, four TVs with soundbars, and satellite internet with a digital satellite system controller form the entertainment mix. A separate shower and toilet in the rear complete the layout.
From its leather lounge to the second storey kids’ retreat, endless filtered water, solar power, custom designed spare tyre lift, innovative computer system and more, this is an awe-inspiring RV. It’s an innovative design of and for its time and a price tag just short of $2 million to match.
This sort of rig isn’t for everyone. However, for the right buyer with an insatiable adventurous soul, this is set to provide years of amazing, go-anywhere adventures.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
External length 12m (39'4")
External width 2.49m (8'2")
Internal height 2m (6' 6") downstairs, 1.5m (4'11") upstairs
Travel height 4.2m (13' 9")
Base vehicle Man TGS 8x8
Engine Thetford N614.3F 18.4 litre
Gearbox 12-speed automated with power distributed by a two-speed transfer case, planetary axles, differential locks on all 4 axles
Max power 353kW at 1900rpm
Max torque 2300Nm at 1050-1400rpm
Fuel Diesel 1000L
Fresh water 1000L
Grey Water 200L
Black water 200L
Batteries Mastervolt Lithium 48V Bank 540Ah, Mastervolt 12V Bank 180 Ah, 3 x Mastervolt 48/3500–50 inverter/Charger mass combi ultra
Air-conditioner Airconditioning units x 3 — 48V 12K–15K BTU approx. — ducted system Gas No
Cooking Diesel/induction system with electric induction cooktop and additional poartable induction cooktop
Fridge/freezer 2 x Isotherm 200L underbench fridge/freezer, 75L drawer fridge/freezer
Microwave 2 x Miele Combo Convection oven/microwave
Shower Separate solid Corian with adjustable shower rail system
Hot Water Diesel
Electric Lift up bed over lounge
Sprung composite leather lounges
Lifting spare tyre rack with storage boxes
2 X roof rack mounted boxes
1 X side box rear of cab
Large rear mounted removable clothes line
PRICE AS SHOWN
$1.5 to $2 million