In this, our 50th Anniversary edition, we are highlighting some of our long-running caravan builders, so it’s fitting to include this ripper offroad van from Roadstar. The company itself has been building vans for over 30 years and has established an enviable reputation for reliability and high build quality. But when Hi-Tech engineering bought the company in 2009, they added 45 years of specialist chassis know-how to the mix. Throughout their operation, Roadstar has built more than 45,000 caravans, so there is a wealth of experience on the factory floor.
In a range of on and offroad models, the Safari Tamer Extreme stands tall as a full adventure van with an impressive list of rugged features and an interior that radiates luxury. The Extreme is an even bolder offroader than the original Safari Tamer, with a specs list that includes the best components on offer in today’s market. These include Cruisemaster airbag suspension, class-leading electronics and a sandwhich panel body construction.
In the Australian caravan builder tradition of building offroad vans super strong, the 18ft 6in Extreme sits on a quality Hi-Tech Engineered chassis, which is precision welded in house from 450 grade high tensile BlueScope steel. Both the A-frame and main chassis rails are 150 x 50mm section, with a 100 x 50mm riser under the body and a 50 x 50mm support at the A-frame. The tandem ATX suspension is the latest level 3 wireless controlled system rated at 2.25t each for a total capacity of 4.5t, meaning an ATM upgrade is possible if you have a large capacity tow vehicle like some of the big American utes.
Airbags take the place of coil springs usually seen in Cruisemaster suspensions and movement of the trailing arms is dampened by remote reservoir shock absorbers on each arm. Wireless control allows individual raising and lowering of the suspension with 200mm of travel to account for uneven ground when parked or to lift the van when traversing rough terrain.
Aluminium checkerplate sheets protect the undercarriage, and the van rides on 17in alloy wheels with the same offset and pattern as your chosen tow vehicle, in this case, a 200 series LandCruiser. Continuing the list of optimum equipment is a set of Micky Thompson Baja ATX tyres.
Meanwhile, all wiring and plumbing are neatly led out of any danger. Also high out of harm's way are two 95L water tanks and a third with an option for fresh or greywater.
LOOKS THE GOODS
The three-piece monocoque shell construction of the caravan body gives the distinctive flat profile exterior that is so popular currently, and the benefit is more than just for show. The Australian made panels have a fibreglass exterior and an inner core of extruded polystyrene section that is lightweight and immensely sturdy. Roadstar moved to the sandwhich walls three years ago for their premium range and, while the build process is more complicated and time-consuming than a timber frame, the benefits of weatherproofing, thermal insulation and durability are immense.
I’m told that the company only uses the highest quality Sikaflex materials, sourced from Europe and exclusive to Roadstar, for sealing and bonding components through the construction. The walls, floor and single-piece roof, are bonded together to form a single monocoque construction that is fixed to the chassis to make an immensely strong unit.
Riding high on the offroad suspension, the relatively compact 18ft 6in van creates a purposeful but well-balanced impression. Colour coded scrub bars, rear skid rails, 5t tow points, oversize heavy-duty mud flaps and a stone shield on the extended A-frame all add to the capability and effect. Jerry can holders sit outside a good size toolbox on the A-frame and a tap there has a shroud to add protection.
A rear hatch gives easy access to a Truma instantaneous water heater, and upfront is an onboard Dometic 2.5kVA self-start generator using a Honda motor. Note in the photos hereabouts the muffler under the van that reduces the noise to an almost inaudible rumble. The main control for the airbags is conveniently located at the doorway, but you also get a handheld remote.
A two-stage Thule electric step helps the climb into the van, and when folded seems to be high enough to avoid mishaps in hard going. Down the back, two spares are bolted to a four-arm bar, and a large mesh tray will be handy for carrying some firewood when getting close to camp.
A dark grey exterior rides over black checkerplate skirts with distinctive starburst decals for a tough look without going over the top. A Premium Fusion soundbar connects to an external hatch with TV and DVD for entertainment under the stars, and a full-length Dometic awning provides welcome shade.
Like a lot of people, I think an 18ft 6in van is the optimum offroad compromise of size, weight and liveability, especially if you get the interior design right. To my eyes, the Roadstar design team has done this, as this is a well-equipped van you would look forward to living in.
When you step inside, the light from the big windows and a generous 1.94m of ceiling height impart a roomy and inviting feeling. LED’s at floor level and hidden behind overhead bulkheads continue the impression when the sun goes down.
The front door design places the bedroom forward of the entry and the bathroom down the back. While the bed being near the entrance might not be a favourite layout for everyone, it allows extra space at the dinette by having the door at the gap between bed and kitchen. It also makes use of the usually dead space when the entry is down the back, adjacent to the ensuite.
Cabinetry is from CNC formed lightweight ply finished to fine tolerances for a craftsman-like finish. Light and dark grey tones of the joinery match well with the mainly white interior and black leather at the dinette.
The driver-side kitchen includes a Swift 500 fan-forced oven, Rangehood, D-Luxx microwave and a stainless-steel sink. There is storage in overhead and low cupboards as well as in a set of self-closing drawers. Cold storage is suitable for long-range travel with a 274L vent-less compressor fridge to the rear of the kitchen.
Black leather upholstery and dual-density foam padding add to the luxury fit-out at the trifold table. Footrests add to the comfort when watching TV and the high-end Fusion soundbar blasts out your choice of Bluetooth music.
A 6ft 4in x 5ft mattress rests on a posture adjustable slatted frame, and there is ample storage below. Padded leather at the bedhead and brushed stainless steel power points continue the impression of opulence while USB points will maintain your devices at full charge.
Keeping things fresh is a roof-mounted Ibis air conditioner as well as a Heki Midi hatch at the kitchen and a Four Seasons hatch at the bed. Also up top is a CaraFan pressure system to prevent dust being sucked into the van when travelling over outback roads.
The full-width ensuite across the rear of the van has an on-trend circular ceramic basin with an elegant square mixer tap over the marble laminate bench. A high window and roof hatch keep things fresh, and a 3.5kg under-bench washer will be handy in the bush when you light up the generator. The moulded shower was roomy enough for me to move around easily and you get an extractor fan and light overhead.
Two 150W solar panels feed into 200Ah of Enerdrive lithium batteries for a respectable amount of onboard power. BMPRO takes care of charging and as well as a board at the entrance to keep an eye on charge rate and level, there's an app to send this information to a phone to see it remotely. Backing up the solar is the petrol-powered generator so you can run the air con, washing machine or microwave when living away from a 240V connection.
ON THE ROAD
Even with the lightweight sandwhich panel construction, the Safari Tamer Extreme hits the scales at 2780kg empty. Ball weight is 270kg — just under 10 per cent, so at the top of the recommended range, but suggesting a steady ride at this loading and that’s how it proved in practice.
Behind a 200 Series LandCruiser, the van towed perfectly on the main roads and dirt tracks we travelled over to Melbourne’s north-west. We found some rougher tracks and washouts to check ride height and capability of the suspension and progress was smooth, and ground clearance was impressive.
Fully loaded the van can carry a payload of 720kg for an ATM at 3500kg, and as long as the weight is distributed sensibly, I can see no reason why travel shouldn’t remain impressive.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I find it hard not to sound too enthusiastic about this gritty Roadstar because it’s a van that has immediate appeal to anyone with a love of offroad travel. It looks impressive with its modern smooth panels, funky camo burst decals and high ride.
The sandwich body fills all expectations for robust, modern construction, and the suspension is as good as it gets for adventure travel. Inside the van is a comfortable retreat after a hard day on the road, or a week or so in your chosen paradise, and electronics are all you could expect. The warranty covers offroad use for three years.
So, a price of $157,990 seems reasonable for a model competing at the upper end of the offroad market, and don't forget there is a long list of innovative features that might be extras on other vans. Roadstar might not yet have become a natural consideration when buyers think of extreme RV’s, but a look at this Safari Tamer Extreme might change that.
WEIGHTS AND MEASUREMENTS
Overall length 8.24m (27ft)
External body length 5.63m (19ft 2in)
External body width 2.5m (8ft 2in)
Interior length 5.64m (18ft 6in)
Interior Width 2.25m (7ft 5in)
Travel height 3m (9ft 10in)
Internal height 1.94m (6ft 4in)
Tare 2780kg ATM 3500kg
Payload 720kg (calculated)
Ball weight 270kg
Frame Sandwhich panel
Chassis Hot dipped galvanised BHP steel
Suspension Cruisemaster ATX airbags
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35
Brakes 12in Drums
Wheels 17in alloy 265x75 AT Tyres
Water 2 x 95L, 1 x 95L greywater Battery 2 x 100 Ah lithium
Solar 2 x 150W
Air conditioner Truma Climate Control
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No (optional)
Cooking Swift stove/ grill/ cooktop
Fridge Thetford 274L Compressor
Bathroom Full-width shower and toilet
Washing machine Yes 3.5kg
Hot water Truma instantaneous gas
PRICE AS SHOWN $157,990
828–830 Cooper St,
Somerton VIC 3062
Ph: 1300 762 378