Wonderland RV has forged a well-earned reputation for building vans comprehensively equipped for extended travel across our great country. The manufacturer tends to go big on providing plenty of storage, lots of payload and spacious living. As a result, most of its vans are relatively long and heavy with higher-end price tags. Much of the Wonderland range is also more suited to tow vehicles bigger than a typical 3.5T tow capacity twin cab ute. Hence the Wonderland team tend to get around in big rigs like the Ram shown in the photos here.
Make no mistake, Wonderland has hit on a winning formula with its larger vans and there seems to be plenty of American pickups on our roads these days. However, there is always a part of the market that is after something nimbler and better suited to an Isuzu D-MAX, Ford Ranger and so on. Having options that are a bit more sharply priced doesn’t hurt either.
This is where the Wonderland Amaroo 1705 comes in. As the model designation suggests, it’s a 17-footer. To be more precise it has a 17ft 7in body length and it’s on a single axle configuration with just about all the goodies you see on Wonderland’s bigger brothers.
Beauty is not just skin deep
I reckon the distinctive decals adorning the Amaroo are real head-turners. They sit on Dibond aluminium skin composite sheet creating nice sleek, clean lines. While composite sheet has become pretty much the industry standard for many van manufacturers, Wonderland’s internal frame doesn’t fit the traditional timber construction method. Wonderland uses 19mm structural grade ply walls cut on a CNC router in a pattern designed to interlock and maximise strength. Sections are cut out of the ply to allow for foam insulation and electrical cables. The roof is made from 35mm composite material, and the floor is a 12mm one-piece honeycomb material, both designed to maximise strength and minimise weight. CAD-designed furniture is CNC cut from 16mm ply. The furniture frame and cabinets are screwed, bolted and bonded together with high-performance adhesives.
An internal wonderland
Most of the vans we look at have very nice interiors, but Wonderland seems to go to the next level aesthetically. The colour palette presented in the review van has a timeless simplicity with light-coloured timber horizontal surfaces, soft grey lower doors and white upper doors. I suspect these are all colours available to other manufacturers, but Wonderland just knows how to make a van really shine. The team also goes to the effort of engaging a stylist to prepare the vans for photoshoots such as these and I think it pays off.
The layout is a classic couple’s van: rear door, rear bathroom, mid kitchen/dining and front bed setup. Everything fits in a space less than 5.4m long x 2.5m wide. Some people have bigger walk-in wardrobes than that at home! Wonderland has done a neat job of making it all work.
A distinctive characteristic of the full-width rear ensuite is a Nature’s Head composting toilet. I am seeing a few composting toilets popping up in higher-end vans and we will explore the benefits a bit later. A wall-mounted NCE 3kg washing machine is handy for staying on top of laundry on the road but it does eat up a bit of bench space. Overall, the space is optimised well with a handy little laundry hamper/storage nook sitting directly below the washing machine for ideal ergonomics.
In the main living area, the kitchen benchtop has very clean lines thanks to a Safiery dual hob induction cooktop. You can only have two pans on the go at once compared to conventional four-burner cookers, but I suspect this will be adequate for most people. Plus, there is another dual hob induction cooker on the external slide-out kitchen. The internal cooking setup forgoes a griller and oven, but you gain more storage space with extra drawers below the hotplate and there is room for a handy slide-out pantry.
Cooking appliances are completed with a Swift rangehood and NCE 23L flatbed microwave. In this layout, I liked the microwave being located on the same side as the rest of the food prep area rather than above the fridge as you see in many other vans. It works well as it gives you some nice bench space directly below the microwave to set down hot food after removing it from the microwave.
The Dometic 188L compressor fridge is a well-regarded appliance seen in many vans. Above the fridge is a storage cabinet handy for occasionally accessed bits and pieces and below the fridge are twin water pumps. One pump feeds the general water supply and the second is for the dedicated drinking water supply to the kitchen tap. Having two pumps on board is also a useful backup if one fails.
Up front, the bed has a 6ft 3in (1.9m) pillowtop mattress and well-set-up bedside storage including functional drawers. The wardrobes feature useful side access ‘holes’ that enable you to reach charging ports and other goodies like books while lying in bed. Inside the wardrobes is an access panel that can be lifted up for even more storage. I did find the tight-fitting panel a little fiddly to lift but it is still a good space to have.
Overhead is a Ranger skylight for lots of natural light, a Dometic reverse cycle air-conditioner and a CaraFan pressure unit to minimise dust ingression.
An Australian-made S&M 150mm x 50mm DuraGal steel chassis with ToughCoat powder coating underpins the Amaroo. Up front is the Cruisemaster DO35 coupling which has become the benchmark for offroad connections. Also, from Cruisemaster is its top-of-range ATX independent trailing arm suspension. The system features substantial-looking arms, and 46mm monotube shock absorbers with piggyback reservoirs which provide superior heat dissipation for extended corrugated road travel. Cruisemaster makes this system available with airbags or coil springs. This Amaroo was fitted with airbags which provide a great ride but also give you height adjustability. This has two advantages. Firstly, it enables you to temporarily raise the body of the caravan to negotiate obstacles such as creek crossings. And secondly, independently change the height of each suspension point to level the van on uneven ground. This was used to great effect when we parked up on a slopey paddock to take some photos. The air system is fed with an onboard compressor and reservoir tank with fancy features such as remote control so you can stand back and see the van body going up and down at the press of a button. The system also has a line out so you can use the onboard compressor to pump up the MPC24 Adventure all-terrain 16in tyres.
When it comes to off-grid, remote travel nothing is more important than water. With 2 x 100L freshwater tanks and a dedicated 70L drinking water tank, totalling 270L, the Amaroo has the capacity to carry more water than most single-axle vans of this style. The Nature’s Head composting toilet fitted outperforms a conventional cassette toilet for off-grid living as it does not need to be flushed making your water go further. As the system does not get filled up with water and the waste is composted, the toilet does not need to be emptied as often. This can also help you stay off-grid for longer as the need to empty a cassette can be one of the triggers for heading back to civilisation.
Power is well taken care of with a total of 800W of solar, a 300Ah Lithium Lab battery and an Enerdrive 2600W inverter. The ubiquitous 2 x 9kg gas bottles are on board, and they are going to last the distance. The gas is only powering the instantaneous gas hot water as the compressor fridge and the pair of induction cooktops are gas free.
Maybe too much water?
The Amaroo 1705 features a 2800kg ATM rating which is very typical of a single-axle caravan of this nature. As touched on, using the big Ram with a much bigger tow rating was a bit like bringing a gun to a knife fight. Towing was effortless over the variety of terrain we covered.
The tare weight comes in at 2340kg which provides a modest 460kg payload. The above average water carrying capacity equates to 270kg. If you fill up all three water tanks you are going to be left with just 190kg payload. So, managing the payload is something to think about.
The bottom line
This is another example of a well designed and built beauty from Wonderland. The shorter body and lighter ATM will appeal to some users who have aspired to Wonderland quality and features but who are looking for something more compact. The 2800kg ATM is a highly desirable weight for twin cab ute tow vehicles but it comes with the trade-off inherent to single axle vans of limited payload capability. If you factor this in and pack light the Amaroo has a lot to offer.
HITS AND MISSES
- It’s nice to see Wonderland add a nimble, compact model to its range
- Top-of-the-range suspension system
- Well-thought-out layout
- Limited payload
- No sway control
WILLOW RV AMAROO 1705 RATINGS
VALUE FOR MONEY
A high spec optioned-up van with a price tag to match
A nice size to tow for most situations and vehicles
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
Fully featured, it has everything you need
Another example of a well-built van from Wonderland
An easy van to live with inside and out
Plenty of power and water for extended travel
A three-year manufacturer’s warranty combined with a five-year chassis and suspension warranty is a strong offer
The CNC cut, interlocking ply internal wall frame leads the way in timber construction methods
There’s not one single standout but when you put it all together it’s a great van
WILLOW RV AMAROO 1705 SPECS
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|Body length||5.4m (17ft 7in)|
|Overall length||7.66m (25ft 1in)|
|Width||2.5m (8ft 2in)|
|Height||1.98m (6ft 6in)|
|Ball weight at tare||200kg|
|Frame||WonderWall CNC cut interlocking structural ply|
|Cladding||Dibond marine grade composite aluminium skin|
|Chassis||S&M 150mm x 50mm DuraGal steel painted chassis|
|Suspension||2.8T Cruisemaster ATX independent with airbags and Air Level 3 controller|
|Wheels||265/75/16 MPC24 Adventure all-terrain tyres and alloy rims|
|Water||2 x 100L freshwater tanks, 1 x 70L dedicated drinking water tank|
|Battery||Lithium Lab 300Ah lithium|
|Solar||800W solar and 50A solar maximisation|
|Air-conditioner||Dometic IBIS 4 reverse cycle|
|Gas||2 x 9kg|
|Cooking||Safiery dual hob induction cooktop|
|Microwave||NCE 23L flatbed|
|Fridge||Dometic compressor 188L|
|Bathroom||Separate shower and Nature’s Head composting toilet|
|Washing machine||NCE wall mounted 3kg|
|Hot water||Instantaneous, gas|
Wonderland RV Amaroo 1705 price from $98,554
- Thule bike rack
- External slide-out kitchen
- Truma gas heater
- CaraFan dust reduction
- Wood cage/box
- Sirocco fans
Wonderland RV Amaroo 1705 price as tested $133,723
P: (03) 9958 6708
THE NEXT STEP
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Watch the COTY 2023 review of the Wonderland RV 2200 XTR here: