The Boswerger boys at SLRV Expedition Vehicles in Queensland have put together their latest Commander 4x4 Expedition Vehicle and so I wanted to see if this rig is really a true commander, a master of the global roaming set.
Although the owner of this adventure-bound vehicle has an African sojourn in mind, in order to get a taste of what this luxury motorhome can do without the chance to drive across the golden hued African savannah, we took it for a test run.
Not in Tanzania's Serengeti or the Kalahari Desert, but instead through a special location in the Gold Coast hinterland that was green, lush and bucolic.
Command the outdoors
The mechanical heart of the Commander comes from the well-established MAN range.
In this case, it’s an all-wheel drive cab chassis MAN with rear air suspension, 13,000kg GVM. MAN boasts that this truck, the TGM 13.290, offers the toughness ‘you would expect from MAN’.
After a day of revving this beast around these rolling hills, there’s no doubt this truck spells toughness with a capital T. It produces so much torque and power that it erases all doubt that it won't take you over or through just about anything.
On this score, the SLRV machine is definitely a commander.
Around the Outside
Beyond the truck on which this global roamer rests, the SLRV has a lot going for it; including 600L fuel tanks and 385/80 Michelin tyres with military spec rims. This alone means plenty of diesel to motor through the wilderness and the sort of rims and tyres that are going to do the job for you.
Circumnavigating the Serengeti needs more than plenty of fuel and an engine to cope with the most demanding situations. Water is also important. With a 600L tank, this rig would satisfy a thirsty camel for a few weeks. What’s more, its Thirsty Boy creek and river pump gives it the chance to draw water from any convenient water source.
The SLRV bull bar bash guard and sump guard helps protect the rig while the SLRV rear winch means you’re certainly unlikely to find yourself stuck in the mud. The SLRV tailer-made bull bar also houses the truck's winch. Unfortunately, the winch wasn’t fitted when we played with it.
Nonetheless, such a large truck with great ground clearance should never get stuck and, albeit with limited opportunity to plough through the mud, a rather short but deep hole with a very steep bank to help us crawl out did threaten to catch the bull bar. Although it didn’t catch, it was a good reminder to always drive without a sense of arrogance. Selecting a strategic angle prevented the impact.
When it comes to overcoming rough terrain, this rig sports a three-point torsion-free chassis. That means when any of the chassis rails twist, the fixed centre mounting holds the body in the middle while the front and rear mountings rotate, transmitting the force harmlessly away from the motorhome frame. This keeps it stable and allows the chassis to twist freely beneath — improving the offroad capability of the entire rig.
A built-in ladder behind the driver’s cabin provides access to a useful roof-rack that allows a little extra storage, perhaps for an independent tent, swag rolls or other bulky kit. This rack, in a previous version of the Commander, was used as a rooftop sundeck with access from the inside via a sun roof. Sadly, this sort of innovative planning wasn’t part of the deal in this layout. It was strong and pragmatic with no tilt to a more romantic, innovative opportunity. In a way, that’s a nod to SLRV’s flexibility and adaptability to provide its clients with what they want. It means you can safely expect SLRV to transverse the full spectrum, from pragmatic to creative design, with ease.
Unfortunately, a tight timeframe meant the exterior BBQ wasn’t fitted at the time of testing and so getting a good feel for how well this vehicle provides for the outdoor living experience was difficult to gauge.
Of course, the whole adventure story needs more than a rugged exterior. At the end of a long day, photographing cheetah, hyena or crocodiles, you’re likely to want to kick back in comfort.
Although I was a long way from the Serengeti’s Mara River and unlikely to find and photograph crocodiles by the Kenyan border, the Gold Coast hinterland offered a nice campsite by a small dam from which we could snap passing Brahman cattle. And so it was within the glare of a Brahman bull plodding around the outside, we explored the interior of the rig.
On the inside, the SLRV Commander had all the fundamentals of comfortable travel sorted. A hydraulic drop-down king-sized bed, a large dinette that has the ability to transform into a second king-sized bunk, more storage space than you're likely to need, and a quality, if not slightly too small ensuite, were some of the parts that added to the indoor comfort.
In the driver’s cabin, air-ride seats make driving an excellent experience and once in the seat, the vision is superb.
A crawl space from the cabin to the living area means it isn't necessary to step outside in order to enter the living space. Although, in my opinion, the crawl space is for the most part just a handy link between the adults up front and the kids who might be riding in the back. And that’s a positive thing — seat belts in the dinette mean you can load a couple of kids into the living space while motoring along a bush track. More importantly, it means that there’s the opportunity for a quick getaway in an emergency.
Beyond the crawl space a large U-shaped dinette means there’s heaps of space for a sumptuous meal without needing to worry about rubbing elbows. The dinette has small storage spaces behind the seats as well as in the deck.
Drop the large table and you have space for another bunk bed, large enough for two adults or two or three kids. The main king-sized bed descends from an electronic lift. The dinette also houses a fridge-freezer by
the entry door.
On the downside, the more adventurous gourmet chef might struggle a little in the Commander’s kitchen.
It’s clear that the client that commissioned this vehicle really doesn’t have a hankering for cooking much beyond heating beans in the microwave or boiling a spud or two on the diesel cooktop.
On the upside, a quality pantry and a sizable under-bench fridge-freezer together with ample kitchen storage and overhead lockers mean you’re never short of somewhere to store your bits and pieces.
A little entertainment
When it comes to a little after-dinner entertainment, this SLRV has a good blend of toys including a Fusion Marine entertainment that includes DVD, iPod dock, four speakers together with a four-channel amplifier and a powered sub-woofer. All the music you need for when you’re not chilling in front of the 32in satellite television.
A lithium battery system and six 150W solar panels provide ample power for the entire rig and all the utilities.
When it comes to washing off outback dust, there’s a quality ensuite adjacent to a front loading washing machine.
Hot water for the kitchen and ensuite is provided thanks to a diesel heater and hot water system.
SLRV has long made quality global roaming motorhomes and caravans and this rig is no exception. This is your go-anywhere vehicle.
It may not be quite right for everyone, however, that’s OK as all SLRV trucks are completely custom-built to suit the buyer. If your budget will stretch to a global roaming adventure, then SLRV has again proved worthy of consideration.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.2m (26ft 11in)
External body width 2.4m (7ft 11in)
Travel height 3.75m (12ft 4in)
Internal height 2.0m (6ft 6in)
Ball weight N/A
Body construction 60mm infused composite fibreglass panels
Chassis Galvanised steel
Brakes MAN electronic brake system (EBS). Anti-lock braking system (ABS). Disc brakes on front and rear axles. BrakeMatic switch on dash to operate. Exhaust Valve Brake with the brake pedal, when loaded.
Wheels Steel disc wheels 8-hole 11.75 x 22.5 on 13t version. 385/65R 22.5 single tyres all round on 13t version.
Water Freshwater 600L, grey water 100L, black water 100L
Battery 2x360Ah Mastervolt lithium
International charging system Charges on various voltages around the world
Air-conditioner Truma ducted
Gas 2 x 9kg composite bottles – stored in BBQ hatch (not plumbed in)
Sway control N/A
Kitchen Sovereign BBQ
Cooking Webasto diesel cooktop
Fridge Isotherm 200L under-bench fridge/freezer, Vitrifrigo 75L drawer freezer
Bathroom Rear ensuite with separate shower, toilet, vanity with porcelain macerator toilet
Shower 1000x700mm internal, custom solid surface base with moulded fibreglass surround. External hot and cold shower
Washing machine Front-loading
Hot water Webasto diesel combi system for cooktop, water and room
All options fitted to review van —everything is customisable
PRICE AS SHOWN
To enquire about this caravan, please visit SLRV Expedition, https://slrvexpedition.com.au/products/commander-4x4/ or phone (07) 5564 9099.