Driven by buyers seeking more robust but lighter offroaders, there’s a quiet revolution going on in the local caravan scene. Significantly, several boutique companies are transitioning to 21 century technology in their build processes. Vision RV is the latest arrival, and from what we have seen so far, the company will become a significant force in the very competitive adventure sector.
Sunseeker Caravans on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast has joined forces with an innovative Noosa builder to create the new Vision RV brand, and the release of a range of innovative hybrids late in 2020 announced their entry into the top end of the offroad sector. The branding is an excellent fit for an outback RV, recalling Banjo Patterson's memorable lines from ‘Clancy of the Overflow’.
“And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars.”
To get a feel for what the Vision concept is all about, it’s worthwhile looking into the background of how the brand evolved. Sunseeker principal, Chris Michel, introduced the aluminium framed Sunseeker range in 2015 after more than a decade in the RV and automotive industry. Success for the new brand followed when he brought the look, feel and customer care of a premier car dealership to his caravan outlet. Recognising the need for a more affordable offroader, Michel added the Marvel brand into the fold in 2018 to complement the more extreme offroad Sunseeker.
The team introduces constant refinements to these brands through extensive research. Michel is an avid 4WD and offroad travel enthusiast, and many hours of testing go into each model.
This new project combines the experience of Michel and Sunseeker Manager, John Cullen, with Jon Dunkleys’ marketing prowess and the engineering nous of designer/builder, Darren Wilson, who had been making a range of custom Noosa ORV hybrids for several years. It's a formidable team, and years of remote caravanning expertise shines through in the new brand.
The Vision range takes on much of Wilson's brand's look and engineering but injects ideas from the Sunseeker team's 4WD and marketing background. Additional investment and retooling anticipate an initial production schedule of two vans a week rather than the previous turnover of one every six weeks.
In a move that slots the Vision into a rarefied group of high achievers, the van is entirely timber free, including the interior furniture. This is a real bonus for any RV expecting continued attacks of nature and the environment. Anticipate a long and happy life from this new age construction.
To speed production and keep costs to a reasonable level, the monocoque body is completed offshore. Once in the Vision factory, over 300 production hours go into the build before the finished vans are wheeled out the door.
Vision only uses quality composites, and German Henker glues in the construction. The sides and roof are extruded high-density XPS polystyrene, sandwiched between 2mm fibreglass skins, while the floor is a lightweight 30mm honeycomb panel. All sections are permanently bonded together to form a light, rigid and immensely strong unit with high thermal properties. Insulation is so effective, an air conditioner isn’t a standard feature, and is recommended only for extended top end travel.
The Wilson designed chassis and suspension are a unique take on successfully traversing extremely rough ground. The 150 x 50 x 3mm Australian steel sections are laser cut and fabricated in Toowoomba before being hot-dip galvanised and delivered to the Vision factory. The chassis is engineered to be immensely strong, and the welds are superb.
A trailing arm suspension setup also looks the part with powerful 2800kg rated Boss airbags. Travel of the arms is optimised to make the best use of the twin EFS shock absorbers and are built from 70mm tubes that gives a robust interlocking connection where they are welded together. Meanwhile, for reliable stopping power, 12in ventilated discs controlled by an electric over hydraulic Hydrostar system bring things to a halt.
Two 90L water tanks ahead of the axles plus another fresh tank and grey tank at the back are mounted high for maximum protection and efficient weight balance.
The Vision has the minimalist rugged impression of a no-nonsense offroad pop-top riding high on 33in 285x 75x17 all-terrain tyres. ATM is 2800kg, so with a relatively short body length and narrow width, the Vision has proper offroad manoeuvrability.
Simple graphics and lower skirts of black Speedliner coating break up the white exterior while large Vision RV logos proudly announce the new branding. Part of the van's clean look is the lack of openings for water and power — a feature designed to keep water or dust from entering the interior. Instead, as we shall see, most of the plumbing and electronics are housed in a dedicated space on the drawbar.
Down the back, a sturdy bar incorporates the lights and blinkers and morphs into mounts for two spare tyres. Anyone who has tried to wrangle one of these big wheels will know how heavy they are, so a system of hooks and pulleys help lift the wheel for changing in the event of a flat tyre out on the track.
An example of the thought that has gone into the design is the seriously heavy corner jacks located along the back of the chassis. Placing them here rather than along the sides as seen on many offroaders keeps them well protected. In the same vein, the van uses a removable step rather than a bolt-on version that, from experience, can be vulnerable in bog holes and rocky ledges.
At the front is a high and full-width toolbox with driver’s side slide for a generator and another slide opposite for a Webber. A lip on the top with tie-off points gives safe storage for extra gear, a couple of bikes or some firewood.
Further forward, another metal box opens from the top and houses utilities like gas bottles, a jerry can and the water system we mentioned earlier. Here we see both the inlets for the water tanks and a bank of valves for each tank. I love this feature as it removes the need to climb around under the van to switch water tanks across. An external shower is here as well, and you can expect instant hot water from the Truma heater.
The boxes are mounted on a lengthy A-frame that allows impressive vertical articulation for the van over steep inclines without hitting the roof on the tow vehicle. Completing the front section is a Cruisemaster DO35 hitch, a serious-duty ARC jockey wheel and rubber stone deflectors down low.
As well as the large storage box on the A-frame, the 16ft van includes a through tunnel boot along its leading edge. Heading rearward, on the passenger side is a slide-out big enough for a 110L fridge/freezer and a pull out kitchen that folds back along the side of the van. Stainless steel extensions fold out from each end to increase preparation space. Along with a decent size slide out pantry, the result is a very workable kitchen with a Thule electric awning overhead offering weather protection.
Analogue water tanks and the main switches for lights, airbags and the electric roof and awning live on a panel above the kitchen, and there's a 240 plug from the 2000W inverter. The team deliberately avoided too much smart technology for simplicity and reliability sake — remotes and sophisticated electronics are great when they work but a real problem to fix in the middle of nowhere. All hatches along the side are double rubber sealed, and Vision even goes as far as manufacturing its locks and hinges in house to ensure durability and functionality.
Undo the pop-top locks in each corner, and the roof lifts on electric worm drives rated to 150kg at each corner for a total of 600kg.
Vision manufactures its own solid fibreglass door (with an option for a window) and it's a couple of steps up to a surprisingly roomy interior. I say surprisingly because the van's relatively compact at 16ft, but still includes a north-south bed, a usable lounge and kitchenette with ample storage drawers along the driver side. At the back, you get a vanity, a large refrigerator and a combination ensuite in the corner.
Initial impressions are of a neat but immensely practical design that would be a welcome respite to hard days on the road.
The timber-free promise means that the furniture is all-metal and composites with cabinets built from aluminium sheets, Nyloc bolted together. On the review van, the fit-out is predominantly white with light grey drawers and dark grey upholstery to lend some contrast. A vinyl skirt wraps around under the high roof, and zippered openings add to the roomy and airy feeling. The largest Dometic windows available add to the light and breeze. Still, because Wilson eschews the idea of any unnecessary openings, there are no skylights and, if you want the option of an air conditioner, it will be floor mounted.
Bedding options include a queen with storage bins either side, a full-width king, a set of singles or a family version with an east-west queen bed and a couple of bunks. All include a pair of Sirocco fans and expansive views on both sides.
One of the least appealing aspects of caravanning is the disposal of human waste, but it’s a fact of life. The Vision range has a composting toilet that uses sawdust to break down solids in a way that is easy to dispose of and has a minimum odour. A cassette toilet is an option, but I’m told all buyers have so far gone for the more environmentally friendly composter.
Battery power for remote camping is impressive. Three 150W solar panels on the roof charge a 150Ah, Lithium battery through an Enerdrive charger — 300Ah battery is an option. This system is designed for reliable 12V power under most conditions, with a backup generator recommended for long periods of cloudy weather.
Vision introduced their brand late in 2020, and rather than a PowerPoint presentation followed by champagne and canapés, we headed out to Landcruiser Mountain west of Brisbane to see if we could break the new hybrids.
Just getting to the venue over mountain trails and sections of forestry road corrugations is a good test, but the park has a maze of tracks and jump-ups that will bring out any faults or weaknesses in a van. Despite the team doing their best, we couldn't find any.
Following behind various tow vehicles, the Vision tracked smoothly, handled steep articulation without bottoming out and stayed upright on sideways inclines that would test most comfort zones. Independent control of the airbags meant that in extreme situations, they could be raised or lowered to give different ride heights to each side.
The narrow 2.07m width gave relaxed manoeuvrability along narrow tracks, and you can match the wheel tracks to most tow vehicles, which would be helpful on sandy crossings.
The Vision 16 has a tare around 2050kg and a useful payload of 750kg to top out at an ATM of 2800kg. This is well within the capability of most 4WD vehicles.
A three year warranty on defects seems reasonable and in line with market expectations. Repairs are handled through Sunseeker with a dedicated staff member and any necessary work can be undertaken by an agent of the owner’s choice once it is approved.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In a world of pretenders, the Vision is a proper offroader. Its compact size means there are inevitable compromises on internal living space, but there are no compromises on rugged build and capability. At an introductory price of $84,990, the Vision VH16 is exceptional value.
The level of care and engineering is remarkable, and my bet is the Vision RV range will take its place in the upper echelon of our respected offroad brands. There are many manufacturers who build what they call offroad RV’s but a true offroader is a rare breed and some would say only a compact hybrid is up to the task. This release from innovative startup, Vision RV sets a new benchmark for the genre.
WEIGHTS AND MEASUREMENTS
Body length 5.05m (16ft 6in)
Overall length 7.32m (24ft)
Width 2.07m (6ft 9in)
Height 2.6m (8ft 6in)
Payload (calculated) 750kg
Ball weight 216kg
Frame High density XPS sandwich panel German composite
Cladding High density XPS sandwich panel German composite
Chassis Hot Dipped Galvanized (Australian Made)
Suspension Air Bag
Brakes Ventilated Disc Brakes
Wheels 285/R70/R17 Allied Spider Wheels (in 5 or 6 studs with zero or +35 offset)
Water 270L (3 x 90L)
Battery 300Ah Lithium
Solar 450W (3 x 150)
Air conditioner Optional
Gas 2 x 4.5kg
Sway control N/A
Cooking External: Hinged slide-out kitchen with dual induction cooktop, Internal: Dual induction cooktop
Fridge External: 96L ARB Zero dual fridge/freezer, Internal: 150L compressor fridge/freezer
Bathroom Combo shower with composting toilet (cassette available)
Hot water Truma Instant gas hot water
External: 96L ARB Zero dual zone fridge/freezer
PRICE AS SHOWN
290 Niklin Way, Warana Qld 4575
Ph: (07) 5491 1888