The plan was simple: get Wonderland RV’s latest XTR 1906 to the Yarra Valley for a full day and evening of testing and shooting. Then, yet again, the world stopped. By this, I mean Victoria shut down the day we were shooting to contain another COVID-19 outbreak. This meant we would be short of the needed testing and images. When Landrover Australia offered a new Defender 110 to tow-test, we knew exactly which van we should use. The trouble was that two months later, the XTR 1906 was well and truly with its owners. Cue a second XTR 1906 borrowed from the factory the morning before it too was due to be shipped to its loving family.
In this dual-van review, I’ll talk about what is the same but also point out the subtle differences. But first, some basics on the popular 19-footer and its special name.
No two Wonderland RVs are the same, but in an effort to make selecting popular options easier for buyers and the vans simpler to plan and build, Wonderland RV has bundled the most popular options together to create the XTR range.
These two XTRs are the 1906. They are designed with families planning to take on remote tracks in mind. Coming with plenty of water and battery capacity as a standard, they also have top-of-the-line suspension and management systems. The build is the same throughout the range — a router-cut ply frame notched together before being wrapped in Dibond composite panels, with added layers of chequer plate where needed. It’s not a typical manufacturing process and compared with, say, Meranti and alloy framed builds, it is a bit heavier. The positives, however, outweigh the small weight penalty. The biggest benefit is in insulation as the ply is only cut where channels are needed for cables, windows, and doors go in or where the frame comes together, and at each of these spots, perfectly cut fire-resistant foam is added. This style of build allows the body some flex — an important consideration as rigid bodies can rattle themselves apart and solid composite bodies might split at their joins if done poorly. The floor is a one-piece honeycomb composite that will never rot and is resistant to stone damage. The inside of the van is lined with fibreglass panels and the cabinets are CNC cut timber with quality laminates, including a big splashback that looks great.
The separate shower in the rear ensuite is a one-piece mould, so very unlikely to ever give an issue, and the tapware is beautiful with black and/or white used in the ensuite and kitchen. Ventilation is good with large windows and hatches throughout and fans in the requisite spots.
Underneath really impresses with a Roadking chassis measuring 4in tall alongside a full length 4in riser. Why so much lift? To help give the excellent Cruisemaster XT-Air suspension room for its approximately 165mm travel. Painted with DuraGal, the chassis has very neat welds and plenty of spreaders to take the load of the body. The independent suspension is class-leading and can be optioned with a remote for levelling the caravan by eye from a distance.
FLOATING ON AIR
Some journalists do not have favourites and I appreciate this. It can be challenging to have to defend yourself if asked or to stake a new claim of favouritism as products innovate and change. Cruisemaster XT suspension though is a favourite of mine, especially when optioned with airbag upgrades. I think, as an independent trailing arm suspension for full-size caravans like the XTR, there is no peer. I’ve lost count of how many trailers I’ve towed with it — in February alone it was six or seven. It’s never set a foot wrong and I’m yet to see an installation that was not neat as a button.
In the case of the XTRs we sampled, both had compliance plates with ATM stamped at 3500kg but their XT-Air suspension was rated to 4400kg with the chassis to match. Should an owner request it, the factory can rate the XTR to closer to the 4400kg axle capacity by swapping the DO35 coupling to the 4500kg rated DO45 giving a healing bump in the payload or allowing for more factory options to be fitted — and, in the case of water tanks and fridges, filled.
The airbag option adds an element that should be considered for all big-payload van builds. The ability to soften and stiffen the ride as well as vary the height for things like river crossings and driveways is worth the cost. They can also help immensely with on-site levelling, making ramps obsolete and, with the addition of the remote, allows users to level the van from a few steps away. It's also fun to play with — just make sure no one inside has a glass of wine in hand.
There are a plethora of small details that make Wonderlands a nice place to be. Storage in critical areas like around the 4kg top-load washer and kitchen are good sizes and are laid out practically. The insulation is good, meaning external noise is kept to a minimum. All cupboards and drawers have fantastic latches and are soft-close, and then there is the attention to detail in the lounge. The height and angle of the seat backs make relaxing easy and the easy-clean leather is supple and warm to the touch. Sitting in the lounge is not like a church pew, as some can feel like.
The dining table is three-way adjustable with a single hand and carries over the same wood finish as the main bench. The kitchen bench is not the largest but in one of the two vans tested, there was an optional angled benchtop that added usable space by angling the bench out where it meets the pantry. In my mind, this is a great option and I’d highly recommend it. Both had very classy, pressed tin-like splashbacks that looked gorgeous.
Appliances were, as expected, top notch in the form of Dometic fridges, Ibis-4 AC, Swift stoves, and NCE microwaves. One XTR had a Dometic DRS system and the other provision for it, but supply issues meant it was not fitted on our test day. Entertainment is by way of moveable LCD TV and Bluetooth stereo with the best speakers on the market, Fusion, inside and out.
The main bed in both is east-west which, though harder to share with a partner that needs to get up in the night, makes the best use of space in the 19-footer. Both vans had twin bunks each with a light, power source, opening window, and fan — giving the kids nothing to complain about. The lighting is LED throughout, with the ability to change the colour on some — a lot of fun for kids or a nice way to change the ambience at night.
Across the board, the XTRs we sampled tick all the boxes. However, as both owners did, I would ask for more solar. As standard, they come with 450W of panels likely to be able to produce around 15–30A — a good volume if always in good condition and clean but upgraded to the 600W, the batteries will be charged even on a bad day. A Redarc Manager 30 BMS handles incoming charge from the car, AC if plugged in, and our sun god Apollo. A 3000W pure sine inverter, also by Redarc, is capable of running all electronic appliances onboard — even the AC, though only for a few hours maximum before the 300Ah of lithium batteries will need a charge.
Water capacity totals 265L split between three tanks including a dedicated drinking tank. A 100L grey-water tank rounds out fluid capacity. This amount of water is plenty if you plan on four litres per person per day and there is provision to draw water to the tanks from creeks to extend your stay.
One external shower comes as a standard. We noted and appreciated the hot water tap on the drawbar as well as the three-way tap inside ensuring fresh and drinking water are easily accessed. A sunshade is important, so the charcoal full-width awning was a good touch — though I wonder how hot the charcoal colour will get in the summer sun.
We never got to drive the VW Touareg seen in some shots, so cannot comment on it — but the stunning Landrover Defender 110 seen in some shots we certainly can. It’s not perfect, but it’s close, and let down only by the somewhat thirsty in-line six-cylinder petrol engine. Otherwise, it’s fantastic in so many ways — there are the looks, which draw positive attention at every bowser stop, and the interior feel which, aside from the flooring used, feels a lot like a Range Rover with Landrover’s top-spec outputs.
Consumption hovered around 22L per 100km travelled over nearly 500km driven. This was a mix of open freeway and driving in the tight and rolling hills of the outskirts of the Victorian High Country. I was driving for the photographers and videographers, which meant a lot of stop and go due to the tight schedule. I also had to make sure we got the van back in time to ship to its West Australian home. Taken together, the higher consumption didn’t come as a surprise. If you were touring, I’d expect a bit better.
The XTR itself was faultless. It never flinched, nor dragged the tail of the Defender even at 110km/h when returning the van via the southeastern freeways. No doubt the short overhang plays a big part in this, but don’t get me wrong — you know it’s there. It’s a tall van and imposing to traffic, which can be a good thing as other drivers do give you more space when indicating.
We didn’t take the XTR well off the beaten track. I wanted to, but being a sold caravan the closest we could do to test the ground clearance was tall grass, gravel roads, and the dry lake bed at Glenmaggie, which never challenged the heavy-duty Cruisemaster XT Air suspension.
THE BOTTOM LINE
To replace either of these XTRs you are looking at around $130,000 plus a wait. Don't let that discourage you, though — these are top quality caravans with little to no compromise. The quality shines as does the heavy-duty construction and appliances. They are great looking vans with enough features to get you well off the beaten track. Although the team at Wonderland RV is trying to bundle options together to make building them easier, they’ll listen and make yours exactly as you want it.
Wonderland RV might not like this bit of my review, but you need to know. Since Victoria was locked down and the world changed, Wonderland has struggled to keep up with demand and some customers have been left wanting. I certainly can’t blame Wonderland though — and nor should you. It has been tough to secure an order and get a fixed delivery window for critical components like awnings and, in the case of one of the XTR 1906’s we had, a Dometic DRS (dust reduction system).
We only got the keys to the second van because it was delayed due to supply issues in the DRS. Lucky us, unlucky owner. I feel for Kevin Dani, the MD at Wonderland RV. Upon pick-up, his Campbellfield yard was overflowing with vans held up by the smallest of things at his cost. Staff payroll was complete and the bulk of components needed to make the vans already paid for, but with the vans stuck in Melbourne the customer’s final payment was not due. Spare a moment for the builders doing their best to deliver with the shadow of 2020 still hanging over them.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
External length 8.3m (27ft 3in)
External body length 5.99m (19ft 8in)
External width 2.45m (8ft)
Internal height 1.98m (6ft 6in)
Travel height 3.1m (10ft 2in)
Ball weight 200kg @ tare
Frame Marine-grade ply
Cladding Dibond Composite
Chassis 4in main with 4in riser, Roadking
Suspension Cruisemaster XT L3 Air
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35
Brakes 12in Drum
Wheels/tyres 16in alloy wheels with 265/75R16 BFG AT’s
Water 200L Fresh, 65L Drinking, 100L Grey
Battery Custom 300Ah Lithium
Battery Management System Redarc Manager 30
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control Dexter Anti-Sway Control
Dust Control Dometic Dust Reduction System
Reversing Camera Safety Dave
Cooking Swift Minigrill
Fridge Dometic 188L Three-way
Microwave 23L NCE
Toilet Thetford cassette
Shower Internal and external
Lighting LED throughout
Hot water Swift 28L gas and electric
Composting toilet, angled bench, airbag remote
PRICE AS TESTED
Ph: 03 8692 0032