From their factory inside the caravan building precinct complex at Pakenham, in Melbourne’s north-east, Willow RV act as an independent builder, able to easily access components and from nearby suppliers. The Rollcraft chassis, for example, is built on the same site, and the composite walls are built nearby. These components are high quality and the Australian steel chassis is well engineered, rating as one of the best finished in the business.
Construction of the body of the van avoids timber by using manmade materials wherever possible, including Polyurethane studs inside the expanded foam walls for fitting of furniture, doorframe and windows. The closed cell foam panel is surrounded by 3mm Italian ply with the inside section foiled to a sturdy vinyl layer for a durable and easily cleaned surfaces. The 30mm walls have an outside cladding of pre-painted aluminium and the smooth glossy finish is both great looking and the most suitable colour for insulation.
Both the floor and roof are also composite, and the panels are screwed and glued to form a very strong monocoque entity. All the edges, where the wall and roof panels meet, have three levels of weather protection including a rubber strip and outer aluminium cover over an internal layer of sealant. For additional protection, all corners have moulded black caps that give a unique styling difference that's highly practical but might not be universally appealing.
The strength of the composite floor means there can be fewer cross braces in the chassis, which saves weight and leaves room for up to four water tanks and a grey tank to be installed high out of the way. The standard van has two standard 95L tanks and a grey one for remote camping.
There might be some irony in the names of the vans in the range for a company that avoids timber in the construction. The Willow brand is an amalgam of the owner’s names and all the models have followed the arboreal trend.
Willow classifies the 625 as a couple’s offroad van and it fits in the range along with the Ironbark slide out, the longer Illawarra series and the entry-level touring Conifer range. In standard trim, the Boab is well equipped for off-grid and off-track travel, but the owners of our review van optioned more solar and battery power for extended camping.
I like the look of the Boab. The white exterior walls give a clean modern impression with just the right amount of black checkerplate along the lower edge for a well-balanced look. Big wheel wells and the fact the chassis is clearly visible under the body seem to exaggerate the high stance of the van on its independent suspension. While we don’t get any gaudy offroad graphics, the van will be quickly identified as an offroader by those in the know.
The A-frame features a Cruisemaster DO35 hitch, a centrally mounted jockey wheel and a mesh stone guard protecting a pair of 8.5kg gas cylinders ahead of a high skirt of black checkerplate. There’s no forward boot — instead you get a full width tunnel boot that eliminates any of the water and dust leakage problems. The tunnel arrangement also allows the bed to move closer to the front for extra room inside. The hatch lifts on plastic hinges and there’s a handy clip-in catch to keep the lid open when loading. Further back, along the passenger side, is an entertainment hatch with an arm for the supplied 24in television that also has a wall mount inside. In a departure from most manufacturers, the power points for 12V, 240V and the TV are all inside the hatch, where they are well protected and away from the weather. More smart thinking in my book.
A full-length manual awning protects you from the weather when relaxing outside and a set of weatherproof speakers are mounted high over the windows.
Down the back, a single spare sits on a galvanised bar under a display of oversize LED lights while overhead is a Safety Dave rear camera. A single step drops down for entry though a very stylish German made Hartel door that has a separate retracting fly screen for a full flow of air through the door opening.
External Body length of the 625 measures at 6.4m, or 20ft 11in in the old language, so it’s a foot or so longer than the average for contemporary couple’s vans and the extra room is welcome inside. The interior fit out has a mix of greys in a conservative colour scheme that complements the laidback ambience of the hidden lighting. All the joinery interlocks to itself and to the walls and floor and is CNC cut in-house to a superb finish.
There's plenty of space for a couple to stretch out at the dinette
The interior layout is the popular choice for a number of reasons. The rear entryway places the bathroom close at hand for easy access without traipsing through the van and also gives privacy to the bed area. This leaves the central section as a roomy living space and it’s here the extra foot of overall length shows its value. The driver side dinette has well-padded face-to-face seating with ample legroom for a couple to sit without banging feet.
On the other side is a well laid out kitchen with a cooktop and full oven, overhead microwave and a large stainless steel sink with draining board. While it’s not a monster kitchen, there’s enough room to spread out when preparing meals and it’s an easy access to the 175L compressor fridge opposite the entryway.
One of the features I really liked was the extra storage option between the living space and the bed area. Shelves here and also in the overhead cupboards have fiddle rails to stop things falling out when moving and it’s another nod to the builder’s awareness of what works in a van.
The ensuite has plenty of room and includes a wall mounted washing machine and a wide vanity with floating bowl and an upmarket mixer. The clear shower screen adds to a feeling of space and the moulded shower has handy shelves for toiletries.
With a well-engineered chassis, AL-KO Enduro X independent suspension and the monocoque body, the Boab is designed to handle the long stretches of outback corrugations found on a tour around the country. Driven sensibly, it will navigate rough tracks into hidden campsites, but because of its length, you will need to be selective about which winding bush tracks you tackle.
Unladen weight is 2450kg and the ATM is a practical 3200kg for a carrying capacity of 750kg. That will be enough for most folk, even with full water tanks at 180kg. For our review, we hooked up ARV’s Mazda BT50 and it was a good match, easily handling the load up the steeper hills around Eden. The van was well balanced and there was no undue movement or banging over the rougher ground.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Warranty is three years on the build and there’s an Australia wide network of service agents. Appliances are covered by the relevant companies, but Willow assist in repair or replacement.
The Willow Boab is a capable and well-built van suited to long distance touring. It’s built to handle the iconic tracks like the Gibb River Road and will be a comfortable and stylish retreat at the end of the day. The van has the modern build quality and engineering that we should expect from a 2021 van and the company deserves the growing positive reputation it is forging. By the time we go to print, Willow will have moved into a new factory in Pakenham with dedicated showrooms and a larger factory space to ramp up production.
The 625 has a retail price of $83,990 and with extras like the extra solar and lithium battery pack, the review van was $90,220 through ARV in Eden NSW. That’s very good value in today’s market for such an impressive van.
WEIGHTS AND MEASUREMENTS
Overall length 8.49m (27ft 10in)
External body length 6.38m (20ft 11in)
External body width 2.47m (8ft 1in)
Travel height 2.96m (9ft 8in)
Internal height 1.93m (6ft 4in)
Tare ball weight 190kg
Cladding Composite with an aluminium exterior
Chassis 150 x 50 x 4mm Hot dipped
Suspension AL-KO Enduro X
Brakes Electric Brakes
Water 2 x 95L, plus grey water
Battery 200A Lithium
Solar 2 x 170W
Air-conditioner Houghton Bel Air
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control OPTIONAL
Kitchen No external kitchen — optional
Cooking Full Oven
Fridge 175L Thetford 12v Compressor fridge
Microwave 240V microwave
Bathroom Full Ensuite Separate shower and toiler
Washing Machine Yes
Hot water Swift Gas/Electric
PRICE AS SHOWN $90,220
Princes Hwy Eden 2551
Ph: 02 64964411