Snowy River has established itself as a mainstream caravan brand on our shores in its short five and a half years of production. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we witnessed the introduction of their fledgling models, and in that time, the range has grown to 13 models between 14ft and 23ft. For anyone paying attention back then in 2016, the writing was on the wall for the local industry — here was an importer who was about to break the mould. The new company was determined to break into the local market with an innovative, quality product, and a serious backup and service supply chain.
The team behind the Snowy River brand was a captain’s pick of staff from their sister company — the well-established Regent brand. They set out to bring the build, technology and equipment level the Australian public asked for. For many, the van they produced was a shock, as there was nothing unusual in the presentation, and the composite sandwich panel construction with an aluminium framed body had a level of equipment and fitout that stood it apart.
For perspective, the Snowy River brand sits proudly within the Regent RV Pty Ltd stable alongside the Regent caravan models. Long-term caravanners would certainly know that the Regent brand of caravans has been in Australia for more than 30 years.
Improvements over time delivered even more to like. Warranty was handled efficiently and without drama, and a solid independent social network was filled with praise and ideas.
When Kathleen and Darren from ABCO Caravan Services in Coffs Harbour saw Snowy growing in the local market, they knew they had to get on board. ABCO has been in the caravan servicing and sales arena for over 20 years, and it was from their dealership that we snagged a 22ft slide-out version for a review into the forest north of Coffs. Our venue was Sherwood Farm, about an hour’s drive north of Coffs Harbour — a peaceful and remote holiday destination amongst a growing macadamia orchard.
Snowy River is a branch of the mammoth Daide Longtree automotive conglomerate that builds vehicles for their local market. They had the finance and engineering skills to perfect a composite wall construction that did away with timber. The company recognised that as the Australian buying public has become savvier, demand is shifting away from the traditional ‘stick and tin’ method.
The body is built from composite panels that are permanently bonded together to form a rigid and highly sturdy monocoque entity. The wall panels were developed by Snowy River after months of development and are made from XPS foam extruded around an internal aluminium frame compressed inside sheets of 3mm fibreglass. The roof and floor are similar composite panels, but the floor has a second layer of fibreglass underneath for added durability. The aluminium adds strength and provides fixing points for windows, doors, and internal cabinetry.
Underneath is a chassis formed from 150 x 50mm hollow steel section Duragal mainframe with a 50 x 50mm riser. Once the Duragal is welded, it is finished with high zinc-rich paint for added protection. Finally, the sections are stitch-welded together to form a sturdy, laminated 200 x 50mm (8 x 2in) structure riding on tandem AL-KO independent rubber torsion suspension.
For those not familiar with this suspension, it employs a triangular torque rod and three rubber blocks inside a hexagonal metal tube. The rod is attached to a trailing arm on which the wheel is mounted through a stub axle. As the van moves over the road, the wheel movement causes the trailing arm to compress against the rubber blocks, offering resistance and providing dampening of the ride. The system is simple, durable and lightweight, with the added advantage of requiring little maintenance. The only downside is that it can be challenging to repair if damaged in an accident.
The AL-KO system is ideally suited to the sort of dirt road travel you would experience on a lap of the country or the tracks leading to the Birdsville races. Owners of vans like Airstream in the USA and Jurgens in South Africa have tested this system in some horrendous conditions.
There’s an option for independent Tuff-Ride trailing arm suspension with EFS shocks if you seek a more rugged destination.
If you are the sort of curious type that might crawl around under a van, the AL-KO suspension is surprisingly simple-looking and offers good ground clearance with very little to hang up on any rocks or uneven ground. Two 95L water tanks are shielded with checkerplate panels, and much of the electrical and other lines are routed through the chassis for protection.
The white of the review van now borders on the retro, but in my view, it’s a look that never goes out of style — other colour options for the glossy fibreglass include grey and mocha. All vans get the standard treatment of a low panel of checkerplate, even though I think that this is probably more for show in a semi-offroad van. The overall look is modern and streamlined with a side stripe, and stylised mountain graphics and a body that rides high with plenty of chassis on show from the sides. Needless to say, the smooth fibreglass exterior should be easy to keep clean and should retain its lustre for many years.
Because Snowy River fits the semi-offroad category and it’s designed for limited rough road travel, the basic 50mm ball hitch is a suitable connection. Two gas bottles sit on the A-frame ahead of a broad and deep front boot, and there’s an option for a stone guard if you are likely to hit the dirt regularly. The front window gets an aluminium cover, and lower down are the obligatory grab handles — these are a quirky ADR requirement, but good luck moving the van with them.
As well as the front boot, there is more storage in a full-width tunnel hatch towards the front. At the same time, along the passenger side, we see the usual assortment of a picnic table, electrical power points, full-length awning, external speakers and overhead LED lights. Wheels are upmarket-style black 15in alloy rims shod with 235 x 75 tyres. The rear end has the minimalist treatment of a single spare on a narrow bar, but a rear-view camera is standard.
The high van needs a twin fold-out step for climbing aboard, and there’s a classy looking acrylic grab rail with light to assist your ascent.
Once aboard, the Snowy River impresses with a well-lit and bright interior finished in contrasting black against a white colour scheme that is right on trend right now. ABCO had decorated the van for us with soft furnishings that added splashes of red for a decidedly cheery effect. A floor to ceiling storage unit to the right at the entry takes advantage of a space a lot of builders ignore, and it would make an ideal pantry for long trips away.
At 22ft long, this is a big van in today’s market, and that feeling of roominess comes through on first impression. But, of course, there’s more. After making sure there’s room to extend the slide-out without hitting anything, with the club lounge moved to its open position, it adds even more room to spread out. The table swivels for easy entry, and there is storage in overhead cupboards and under the seat squabs.
The U-shaped lounge is the centrepiece of the Snowy 22S, and it changes the whole complexion of caravan living. There’s comfortable seating for half a dozen around the Laminex table, and with extra windows in the slide-out section, the views are expansive for everyone. The black leather lounges — a standard feature in the slide outs — are well-padded and have good back support. You might note in the images that the side windows don’t open. This is because an open window will be damaged if you are a bit forgetful.
Opposite the dining area is a decent-sized kitchen with a mini grill, matte black sink and tap, and a high microwave. But the advantage of a longer van is the metre or so of bench space and the great storage options in overhead cupboards, a plethora of drawers, and a pull-out pantry under the bench. The 173L absorption fridge is opposite the entry and is neatly encased in a cabinet with drawers top and bottom.
Most owners will like that the bed is well away from the entry for the maximum privacy this layout affords, and a black leather bedhead adds more class to what’s already a classy act. Access to the island bed is excellent, and there is loads of light and ventilation from a roof hatch, windows with quality screens, and block-outs on each side and at the head. Storage is equally split between the couple to avoid blues, with a double cupboard overhead and deep hanging cupboards on each side.
In a van like this Snowy River, where you are chasing upscale amenities and some extra comfort, you can properly expect the ensuite will be a cut above. It won’t disappoint with an ample drying-off area and a spacious moulded shower. The black circular bowl floating on the vanity completes the trendy décor, and there’s a top load washer as standard.
A single 200W solar panel hooks to a 120Ah battery, so you will get away with a few days off-grid if you need to. Like most Snowy River vans, the 22S has a second battery box fitted on the chassis for an easy upgrade if you want to self-isolate for longer. Two 95L water tanks will suit the purpose, and there are readouts at the end of the kitchen for all water and battery levels.
The review van weighs in with a 2327kg tare with an upgraded ATM of 3500kg, so the payload is a very generous 973kg. (A 600kg payload and a 2900kg ATM is standard.) With this sort of upgraded capacity, Snowy River signals that this is a van you will load up with all types of gear for a long run.
Hooked up to a V6 Amarok, we ran the van at highway speeds and along several kilometres of forestry roads and across rough farmland, and it handled everything with ease. It did experience a bit of a wander at higher speeds, which we later put down to being empty. A bit of weight up front would help as the ball/tare ratio is lower than the average scale.
Depending on how you load the Snowy River, most dual-cabs will be fine, but if you plan to fill it up to the max, it would be better suited to a LandCruiser or similar.
Warranty is a 2-year manufacturer and 5-year structural, which is pretty good in terms of Australian Consumer Law. From all accounts, any warranty issues are handled efficiently both at a factory and dealer level, especially given ABCO lives on its excellent reputation.
I have been a fan of the Snowy River from the first van we reviewed, and the admiration has not waned. The big slide-out is very well priced at $75,570, with extras like Sirocco fans, strip lights in the kitchen, and dimmer lights. It has the equipment level and electrical appliances you would expect in a high-end van and wins with the excellent build quality of its composite body.
Value for money 9/10
“That’s a lot of caravan and engineering for the price.”
“Needs some weight upfront, but it tows well.”
Suitability for intended touring 8/10
“Plenty of comfort and technology.”
Build quality 8/10
“Has a modern well-finished appeal.”
“An entire oven and a bigger fridge would be perfect.”
Customer Care 9/10
“The company and ABCO know how to look after their clients.”
“Another panel and battery would be better.”
“It’s the technology the buying public is asking for.”
“Not showy, but it’s a winner for those in the know.”
Snowy River SRC 22S
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.53m (27ft 4in)
External body length 6.66m (20ft 8in)
External body width 2.39m (7ft 9in)
Travel height 3.22m (10ft 6in)
Payload 973kg (600kg standard)
Ball weight 132kg
Ball weight to tare 5.2 per cent
Chassis A-frame 6in/ Chassis 4in/ Raiser 8in
Suspension Tandem Torsion 3.5T
Coupling 50mm Ball
Wheels 235/75/R15 (Good Ride)
Water 2 x 95L
Battery 1 x 120 AGMz
Solar 1 x 200W panel
Air conditioner HB3500 Houghton
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control Lippert(optional)
Fridge Dometic 173L absorption
Washing machine 2.5kg Top Load
Hot water system Swift
Black Single Kitchen Bowl Oval Basin & Swivel Tap Black Kitchen & Ensuite Tapware 8823C, 2 x Sirocco Fans in Bedroom, LED Strip Light Under Kitchen, Lounge and Ensuite OHC with Dimmer Switch
PRICE AS SHOWN