The Road Owl from New Age Caravans is a fuss-free rig with clean lines, modern appointments, and all you might need to take an extended break in a touring van.
Caravan towing weights and suitable (or not) tow vehicles are very much in the news these days. However, this New Age Road Owl, is unlikely to feature having a tare of just 2186kg. Making it suitable for any number of tow vehicles, especially with a bit of thoughtful loading. Behind our tow vehicle, a very new Toyota LandCruiser 300 Series, the van was unsurprisingly well-behaved and barely noticeable. On the few bumps and potholes I encountered, the Road Owl’s AL-KO roller rocker suspension coped well, although with a lighter tow vehicle the lack of shock absorbers may cause the van to rock around a bit. The 300 was something of an overkill though and the van is certainly well suited to a lighter weight tow vehicle. The van is fitted with a BMPRO sway controller.
Most people don’t do this but looking under a caravan quite early in an inspection can often give a perspective on what the rest of the is like. Taking a peek under the New Age Road Owl reveals a (robot welded) hot dipped galvanised chassis that looks quite conventional, except for the C section cross members with Dimple die press holes. It’s all CAD designed, tested on a dynamic chassis rig, and features a Mandrel bend drawbar. Both the main and drawbar rails are 100mm x 20mm (4in x 2in) RHS. AL-KO corner stabilisers are fitted all round. Keeping things simple, the Road Owl rides on AL-KO roller rocker suspension and 15in alloy wheels with 10in electric brakes. An item of interest is that the Road Owl appears to have two battery boxes, both chassis rails mounted behind the wheels. The offside box is certainly a battery box for the 100Ah battery but the other contains the water pump and control valves for the two 110L water tanks.
A little unusually, both the freshwater tanks each have drain valves, which in addition to the similarly sized grey water drain, makes the pipework look a bit complicated. Also, they are a tad vulnerable to stone damage on rough roads, not that this is really an issue with, given this van is designed for on road use.
Above the chassis, New Age has opted for Meranti timber for the framing. Aluminium cladding covers the side walls and aluminium composite the front and rear walls. A new feature is the lower rear moulding that incorporates the spare wheel mounting, something that looks much neater and adds a touch of class to the overall look.
Inside the Road Owl, the 15mm marine ply cabinetry is cut using a new edge banding process, not unlike that used in household kitchens. It certainly improves the interior look of the van and on a practical level, all the cupboard doors and drawers opened and shut smoothly.
Warranties in the caravan construction industry are not always at straightforward as they should be. In particular there are often different warranties for body, chassis, and individual components, which is why New Age Caravans stands out because it has to offer one of the best warranties in the business. The warranty is for a period of three years and covers everything in the caravan, not just the components manufactured by New Age. There are multiple dealers and repairers in all states and territories of Australia and New Zealand as well. Additionally, New Age Assist, for which there is a hotline number, can be used for emergency towing/breakdown, a flat tyre, lost keys, and emergency accommodation.
Tim Van Duyl
The New Age was probably the van I felt hardest done by when reflecting on my scores. It deservedly dominated in Towability and was very strong for Suitability and Customer Care but when it came to Value for Money and X-Factor, the competition offered a little more by way of appliances, what you get for the price, or that intangible “wow”.
That’s not to say the New Age was a dud, far from it. It has a lot going for it, being a great example of a simple van done well with an industry-leading warranty, a big payload of 600kg, and a fit-out that is easy to live with and packed with storage. Its X-Factor is that it is a dependable, reliable purchase, one you’ll not regret come the day you sell it or when deciding to hit the road for months at a time.
Small details make liveability for me. Touches like USB charging points in all reading lights in the van, dedicated phone shelves by the lush bed and deep wardrobes will be talked about. Other details like the soft edges on cupboards and benches, and easy entranceway won’t be noticed by all, but they will add to the ease and satisfaction of ownership. Of course, a decent-sized ensuite helps, as does good ventilation and lighting — all of which the RO18E does well.
At a pint of Carlton Draught under $70,000, nationwide due to their national pricing structure, this Road Owl is within a fiercely competitive group so it’s nice to see that is the price you’ll pay at any dealer which reinforces the resale value and confidence your dealer is giving you a fair price. Do not underestimate the value of trust and confidence in your dealer, you are investing with them as much as the manufacturer, and New Age’s network is exceptionally well supported and reliable.
As a considered purchase, the RO18E is a solid if not great choice. It comes from a reputable company with great backing and its aftersales support is second to none.
There’s more than you might expect for off-grid living with the Road Owl. Even though its primary market is as a blacktop tourer, the van comes with an impressive electronics package, suited for ventures off-grid or to save some dollars when choosing unpowered sites at caravan parks. A 200W solar panel matches to a single 100Ah battery. You also benefit from BMPro battery management with a wireless link controller.
Twin 110L water tanks are also a reasonable size for short showers and plenty of drinking water away in the bush, along with a grey water tank to help you obey water dumping restrictions in national parks. The 171L fridge will keep several days of supplies fresh for several days.
Now part of the Walkinshaw Automotive Group, New Age Caravans has added engineering technology to its already innovative range of economic vans.
At $69,240, the MY22 Road Owl Comfort is the cheapest van at the 2022 COTY event, how does it rate against the competition?
This is an entry-level van aimed predominantly at couples 40+ who want to hit the road and try the van lifestyle, and it does exactly that for an entry-level price.
It’s functional, comfortable, and spacious. But there are enough amenities to make it feel like you’re taking home on the road with you — think queen bed, plenty of storage, cafe dining, full size ensuite and nice touches like a 28in TV, Clarion stereo, 171L fridge, cooktop, air-con and external speakers.
There’s a warranty and roadside assist program to help achieve an incident-free journey. If anything does go wrong, there’s a 15-dealer network (including the NT and Tassie) and 200 service centres across the country.
The biggest innovation here is the robot-welded hot dipped chassis, and there’s also a new shape to the rear of the van. The spare wheel is set back into the rear moulded panel. It’s now at the ideal height to be lifting the wheel on and off the vehicle plus this reduces the overall weight on the wheel mount and the bumper bar.
A 12V loom is also being tested. It’s a higher-grade wire and also reduces the number of cables needed in the van.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 7.52m
Travel Height 2.95m
Ball weight 170kg
Cladding Raised profile Aluminium
Chassis Walkinshaw Engineered hot dipped 50mm x 100mm
Suspension Leaf Spring Roller Rocker
Brakes 10” Drum
Wheels 15” alloy (235 x 75 tyres)
Water 2x 110L
Gas 2x 9kg
Sway control Yes
Cooking Thetford Mini Grill
Fridge 171L three-way
Hot water Yes
PRICE AS SHOWN
New Age Caravans
29 Shirley Way, Epping VIC 3076
Ph: (03) 9305 1714