I have reviewed a number of large and big-ticket family vans lately, but the Wonderland RV Hornet is next level for two main reasons. First, it has two sets of dedicated double bunks, making it a very spacious six-berth van. Sure, there are plenty of other six-berth vans, but most involve some kind of opening up, sliding out or rearranging seating each night to make up at least one of those beds. Or you have a couple of kids sharing a large bed to make up the six sleeping spots. And second, to accommodate all these people the Hornet has a big payload just shy of one tonne, which means you will be towing it with one of the muscle cars of utes such as a Ram used in this review.
Joining me for the review were Deb McFarlane and Maree Viotto. Deb joined the Wonderland team as a handover advisor after becoming a Wonderland owner a couple of years ago. Deb knows the product well, having done a lot of holidaying in her van and recently upgrading to a larger Wonderland. Maree is the stylist for Wonderland who makes their vans look top notch.
In between photo opportunities, we chatted about Wonderland and both Deb and Maree reckon it is a great family company to work for. The company was formed in 2014 by a foursome of family members. Kevin and Val Dani joined forces with Robert Uzelac and Ana Pepa. Rob goes way back in the caravan industry with extensive manufacturing experience. Kev has a background in design and engineering. Val brings commercial law and business management expertise to the table and Ana drives customer service and dealer relationships. Ana and Val are sisters so there is a strong family connection, and the great thing is they enjoy caravanning themselves with their young families. They focus on family vans geared towards off-grid and offroad adventurers and over the past five years or so have become a “go-to” company for full-time travelling families. I guess full-time living is part of the reason owners can put these high-end price tags into perspective.
Most family vans follow a formula of kids’ beds and the bathroom located towards the rear, with two or three bunks running on a side wall and the bathroom on the opposing side wall. This makes for a generally compact bathroom with limited storage space. Conversely, most couple’s vans feature the bathroom running across the full width of the rear of the van, affording a much more spacious feel and a lot more storage.
To fit four bunks in the Hornet, you have two bunks on each side of the van and – guess what? – a bathroom that runs along the full width of the rear of the van!
All four bunks have under drawers with the most impressive amount of storage I have seen in a family van. Of course, you trade off some headroom, but it works well.
The front and mid-section of the van housing the parents’ bed and dining area/kitchen is more conventional. There is plenty of storage above and under the bed and the regular wardrobes on either side of the bed. Something a little different is the storage compartment running along the side of the bed on the offside. I think some people will appreciate the extra storage while others will see it as more inconvenient to get in and out of bed. Either way the view out of the beautiful big windows should put a smile on your face each morning.
It would be a squeeze to think you are going to fit six people in the dining area so you will be making the most of that awning and enjoying the great outdoors. The kitchen has everything you need with a great appliance package. A 224L Dometic compressor fridge, a Thetford mini grill and four-gas burner stove and a 23L microwave are just what you need to satisfy the hungry hordes. The Ibis air-conditioner will be welcome with heating/cooling functions and the Carafan positive pressure unit will do wonders for keeping dust out of the van interior.
And what a striking interior it is. Maree had shown her flair with the distinctive blues throughout and the beautiful accessorising of the van for the shoot. Wonderland sees Maree as a real asset to the company to create a sense of style for van owners.
It would be nice to have X-ray glasses when reviewing vans. The Dibond aluminium skin on the Hornet is used by many caravan manufacturers but the wall frame behind it is very different. (You can find photos of the ‘Wonder Wall’ in Issue 615 of Caravan World in which John Ford visits the Wonderland factory.) Wonderland uses 19mm structural ply walls cut on a CNC router in a pattern designed to interlock and maximise strength. Sections are cut out of the ply to include foam insulation and electrical cables. The roof is made from 35mm composite material, and the floor is a 12mm one-piece material, both designed to maximise strength and minimise weight. CAD-designed furniture is CNC cut from 16mm ply. The furniture frame and cabinets are screwed, bolted and bonded together with high-performance adhesives.
Under the body is a robust-looking S&M chassis constructed from DuraGal steel with ToughCoat powder coating. The 150mm x 50mm A-frame and chassis main rails is a proven industry standard for large vans.
GO BIG TOWING SPEC
Manufacturers generally aim for an ATM of 3500kg on larger vans. As soon as you go 1kg over this, you cut out the majority of standard tow vehicles on the Australian market. In standard guise, the Hornet meets this 3500kg ATM cut-off with a tare of 2940kg giving a respectable payload of 560kg. This Hornet was a bit special though, having been optioned up to have a whopping 930kg payload with a tare of 3060kg and an ATM of 3990kg.
There is something liberating about crossing that magic 3500kg ATM because you simply have to move up to the bigger category of tow vehicles such as the Ram. And this means you are no longer playing in the space of carefully managing every single kilo you pack in your van and tow vehicle to stay safe and legal. The Ram 3500 used on the day is rated to tow up to 8000kg with fancy extras but in its standard guise it is still good for 4500kg, and with a GCM of 12,837kg it has buckets in reserve. Unsurprisingly, the Hornet towed along effortlessly behind the 6.7L Cummins turbo diesel-powered Ram.
GEARED UP TO GO BIG
Most of the options on this Hornet are geared towards ‘go big’ towing. Up front you have the industry benchmark Cruisemaster offroad articulated coupling – it’s the big brother D045 rated to 4.5T compared with the D035 (3.5T) seen on most vans. They’re not exciting but you also move up to 4.5T rated safety chains.
More exciting is the Cruisemaster XT all-terrain, independent suspension with air bags, rated to 4.4T to carry all that extra payload. The air suspension takes the place of coil springs and is special because you can adjust the van height to suit conditions. You can keep the van at its lower height for regular road travel or lift the van to negotiate obstacles when travelling at low speed. Best of all you can throw away your levelling ramps because this system does it automatically by adjusting each side of the suspension independently.
Another feature reserved for high-end vans is disc brakes. Our Caravan World team has consistently found disc brakes to have greater modulation with less of that jerky on-off feeling and the stopping power just feels more positive. I was surprised, however, to be advised that stability control is not compatible with the disc brakes on this van.
We have seen the Hornet has the heavy-duty spec for travelling tough roads. Its size means it’s geared towards spanning our vast country on open (and bad) roads rather than trying to squeeze up 4WD-only tracks. Well-regarded, heavy-duty BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres mated to 16-inch alloy rims look the part and go the distance. If you find yourself in tricky spots, the rear of the chassis rails features recovery points and ‘skid bumps’ to protect the van body.
GO BIG FOR LONGER
Water capacity is at the high end with a 70L dedicated drinking water tank, another 200L of freshwater tanks and a 100L grey water tank. This is where most manufacturers draw the line, as water is the greatest gobbler of payloads. With this particular van accommodating six people and having payload to spare, a few more litres wouldn’t go astray. One place fresh water can go is on the rear bumper which has two jerry can holders. The rear bumper is secured to the chassis with four support bars (some others only have two or three) to carry the jerry cans plus a hefty spare wheel.
The electrical package is premium, with 1470 watts of solar power from seven solar panels, a 560Ah lithium battery and a 2600W inverter. The only thing missing from the power wish list is enough power to go gasless as some of the top-end vans are now featuring. Instead, you get the regulation two 9kg gas bottles.
Wonderland offers a three-year manufacturer’s warranty, which basically covers what they build including the van body and furniture. A five-year warranty applies to the chassis and suspension. When it comes to components such as appliances, Wonderland defers to the respective manufacturers for their cover but works with the customer to facilitate the process.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Hornet is a mighty caravan for a big family, sleeping six in style and comfort. It has the right spec to travel the toughest roads in our big country. Packed with features for extended off-grid living and long-term travel, it is a worthy contender for families planning the Big Lap. And a key component to making this all possible is the massive payload capability, which means you will be looking at a seriously sized tow vehicle.
HITS AND MISSES
- A fantastic example of a luxurious six-berth van
- Impressive load-carrying capacity
- Very well built with a unique construction style
- Its con is also its pro. You need a muscle ute to tow it!
Wonderland RV Hornet 2211F-B4 Rating
Value for Money
"It’s big budget but if you’re looking at long-term travel for a big family, the value shows"
"You need the right tool for the job and with a Ram upfront, it towed beautifully"
Suitability for Intended Touring
"If you want plenty of storage space and load-carrying capacity for four kids, the Hornet is right up there"
"The long-term manufacturing experience and design background of the team shows in exemplary build quality"
"The most functional six-berth van I have seen"
"Plenty of power and water to go the distance"
"A three-year manufacturer’s warranty combined with a five-year chassis and suspension warranty is a strong offer"
"The CNC cut, interlocking ply internal wall frame is unique"
"It’s big, it’s bold and it’s beautiful"
Wonderland RV Hornet 2211F-B4 Specs
Weights and Measures
|Body length||7m (22ft 11in)|
|Overall length||9.3m (30ft 5in)|
|Width||2.5m (8ft 2in)|
|Ball weight at tare||220kg|
|Frame||Structural grade ply interlocking jigsaw|
|Cladding||DiBond marine grade composite panel and checkerplate|
|Chassis||S&M ToughCoat powder coated DuraGal chassis|
|Suspension||4.4T Cruisemaster XT Air L3|
|Wireless||W disc brakes|
|Coupling||Cruisemaster DO45 with 4.5T safety chains|
|Wheels||16in 5 Stud DC3 wheels (79 Series) 265/75R16 BFG tyres|
|Water||2 x 100L fresh water tanks, 70Ldedicated drinking water, 1 x 100L grey water tank|
|Solar||7 x 210W (1470W)|
|Gas||2 x 9kg|
|Cooking||Thetford mini grill and four-burner gas stove|
|Microwave||23L Mirror Finish Flatbed Microwave|
|Bathroom||Separate shower and toilet|
|Hot water||Instant hot water|
- Air bag suspension
- Disc brakes
- 560A/h battery and an additional four 210W extra solar panels and solar maximisation
- DO45 coupling and 4.5T safety chains
Wonderland RV Hornet 2211F-B4 price from $142,512
Wonderland RV Hornet 2211F-B4 price as shown $165, 528
Supplied by Wonderland RV
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