With a dedication to engineering excellence and a passion for adventure, the Bosschieter brothers have established their Bruder brand as a global leader in offroad travel.
The release of the latest Bruder takes the company’s model offering to three and introduces a full-height caravan to the line-up. The new EXP-8 joins the original EXP-6 hybrid and the single axle EXP-6 camper in a range of extreme weather off-grid escape machines that leave little to the imagination around innovation and exclusivity.
The EXP-8 is visually stunning. It takes lines from the hybrid and the company’s commercial Geo Survey van to render the stealthy shape in signature Bruder black or grey for a menacing military vibe. Hitched to the company’s black 300 series, you might expect a team of SAS personally to stream out.
But the black of the review van is more a show of engineering one-upmanship than any real menace. The black dares you to suggest the van will be hot under the glaring Queensland sun, and it would be if not for the thorough thermal insulation properties of the build.
Bruder was born out of the brothers’ desire to build a better offroader after five years of importing South African camper trailers. From a young age, the brothers were instilled with a love of the outdoors and the travel lifestyle. They claim that experience, more than technical training, went into the design of the first hybrid.
The EXP-8 body is an immensely strong composite monocoque construction of high-quality closed-cell foam inside fibreglass walls of epoxy-bonded quad weave matt. It’s built to last in extremes of temperature between -20°C and +50°C. And because it’s a world product, it has been tested to heights over 3000m.
The chassis is on show at the integrated A-frame, and its flawless welds and smooth shape are a work of metallic art. The design is a unique blend of sealed 4mm Australian steel and round tube supports. To the rear of the A-frame, four main rails 125 x 75mm run to the back, with the outside pair forming a truss high over the suspension to support the extreme 320mm of wheel travel.
The tandem suspension uses laser-cut 75mm trailing arm tubes, Firestone airbags and twin remote-reservoir upside-down shock absorbers. But it’s different to any consumer version you will have seen. The brothers designed a system with vertical shock travel and interlinked airbags that can work to share the load. So as one wheel drops the other rises over undulations in the ground surface. The system gives significant wheel travel and translates to an impressively smooth ride. And as a very practical extra feature, the shared air supply can be closed to allow a wheel to be lifted off the ground in the event of a flat tyre.
Hefty engineering rates the chassis and suspension to five times its weight. That’s impressive when you consider that most Australian offroaders are engineered to three times their weight.
Some of Bruder’s brochures refer to the EXP-8 as a camper or a trailer. Take that as marketing speak for the American market. This, folks, is a caravan, and we are claiming it for our caravanning tribe. Body length is 19’3” or 5.85m, so it’s a big beast, but with a distinctive air and a smooth aerodynamic profile.
The forward section narrows to an aerodynamic shape where a selection of add-ons includes cabin pressurising air scoops that bring a hint of Mad Max to the party. Up front, we see a McHitch connection, but new models will have a different system as McHitch is being discontinued.
A forward entry door at the kerb side is a sturdy-looking composite construction with an automotive-style rubber seal and three secure locks to ensure no dust will get inside. Three fold-down tables sitting under a large window will make short work of serving snacks from the kitchen inside. At the rear is a giant storage hatch which also gives access to the electronics and battery.
The rear wall cuts away for a safe exit at washaways and slopes back at the top, where a couple of windows afford stargazing from the queen bed. An air scoop runs across the roofline to prevent dust from building up on the back as you drive along.
At the cutaway are two central hatches for air conditioning ducts. To the left is a 15L diesel tank, and on the other side is a small hatch that would make a handy spot for items like recovery gear because there’s a 4000Lb Warn winch attached to a rear chassis point.
Plenty is going on along the driver side of the biggest Bruder. A rear hatch opens to a front loader washer/dryer and more electronics. At the front, in a stroke of brilliance, a second door opens direct to the roomy combination shower and toilet.
An electric step leads inside, where you’re met by a stylish and roomy space enhanced by the generous 2m ceiling height and the extra-large window over the kitchen. A two-tier liquor cabinet at the door is a neat touch, and I’m happy to report that the bottles all stayed in place during our review over some rough ground.
As you enter, on the left are storage cupboards and a 180L compressor fridge/freezer. Ahead, in the forward driver-side corner, is the combination shower and toilet. While such combi bathrooms generally don’t get a great wrap, this one is special. It’s long and roomy, and, as we have seen already, a door unlocks your wilderness, creating a wide-open space if you like a view. On a more practical side, the second opening is ideal for washing down muddy boots and sandy feet or as an entry from the blizzard to keep the cabin warm.
The central living area has an L-shaped lounge on the driver side and a kitchen bench and cabinets as you walk in on the right. A large 1525mm x 2030mm (5ft x 6ft 7in) queen bed is down the back on a raised platform with easy access. Here, steps that slide away when not being used include built-in boot storage.
A decent size granite-look bench has a deep sink and a twin burner induction cooktop. A microwave rounds out the kitchen appliances, and there’s ample storage in the self-close doors and cupboards. In fact, every available section of wall or cabinet is dedicated to storage.
Access to the north-south bed is pretty straightforward, and I like the well-placed windows for views to the sides and to the sky to take in the best of your surroundings.
The lounge is superbly finished with intricate stitching, and a vast range of colours is available, with all the soft furnishings completed in-house. The table is large enough to accommodate four and drops to form a double bed. You can easily make up a further second pullman-style single by lifting the back of the lounge. That’s a very family-friendly arrangement.
Ducted air delivers controlled temperature throughout the interior, and there should be enough power to not worry about running down the battery.
The Bruder is all about getting off-grid. So, self-sufficiency is a prime consideration, and the level of electrical power on hand is impressive. The system is Victron Energy based but with all wiring completed in-house in a dedicated workshop. Up top, the roof is covered in solar panels for 1600W of charge through an MPPT charger to a 48V lithium battery pack that can deliver 16.7Wh to the van through a 5000W Victron inverter.
For maximum insulation against freezing, Bruder installs its two freshwater tanks inside the caravan body, giving a total of 350L, and there are pumps, filters and pickups to refill the tank from a suitable water supply. A grey water tank holds up to 75L until it’s safe to dump. Add a fishing rod, and you could live comfortably off-grid for as long as you wanted.
For our review, we hitched to a 300 Series LandCruiser and pointed south from the Brisbane factory into the mountains of the Border Ranges and into NSW. Despite its nearly three-tonne tow weight, the Toyota barely took a deep breath over our 350km trek. We found steep rises, creek crossing rutted roads and narrow tracks in our quest to see the EXP-8 wrongfooted. But we failed – the van handled faultlessly.
The narrow width of the Bruder means the 300’s standard mirrors keep you legal and mean you don’t have to worry about wide towing mirrors on narrow tracks. The way the van and car can confidently endure the nearside wheels traverse potholes and broken tar at 100km without a hint of complaint was terrific. The Bruder sat rock solid behind and stayed on an even plane throughout. I have never experienced a better caravan ride.
Lesser tow vehicles might not love the hefty weight of the EXP-8. As tested, the van hits a tare of 3108kg with options like twin awnings, shower tent, washer/dryer, kick-arse sound system and rear winch installed. In other words, it is fully loaded. As such, it has a $3000 GVM upgrade to 4000kg, so a Ram or Big Ford is a more reasonable long-term prospect.
Most EXP-8 versions leave the factory with a tare of around 2800kg, so your standard upmarket tow rig is a favourite choice.
Stopping power is smooth and predictable from the Dexter disc setup. We saw no lockup or fade throughout the review.
The worldwide warranty is three years on the caravan build and as appropriate for appliances, Bruder will arrange appropriate backup where needed.
As a global product, the level of customisation is remarkable. Different road laws and divergent cultures need addressing, and the team constantly keeps abreast of changes. An EXP-8 under construction is a good example. The new owner’s Bruder was being kitted out with a bidet, a first, I’ll wager, for an Australian-built van.
Given the quality and superb engineering, well-heeled buyers won’t balk at the price tag. The rest of us can just dream of the Powerball landing our way. A standard model is $298,999 and the model, as tested, comes to $319,525. That makes it hard to judge in our value for money category because there’s nothing to consider it next to. As the flagship (so far) of the Bruder fleet, the EXP-8 stands tall as probably the best off-grid caravan in the world.
HITS AND MISSES
- Superb engineering for rough travel
- Extended off-grid ability
- Innovative layout
- Needs a decent tow vehicle if you add extras
Bruder EXP-8 Ratings
Value for money
The EXP-8 is arguably the best off-grid/offroad caravan in the world, so expect to pay
Tows superbly. The unique suspension works amazingly for as smooth a ride as I have experienced
Suitability for intended touring
Designed for off-grid and offroad living and it does it with power to burn and ample comfort
Top level engineering and superb build quality
Comfortable roomy interior and loads of temperature control
Bruder take its warranty and customer care seriously
Ample power and water to stay as long as you like
From towball to rear recover points, the Bruder innovation is on show
Wow. This van grabs admiring looks everywhere it goes
Bruder EXP-8 Specs
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|Overall length||6.84m (22ft 5in)|
|External body length||5.85m (19ft 2in)|
|External body width||2.1m (7ft)|
|Travel height||2.6m (8ft 5in)|
|Internal height||2m (6ft 7in)|
|Tare||2800kg (standard van)|
|ATM||3500 or 4000kg option (depending on specifications selected)|
|Payload||700kg to 1300kg optional|
|Frame||Composite monocoque body|
|Cladding||Complete composite body construction|
|Chassis||Bruder 125mm x 75mm x 4mm|
|Suspension||Bruder air suspension with eight shock absorbers|
|Coupling||McHitch with optional DO45|
|Wheels||18in alloy / 33in mud terrain|
|Water||1 x 150L and 1 x 250L freshwater, 1 x 75L grey water|
|Air-conditioner||2 x 2400W|
|Cooking||Twin burner induction|
|Fridge||180L compressor fridge/freezer|
|Bathroom||Cassette or Composting option|
Bruder EXP-8 price from: $298,999 inc GST
- Leather sofa
- Second electric RHS awning
- Enhanced sound system
- Rear winch
- 37in tyres
Bruder EXP-8 price as shown: $319,525 inc GST
THE NEXT STEP
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