With a name like Utility, you would expect this offering from Paramount Caravans to be utilitarian in nature. And it does have some exceptionally useful and unique features both inside and out. But the van also has a level of elegance and luxury rarely seen on the road.
It would be remiss of me to go any further into this review without mentioning the stand-out feature of the Utility – a 2.5ft-deep (760mm) rear boot, capable of holding bikes, tools, tanks, fishing gear or whatever large items you need to travel with. The spare wheel is located in the boot, which is kitted out in checkerplate, has five hanging hooks on the rear wall for bikes or fishing rods, a shelf running the width of the van, two powerpoints, and two LED lights.
External storage is further complemented by the spacious front boot which, at 1.5ft (460mm) deep, adds even more useful space.
The Utility has an internal length of 6.4m (21ft) but the combined length of the boots takes the external length up to 7.62m (25ft) and 9.3m (30ft 6in) in total, making it a fairly lengthy tow. It is quite a long van, but the upside is the raft of extra features packed inside.
ON THE INSIDE
The Utility is Paramount’s top of the range caravan and it really is something to behold. From the outside, it’s a long, good-looking van, but step inside the centre-entry door and the full effect hits you.
Classy, elegant, luxurious, stylish – any one of these words could be used to describe the Utility’s interior. The contrasting colours of the shining mahogany cabinetry, black leather upholstery, white walls, light grey timber-look floor and granite-look benchtops combine perfectly to create a timeless feel. Numerous LED lights sprinkled throughout the van add sparkle to the cabinets but it is the ceiling-mounted Infinity dome light that really shines.
Located amidships between the bed and the kitchen, the Infinity light employs dozens of tiny LEDs and a mirror to create a tunnel effect, dotted with twinkling lights. Standing below and staring up into the ‘tunnel’ gives the impression you’re staring into space or a far-flung galaxy. The dome is ringed with bright clusters of LED lights, so, like everything in this van, it is functional as well as fancy.
But it’s not all just surface beauty – this van is well-thought-out, well laid-out and, I believe, the discerning caravanner will struggle to find anything lacking. It has the tried-and-tested front bedroom/rear bathroom layout which caravanners love, but it is the finishing touches that make this van stand out.
LED strip lighting above the footwell of the automatic Thule entry step provides illumination in the dark and a grab rail by the door is a handy aid. The front bedroom features a north-south queen-sized bed with a padded black leather bedhead and a full-width shelf below the front window.
The bed is surrounded by storage options, including three mirrored cupboards overhead and half-height mirrored wardrobes on each side, each with a shelf, drawer and smaller cupboard below.
There is a reading light and two powerpoints on each side of the bed and two LED lights above. It is quite easy to move about the bedroom, with a decent amount of space between the bed and the walls, each with a large window, on each side.
The bed lifts up to reveal a compartmentalised storage space underneath, although the rear third is taken up by the slide-out external kitchen. There is an access door at the front of the bed base, so you can retrieve small items from under the bed without lifting it up.
There are two waist-height corner cabinets at the foot of the bed – each with a shelf above, an overhead cupboard and two powerpoints. The TV mounting point and TV antenna jack are located on the nearside with the electrical switches on the offside and all are within easy reach.
Situated opposite the entry door, the offside dinette is the heart of this van. With its squashy, black leather-upholstered cushions, offset by some grey striped fabric panels, this is an easy place to sit and relax for a while.
The lounge will comfortably seat four people and the long tri-fold table will easily accommodate four dinner settings (plus a bottle or two of wine!). But if the van is just for the two of you, you can take advantage of the hinged footrests on each seat to give yourself even more room to stretch out and watch TV or admire the views through the windows.
And there are two powerpoints under the table, so it can also be used as a temporary work station for your laptop or tablet.
There is more stylish mahogany cabinetry overhead, including a deep shelf above the dinette and a two-door shelved cupboard with smoked glass doors above that. There is another cupboard with a glass door on each side of that, and an additional small cupboard with the Kenwood stereo below.
A long window runs the length of the dinette, providing plenty of natural light to eat or read by; but three LED lights built into a mahogany roof piece make the cupboards shine and create suitable illumination for the evenings.
The spacious kitchen takes up the mid-nearside of the van, with the Thetford 184L three-way fridge-freezer and a half-height slide-out pantry on the offside. The fridge is located slightly off the floor, leaving room for a narrow drawer below and a top-hinged cupboard above.
We prepared and cooked many of the recipes featured in this issue of CW (see page 35 for more) in the Utility’s kitchen and found it easy to use and well thought out. Bench space is plentiful and is improved even further when the smoked glass lid and benchtop-matching cover over the cooktop is closed. The pale grey granite-look benchtops offset the dark cabinetry beautifully. And, more importantly, there is more than enough room for two people to work side-by-side without tripping over each other.
Appliances include a Thetford Minigrill MkIII combo four-burner cooktop with grill, a Daewoo microwave, and a stainless steel sink with mixer tap, drainer and filtered water tap, with a long window above.
Storage space is plentiful, above and below the bench. There are two drawers with smoked glass doors below the grill, a shelved cupboard under the sink, three drawers, including one for utensils below the drainer, and another cupboard below those.
Above the cooktop are a rangehood and shallow cupboard and a deeper overhead cupboard above the sink. The water pump, hot water system, water heater switches and the water level indicator are all located in the cabinetry above the stove.
And if all that still isn’t quite enough storage space for you, there are another two cupboards beside the entrance.
At the rear of the van, safely ensconced behind a sturdy sliding door, is the full-width ensuite. There is a Thetford cassette toilet on the offside, with ventilation hatch above, and a deep triangular storage cupboard on the rear wall. A front-loading washing machine is mounted at waist height with a two-door cupboard (housing two powerpoints) above. The vanity on the rear wall has the same pale grey benchtops as the kitchen and a modern, modular ceramic sink. Above the vanity is a shelved two-door cupboard and below are a narrow shelved cupboard and four drawers. You definitely won’t be left wanting for storage space in this van!
The shower, located in a separate cubicle, is on the nearside and has a variable-height, flexible-hose shower head and ventilation hatch.
ON THE OUTER
Externally, the Utility is everything it claims to be. There is a multitude of storage options with easy access and a few optional features that really add value and convenience.
If outdoor cooking is your thing, or you just want to enjoy the sunshine while you cook your steak, the optional external kitchen would be worth considering.
The Black Widow kitchen slides out from a front nearside storage locker (which can otherwise be used to store other items) and comprises a two-burner gas cooktop and sink with mixer tap. The sink and stove, which each have a smoked glass lid that also acts as a wind guard, can be quickly and easily plumbed directly into the caravan’s gas and water supplies. There is also a small storage bin at each end of the slide-out and a fold-down picnic table and full-length Dometic for you to enjoy your meals alfresco.
Forward of the slide-out kitchen is the full-length front tunnel boot, accessible from both ends, with an optional generator slide.
The front boot I mentioned earlier creates more storage space, even with the two 100Ah marine-grade batteries, Camec break-away system and other assorted electrics housed here.
There are twin 9kg gas cylinders on the drawbar, a tap on the offside rail, and a grate between the A-frame rails for additional storage while you’re parked.
The front of the van has waist-high black checkerplate protection with a burgundy vinyl stoneguard to shoulder height, while the sides just have checkerplate and the rear only has vinyl.
On the offside is access to the front tunnel boot, the toilet’s cassette hatch, a rear storage locker, and a rear tunnel boot. This boot has a large Black Widow slide-out storage drawer accessible from the nearside.
All Paramount vans come with optional Al-Ko Electronic Stability Control. The system is gaining momentum among the caravanning fraternity and is considered to be a wise investment on a new or pre-loved van.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’re in the market for a caravan that has function as well as finesse, the Paramount Utility could easily be the van for you.
Fully-optioned, its higher-end price tag may put it out of the reach of some but, if it fits your budget, this is a special van with some terrific features.
It won’t take you through the Simpson Desert but it will take you around Australia in unparalleled comfort and style.
- Deep rear boot
- Infinity light
- External kitchen
- Interior kitchen setup and bench space
I WOULD HAVE LIKED...
- More time in the van!
It might look a bit like something from outer space, but the spectacular Infinity light fitted to the Utility is actually from Germany.
Canterbury Caravans dealer principal Colin Tobin first encountered the light at the Caravan Salon Dusseldorf – one of the world’s biggest caravan trade shows.
“We saw it at the Dusseldorf show and we thought ‘Gee, that’s pretty good. We want that’,” he recalled.
In a stroke of good luck, Colin was describing the light to someone at the Dometic stand when they chimed in and said ‘That’s our light’.
“So we said, ‘Right, we want a couple of those’ and they were putting them on a plane across to Melbourne while we were still in Dusseldorf.”
These were the first Infinity lights Dometic exported to Australia and Paramount is believed to be the only manufacturer using them here.
The lights can be fitted to any Paramount van at a cost of about $250 and Colin said customers were snapping them up.
“We’ve had fantastic customer feedback. They love them,” he said.
Originally published in Caravan World #513, April 2013.