One of the challenges that caravan manufacturers face is keeping the weight of their vans within the bounds of available tow vehicles, and the growing demand to squeeze in more accessories doesn’t help the cause.
But Scott Bewley, proprietor of Shellharbour City Caravans in Wollongong, NSW, showed me it is possible. The Supreme Aero A3 is a lightweight van laden with the caravanning comforts we’ve come to expect.
The 5.58m (18ft 4in) Aero A3 has many features, but has a Tare of 1853kg and an ATM of 2253kg, making it suitable for a Ford Falcon. An attractive combination.
There’s nothing surprising about the Aero’s construction. It has a steel PermaGal chassis with 100x50mm (4in x 2in) rails and tandem-axle load-sharing suspension. Quick drop Al-Ko corner stabilisers are fitted all round and two 80L water tanks sit above and forward of the axles. It’s hard to see without getting on your knees, but there’s also a gas bayonet under the front nearside corner.
Two 9kg gas cylinders and a well-protected mains pressure tap are on the drawbar. There are no surprises at the rear, with a square bumper bar and spare wheel.
The aluminium-clad body covers a meranti timber frame insulated with wool blend bats in the ceiling and polyester in the walls. The door is the popular Camec triple locker and the windows are tinted Camec hoppers. Front tunnel storage is in lieu of a front boot. The tunnel contains a van jack and winder, as well as a wheel brace.
Free-camping enthusiasts will notice there are no batteries or solar panels fitted, but these are available as optional extras, at some expense to the 400kg load carrying capacity.
Like many of its contemporaries, the Aero A3 has a full-width rear bathroom and a front bedroom. The offside kitchen bench and a nearside dinette are in the middle. Décor wise, the burnt orange “cherry” cabinetry dominates, but it is somewhat offset by the lighter walls and ceiling, the flecked coal-coloured benchtops and the blue leather seats. Slimline blinds and wooden pelmets are fitted to all the windows except the one in the bathroom. Four Seasons hatches are at either end of the van and the roof-mounted Aircommand air-conditioner is centrally located.
The dinette is the centre-piece of the Aero, and the contoured leather seats and bi-fold table are nicely done. Both seats have reading lights and drawers underneath – much easier than lifting ply timber hatches. The lockers above the dinette are lit from within and have glass doors. A cabinet with two wire basket slide-out pantries above and two drawers below is squeezed between the dinette and the bathroom.
The rest of the offside is occupied by the kitchen, which has a bench containing a four-burner cooktop/grill/oven set alongside a stainless steel sink/drainer. There isn’t a great deal of benchtop space but the cooktop does have a flush-fitting top. The 150L fridge above the floor has a microwave on top of it, which is set low and back for ease of use.
In addition to three lockers above the kitchen bench, two floor lockers, two cupboards and a cutlery drawer provide adequate storage. Two more cupboards at the end of the bench face the bed but these are quite narrow.
A switchboard and control area on a forward panel in the overhead locker has a hot water service switch, battery voltmeter, 12V switches, and AM/FM radio/DVD player. The wall underneath has a powerpoint and antenna connections for a TV. The small, angled shelf on the end of the overhead lockers is very useful – it’s not a major feature but it does show a little creative thinking.
The bedroom is shorter than usual to help accommodate the full-width bathroom. The bed is close to the doorway on one side, and on the other there’s very little walkway between the bed and kitchen bench.
The 1.88x1.55m (6ft 2in x 5ft 1in) innerspring mattress bed is surrounded by the usual bedhead of wardrobes, side cabinets and overhead lockers. The mattress rests on a metal-framed, posture-slatted base that easily lifts for access to the storage area underneath.
The bathroom has it all: a separate shower cubicle, Thetford cassette toilet, vanity cabinet with trendy washbasin, cupboard space and a top-loading Lemair washing machine. Ventilation is provided by fan hatches and a small offside window.
The Aero is a well-appointed van and a good example of what’s achievable simply by adjusting the standard, contemporary caravan layout. It’s great for anyone who desires a fully-equipped, on-road caravan that’s towable by larger family sedan and softroad 4WDs.
Shellharbour City Caravans, 17 Princes Highway, Albion Park Rail, NSW 2527, (02) 4256 3266.
For more information about Supreme, including your nearest dealer, visit www.supremecaravans.com.au.
Read the full review in the March issue of Caravan World, on sale now!