At the tail end of a storm that flooded much of Vic in early September, we rolled into the Coolaroo factory of Roadstar Caravans. The weather forecast was more or less on our side – if we pushed through the rain along the Geelong Freeway, we’d be greeted by a clear sky at the Great Ocean Road (GOR), which was to be our testing ground.
When it comes to seaside touring, you can’t beat the GOR. Winding from Torquay to Warrnambool, this 250km road is one of the world’s great coastal drives. Attractions such as the Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge along dramatic limestone cliffs, the rainforests and waterfalls inland at the Otway National Park, and the laid-back tourist towns of Lorne, Apollo Bay and Port Campbell make the GOR a must-do on any Vic-touring itinerary.
But first we needed to beat the weather. With a tandem-axle Roadstar Limited Edition hitched to our LandCruiser Troopie, we headed south at a cautious 80km/h. The wind was up, the clouds swollen and grey. But we were determined...
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER
There’s nothing like a strong cross-wind to slow a caravanner down. In fact, it’s sometimes best to just pull over. Our Roadstar LE, however, maintained its purposeful stance and wasn’t bothered too much by the passing semi-trailers. When the clouds decided to vent, they did so with some fury. And in spite of the wind I was able to maintain a constant speed.
The forecast proved accurate. The sky cleared, the sun shone. All was right with the world and towing the Roadstar became an absolute pleasure.
Our Roadstar LE (termed the 19ft 6in x 7ft 10in-5 model; the length is an internal measurement while the width is external – the “5” is the layout designation) had an overall height of 2.82m (9ft 3in) – quite high but not dramatically so. Its height gave it a business-like air on the road and drew admiring glances. Especially at our destination: Cumberland River Holiday Park, 7km south-west of Lorne.
With the fire crackling and the wine poured, it was time to check out the van. Layout-wise, it has a full-width rear bathroom, dinette with tri-fold table on the nearside, kitchen opposite, and forward bedroom. The cafe-style of the dinette is an option – an L-shaped lounge is standard. Storage is well taken care of in this area, with three overhead lockers and space beneath the two comfortable lounges.
The kitchen is a good setup, but when the cooktop lid is up, bench space is a little bit limited. But the dinette table is within easy reach, and you’ve got some space forward of the sink, too. For cooking, the kitchen has the full stainless steel kit: Swift four-burner cooktop (three gas, one electric), grill, oven and microwave. A 12V Shurflo pump sends water to the sink, and the array of cupboards, drawers and lockers will ensure you’ve always got a spot for your gear. Overall, it’s a well presented kitchen.
Storage in the bedroom is adequate, with two overhead lockers, wardrobes either side, and a full-height linen cupboard on the nearside at the foot of the bed. Of course, the bed lifts on gas struts to reveal yet more storage space. The Four Seasons hatch above the bed, along with the Jupiter acrylic windows all round, ensure that this area of the caravan remains flooded with natural light. Like the kitchen, the bedroom gets a tick for presentation and functionality.
The bathroom, with the vanity across the rear wall, shower on the nearside and Dometic toilet on the offside, is straightforward but nicely put together. The top-loader washing machine is an option.
The cabinetry throughout the Roadstar LE is framed in meranti timber with poly-ply sides and doors. It withstood my ‘stress’ test (a good pull on the cupboard doors, etc.) with barely a creak and the lacquered timber edging is neatly finished.
Other appointments include a low-profile Aircommand Ibis air-conditioner, Dometic three-way fridge (ours was an optioned-up 184L unit – 150L is standard), pressure hatch (an option), halogen reading lights and downlights throughout (if you prefer LEDs, just change the globes), a Suburban hot water service, a stereo/DVD/CD player connected to two internal speakers, a 19in flatscreen TV, a good spread of powerpoints… basically, more than just the essentials for comfortable caravanning are covered.
THE OUTER LIMITS
Roadstar is owned by the same directors as the chassis manufacturer Australian Hitec Engineering, so it’s no surprise that the LE is built on the company’s own chassis, in this case a “Safari” chassis. Opting for the Safari gives you a 6in drawbar that tapers to 4in at the front of the Simplicity independent suspension where there are also 4in risers fitted due to the 16in steel wheels. Alloy wheels are standard on Roadstar’s upmarket Daintree model, and I’d love to see them standard on the LE.
Construction-wise, a 12mm marine ply floor is glued and screwed to the chassis. The van is framed in meranti timber clad with aluminium, with polystyrene insulation (sisalation in the ceiling).
The drawbar is home to an 8in jockey wheel, two 9kg gas cylinders, a Breakaway switch, and a mesh rack for firewood, etc. In terms of 12V power, Roadstar has shown some forward thinking by providing as standard a 30A battery charger in the gal-lined front boot. Though you only get one 97Ah deep-cycle battery with the van, the 30A charger means you can add another battery down the track without having to upgrade. The light in the front boot is a nice touch, too.
Thanks to a tunnel boot behind the front boot, external storage is pretty generous. Having travelled with more than a few vans that only offered front boot storage on the outside, I could really appreciate the addition of the tunnel.
The picnic table is a standard item – if ever you’ve forgotten your camp table, you’ll know how useful they are. About the only thing ‘missing’ is a couple of external speakers (though they’re optional) – I like listening to the footy under the awning, but I suppose I could watch it instead, thanks to the external TV point that allows you to utilise the supplied Winegard antenna.
Underneath the van are two 95L water tanks protected by galvanised sheeting. If you travel with them full, be mindful of how much gear you pack. The van’s Tare of 2180kg and ATM of 2580kg means a payload of 400kg – as recommended by the RVMAA for a tandem-axle van. Naturally, the need to be mindful about payload applies to every caravan, but such generosity in carrying capacity – whether that’s water or cupboard space – brings with it the temptation to overload.
THE BOTTOM LINE
With its high and mighty appearance, I liked the way this van rode the road. Our Troopie tow vehicle was more than powerful enough to do the job. As I drove along the GOR, I could see myself fitting a solar panel (the LE is prewired for one), grabbing a generator for a bit of freecamping, and continuing west across the Nullarbor and eventually into Margaret River. From there, who would know? I’d just keep going. The Roadstar LE is that kind of van.
WORDS Max Taylor
PICS Ellen Dewar
ROADSTAR LIMITED EDITION
Overall length: 8.07m (26ft 6in)
External body length: 6.4m (21ft)
External width: 2.38m (7ft 10in)
Internal height: 1.94m (6ft 4in)
Ball weight: 180kg
Chassis: “Safari” 6in, tapering to 4in at suspension with 4in risers
Suspension: Simplicity independent
Price as shown: $65,100 (RRP)
Roadstar Caravans, 4-6 Lisa Place, Coolaroo, Vic 3048, (03) 9301 8700, www.roadstar.com.au
Source: Caravan World Nov 2010