Early last year, Winnebago made a splash when its Australian-designed, US-built caravans were launched on to the local market. As expected, the vans were quite different to their locally-made counterparts, not least because of their bright external colours.
Since then, there has been a bit of a shift in the US exchange rate and Winnebago decided to use the experience it had gained building vans in the US to develop its models here in Australia. Enter the Winnebago Burke – the first Winnebago model to roll off the line in Australia – which is a 5.82m (19ft 1in) tandem-axle van with a slide-out and a Tare weight of 2000kg.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
The Burke’s modest length and weight indicate something about the van’s structure, and a look under the Burke reveals a simplified chassis with 150mm (6in) rails and 50x50mm(2x2in) cross members. It’s actually more like a European van than an Australian van underneath, especially with the Al-Ko independent rubber suspension and a swing-away jockey wheel.
Above the chassis, the Burke’s structure is designed to keep its weight down while retaining strength and it does this with a single piece composite floor, composite wall panels, and a single piece front wall and roof, all without a frame.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
The front island bed measures 2.01x1.53m (6ft 7in x 5ft) and the mattress is mounted on a part-posture slat, part-metal framed bed base. Because of the tunnel boot, storage room under the bed is limited.
Winnebago has gone down a common route with the bedhead, which has the usual arrangement of overhead lockers, side wardrobes and bedside cabinets. Although, the overhead lockers do protrude more into the air space than normal, due to the shape of the front wall. On both sides of the bed, 240V, 12V and 5V USB sockets are fitted.
Because the slide-out occupies the entire mid-offside of the van, the kitchen takes up the opposite side. There is a square stainless steel sink and a three-burner cooktop with grill/oven below, leaving space under the bench for five drawers, a cupboard and a wire basket pantry. During my travels in D’Aguilar NP, the wire baskets were the only indication of the rough roads. True to form, the baskets jumped out of their slots. Cable ties are a good solution for this problem, but it would be nice if a more attractive, permanent solution was developed.
At the rear end of the kitchen bench are the 190L fridge and microwave. Oddly enough, the fridge door was hinged on the wrong side but I suspect that was just an aberration in the prototype. Above the microwave is the radio/CD player and a charging slot, complete with 12V socket, for something like an iPad. Between the fridge and the bathroom wall is a cupboard with multiple shelves that could be used for a pantry or a linen cupboard.
Across the rear, the bathroom is laid out a bit differently to many vans as it is not the usual rectangular shape. Instead of having a vanity cabinet across the rear wall between the shower cubicle and toilet, it sits between the rear corner toilet and the offside bathroom wall. That arrangement allows for a top-loading washing machine to be fitted into the cabinet beside the loo with a wash basin above. A shaving cabinet and open shelves occupy the air space above and it’s a nice change from the usual arrangement.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In my opinion, the Winnebago Burke is an improvement over the US-designed vans. Although, I was interested to note that some of the design ideas, such as the chassis and composite wall structure, appear to take inspiration from the Europeans. The van I looked at was a prototype so, while it did have a few rough edges, I imagine those will be smoothed out in future models.
Winnebago appears to have put a lot of thought into the weight of its van and has managed to lop off quite a few kilos for its given length, resulting in not only a good towing caravan but one with a spacious interior.
HITS & MISSES
- Relatively lightweight van
- Spacious interior with slide-out open
- Unusual bathroom layout
- Interior décor
- Chassis design
- Van can be used with slide-out closed
- Lounge/bed seat needs a bit more work
- Table top quite heavy and has fixed location
- Small windows up front