Bruder is a market leader in offroad caravan design and execution. Its latest offering was released in August and combines features from existing models into a new platform ready for adventure.
Only a year or so after the release of its range-topping all-weather caravan, the EXP-8, Brisbane builder Bruder has unveiled yet another model. The new EXP-7 — unsurprisingly given the name — sits between the remarkable EXP-8 and the more modest yet beloved EXP-6 but retains the expedition-capable genre of the brand.
Bruder is a Brisbane-based manufacturer that has become a success story worldwide. Integral to the success is how brothers and company owners Dan and Toby take product testing to unprecedented levels. I’m confident there isn’t a caravan builder anywhere that tests across thousands of kilometres on five continents, at heights up to 10,000ft, in conditions ranging from freezing to the hottest desert regions and at speeds of 240km/h.
Our PT (pop-top) model review van is the first in production and features the patented Bruder roof-lift mechanism powered by an electronic scissor action for effortless deployment. Extra clip-on skirts are an option to improve thermal insulation on the pop-top. Still, a fixed roof GT version is available for customers expecting to travel in extremely low temperatures.
The new Bruder follows the style of previous vans and wows with a hard-hitting first impression, emphasised by the black exterior of our review van which was colour matched to the 300 Series LandCruiser tow vehicle. The van looks lithe and aerodynamic in travel mode with the roof lowered, courtesy of virtual wind tunnel testing. Even so, it’s a big van when compared for context next to the LandCruiser and at 5.76m, it’s 155mm longer than an EXP-8.
At the heart of all Bruders is a unique chassis constructed in-house from sealed box section Australian steel that leads back from an extended A-frame to arch over the suspension and back to the rear support. By angling the chassis rails high under the body, the air suspension achieves up to 300mm of wheel travel, and the twin remote reservoir shock absorbers can work at their most efficient vertical angle. Remote control of the pressure in the airbag suspension achieves independent height settings for each wheel. The benefits of the setup include levelling the van when camping, lowering it for easy entry and when using the exterior slide-out kitchen. You can also travel on three or even two wheels in the event of tyre failure.
The EXP-7’s chassis is built lighter and more robust from thinner gauge but higher quality steel. A special rubber coating protects the metal for a lifetime of rugged use.
Quad weave epoxy bonded closed cell composite panels for the floor, roof and walls are permanently fixed together to form a monocoque body that is engineered to be lighter and stronger than previous versions. The panels avoid pathways for heat and cold to penetrate the interior, and the insulation method is so effective that inside temperatures are unaffected by the signature black exterior. Even so, standard colours include grey and sand for a less macho vibe.
At the front is a Cruisemaster DO35 hitch, suitable for rough terrain and matched to the van’s 3500kg ATM. A spare wheel is mounted on a heavy-duty bracket, while a couple of jerry can holders and a wood rack fit into the streamlined architecture. Up top, a filtration system keeps the cabin dust-free, and three 415W solar panels taper back to be self-cleaning when travelling.
Along the passenger side is the innovative indoor/outdoor kitchen first seen in the EXP-6, and it’s a ripper. Protected by an electric awning, the space combines a composite slide for a 57L Engel compressor slide-out fridge and storage, a lifting hatch to shelves for cooking items and an opening to the internal kitchen bench and sink. With the suspension dropped to its lowest position, there’s an accessible bench for most folk.
At the rear are more storage options and a hatch where an optional 2kg washing machine lives. Lower down, there’s also the option of a chassis-mounted winch, which isn’t a bad idea given the places most owners will expect to travel.
The upmarket nature of the Bruder guarantees a simplified and fast setup, so the roof rises 400mm to a generous 2.1m ceiling height. At the same time, electric awnings spread out from each side for ample undercover protection.
Entry is to the back, where a compact kitchen and storage unit flows over the back wall before opening to a combination ensuite on the driver’s side, while a wine rack to the left of the entry promises conviviality along the track. The combination ensuite has zippered infills to the ceiling and a driver-side door that opens wide for direct access from outside. This also introduces a loo with a view and easy access to clean off after a swim, although there’s an outside shower and an optional privacy tent.
The layout is versatile and harmonious, even considering the van’s relatively narrow 1.92m width. Across the back wall is a storage unit with shelves and provision for the 136L Dometic fridge/freezer and an optional microwave. Along the passenger side, the two-way kitchen has a concertina slider to close it off when needed and allows cooking inside if the weather isn’t friendly.
Opposite the kitchen is a beautifully crafted lounge and a removable swivelling table is supplied for dining. The way a section of the bed folds back for extra east-west seating is a master stroke of clever design and not the only smart thinking Bruder employs. The EXP-8’s recent win at the prestigious Australian Good Design Awards is a testament to Bruder’s company-wide experience and smarts. Talking about the award for the EXP-8, the judges said that “the caravan offers levels of luxury and offroad ability its competitors can only dream of. We appreciate the design team’s deep understanding of the harshness of the Australian outback, with each self-sustainable innovation not at all compromising a striking aesthetic”.
Up front, a full-size queen bed is surrounded by storage spaces and handy nooks for personal items. Another incredible feature is the overhead hatch which offers a panorama of night sky to ponder before nodding off.
The brochure suggests sleeping for up to six, but first impressions leave some doubt. It’s not until you start moving things around that it makes sense. First, lower the top bunk over the lounge, remove the back of the lounge to open it into a double and deploy the back into its place over the foot of the queen bed, and you have two doubles and two singles. The single bunks have side netting to keep young ones safe and are broad enough at 650mm for adults. So, the EXP-7 will be ideal for a group of mates on a fishing trip or for a family on the journey of a lifetime.
It would be a stretch to describe the interior as spacious because its narrow 1.92m body width limits the available real estate. It’s a compromise for getting down narrow tracks to beautiful campsites and an expectation that a lot of downtime will be spent outside. On that note, the awnings on both sides let the crew spread out and take advantage of the view from sunrise to the afterglow.
The Bruder range is dedicated to getting into lesser-known places and staying there comfortably, and the EXP-7 doesn’t disappoint. It might have less battery power in standard form than the EXP-8, but 1245W of solar energy and a 10.8kWh lithium battery bank will keep you going longer than most, and it’s upgradable to 15.6kWh. A 3000W inverter will run most appliances, including coffee machines and air fryers.
The 200L of fresh water is stored internally to avoid freezing, and there’s an extra 80L tank as an option, as well as built-in pumps to extract water from a safe supply.
Our review took us north of Noosa, Queensland, along Cooloola Beach, where 60km of shifting sand presents some challenges for a caravan. Of course, we managed to test our recovery skills, but to protect the culprits, let’s just say what happens on the review stays on the review.
What I can reveal is that the Bruder EXP-7 is a joy to tow over the changing ruts and washouts and the steep sand banks of freshwater creeks. It travels like it’s on rails with an uncanny ability to stay level over humps and bumps even at the 80km/h speed limit. Nothing bangs. Nothing shakes. It doesn’t wobble or lurch like a regular van would in these conditions. It’s impossible not to be impressed.
The van is covered by a three-year worldwide warranty, and Bruder will arrange local repairs as required.
The EXP-7 continues the remarkable Australian story of Bruder. It’s an offroad caravan in the literal sense of the word, not the marketing speak of some pretenders. The engineering and testing have given rise to a superb and enduring adventure machine.
We sometimes wrap up our reviews by answering the age-old question — would I buy one? Having just completed a 22,000km trip in my own big offroad van across some of the roughest significant roads in the country, I have a fresh appreciation for a van like the Bruder with over-executed engineering and a sensible size to get down gnarlier tracks. So, my conclusion is yes, I would buy an EXP-7. I’d probably order the sand-coloured one to blend into the crowd at the Kiwirrkurra supermarket. The only proviso is the $258,500 price tag, which sadly counts me out. If it’s not a barrier to you, you’d be mad not to snap one up for your next adventure into the unknown.
HITS AND MISSES
- Superb engineering
- Remoter off-grid equipped
- Sleeping for six
- The price isn’t for everyone
Bruder EXP-7 RATINGS
VALUE FOR MONEY
Great van with a great big price
Tows perfectly, but it’s a weighty prospect
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
The new Bruder will take you almost anywhere and look after you when you get there
Top quality inside and out
Some compromises for six people, but as good as it could be
Plenty of off-grid ability
Worldwide three-year warranty and a dedication to happy customers
Makes me wanna sell the house
Bruder EXP-7 SPECS
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|Body length||5.76m (18ft 9in)|
|Overall length||7m (22ft 11in)|
|Width||1.92m (6ft 3in)|
|Max height||2.6m (8ft 7in)|
|Low height||2.35m (7ft 7in)|
|Tare||2474kg (2400kg standard)|
|Payload||1026kg (calculated) (1100kg standard)|
|Chassis||125 x 75 x 4mm fully sealed|
|Suspension||Tandem Independent air bag|
|Wheels||18in alloy 305x60R18 MT tyres|
|Water||1 x 200L freshwater and 1 x 80L additional tank optioned on|
|Solar||3 x 415W (total 1245W)|
|Cooking||Portable two-burner induction cooktop|
|Fridge||136L Dometic internal fridge/freezer and 57L Engel external slide-out fridge|
|Bathroom||Combination shower and composting toilet, additional external shower|
Bruder EXP-7 price from $258,500
- Washing machine
- 80L water tank
- Rear winch
- Leather sofa
- Wood and jerry can holders,
- and more
Bruder EXP-7 price as shown $276,562
115 Muriel Avenue
Moorooka Qld 4105
P: 07 3172 8838
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