Right from the start, I'm going to level with you all. I'm pretty partial to a club lounge. Either in the rear or at the front, it doesn't matter. In a world where it seems the majority of vans on the market are bound to the ‘bed at the front, ensuite at the rear’ layout, it's refreshing to have a look at something a little different.
So let's get stuck into this review from the inside out. Funnily enough, that's how it usually happens on the day too, because the last thing any caravan manufacturer wants is me dirtying up the inside of their immaculate vans after I've been rolling around in the dirt checking underneath!
On test is the Distinction from Option RV, a 22-footer with a rear access door and a massive rear club lounge. If you're the social type and don't mind having a few guests over for a couple of happy hour drinks, you are going to love the Distinction. Even adhering to today's stringent social distancing laws, you could easily fit four around the table. As restrictions ease further, you might even be able to fit six!
The lounge is super comfy, finished in grey automotive leather and concealed LED lighting in angled pelmets above the headrests are a nice touch. To top it off, three large windows allow for great vistas to be enjoyed from the comfort of the lounge, while letting the outside in and providing plenty of ventilation.
You could easily settle in for an afternoon or evening with friends, or the company of a good book if you were that way inclined, in what is a very inviting space.
Alongside the lounge is the well-appointed kitchen area. Spanning both sides of the van, there is heaps of bench space and more storage than I have in my kitchen at home.
The other thing the Distinction has in its kitchen that I don't have at home, is a microwave, perfect to thaw the mince so you can prepare the pasta sauce on your Swift gas cooktop with some herbs from your pull-out spice rack. Now it's time to heat up the gas oven to cook your lasagne, before firing up the grill for the garlic bread. Dinner is served!
The rangehood removes all of the food odours and the Dometic 188L 3-way fridge/freezer takes care all of your perishable food and keeps everything icy cold.
The interior conforms to the latest ‘on trend’ colours with high gloss white surfaces used throughout, with grey accents for a modern, classy and spacious feel.
With the lounge taking up the rear of the van, the bedroom occupies the front. And, in the Distinction, you actually get a bedroom, complete with a door! Now that's private.
Whereas in the ‘bed at the front, ensuite at the back’ layouts, you effectively have a living area and an ensuite, the Distinction is split up into three areas, the bedroom being one of them.
Apart from the added privacy (just in case you ever have anyone spend the night on the couch), having the ability to separate areas in the van is a great feature to have.
Say one of you is an early riser. That person can get up early, slide the door closed then go about their business of a morning cuppa and a bowl of cereal, while their partner sleeps on, blissfully unaware. Vice versa, at night if there's a night owl on board who stays up ‘til all hours watching DVDs on the 24in TV, the other occupant can just head off to bed.
It's a win all round!
IN THE MIDDLE
Between the front and rear zones lies the ensuite/laundry area, which can be partitioned off from the front, rear or both by simply sliding a door across.
The ensuite consists of a separate shower with glass door, a Thetford toilet (which, when given the elbow test was a bit tight on the left-hand side), a vanity and a wall-mounted and mirrored medicine cabinet.
Underneath the vanity basin, a 4kg Camec front loading washing machine fills the void neatly. On the opposite wall, a bank of drawers and hanging space makes for a great linen cupboard or for overflow clothes.
In addition to the linen cupboard in the ensuite, there is a heap of other storage options inside the Distinction.
Up front in the bedroom, typical storage units on either side of the bed allow for hanging up your finest, plus overhead lockers for everything else. The queen-sized bed also lifts for bulky item storage, or the TV when in transit.
At the rear of the van, overhead cupboards run from the kitchen all the way around the club lounge. Lift the cushions of the lounge and you'll find even more space to squirrel things away.
With this much storage available, it will pay for you to keep an eye on your ATM of 3040kg, for with a tare of 2540kg, you only have 500kg to play with. However, by using the CRS2 suspension from CruiseMaster (more on that later), the ATM of the Distinction can be upgraded to 3300kg, giving you an extra 300kg of payload.
Don't get me wrong, I really like the interior layout of the Distinction, as well as its fit and finish. It gets a big thumbs up from me, but...
Yeah I know, there's always a but.
There are a couple of things I would like to see as standard fittings on a van like this.
First up is not having soft close drawers everywhere. After living with them in my own kitchen (yep, my kitchen gets one up on the Distinction's here) for years, and generally being quite heavy handed, a slamming drawer is a noise I would love to never hear again.
Secondly, is the lack of a fan or fans in the bedroom. If the doors were closed and there was no breeze blowing, things could get pretty stuffy, pretty quickly. Sure you've got the IBIS 4 air conditioner unit, but that's only good if you're hooked into mains power and it still won't help much when the door is closed.
Lastly, there was a distinct lack of 12V and USB charging points inside the van. In fact, I only found one of each located in the kitchen. Considering our power-hungry lifestyles and our attachment to our smartphones, I would have liked to have seen at least another couple on each side of the bed.
DIRT ROAD DELIGHTS
The Distinction from Option RV is 22ft of composite panels wrapped around a traditional Meranti frame. Our test van looked pretty sweet in a charcoal finish with funky blue graphics splashed across the front and rear, especially when being towed by a shiny, black Ford Ranger WildTrak.
At first glance, you could mistake the Distinction for a fully-fledged offroad van. With its high waist of charcoal checkerplate around, as well as its stance thanks to the 4in raised chassis and all-terrain tyres, the Distinction does a damn good impersonation.
However, dig a little deeper and a couple of red flags take it from being a ‘go anywhere adventure machine’ to a ‘dirt road tourer’. And let's get something straight here, there is nothing wrong with that — do what you do and do it well.
The first of which is the hitch (hey, that rhymes!). The Distinction sports a standard 50mm ball hitch up the front, as opposed to something like a DO35 or a McHitch, which are more suited to aggressive offroad pursuits. Immediately this will limit the terrain tackled in the Distinction.
The second is the type of suspension. Coming from the well trusted CruiseMaster stable of products, is the CRS2 suspension system. CRS simply stands for Country Road Suspension and is the baby brother of CruiseMaster's full offroad spec suspension systems. As its name suggests, this semi-offroad suspension will handle country roads and dirt road touring with aplomb.
The single arm design of the CRS2 system means that they are lighter and easier to install, saving time and money. The integrated cable management system also means wiring to your electric brakes is well protected from flying rocks or debris.
Not so well protected underneath are some sections of the plumbing, wiring and gas lines. Most have been run high, but there's a real chance of damage on gibber strewn roads.
ENJOY THE OUTSIDE
If you do manage to drag yourself away from the comfort of the club lounge, you'll be happy to know you've been looked after outside as well.
A near full-length manual roll-out awning gives plenty of shade, as well as space for a picnic table and several camp chairs. A fold-down table makes for a great servery area when entertaining friends, or somewhere to put the TV. External, waterproof speakers provide the tunes from the stereo system that is located in the kitchen.
When it comes to external storage options, the Distinction is well-served by a full width tunnel boot across the front, as well as an A-frame mounted checkerplate tool box. At the rear on the driver's side, a hatch provides external access to the storage space beneath the club lounge.
GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL
The Distinction sure looks the part of the long-distance tourer, but I think in its standard form it will see more caravan parks than national parks.
Without a few extra inclusions before you take it home, your off-grid forays will be limited. From the factory, the Distinction comes with a single 110Ah battery and a 170W solar panel to keep it topped up when parked. When on the road, a 30A multi-stage DC/DC battery charger ensures the single battery is ready to go when the keys are turned off. As for water, 190L split between two tanks is more than adequate, but the absence of a grey water tank limits where you can park up for the night.
However, if we refer back to my earlier comment of the Distinction only having 500kg of payload available, if you added another water tank, battery and solar panel, you will barely have enough left over to fill the fridge.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Distinction from Option RV Caravans is a caravan that ticks a lot of boxes for the couple who want to enjoy a bit of luxury mixed in with their touring. The Distinction is built well and at 22ft long, you've got a fair bit of space to enjoy your wandering lifestyle.
As I mentioned at the start, I absolutely love a club lounge and I am particularly fond of the overall layout of the van. It works well.
In parting, my only concern would be the amount of payload, as I think it would be easy to overload a van of this size if you weren't highly conscious of your weights, unless you go through the process of upgrading it to 3300kg ATM.
WARRANTY 12 months manufacturers
RVMAP Accredited? Yes
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.99m (29ft 6in)
External body length 6.7m (22ft)
External body width 2.5m (8ft 2in)
Travel height 2.95m (9ft 8in)
Internal height 1.98m (6ft 6in)
ATM 3040kg (can be upgraded to 3300kg)
Ball weight 200kg at tare
Bed Size Queen (north/south)
Cladding Composite panels w/ fibreglass roof
Chassis SupaGal steel drawbar and chassis
Suspension CruiseMaster CRS2 Independent Suspension
Coupling Standard 50mm ball
Brakes 10in electric drum brakes / Brake Safe Unit
Wheels 16in alloy rims w/ 245/75R16 A/T tyres
Water 2 x 95L
Battery 110Ah AGM
Solar 1 x 170W
Air conditioner IBIS 4 A/C
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control Optional
Cooking Swift gas cook top, grill and oven
Fridge Dometic 190L 3-way fridge/freezer
Bathroom Ensuite w/ separate shower, toilet and vanity with laundry
Hot water Swift gas/electric HWS
Microwave No microwave
Washing Machine Camec 4kg front loader
PRICE AS SHOWN
4 Randor St, Campbellfield VIC 3061
Ph: (03) 9357 9711