In the extensive range of caravans that Victorian-based Lotus produces, there seems to be two words that crop up regularly in the manufacturer’s promotional literature — the first is luxury and the second is offroad.
Even a brief investigation of the models that are available suggests that’s true. For example, there’s the aptly name Hollywood, which comes with dual slide-outs and offers a very luxurious layout, or the Off Grid, which is designed for just that.
Then, there’s the Trooper, built for those who like serious offroad travel but want to do it in comfort. Available in a variety of lengths from 5.8m (19ft) to 6.7m (22ft), I was able to get a look at the smallest in the range from Chapman Caravans at Nowra, on the sunny south coast of NSW.
I don’t think there are any other manufacturers who do this but etching the caravan model name in the chassis is certainly unique. Apart from giving a clue as to the name of the caravan, it’s also indicative of the construction style of the G&S hot dipped galvanized truss chassis, not to mention the body height because the etchings can be seen quite easily even when standing up close.
Although the drawbar 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) rails look familiar, underneath the van things are very different, with the truss design a weight saver if nothing else. At the rear on either side of the chassis are recovery points, should there be a need to drag the van backwards out of a bogged situation.
As well as having a good ground clearance, the underside of the van looks very neat. Both the 95L freshwater tanks (mounted either side of the axles), the 50L filtered tank and the 95L grey water tank are fully protected by polished alloy checkerplate. It’s not only the tanks that are protected either. Much of the grey water piping, often vulnerable, is well and truly covered as well. When looking at any caravan, it’s often difficult to see behind the walls and get an idea of how well the van is put together. A look under the van is quite revealing and in this particular case, it’s an informative look.
Because the van sits tall, it’s also easy to look at the suspension, that being Cruisemaster ATX suspension with coil springs. The shock absorbers are a little different to usual — monotube with a piggyback reservoir. Making contact with the road are 17in alloy wheels shod with Goodrich AT tyres and fitted with 12in electric brakes.
Like the chassis, there’s something interesting about the bodywork because the framework is something of a hybrid. Meranti timber is used for the side walls while aluminium forms the front, rear and roof. That’s certainly an interesting take on the timber versus aluminium debate but Lotus reckons the walls are the strongest in the industry. From the outside, you can’t tell because it’s all covered in German-made aluminium composite panel. Additionally, most of the lower half of the van has a protective covering of black alloy checkerplate.
External lighting is a feature of this van. On top of the two LED strip lights and grab handle light on the nearside, there are lights on the rear, offside and front walls as well. In the case of the front one, its size would suggest it’s good for hitching up at night, but the switch is a little tricky to find — it’s in the front tunnel storage.
The rest of the van’s external area is well kitted out. In addition to the DO35 hitch and the two gas cylinders, on the drawbar is a mesh stone guard and a decently sized toolbox, the offside having a slide-out for a generator. On the front of the van, the Lotus etched grab handles are nicely decorative but given the weight of the van, not really functional. Around at the rear, mounted on the bumper bar, the jerry can holders and the firewood mesh box score much better, but the spare wheel is a fair height off the ground. Apart from the solar panels and air conditioner, the other item of interest on the roof is the Dometic Dust Reduction System (DRS), essential for any van travelling dirt roads for any length of time.
Under the awning, the external living items like the picnic table and the entertainment unit, well set up with Fusion radio control, USB hub, 12V socket and TV bracket are winners, as is the Fusion external speaker setup. A bonus for those that like their windows open is the Camec security door can be fully opened at the same time.
For those who like to get away from it all, the Trooper is well equipped electrically speaking. In standard form, it comes with three 300Ah lithium LiFePO4 batteries but in this case, the owner desired a bit more amperage and so opted for a an extra 100Ah battery. On the roof, the four 170W solar panels charge up the batteries via a 50A MPPT solar controller and it’s all handled by a REDARC battery management system. When off the beaten track for 240V power, the Enerdrive 2600W inverter can be utilized.
Just about all the controls and switching are handily located in the overhead locker above the dinette.
Stepping aboard the Trooper through the forward door reveals a layout and a black and white colour scheme, with a few shades of grey. It also reflects the latest trend of using matte black for items like the taps, sink, door handles and bathroom fittings.
The overall layout does have a familiar ring to it with the front island bed and rear bathroom arrangement but it’s a cut above the usual in its general fit and finish. Examples of that include the Fusion sound system installed throughout, the leather upholstered dinette and the bulkheads with strip lights above. There are also things less easily seen like the self-closing drawers and the out of sight key locks on those same drawers.
ONE FOR THE CHEF
So, how is the catering handled in the impressive looking kitchen? Quite well is the short answer. Apart from anything else, the kitchen is of a decent length which gives a wannabe chef room to move. In the benchtop, the Thetford four burner cooktop, grill and oven sits slightly to the left and the Pyramis square sink/ drainer is located slightly to the right. The sink/drainer is certainly well-sized to handle a decent load of dishes and there’s still a bit of bench top space. Even with the microwave oven fitted into the overhead locker space, there’s still plenty of general storage both above and below.
The drawers are all well sized and there’s even a wire basket pantry.
Facing the kitchen bench is an inviting looking dinette, complete with wall cushions that look like part of the original design, not an afterthought. The seating has obviously been designed for two people to sit back in comfort, the seats being wide enough apart to avoid the need for playing kneesies. The dinette has all the expected accruements, including a multifold table, reading lights and power point/USB hub above the table but also with the extra feature of a magazine pouch behind the front seat. Fitted into the end overhead locker, the Fusion radio is fairly handy but a bit neck cringing for those of us who wear multifocal glasses!
A little differently to many manufacturers, the flat screen TV is mounted on the partition by the doorway, which has to be pushed firmly out of the way when not being used but is certainly a better viewing position from the dinette.
SPACY FRONT AREA
Like the rest of the van, the bedroom has a touch of panache about it, with the bedhead cabinetry integrating neatly around the 1.85m x 1.53m (6ft 1in x 5ft) bed. Instead of the pillow cubbies which have become a trend in recent times, both bed occupants get a magazine pouch, along with a USB port and a reading light. A Fusion remote control panel is also fitted to the offside wardrobe panel. Large windows on either side of the bed certainly do much for airflow.
In the rear, whilst having a touch of class, the bathroom does have a slightly square look about it, something that’s offset by the wall mounted Camec washing machine that looks a bit like a large human eyeball. The rest of the bathroom layout is more conventional with a one-piece fibreglass shower cubicle, Dometic cassette toilet with ceramic bowl and a vanity cabinet complete with the requisite cupboard, drawers and overhead lockers, and the essential wash basin and wall mirror. Like the rest of the van, the fittings like the taps and shower rose are all matte black in colour. Under the washing machine, by the cassette toilet, are a couple of shelves and the sliding door sports towel rails.
ON THE ROAD
As a towing prospect, the Trooper has ATM of 3495kg and a tare of 2810kg, giving decent payload of 685kg. It’s the size of the payload that will determine the tow vehicle but for the serious offroad traveller, I’d reckon it would be a heavy-duty tow vehicle like a Toyota LandCruiser rather than a dual cab ute with a similar two rating.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Lotus has built an impressive looking Trooper van. Looks aren’t everything though because the van is certainly well kitted out for offroad travel that’s done in style. Including the battery and water capacity, this results in a caravan that can be used in many a back block of outback Australia.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 5.79m (19ft)
Overall length 8.41m (27ft 7in)
Width (incl. awn) 2.5m (8ft 2in)
Height 3.11m (10ft 2in)
Ball weight 200kg
Frame Hybrid, aluminium front, rear & roof, strong timber wall
Cladding Aluminium cladding
Chassis Hot dipped galvanized truss chassis
Suspension Cruisemaster ATX independent
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35
Brakes 12in electric
Wheels 17in alloy
Water 2 x 95L, 1 x 50L drinking
Grey water 1 x 95L
Battery 1 x 400Ah lithium
Solar 4 x 170W
Air conditioner Dometic Ibis 4
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Cooking Thetford 4 burner, grill & oven
Fridge Dometic RUC6408X 12V compressor
Bathroom Dometic cassette toilet & separate shower cubicle
Hot water Girard Instantaneous LP gas
PRICE FROM $118,990
OPTIONS FITTED Extra 100Ah lithium battery
PRICE AS SHOWN $123,900
WARRANTY Five-year structural
120 Princes Highway
South Nowra NSW 2541
Ph: 02 4422 6666