When his growing family meant he needed a van with four bunks for the children, Sunseeker Caravans owner, Chris Michel, sat down with his team to design a new model for himself. The new van joined their expansive Marvel range, and became an immediate success when customers with large families discovered the new offering.
The Marvel RV range sits alongside Sunseeker and Vision RV at the Sunseeker Caravans dealership on the Queensland Sunshine Coast as a more affordable but still capable offroad choice. The Marvel uses a Meranti frame rather than the aluminium in the Sunseeker or the full composite of the Vision, while retaining a high build quality and superior finish.
In a wide range of vans across seven different models, the Golden Child versions are a mix of family vans across five different lengths between 18ft and 22ft 6in. Best described as fitting in the offroad category, this one is Michel’s own van and has been treated to an even more extreme upgrade. The review van is the largest and latest in the range, and the level of options gives a good idea of how the models can be built to suit an extensive range of needs and budgets.
Grey composite panels over lower skirts of black checkerplate are broken up with splashes of orange for a properly balanced and aggressive impact. Colour choices include three varieties of composite and checkerplate, and six options for the graphics, so you can individualise your van to your own ideal — the Marvel website even lets you preview the different possibilities.
The frame is Meranti, so special attention is given to sealing at the edges under the J-mould and a single piece fibreglass roof adds to the efficient weather protection.
Sitting on a 150 x 50mm Aussie steel Supergal chassis from Victorian manufacturer FP Chassis, the van boasts 16in Speedy alloy wheels shod with 35in Mickey Thompson tyres to match the company’s 200 Series LandCruiser tow vehicle. The chunky tyres add a couple of inches to the ride height and help enhance the rugged good looks.
Underneath, the suspension also gets an upgrade to a 3.5T rated AL-KO Enduro Outback system with trailing arms and twin shock absorbers at each wheel. And for better braking, AL-KO ventilated discs joins the growing list of extras.
Three are three 90L polyroto-moulded water tanks, and the level of installation under the van for plumbing and electrics was exemplary, with everything necessary well protected and out of the way of flying stones.
At the front, a Cruisemaster DO35 hitch connects to the tow vehicle, and plenty is going on with the extended A-frame. A full-width mesh guard protects twin 9kg gas bottles, and lower down a pair of Marvel branded mud flaps are an added precaution. Sitting over a voluminous checkerplate toolbox is a folding aluminium rack with room for four pushbikes, while along each side are a set of jerry can holders.
That’s a lot of storage at the A-frame, so as the ball is already at 220kg when the van is empty, it would be wise to be thoughtful when loading this area to ensure ball weight and caravan balance are correct.
Along the side, we find the usual complement of a picnic table, entertainment hatch and some external speakers, while down the back is a single spare on a sturdy three-arm bar and a rear-view camera. A high profile storage hatch at the driver side rear takes advantage of an otherwise unused void in the ensuite and is big enough for folding chairs.
ROOM TO MOVE INSIDE
A drop-down step takes you up to the roomy interior through a three-way Camec door located forward of the wheel arch. Oversized windows and three Ranger roof hatches combined with a mainly white colour scheme give the interior a bright and cheery look.
Even in a 22ft 6in van, it’s tricky arranging a layout to suit two adults and four children, especially with teenagers demanding their share of the available space. Compromise is necessary for design and how the family interacts.
The Marvel team has evolved a practical design to make the best use of what’s on hand. So, upfront is an east-west bed, while down the back is a full-width ensuite. In between are a bunkroom and the central living space. I would consider an east-west bed a bit of a compromise that is a deal-breaker for many, but there is room at the foot of the bed for access, so this potential problem is minimised. And even though not everyone likes having the bed so close to the entryway as it reduces privacy, it’s the only reasonable solution and something that most couples can learn to live with. In reality, the layout is really the only one that will work without increasing the van’s length by another foot or two, which then introduces weight and balance issues.
FAMILY COOK UP
In a van with six family members moving around, there needs to be space in the kitchen to allow access, so the long dinette bench along the driver side wall is an intelligent solution. The long table should have room for everyone and sits on a pedestal sturdy enough to prevent it from wobbling too much. (It also drops for an extra bed if needed.) The bench will seat two adults and two smaller children, so some occasional stools could go in place once meals are ready.
The kitchen includes a 224L Dometic compressor fridge, a Swift 500 stove with oven, grill and cooktop and microwave in a high cupboard. A stainless steel sink with drainer is set into a dark grey benchtop that angles out for extra room. Bench space is limited, but there is ample storage in overhead cupboards and a pullout panty at floor level. Side opening of the pantry right at the entry door was a neat idea for quickly getting at condiments when cooking outside.
Bunks sit in between the east-west bed and the ensuite down the back
A concertina door separates the living space from the bunkroom, with double bunks sit either side of the central walkway to the ensuite. Each bed has an opening window with blockouts and screens, a Sirocco fan, an accessories pocket, a reading light, and USB and 240V plugs. Top bunks have built-in ladders, and all the bunks are generously proportioned and have ample headroom when sitting.
The white finish flows through to the ensuite and lends a fresh, clean feeling. Rather than a wide vanity, space is dedicated to storage options in cupboards and drawers. Even so, the floating square bowl and mirror are large enough, and to my mind, the compact size is a more sensible choice. The moulded shower is large enough to move around, and the room has good ventilation with hatches in the main section and the shower.
In standard trim, the Golden Child’s is pretty well supplied with power — 300W of solar and 200Ah batteries will keep most vans running — but Michel has opted for the next level in self-sufficient living on his van. The Safiery 48V system will run appliances like the Truma Aventa air conditioner, the washing machine, microwave and a coffee machine through a 3000W inverter.
Loaded into the system are all the best and latest electronics. Six 175W solar panels cover the roof and send power to a pair of 200Ah lithium batteries through a CANbus Hybrid battery management system. Combined with an integrated 3kW 12-48V Buck-Boost Power Charger for fast charging from the tow vehicle alternator, there’s also enough to supply all the appliances as well as screens and entertainment systems for a few days if the weather goes bad.
A total of 270L of water will be plenty for cooking and drinking as long as shower time is kept to a minimum.
On our tour of the back streets, dirt tracks and motorways around the Sunshine Coast, behind Cullen’s Mitsubishi Triton, the big van towed marvellously (I couldn’t help it, sorry). Yes, I know the Triton is rated to a 3100kg towing capacity, but the Golden Child is 2751kg empty, so we had plenty to spare. As an aside, I’d say the Triton’s rating is a more realistic take on the capability of most twin cabs, but that’s an argument Malcolm Street addresses elsewhere else in this issue.
Around town, the van was well-balanced and without any yaw or wallowing, and on the dirt, it was well-balanced and behaved without banging or bottoming out.
The drive $120,608 drive away price of the review van might be a little overwhelming when we consider that Marvel is the more affordable range in the Sunseeker Caravans lineup — but that’s until you see the options list that has run the price up by over $30,000. Most of that is the electronics pack that was included on this fitout.
The base price is $88,067, and that’s good value for such a big and well put together van. It will suit a family planning to put together a big lap or a base camped by your favourite waterway.
WEIGHTS AND MEASUREMENTS
Overall length 9.44m (31ft)
External body length 6.91m (22ft 8in)
External body width 2.35m (7ft 7in)
Travel height 3.15m (10ft 3in)
Internal height 2m (6ft 6in)
Payload 749kg (calculated)
Ball weight 220kg
Per cent ball weight to tare 7.9 per cent
Cladding Composite aluminium
Chassis 150 x 50mm Supergal
Suspension AL-KO Enduro independent
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35
Brakes AL-KO disc brakes
Wheels 16in alloy with 315 x 75 35in Mickey Thompson tyres.
Water 3 x 90L
Battery 400Ah lithium
Solar 1050W (6 x 175W)
Air-conditioner Truma Aventa
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Cooking Swift 500 oven
Fridge Dometic 224L compressor
Bathroom Yes plus external shower
Washing machine Yes
Hot water Yes
PRICE FROM $88,067
OPTIONS FITTED Safiery electronics pack, AL-KO Enduro Outback suspension and disc brakes, extended A-frame and toolbox, 4 x Sirocco fans. Truma Aircon, 3 x polyroto moulded tanks, more.
PRICE AS SHOWN
290 Nicklin Way Warana 4575 Qld
Ph: 07 5491 1888