LOTUS TROOPER CARAVAN REVIEW
The Lotus Trooper caravan combines true offroad capability with stylish creature comforts.
• Offroad caravan
• Front bedroom, rear bathroom
• Tough, purpose-built exterior
• Acrylic-finished interior
'Boofy' is a word that I associate more with some footballers than, say, caravans. But with offroad vans such as the Lotus Trooper, I think it's a suitable description. Which raises the question of whether the van is just as boofy below its tough skin. To find out, I borrowed a Trooper from Brad Pendleton and his team at Caravan World in Woombye, Qld. Woombye is just up the road from that famous Sunshine Coast icon, the Big Pineapple.
The Trooper has an external colour scheme of black and pale grey and an interesting side profile. Rather than sitting parallel to the ground, the bottom of the van angles up from the wheels creating a very shallow V. This is further emphasised by the scrub bars that run along the lower edges of the van.
Getting down on your hands and knees to inspect the chassis of the Trooper isn't too difficult given its ground clearance and an examination reveals some familiar, as well as some not-so-familiar, things. The former is a 50x50mm box section, hot-dipped galvanised chassis with a similarly-sized set of drawbar rails that run back to the suspension mounts. And there are two battery boxes for the 100Ah deep-cycle batteries fitted to the front offside rails.
A less-than-familiar sight is the copious amount of alloy checkerplate covering the entire rear of the van and the water tanks, which are mounted above the axles. The Trooper also has Control Rider independent suspension, 16in alloy wheels and 12in electric brakes.
The van's drawbar is longer than usual, providing space for two 9kg gas cylinders, a very large alloy checkerplate storage box and a stoneguard. There are two jockey wheel mounting points - one between the rails and the other on the left rail. They are set quite high, which creates a slight problem. When I picked the van up, I wondered what the wooden blocks in the tow vehicle were for and I quickly discovered they were for jockey wheels that might be too short.
The rear bumper bar, which is an extension to the chassis, has to be one of the strongest I have ever seen. It has twin jerry can holders, quadruple mounting brackets and can, surprisingly, be removed by simply taking out the pins that keep it slotted to the chassis.
Above the chassis, the timber-framed and aluminium-clad body has large Euro-style windows, a triple-lock security door and a two-tone colour scheme. The lower half has black checkerplate all around. While the checkerplate looks good, it shows up dust and dirt very quickly, so that's something to keep in mind if you like to keep your van looking clean.
An interesting feature of the Trooper's body is the solar panel mounted on the front, sloping section of the roof. This is a slightly better angle for catching sunlight than a flat panel (but only if the van is pointing the right way, of course).
The Trooper doesn't have a front boot but it does have a tunnel boot, the aforementioned storage box and a rear nearside storage bin. The additional panels along the nearside are for the picnic table, a well-appointed entertainment unit and the toilet cassette door.
Under the Dometic awning are two LED wall lights and two external speakers. An additional wall light is mounted above the drawbar, which is not a bad idea for occasional night time hitching.
Inside, the Trooper has a familiar layout: front bedroom, full-width rear bathroom with kitchen and dinette in between. The interior cabinetry is all finished in beige and off-white acrylic, which is a welcome change to to the timber look apparent in many vans. There are large windows to create very even natural light and LED ceiling and reading lights provide good illumination in the evening.
When you enter through the rear door, the first thing that catches your eye is the café-style dinette located on the offside wall in front of the bathroom. With wrap-around seat backs, hinged foot rests and a tri-fold table, it all looks very inviting and relaxing.
Overhead lockers are mounted above the dinette and there is a small cupboard underneath the table. There is a 240V powerpoint, which might be a bit awkward to use, in the cupboard, along with a bank of 12V fuses. An AM/FM Fusion radio with iPod dock is fitted to the overhead locker area and a second Fusion connection is fitted into the external entertainment unit.
The kitchen bench is an excellent size and comes complete with a Swift four-burner cooktop, grill and oven plus a stainless steel sink and drainer. That leaves a moderate amount of benchtop working space, as one end of the bench is a fair bit wider than the rest. Three good-sized drawers, two cupboards with shelves and four overhead lockers provide a generous amount of storage space. An LG microwave is fitted, too.
The Trooper has a 193L, 12V compressor Nova Kool fridge installed. It's located in the cabinet that fits between the bedroom and dinette and has the freezer on the bottom and the fridge up top. And as it's mounted off the floor, you don't have to bend too much to use either. Alongside the fridge is a shelved cupboard and three drawers.
In the forward compartment, the innerspring mattress sits on a metal-framed posture-slat bed base that lifts easily to provide access to the storage space underneath. In addition to the standard storage compartments in the bedhead, this one has narrow overhead lockers above each window and bedside shelves that are larger than usual.
At the other end of the van, the shower cubicle sits in the rear offside corner, leaving space for a large vanity cabinet, a top-loading washing machine, contemporary washbasin, two drawers, and a Dometic china bowl cassette toilet.
The Trooper is 6.4m (21ft) long and weighs in with a Tare of 2800kg. Given its ATM of 3490kg, there's a good load capacity, even allowing for the two 95L and one 62L water tanks when they're full. During my test tow over various conditions, my Toyota LandCruiser showed no hesitation in towing but you should probably consider a large-ish tow vehicle for this van because of its potential weight.
THE BOTTOM LINE
With reference to the Big Pineapple that I mentioned earlier, the Lotus Trooper is, in some ways, similar to a pineapple - it has a very tough exterior but quite a soft interior. I don't mean that in any derogatory way - while the exterior has been designed for the rough stuff, the interior is designed with comfortable touring in mind. It's certainly a good prospect for an around-Australia trip, that's for sure.
• Contemporary colour scheme
• External LED lighting
• Kitchen bench layout
• Twelve-volt fuses inside the van
• Fridge mounted off the floor
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
• The external black looks good but I'd be forever washing the van
• Longer jockey wheel
• Under table powerpoint not in cupboard
Originally published in Caravan World 507, October 2012