BUSHMASTER BLUEGUM OFFROAD: VIDEO REVIEW
With huge electrical capacity and offroad cred, the Bushmaster Bluegum is a good value van to take you off the beaten track.
Quality over quantity is the hallmark of Bushmaster manufacturer Terry Ryan's business. His specialisation has paid off in the Bluegum range of vans, marketed as 'Australia's best value offroad vans'.
Bushmaster Bluegum Offroad specifications
The new Bushmaster Bluegum Offroad is a single-axle offroad van designed for people who want to go remote and stay there for as long as possible. At 17ft 10in (internal), the Bushmaster Bluegum Offroad is the smallest of the Bushmaster fleet.
One of the van’s greatest features is its electrical capacity and set-up. With two 130W solar panels (one on the front of the van and one on the roof) with 40A smart-charger, two 110Ah batteries, Anderson plug, and dedicated generator slide designed for a Honda 2 generator (not included), the Bluegum has got you covered electrically. Illustrating the thought that Bushmaster has put into things is the fact that the two batteries are located in dedicated, gal-protected boxes under the van on the offside. This was done to save space in the front tunnel boot.
The Blugum’s meranti timber frame is about 30-40kg heavier than most on-road vans, giving it the strength to tackle the best of the bush. The standard aluminium cladding is striking metallic silver, but buyers wanting a more conventional finish can also opt for a white exterior.
Sitting on a 6in G&S steel chassis, with 6in drawbar rails, which run right back to the suspension, gives the Bluegum some all-important ground clearance for offroad work. But there is an optional aluminium G&S chassis which takes some of the weight out of the van, for people who are travelling at the limit of their payload capacity.
The tare weight of 2130kg and ATM of 2500kg give the Bluegum a reasonable 370kg load capacity – over and above the 300kg which is standard across the industry for single-axle vans. But with three 95L water tanks to fill (two forward of the axle, one behind), two 9kg gas cylinders on the drawbar, plus a large tunnel boot, rear generator slide and offside external locker to fill, even 370kg won’t get you very far. For this reason, customers can increase the van’s ATM to a heftier 2750kg, if required. But doing so would put the Bluegum out of the reach of the many lighter tow vehicles with a tow rating of 2500kg.
The van’s offroad credentials continue with its list of standard fittings, including Control Rider independent suspension and 12in Al-Ko offroad brakes.
Externally, these include Al-Ko Electronic Stability Control, a Hyland offroad coupling for good offroad articulation, a large stone protector on the A-frame, big checkerplate toolbox, two jerry can holders, high checkerplate protection, a reversing camera, picnic table, external TV jack (with 12V and 240V outlet), an electric Dometic awning which opens in seconds, and even a gas bayonet to hook up the barbie.
The interior décor is modern and fresh, with a pale timber-look floor, white walls and cabinetry, glossy black marble-look benchtops and splashbacks, and deep burgundy real leather upholstery. The interior colours and finishes are all optional and there are many others colours to choose from to find one that suits your palette.
With its front bedroom, offside kitchen, nearside dinette and rear bathroom, Bushmaster is not trying to reinvent the wheel with the Bluegum – it’s a proven layout that works, is popular and comfortable. But there are a couple of special touches in place too.
Up front, the bed is a reasonable, if not overly generous, length at 6ft 2in x 1500m. Overhead are two lockers; with a mirrored robe, reading light, power-point and small bedside shelf with a locker and drawer underneath on each side. But these are no ordinary drawers – each one pulls out to about 50cm, allowing heaps of additional storage. There is extra storage in small corner cabinets at the end of the bed, with a flatscreen TV above the offside one, but these make getting around the sides of the bed a bit of a squeeze.
KITCHEN AND DINETTE
The kitchen packs a lot into its short length, including a four-burner cooktop, grill and oven; 190L Thetford three-way fridge, sink with drainer and water filter tap, and a Whirlpool Jetsteam microwave above the fridge. With its innovative ‘steam’ and ‘crisp’ settings, the microwave could potentially fulfil cooking duties, if required. Bench space for food preparation and the like is a bit meagre; in fact, it’s non-existent until you close the lid over the cooktop to give yourself some room to spread out. But that’s not particularly surprising in a 17ft (internal) van. Three lockers overhead, plus four drawers and a locker below the bench are for storing your kitchen essentials.
Opposite the kitchen is the sumptuous leather L-shaped dinette with padded backrests, cushions and serviced by a large single pole-mounted swivelling table. Doors underneath each end of the seat provide access to a storage space underneath, a magazine rack on the wall is the perfect place to store your book (and your copy of Caravan World), and there are two reading lights, a window, four lockers, LED strip-lights and an audio system overhead.
Entrance to the rear bathroom is through a sliding door between the kitchen and dinette. This solid door, like the glass shower door, has strong locks to prevent opening or movement while you’re on the road. It’s a small thing which can pay big dividends. There’s a ceramic Thetford cassette toilet to the left, shower to the right and vanity dead centre, with a Dometic front-loading washing machine above the bench to the left. An assortment of drawers and lockers create heaps of storage, further improved by a deep cabinet behind the shower cubicle – ideal for a linen press for towels, sheets, etc.
It’s one thing to find a strong, solid, go-anywhere offroad van for around $100K, it’s quite another to find the same attributes in a van for under $65K. While it’s quite a small package, the Bushmaster Bluegum 17ft 10in offers true-blue offroad travel at a fraction of the price of many other vans. That good value is further extended by the long list of standard inclusions and attention to detail given to most aspects of the van.
- Huge list of inclusions
- ESC as standard
- Battery boxes under chassis
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
- Stronger hinges on cupboards
- More bench space
The full test appeared in Caravan World #525, April 2014. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!