Best Aussie Vans Winner 2015 Sunland Patriot SEL-X Review
With style in spades, ultra-modern technology and a whole heap of offroad nous, the Sun and Patriot SEL-X is a commendable winner of the top-tier category.
Sunland Caravans has rightly developed an excellent reputation within the Australian recreational vehicle industry for building high-quality, offroad caravans. Sunland proprietor Roy Wyss is constantly searching for new and better ways of manufacturing his company’s products and it’s always interesting to visit the factory in Caboolture, Qld, to see what’s new.
LAYOUT AND DESIGN
While many caravans, particularly the heavier offroad units, are built with a substantial 150x50mm RHS steel chassis, Sunland takes a different approach. Where the Sunland chassis departs from the more common box-section, hot-dipped galvanised arrangement is that the main structure is composed of structural aluminium alloy. However, the drawbar and the sub-frame that supports the suspension are more conventional hot-dipped galvanised steel. The alloy components have holes punched through them, which is a simple and popular technique for retaining strength in the structure while reducing its weight. And that is the philosophy for not only the chassis but the entire Patriot caravan. Unusual though it may be, Sunland is so confident in its design that its gives buyers a 20-year warranty on the chassis.
Although most of the van’s body is white, it has a lower trim of blue Raptor Coating, which also covers the front storage bin. The coating is designed to protect the bodywork from stone chips and road damage. Large Seitz double-glazed acrylic windows are used around the van but a trademark feature of Sunland caravans is the double tier windows on both sides of the front bedroom.
BEDROOM AND STORAGE
Riding at the front is a huge storage bin, which is lined with checkerplate alloy, has two sturdy latches and is colour-matched to the front and side protection that runs around the van. There’s a massive amount of storage space available here, even with the centre section dedicated to the two 9kg gas cylinders. It’s neatly partitioned to keep items separate but each partition has holes punched through to allow storage of long poles or rods across its width. A slide suitable for a generator or small fridge glides out of an offside access hatch.
In case you can’t fit all your gear in the front box, there’s a wide, full-length tunnel boot directly behind it which is empty, except for a slide-out barbecue on the nearside. Across the rear of the van is even more external storage, with a double deck of tubular containers providing storage for poles, fishing rods and even skis if you are up for a bit of winter travel.
Up front, the island bed is a decent size (2.05x1.53m/6ft 9in x 5ft) and has a fairly standard bedhead of side wardrobes, overhead lockers and bedside cabinets. But it looks very elegant with mirrored doors and large windows on either side. It’s good to see a manufacturer fit a bed of a decent length, yet still allow enough space to comfortably walk around it. Storage space under the bed is compromised by the tunnel boot, but it’s still quite large and has been compartmented to include two drawers with wire baskets, accessed by a floor-level hatch or by lifting the bed on its struts. An additional feature in the bedroom is the two-pack painted pelmets over the windows that disguise the LED strip-lighting.
Inside, the SEL-X is seriously impressive. It has a front entry door, front island bed, offside dinette, nearside kitchen and full-width rear bathroom. And, while its layout is not exactly ground-breaking, it’s been executed perfectly. The red leather upholstery on the dinette is a real eye-catcher and is nicely offset by the two-pack beige finish of the cabinetry, as well as the glossy laminate on the benchtops.
The benefit of having a forward door in a van of this length is it allows for a good-sized kitchen bench. Even with a moulded, Sunland-designed sink and drainer plus a four-burner cooktop with grill and separate oven, there is still plenty of room for a selection of cupboards and drawers. All the drawers run on metal runners, and have soft-close and easy-to-grab handles. One of the reasons Sunland designed its own sink moulding is so the drain pipe would not occupy precious cupboard space, and the washbasin in the bathroom has been designed in a similar way.
The microwave is located above the sink but it is set much lower than the adjoining overhead lockers, putting it at a more practical height. Two long overhead lockers fill the rest of the air space. Mounted on the wall beside the kitchen window, above the bench, is a large 32in flatscreen TV which can be seen easily from the dinette opposite or the bed at the front.
The red Italian leather-upholstered cafe-style dinette comes with built-in wall cushions for both back and head, along with a tri-fold table and reading lights. The swish-looking dinette, which is offset with a classy white trim, can also be folded down to create a small bed for visitors.
Is the rear bathroom up to the rest of the SEL-X standard? Of course it is! It includes the Sunland-designed shower cubicle fitted with a drain that actually does its job and the Sunland-moulded washbasin with the out-of-the-way drain pipe. Those may seem like logical inclusions, but the fact that Sunland has put enough thought into those factors to ensure they work properly is quite refreshing. Other bathroom essentials include the vanity cabinet, Dometic cassette toilet, under-bench top-loading washing machine and high corner cupboard with rolling door where, curiously, the 240V switches and solar panel circuit breakers are hidden.
In keeping with the level of appointment this van portrays, the bathroom roof hatch is no ordinary item but a Fantastic automatic roof vent with a thermostat and a rain sensor that will close the hatch immediately at the first spot of rain.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Sunland Patriot SEL-X is, hands down, a very sophisticated caravan fitted with state-of-the-art features throughout. Its fit and finish is top-notch and, having seen plenty of Sunland vans, I know that is typical of the manufacturer and not just something done for the BAV judging. The quality here is clear to see – nothing is out of place and only the best materials have been used, befitting the Sunland’s high-end luxury caravan status.
Of course, sophistication comes at a price and, in this case, that price is about $40K above the nearest competitor. It almost puts the SEL-X in a class of its own.
But, having said all that, the Patriot, with all its clever features and spectacular finish, was indeed a worthy winner of the top price category at this year’s BAV awards.
- Chassis design to give lighter weight for same strength Good-sized kitchen
- Well-finished interior
- Decent bed length
- Nicely set up lighting
- High-tech electricals
- There’s a price to pay
- Under-seat 12V socket was oddly located
The full test appears in Caravan World #545 January 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!