There’s no doubt how popular caravaning is in Australia. Tourers are seen trawling up, down through and across all of Australia’s major and minor bitumen arteries all throughout the year. They’re up in Karumba tucking into the terrific seafood, lazing about with a glass of chardonnay at Cable Beach in Broome as the camels walk past, and in every town in between and along the way.
There’s a glaring omission here, something that cannot be forgiven. The fact is, many caravans out there are restricted to the blacktop; their stance and construction meaning that any sort of long-term exposure to the rough stuff will lead to a painful demise.
LOTUS AIN’T NORMAL
Out of the hordes of Australian caravan manufacturers out there, there’s only a select few that make something suitable for off-road duties, something that has the capability to get you away from those crowds that the bitumen accommodates. Get some dirt under those wheels, and you’ll see the rates of infestation plummet. More for you!
Lotus set up for business in 2004, and instead of aiming for that big piece of bitumen-only pie that everyone else was salivating over, they chose to do something different: A caravan with all of the bells and whilstles, genuine off-roadability and a bit of a ‘knockabout’ nature to the construction.
The $86,000 Trooper is a bit like confectionary, with a soft, melting interior surrounded by a hard shell. Inside, you’ve got a full-fat double bed with an innerspring mattress, surrounded by top-quality cabinetry done in a contemporary style with hidden piano hinging. There’s a full-ceramic toilet and sink in the back area, along with a shower and washing machine.
An upright fridge is in the kitchen, along with a gas/electric Swift oven/grill. There’s also a microwave, three gas hobs and an electric hotplate. The leather seating in the dinette is quite salubrious, and you have all of the mod-cons in the world to ward off discomfort for good: Air conditioning, TV, heater, hot water, Sony Fusion Radio and CD/DVD player with interior and exterior speakers and controls. Yes, this if effectively a mini house on wheels. How do you power this? A Redarc BMS, teamed up with two 100 amp hour batteries.
THE STORY BENEATH
The way Lotus has given the Trooper its off-road credentials is via two methods. Firstly, they have raised the belly of the van right up by the use of a tough, lifted suspension called Control Rider. Koni shock absorbers sit inside coil springs on each of the four gigantic swing arms, giving it big cojones for off-road work. Along with good performance at speed over your rough and rutted backcountry roads, this suspension also works well when low-range is employed, giving a good, supple stability for cross-country operations.
KNOCKS & BRUISES
Lifting the van up is one thing, but the other trick is protecting it from the inevitable knocks and scrapes that come with the territory. A one-piece floor teams up with a hot-dipped, 6” boxed chassis and a full complement of skid plates and scrub bars to allow the camper to live through the knocks and bumps with ease. A common fitment to 4X4s, 265/75 R16 tyres are employed on the Trooper, using quality rubber to boot. All of the plumbing is tucked away and protected underneath, and the overall construction is well sturdy enough. It’s perfect for those long stretches of rough, backcountry roads that can lead to the unspoilt, uncrowded spots we all adore so much.