Toolbox
words & photos - Malcolm Street
With rough-road ability, self-sufficiency and plenty of features inside, this large van makes for a breezy, comfy tourer



WE LIKED:
>> Interior colour scheme
>> Angled kitchen bench layout
>> Generous space around bed

NOT SO MUCH:
>> No 240V and 12V sockets by dinette

Established in 2004, Melbourne’s Lotus Caravans is certainly not the largest caravan manufacturer in Australia. And like many manufacturers of its size, it’s able to offer a unique range of caravans that is constantly evolving.

Designed for rough-road travel, the Freelander we’re looking at here rides on tandem-axle load-sharing Simplicity suspension with a leaf-spring/trailing-arm setup.

The suspension is bolted and welded to a 100mm chassis with 4in rails; the drawbar rails running back to the forward suspension mounts.

A look under the chassis reveals all the plumbing and cabling neatly strapped out of the way, and two sheet-protected 95 litre water tanks between the chassis rails towards the front of the van.

Up front, the drawbar rails support two 9kg gas cylinders with wire mesh between the rails. At the rear, the bumper is a busy place with spare wheel, jerry can holder and generator box or toolbox.

A trademark feature of a Lotus van is the bold external body colour, and the Freelander is a good example. The upper part is light-coloured aluminium cladding, while the lower waistline is black powder-coated checkerplate. 

Rather than a front boot, a decent-sized tunnel boot is accessible from both sides.

Having been designed for outback travel, the Lotus Freelander comes with a 100Ah battery, 120W solar panel, 12V outlets and an Anderson plug connection.

INNER BEAUTY

Stepping in through the rear entry door reveals a full-width bathroom to the right, a kitchen bench to the left with a dinette opposite, and an island bed at the front.

In keeping with many a van design, generous use of LED downlights, along with reading lights for the bed and dinette, keep everything well lit.

Two large marine-style hatches supply extra light as well as ventilation. All the windows come with integrated blinds and screens, and all except the kitchen windows have slimline venetian blinds.

Extra cooling is provided by the roof-mounted Air Command Ibis air-conditioner.

Like the outside, the Freelander’s interior colour scheme captures your attention. In some areas, like the bedroom, the colours are quite muted while other sections, like the kitchen/dinette, contain a fair degree of contrast. Nothing is particularly harsh on the eye.

There’s also a reasonable amount of living space, thanks in part to the 20ft 6in length, including walking area around the bed.

In the bedroom, another trademark Lotus feature is hard to miss: tall windows on either side of the bed which are quite distinctive and enable a conversation to be carried outside if desired.

The posture-slatted bedbase supports a 1.88 x 1.55m (6ft 2in x 5ft 1in) inner-spring mattress, and in addition to all the usual bedhead storage are small overhead lockers above the windows.

High enough to avoid head contact, these are in some ways better than the diagonal cupboards sometimes squeezed in at the foot of the bed.

HUNGRY?

It mightn’t seem much, but one feature that really works in this layout is the kitchen bench that angles out at one end. It gives a tad more bench space and certainly more kitchen storage, as well as removing that rectangular bench look.

A full stove is supplied including cooktop, grill and oven, along with a stainless steel sink and drainer. The cooktop comes with a flush lid to improve benchtop space.

Kitchen storage is comprised of four drawers with metal cases, two cupboards, a floor locker and four overhead lockers. The fifth overhead locker, above the sink, is occupied by a microwave.

The splash panel near the entry door also looks like a bit of a switch panel, bearing light switches, main 12V control switch and connections for the TV and entertainment system.

Behind the wall lining, the frame has been strengthened for a TV mounting bracket.

A Dometic 186 litre fridge sits between the dinette and bedroom, mounted off the floor for ease of use. The Suburban gas water heater sits underneath. 

Alongside the fridge is a good-sized, multi-shelved pantry – overstocking might be the only problem.

Upholstered in Italian leather, the dinette has all the goodies – contoured backs and wall cushions, a tri-fold table and hinged footrests for both seats.

Three overhead lockers, a large window and a Fusion sound system, complete with a separate iPod holder finish off the picture.

The bathroom is well fitted out with a shower cubicle, Dometic cassette toilet, contemporary-looking wash basin and Lemair top-loading washing machine.

That still leaves space for a good selection of cupboards and overhead lockers, and a decent-sized wall mirror. Two exhaust fan vents and a nearside window supply the necessary ventilation.

VERDICT

I took the Lotus Freelander to the Noosa North Shore Beach Campground which is a basic but very pleasant place to camp.

The Freelander fitted in perfectly, being self-contained in terms of electrics. The gas fridge meant that civilisation could be kept at bay for a few days, as long as I could do without 240V air-conditioning and a microwave.

Although I didn’t try any sand driving, the Freelander proved more than capable on some of the rougher roads, and should be ideal for some round-Australia adventures.

>> Thanks to Noosa North Shore Beach Campground for the photo location. This campground is a very peaceful place that provides access to beaches and Fraser Island.

LOTUS FREELANDER

Overall length: 8.3m (27ft 3in)
External length: 6.45m (21ft 2in)
External width: 2.41m (7ft 11in)
External height: 2.88m (9ft 5in)
Interior height: 1.94m (6ft 5in)
Nameplate ATM: 3000kg
Nameplate Tare: 2425kg
Ball weight (advised): 160kg
Frame: Timber
Chassis: G & S SupaGal
Suspension: Simplicity load sharing
Cooktop: Swift four-burner/grill/oven
Fridge: Dometic 186 litre
Microwave: LG
Shower: Variable height flexi-hose
Toilet: Dometic cassette
Lighting: 12V LED
Gas: 2 x 9kg
Fresh water: 2 x 95 litre
Price $69,990 (tow-away, Qld)
Supplied by: Caravan World, Woombye, Qld
More info: Lotus Caravans

 

To comment on this article click here Published : Wednesday, 30 January 2013
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Total photo(s): 26 - click to enlarge