Review: Golden Eagle Rambler
Travel with the kids in style with the Golden Eagle Rambler.
THERE HAS BEEN a gap in the market for a caravan with a lot more space - for sleeping, that is. Specifically for more than two people.
A proper caravan that sleeps five and doesn't have you running around outside popping up the roof, or folding out and then making the beds. A van that caters for a comparative crowd. No tents here. Nothing flapping and banging about in the wind and rain.
A new van from Golden Eagle could just fill that gap. The five-berth Rambler, tested via Canterbury Caravans, has some home comforts for those with a few extra bodies in the back seat of the tow vehicle.
Canterbury Caravans' dealer principle, Colin Tobin, has been in the industry for 38 years and is not afraid to try something new. Having pretty much seen it all, Colin knows how quickly things can go wrong. As in 1987 when he was selling 12 vans of a particular type a week, when the manufacturer suddenly decided to change the inside colour scheme (everything else about the van stayed the same). Sales quickly fell through the A-frame, down to one a week.
The new 8.1m (26ft 7in) Rambler is manufactured in Campbellfield, Vic, by the same company responsible for the highly regarded Paramount brand. Colin says caravan sales to the 35-plus market stayed strong during the global financial crisis. While there was a slight pullback among retirees who saw their funds shrinking, couples with solid incomes and job security kept buying, he says.
The Rambler should have great appeal to couples with young children. It has three bunks along the back, with the kitchen and dinette separating them from the front bedroom. A bit more privacy, if needed, is achieved with sliding concertina doors on both sleeping areas.
Colin has also come up with some new exterior paintwork, moving away from the standard all-white look. The main change is to go with black on the checkerplate sides, window frames and J-moulding. It is strikingly different. The resulting black and white look could be a bit overpowering for some, but it is a very modern colour scheme. (Colin has gone even further with a new van he has on display. Forget the woodgrain finish. The inside is entirely white with black curtains and floor!)
We took the Rambler for a spin down to Rye on Vic's Mornington Peninsula, south-east of Melbourne. This area is extremely popular with summer holiday makers and some early birds were already grabbing the best spots just metres from the beach. The Rambler drew lots of admiring looks and comments, especially from a man wearing a black and white scarf...
Inside, the Wildwood ply throughout looks good. There are lots of double powerpoints, two skylights and plenty of fluoro and quartz halogen lights. The Aircommand Cormorant reverse-cycle air-conditioning comes with remote control.
The three bunks each have reading lights and double powerpoints. Very handy for anyone who wants to use a laptop or other electronic gadgets.
There are individual windows at the foot of each bunk and handy box cupboards at the head. There are also cupboards with mirrors inside the concertina door at each end.
The functional kitchen opposite the L-shaped dinette has heaps of (divided) Tas oak cupboards with a polyester protective finish, which is easy to clean. All raw timber has been hand-painted, adding to the quality finish, and two sheets of ply have been used, giving a satisfyingly solid 'clunk' when you close the cupboard doors.
The dinette, which could get a bit squeezy with five big bodies, has quality upholstery, good knee support and extra downlights. Lace curtains are standard, plus Twig curtains and fabric-covered pelmets.
Opposite the door, the 150L Thetford three-way fridge has bench space above with a laminated ply (not chipboard) splashback, above which is a Sanyo microvave. The Spinflo four-burner stove top (three gas, one electric) and grill has an Eagle rangehood overhead.
The remaining bench beyond the large sink and draining board becomes a little cramped once the swivel arm TV is installed above, and space is further reduced if the cover over the cooktop is up. Cupboard space below is more than ample with pantry, pot and cutlery drawers.
The radio/CD/DVD player just outside the main bedroom has six speakers - four inside and two outside.
The queen-size bed has a full innerspring mattress with slats underneath that can be adjusted from hard to soft on either side. The bed lifts up on gas struts to provide the usual storage space underneath, plus there is a drawer where a portable toilet can be installed.
There is plenty of cupboard space throughout the bedroom, with lots of shelves, and a convenient shelf across the top of the bed. The Camec Jupiter acrylic tinted windows all-round provide plenty of privacy and natural light.
The meranti-framed van has a SupaGal chassis with 50mm (2in) raisers sitting on standard Rocker Roller leaf-spring suspension and electric brakes all-round. The 14in light truck wheels on alloy rims add a bit of glamour.
Up front, the drawbar houses a central jockey wheel, two 4.5kg gas cylinders and a tap, which is on the offside but would be better placed on the door side.
The boot has the power pack for the hitch, plus transformer and fuse box, but no light. The stabilisers are Al-Ko quick release.
There is a Wineguard antenna and offside TV inlet for central park connection. A handy barbecue bayonet point is on the front left side. Two outside speakers sit under the Dometic A&E awning and the Camec triple-locker door is nice and deep so tall people don't keep bumping their heads.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This van is for the modern family with kids who can't get excited about buying a tent and sleeping under the stars. With most mod-cons on hand, everyone should feel right at home.
The lack of a shower and toilet shouldn't be a problem for young folks who don't have to jump out of bed in the middle of the night. Besides, who wants to clean the shower and toilet for five when you can use the park facilities? You are on holiday, after all.
Pop on an annexe for some extra space and you'll be the envy of the summer holiday crowd. And with an ATM of 2270kg, the van is not too heavy - it can be comfortably towed by a Ford Falcon.