Australian Off Road Aurora: Review
AOR’s Aurora caravan brings a new style and dimension to remote-area travel.
About three years ago, on an extended outback trip with his wife Rhonda in one of his Matrix full-height caravans, Australian Off Road founder Steve Budden blogged about the pros of compact single-axle caravans over their larger and less-wieldy tandem-axle cousins in remote areas.
Now he’s building the vans he was then so sceptical about and sees them as a growth area in the increasingly crowded ‘offroad’ Australian caravan market.
A change of heart? "More a change of market," Steve, who is never shy of calling a trend early, said.
When his travel-sharpened sixth sense told him that an increasing number of Australians of a certain age would want a comfortable, fully-equipped, self-contained, strong and capable caravan to access remote areas, he put the idea out on the very active AOR Owners’ Forum and was staggered by the response.
"We received more than 5000 posts over two years," Steve said. "It took us another 12 months to consolidate all of the comments into the vehicle you see today."
AOR owners even gave the new full-height, tandem-axle caravan its name, Aurora – just weeks before the new 6.5m long (21ft 4in) van broke cover at the Queensland Caravan Show in Brisbane last June. But it was the absence of even a single canvas-roofed camper on the AOR stand that made a bigger statement about AOR’s future.
Steve founded his Sunshine Coast-based business in 2000 on the success of his hard-floor, canvas-roofed camper trailers. Yet, just eight years later, he shifted manufacturing priorities to ‘Super Campers’, as he calls his brick-shaped, compact pop-top Quantum, Eclipse and, most recently, Eclipse Plus vehicles, when he predicted the rise of Chinese-built imported campers post-GFC.
Super Campers still rule the roost at AOR’s new state-of-the-art production plant in Caloundra, Qld, but the full-height Matrix caravan, with its similar offroad cred and more creature comforts, is slowly but surely pegging them back in monthly sales.
Design & Construction
Now the new Aurora has joined the production mix, initially being built at the rate of just one a month, but rising if Steve’s crystal ball view of the market proves accurate.
Seven Auroras had already been sold and the first customer van was on the production line when we took the prototype ‘show van’ Aurora out for this review. But with just 12 production slots currently available each month at AOR for all models, it’s clear that supply rather than demand is going to be the new model’s limitation in its first 12 months. This suits AOR well, as Budden likes an ‘in demand’ situation for all models with lead-times of up to six months on some models to maintain used values.
The problem with reviewing a limited production model like the Aurora – let alone a prototype – is that you are working on shifting sand. Lessons learned from real world testing on the prototype were already being incorporated in the first customer van, while each customer will impose their own specification within the parameters of the Aurora’s overall dimensions. So every one built will be different, as you might expect from a luxury caravan selling for around $130,000.
However, Steve and his team are unshakable on the model’s essential dimensions and specifications, as the Aurora has to deliver its remote area promise uncompromised by customer whims.
- Design and style
- Functional and very appealing interior
- Excellent, roomy ensuite
I would have liked…
- A quieter toilet
- Block-out blinds
- A flywire door
Australian Off Road Aurora Specs
Weights and measures
- Overall length 7.43m (24ft 5in)
- External body length 6.5m (21ft 4in)
- External body width 2.15m (7ft)
- Travel height 2.8m (9ft 2in)
- Internal height 1.98m (6ft 6in)
- Tare 2350kg
- ATM 3200kg
- Ball weight 175kg
- Frame Fibreglass composite walls
- Cladding Faceted lightweight fibreglass, insulated body with 15mm GRP
- composite floor
- Chassis High tensile steel, laminated and powder-coated
- Suspension AOR independent trailing arm with twin EFS offroad
- shock absorbers
- Brakes Al-Ko 12in disc brakes with electric/hydraulic iQ7 actuator
- Wheels 17x8in offroad wheels and tyres
- Fresh water 2x140L freshwater; 1x110L black water tank
- Hot water 14L Truma Gas
- Battery 2x120Ah AGM with Redarc 40A DC-DC charger and 600W pure sine wave inverter
- Solar 4x120W
- Air-conditioner Dometic B2200
- Gas 2x4.5kg
- ESC Yes
- Cooking Three-burner Thetford cooktop
- Fridge 110L 12V Waeco compressor
- Microwave No
- Toilet ‘TMC’ marine macerator
- Shower Internal and external
- Lighting LED
Price as shown
- $128,000 (ex-factory, Qld)