Best Aussie Vans: 2016 Sunseeker Desert Storm Review
Rugged outside, luxurious inside, the Sunseeker Desert Storm blends high-spec technology and hotel quality.
Sunseeker Caravans made its Best Aussie Vans (BAV) debut in 2016 and impressed all those who stepped inside its offroad Desert Storm. Sunseeker vans are built in Victoria but much of the specification work is done by Queensland dealer Chris Michel. South-east Queensland is home to many manufacturers who specialise in rough road/offroad caravans and Michel is making his mark there.
The Desert Storm is one of the newest vans in Sunseeker’s range. First impressions are excellent – it’s a high-riding, striking van with a silvery grey composite and black checkerplate colour scheme enhanced with bright red decals, colour-matched wheels and even red suspension trailing arms. If red is not your colour, you can choose a colour to suit your own tastes, and that goes for the silver and black as well.
The Desert Storm definitely looks fit for business, particularly on the drawbar with the large tool/generator box, gas cylinders, jerry can holders, the mesh stoneguard protecting all of that and also a large front tunnel boot.
But, of course, looks aren’t everything and when we delve behind the Desert Storm’s aluminium composite walls, we find an interesting construction method – a one-piece fibreglass roof and a C-section interlocking aluminium frame. It is pre-drilled and riveted on both sides of the frame. Plastic grommets are used for all cabling and the composite walls are attached to the frame using Sikaflex.
A look under the Desert Storm reveals a considerable amount of steelwork built into the SupaGal chassis, its main rails being two 100x50mm (4x2in) RHS that are welded together. The drawbar is 150x50mm (6x2in) RHS and 50x50mm RHS is used for the cross-members to form a box section arrangement. Both the 95L water tanks are gal sheet protected and are mounted forward of the suspension mounts. In addition to the usual quick-release corner stabilisers, an additional feature of the Desert Storm are the two heavy-duty recovery points under the rear of the caravan to which large D-shackles may be attached. I thought it was an interesting, but welcome, addition – not many think about dragging a caravan backwards out of a bogged tow vehicle situation but you never know when you might need to!
Like any good offroad caravan, the Desert Storm comes with full offroad independent suspension – the AL-KO Enduro Outback setup with trailing arms, coils, springs and two shock absorbers per wheel, with 12in offroad electric brakes are fitted to the 16in alloy wheels. Tyres don’t often rate a mention in these reviews but Sunseeker fits an aggressive all-terrain type, and they are large 285 size instead of the usual 265, which is designed to give good traction but not spit rocks everywhere.
On the electrical front, the Desert Storm has been designed to work with the elements, wherever you intend to travel. Two 150W solar panels keep a pair of 120Ah deep-cycle batteries charged up and, when all else fails, the large front toolbox can house Sunseeker’s optional remote-start 3kVA fuel-injected generator can be fired up. That can also be used for the air-conditioner if things are getting too hot.
Outside the van, there are more lights than you’d expect to find: in addition to the under-awning lights, there are also two moveable worklights on diagonally opposite corners of the van that can be used front or nearside and back or offside. These are a useful addition that will aid alfresco cooking, reversing, security, maintenance and heaps of other applications.
STYLE WITH A DIFFERENCE
Inside the Desert Storm, Sunseeker has opted for a contemporary black, white and grey colour scheme with a nice contrast between the charcoal and high gloss white cabinetry.
Large windows and a big mid-section hatch give a very high level of natural light and there are plenty of bright, roof-mounted LED lights plus strip lighting along the overhead lockers for illumination when night falls.
Acrylic high pressure laminate ply is used for the cabinetry work and there are plenty of drawers throughout the van. In the air space above the walls, all the overhead lockers are piano-hinged and designed to have a deep storage area.
Sunseeker has opted for a front island bed/full-width rear bathroom layout – a popular choice among many these days – but there are some important differences here. Instead of having the fridge and microwave oven butting up against the offside bathroom wall, the café-style dinette is there instead. Relocating the fridge cabinet up against the bedroom and having an angled kitchen bench on the nearside of the van creates something of a partition between the bedroom and living areas.
Having an angled kitchen bench with matching overhead lockers above means both the stainless steel sink (below) and microwave oven (above) are angled into the kitchen, making it not only practical but also saving a bit of space, too. The end result is a more generous kitchen with cupboards and good-sized drawers, lockers and benchtop space as well. A four-burner cooktop, grill and oven provide cooking facilities and a stylish acrylic splashback makes everything easy to keep clean.
Opposite the kitchen, the dinette is well appointed with leather upholstered cushions – including the wall cushions. Fitted to the wall above the table are both a mains 240V powerpoint and 12V/5V USB outlets for all your charging needs and, under the table, is a handy cupboard.
Across the rear, the bathroom layout has been reversed from the usual pattern, with the shower cubicle on the offside and the cassette toilet under a window on the nearside. Not that any of that makes a functional difference. Things are a bit tight around the ceramic toilet but that improves when the sliding door is closed. Along the rear wall, a large wall mirror sits above the bathroom vanity cabinet. It comes with a cupboard under the ceramic washbasin and a top-loading washing machine in the corner.
Measuring 1.9x1.53m, the island bed sits in a bedhead of overhead lockers, side wardrobes and bedside cabinets. It has large windows on all sides and a Four Seasons hatch in the roof. Fitted to the end of the kitchen bench, the flatscreen TV can be swivelled so it can be seen easily from either the bed or the dinette in the rear and a Sirocco 12V fan is fitted to service both the bedroom and the living area.
In another clever twist, the bed lights are switched from the centre of the bed. The thinking behind that is if your bed partner falls asleep reading, then it’s easy to turn their reading light off. It’s an idea which I reckon will catch on very quickly; a third switch operates a low level bathroom light – great for midnight trips to the loo.
In the weights and measures department, the Desert Storm comes with a good load capacity of 750kg, a Tare weight of 2650kg and an ATM of 3400kg. That does put it in the large tow-vehicle capacity, but in a van of 6.25m (20ft 6in) and built the way it is, that’s to be expected.
The Bottom Line
Sunseeker’s Desert Storm is an impressive bit of kit with a number of features, some quite small like the external shower design and the light switch positions, that indicates a Dealer who has listened to his customers.
In addition, this van is certainly built for a purpose: that of offroad travel in remote locations. It’s certainly kitted out with all the essential features.