AL-KO's Best Aussie Vans 2017: Pacific Islander Club Lounge Review

By: Michael Borg, Peter Quilty, Ron Moon, Malcolm Street


The Pacific Islander has the comfort and pizazz to enjoy life at a leisurely pace.

The quality build, competitive pricing and a smart choice of appliances are what earned this blacktop tourer a place at the table for Best Aussie Vans for 2017. It’s neat and clean underneath and luxurious within, but how did it stack up in this competitive field?

NEAT AS A PIN

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The Pacific Islander just makes me want to immediately hitch up and head off. Honestly, there’s something about it that just screams holiday-in-the-making to me.

Starting from the bottom, it’s built upon a sturdy 6in Road Runner chassis and sports a nice and solid fibreglass composite floor. It’s got one of the tidiest undercarriages of the competition too, which is largely thanks to the mid-mounted bathroom (toilet and shower) – that means a heck of a lot less plumbing running all over the place and left dangling vulnerably underneath.

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All the electrical wiring and accessories are nice and neat, and the entire body is constructed from fibreglass composite panelling, which gives it plenty of strength and a nice sleek look in the process.  

Being a full on-road caravan there’s no real need for fancy pants suspension, so the Islander sticks to the good old 50mm solid square axle beam setup with a good set of leaf springs to keep it all under control – not what I expected from a $70,000 caravan but other suspension systems are optional.

Overall the van towed quite well. The weight is more than reasonable for a 22ft+ long caravan, but inside feels a lot bigger if you ask me.

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The club lounge at the rear of the van gets a big fat tick from me, and the same goes for the massive pantry and the bathroom layout, although I would definitely want to see at least a privacy curtain installed between the toilet and the bed in the future... Awkward!

MONOCOQUE DESIGN

The body of this 22ft 6in Pacific Islander van is manufactured using the most modern construction techniques, with the full composite wall panels and roof consisting of fibreglass outer layers and high-density foam in between.

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The floor is also a one-piece composite construction and all panels are bonded together to form the strongest possible structure. A smart looking van, the Pacific Islander features black checkerplate on the lower half of the front and on the toolbox on the A-frame.

Like most vans today, the nearside outer wall also has a drop-down table and the triple de rigueur plugs of 240V, TV antenna and 12V/USB charger outlet – just some are fancier than others. The front tunnel storage area could easily accommodate a slide-out kitchen-cum-barbecue.

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The body sits on a 6in Road Runner fully galvanised chassis, which rides on tandem-beam axles supported by leaf springs. While it is a relatively basic setup, it is more than adequate for a caravan designed for the blacktop and possibly a short excursion down a good dirt road. The 16in tyres are an all-terrain model backed up by 10in brakes all round.

You enter the van via the roomy living room featuring a club lounge, which takes up the rear wall. I was a little surprised to see a washing machine under the bench, which is essentially the kitchen area, the sink and four-burner (three gas, one electric) cooktop with mini-grill on the far side, while a 185L fridge sits close to the washing machine. There's a roomy central ensuite with a separate shower and toilet, while the lift-up queen-sized bed takes up the front portion of the van.

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Well appointed for resort-style living and touring, the Pacific Islander comes with a basic solar and battery system along with two 95L water tanks; enough to keep you off the grid for a day or two.

HIDDEN TREASURES

Stepping into a van at over $75,000 that isn’t an offroad model raises a few expectations of what else might be inside. In this case, the most obvious feature is the club lounge with windows all round in the rear.

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However, what you also get in this nearly 7m (22ft 6in) caravan is a larger-than-usual split kitchen. Because of the front island bed, a split bathroom is part of the design but it can be closed off quite easily from the rear living area.

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Part of this caravan design also includes one-piece composite walls that are made to order and deliberately rebated at the corners so as to fit together easily and seal properly.

Like a few other vans at Best Aussie Vans, the chassis on the Pacific Islander isn’t quite the conventional box structure; indeed, it's much simplified and works in tandem with the 45mm composite floor. Design elements like that definitely add to the value without being very obvious at first glance.

If the aim of this van layout is to gain indoor space without cramping the internal features or installing a slide-out, then it has succeeded quite well.

CLUB PACIFIC

Lazing on an alluring postcard-perfect Pacific island – soaking up the sun, glistening white sand and azure waters – is a favourite pastime for a myriad of tourists.

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And the aptly-named Pacific Islander Club Lounge is an on-road touring simile, which also evokes a laidback lifestyle.  

I realise the fully upholstered rear club lounge is somewhat space invading, but the trade-off is a luxurious setting.

Oh, and a further compromise is the necessity of a mid-mount ensuite. Subsequently, the bedroom is divided from the kitchen and living zones.

However, I liked the solitude of the sleeping quarters, which turns it into a private retreat. The bedroom is also a storage centre all of its own – including under-bed, wardrobes and overhead areas.

Meanwhile, the ‘split’ ensuite reveals a smart design by the Pacific Islander team, again with sufficient stowing space, and a spacious angled (or corner) shower with a glass door.

The high volume of internal storage also includes wrap-around overhead cupboards above the rear club lounge where a telescopic table drops down and, with the help of an infill, forms another berth (say for a grandchild).

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There’s plenty of panache, pizazz and verve associated with the stylish interior including the contemporary furniture, effective colour scheme and LED mood lighting. And there are 24in flat screen TVs in the bedroom and lounge.

On board the Islander are very welcome appliances including a Dometic 3kg front-loading washing machine, Thetford cooktop and mini grill and Waeco RPD-190 (two-door compressor fridge/freezer), as well as a six-tier pull-out pantry.

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I’m also impressed with its external traits like the monocoque-style construction – a one-piece fibreglass sandwich panel for the walls and roof (and also the floor) that is sturdy and won’t rot.

A Road Runner chassis and leaf spring suspension meet the demands of travelling on the bitumen, and external storage extends to a front toolbox with two compartments and two tunnel boots.

And an Anderson plug on the nearside chassis rail provides somewhere to plug in portable solar panels.

The Pacific Islander Club Lounge has all the bells and whistles to appease any touring couple, and it exemplifies an easygoing and relaxed way of life.

Weights and measures

  • Overall length 9m (29ft 6in)
  • External body length 6.9m (22ft 6in)
  • External body width 2.5m (8ft 3in)
  • Travel height 2.9m (9ft 6in)
  • Internal height 1.98m (6ft 6in)
  • Tare 2590kg
  • ATM 3090kg
  • Payload 500kg
  • Ball weight 255kg

Price as shown

$74,990 (on-road, Qld)

The full feature appeared in Caravan World #571. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!