Roadstar Caravans has been building vans for over 30 years and has established an enviable reputation for reliability and high build quality. But when Hi-Tech engineering bought the company in 2009, they added 45 years of specialist chassis know-how to the mix. Throughout their operation, Roadstar has built more than
45,000 caravans, so there is a wealth of experience on the factory floor. In a range of on and off-road models, the Safari Tamer Extreme stands tall as a full adventure van with an impressive list of rugged features and an interior that radiates luxury. The Extreme is an even bolder off-roader than the original Safari Tamer with a specs list that includes the best components on offer in today’s market. These include Cruisemaster airbag suspension, class-leading electronics and a composite body construction.
In the Australian caravan builder tradition of building off-road vans super strong, the 18’6” Extreme sits on a quality Hi-Tech Engineered chassis, which is precision
welded in house from 450 grade high tensile BlueScope steel. Both the A-frame and main chassis rails are 150x50mm section, with a 100x50mm riser under the body and a 50×50 support at the A-frame. The tandem ATX suspension is the latest level 3wireless controlled system rated at 2.25T each for a total capacity of 4.5T, meaning an ATM upgrade is possible if you have a large capacity tow vehicle like some of the big American utes.
Airbags take the place of coils springs usually seen in Cruisemaster suspensions and movement of the trailing arms is dampened by remote reservoir shock absorbers on each arm. Wireless control allows individual raising and lowering of the suspension with 200mm of travel to account for uneven ground when parked or to lift the van when traversing rough terrain.
Aluminium checker plate sheets protect the undercarriage, and the van rides on 17″ alloy wheels with the same offset and pattern as your chosen tow vehicle- in this case, a 200 series Landcruiser. Continuing the list of optimum equipment is a set of Micky Thompson Baja ATX tyres. Meanwhile, all wiring and plumbing are neatly led out of any danger. Also high out of harm;s way are two 95L water tanks and a third with an option for fresh or greywater.
Looks the Goods
Composite construction (3 piece monocoque shell construction ) of the caravan body gives that distinctive flat profile exterior that is so popular currently and the
benefit is more than just for show. The Australian made panels have a fibreglass exterior and a cored inner polyurethane (extruded polystyrene) section that is lightweight and immensely sturdy. Roadstar moved to the composite walls construction two years ago for their premium range and, while the build process is
more complicated and time-consuming than a timber frame, the benefits of weather-proofing and durability (most important thermal properties/ insulation ) are immense.
I’m told that the company only uses the highest quality Sikaflex materials for sealing and bonding components through the construction( exclusive to Roadstar from Europe ). The walls, floor and single-piece roof, are bonded together to form a single monocoque construction that is fixed to the chassis to make an immensely strong unit.
Riding high on the off-road suspension, the relatively compact 18’6” van creates a purposeful but well-balanced impression. Colour coded scrub bars, rear skid rails, 5T tow points, oversize heavy-duty mud flaps and a stone shield on the extended A-frame all add to the capability and effect. Jerry can holders sit outside a good size toolbox on the A-frame and a tap there has a shroud to add protection. A rear hatch gives easy access to a Truma instantaneous water heater, and upfront
is an onboard Dometic 2.5kva self-start generator using a Honda motor. Note in the photos hereabouts the muffler under the van that reduces the noise to an almost inaudible rumble. The main control for the airbags is conveniently located at the doorway- but you also get a handheld remote.
A two-stage Thule electric step helps the climb into the van, and when folded, it seems to be high enough to avoid mishaps in hard going. Down the back, two spares are bolted to a four-arm bar, and a large mesh tray will be handy for carrying some firewood when getting close to camp. A dark grey exterior rides over black checker plate skirts with distinctive starburst decals for a tough look without going over the top. A Premium Fusion sound bar connects to an external hatch with TV and DVD for entertainment under the stars, and a full-length Dometic awning provides welcome shade.
Like a lot of people, I think an 18’6” van is the optimum off-road compromise of size, weight and livability, especially if you get the interior design right. To my eyes, the Roadstar design team has done just that, because when you step inside the Safari Tamer the light from the big windows and a generous 1.94m of ceiling height impart a roomy and inviting feeling. This is a well-equipped van you would look forward to living in. LED’s at floor level and hidden behind overhead bulkheads will continue the impression when the sun goes down.
The front door design places the bedroom forward of the entry and the bathroom down the back. While this might not be a favourite layout for everyone because the bed is near the entrance, it allows some extra space at the dinette by having the door at the gap between bed and kitchen. This design makes use of the usually dead space when the entry is down the back, adjacent to the ensuite. Cabinetry is from CNC formed lightweight ply finished to fine tolerances for a craftsman-like finish. Light and dark grey tones of the joinery match well with the mainly white interior and black leather at the dinette.
The driver-side side kitchen includes a Swift 500 fan-forced oven, Rangehood, D-Luxx microwave and a stainless steel sink. There is storage in overhead and low cupboards as well as in a set of self-closing drawers. Cold storage is suitably for long-range travel with a 274L compressor fridge (vent less ) to the rear of the kitchen. Black leather upholstery and dual-density foam padding add to the luxury fitout at the trifold table. Footrests add to the comfort when watching TV and the high-end Fusion sound bar blasts out your choice of Bluetooth music. A 6′ x 5″; mattress rests on a posture adjustable slatted frame, and there is ample storage below. Padded leather at the bedhead and brushed stainless steel power points continue the impression of opulence while USB points will maintain your devices at full charge.
Keeping things fresh is a roof-mounted Ibis air conditioner as well as a Heki Midi hatch at the kitchen and a Four Seasons hatch at the bed. Also up top is a CaraFan
pressure system to prevent dust being sucked into the van when travelling over outback roads.
The Safari Tamer Extreme is designed to satisfy all the senses and stand the test of time. The most well rounded off-road on the market today
The full-width ensuite across the rear of the van has an on-trend circular ceramic basin with an elegant square mixer tap over the marble laminate bench. A high
window and roof hatch keep things fresh, and a 3.5kg under-bench washer will be handy in the bush when you light up the generator. The moulded shower was roomy enough for me to move around easily and you get an extractor fan and light overhead.
Two 150w solar panels feed into 200ah of Enerdrive lithium batteries for a respectable amount of onboard power. BM Pro takes care of charging and as well as
a board at the entrance to keep an eye on charge rate and level, there’s an app to send this information to a phone to see it remotely. Backing up the solar is the petrol-powered generator so you can run the air con, washing machine or microwave when living away from a 240v connection.
On The Road
Even with the lightweight composite construction, the Safari Tamer hits the scales at 2780kg empty. Ball weight is 270kg – so just under 10%, so at the top of the
recommended range, but suggesting a steady ride at this loading and that’s how it proved in practice. Behind a 200 Series Landcruiser, the van towed perfectly on the main roads and dirt tracks we travelled over to Melbourne’s northwest. We found some rougher tracks and washouts to check ride height and capability of the suspension and progress was smooth, and ground clearance was impressive. Fully loaded the van can carry a payload of 720kg for an ATM at 3500kg and as long
as the weight is distributed sensibly, I can see no reason why travel shouldn’t remain impressive.
The Bottom Line
I find it hard not to sound too enthusiastic about this gritty Roadstar because it’s a van that has immediate appeal to anyone with a love of off-road travel. It looks
impressive with its modern smooth panels, funky camo burst decals and high ride. The composite body fills all the expectations for robust new age and modern construction, the suspension is as good as it gets for adventure travel. Inside the van is a comfortable retreat after a hard day on the road or a week or so in your
chosen paradise. And electronics are all you could expect. The warranty covers off-road use for three years.