We sent our team into the hills around Traralgon to get a feel for the Lotus Trooper. They found a tough off roader with a luxury interior
It’s nearly four years ago that I reviewed my first Lotus – a Freelander, and over that time my respect for these well-built tourers hasn’t diminished. This new Trooper takes the already high quality up a notch in an off-road capable van that is visually sensational.
From its beginnings in 2004 Lotus set out to produce a range of caravans with a trademark look that has endured. Lotus was amongst the early adopters of the, now common, black and grey livery and their four model range are all dirt road capable with the Trooper the most adventurous.
The Trooper sits so high on its heavy-duty, all-terrain suspension that the bright green components of the trailing arms are visible when walking around the van. This high stance helps contribute to a very resolute image that the big black checkerplate “body armour” sides and tough black alloy wheels and 17” Cooper Tires underline. This is one damned tough caravan that challenges some of the more established off road brands to title of King of the Off Road.
When we hooked the Trooper to the back of the Isuzu D-Max at Ian Grant’s Caravans in Traralgon it became obvious that a higher tow hitch might have been more appropriate as the low front meant the rear end of the van showed more of its nether region than was modest. No worries towing the Trooper though, and even in hilly country over the back roads heading out to Lake Narracan, the Isuzu had loads of grunt to spare.
Our plans for a sunset lit backdrop on the lake looked promising until a sudden change heralded cloudy skies then torrential rain that eased off enough for us to venture outside. Please imagine photos of the van before a lake bathed in orange hues and dappled light filtering through the glistening gums. (Note to self: pack raincoat when heading to Victoria).
Sheltering inside the Trooper gave us plenty of time to appreciate the luxury interior. Who says a tough off roader has to have minimal comforts? Not Lotus, that’s for sure. And if we had needed to camp the night to wait out the storm then the Trooper is well equipped for life off the grid.
Lots of little details on the exterior of the van will alert savvy van-spotters to the Trooper’s intended use. Right at the front is a DO35 hitch, offering extreme articulation in tight spots and over steep embankments, while rock sliders are deployed along the sides to protect the bodywork in gnarly situations. While not using a steep cutaway at the back, the underfloor profile rises subtly for a better departure angle. This van is so tough looking it’s easy to imagine that the heavy duty recovery points at the back are more suited to towing somebody else out of a bog than saving this fella from the same fate.
A full width stone guard wraps around the A-frame where twin 9kg gas bottles are mounted ahead of a black checkerplate storage box with gull wing access one side and a generator slide on the other.
The Hot Dipped A-frame and chassis are from G and S, both in 6”x2” profiles with the A-frame running well back past the suspension. The body’s raised profile aluminium sheet is built on a meranti frame, which according to Lotus allows the van to flex without stress over rough ground.
So protective is the treatment of the rear of the van that not too many drivers coming up behind the Trooper will be likely to tailgate you. Four big, sturdy vertical bars support a structure that includes jerry can holders each side and a handy firewood tray ahead of the spare wheel. Other useful additions are LED light bars front and rear for parking and moving around at night.
Along the outside of the van are several features that will make camping more enjoyable. These include a full length awning, drop-down picnic table, mounts for the television 240v and 12v and TV outlets. You even get 12v plugs at the wheels so you can pump the tyres back up after travelling through sand. Up front, a tunnel boot will hold lots of extra camping gear, BBQ, seats and such.
All electrical and plumbing underneath the van are protected by steel plates as are the three water tanks – two 95L one at 62 L. Suspension is a bright lime green heavy-duty trailing arm, Independent suspension with Koni shock absorbers, while brakes are heavy-duty 12-inch electric style.
For a van that has the capability of being towed into some of the most remote and desolate places, the interior is as equally astonishing as the outside. It’s the look of a fabulous modern apartment. A desert wind could be swirling enough dust around to block out the sun and you would be totally oblivious settled back on a leather lounge watching videos on a 24” screen with the Fusion surround sound turned up to 10.
The Trooper colour theme carries through to black and grey highlights against white on the walls and ceiling with ample natural light from roof hatches and big double glazed windows.
Layout may follow the common theme of a central living space between a bedroom at the front and a full width rear ensuite but there are plenty of little touches to set it apart from the crowd. A highlight is the black leather lounge complete with quilted upholstery and the Trooper logo embroided into swish headrests.
Cupboards have soft close drawers or gas assisted doors and the furniture is so beautifully finished and flush fitting that it has to have come from a CNC machine and be installed with a craftsman’s care. Piano hinges and catches are high quality and the inside of storage spaces is neatly lined.
Pelmets and Roman blinds add a homely touch and innovative cupboards fitted over the windows in the bedroom and longer than normal side tables take full advantage of the available room for storage. Like most vans, the queen inner spring island bed sits on slats and lifts on gas struts to access storage, but the black bedhead is a design feature that adds to the luxury impression.
A row of cupboards over the kitchen bench includes a high mounted microwave and the rangehood as well as LED lighting. I liked the way a bulkhead gave a neatly finished look to the joinery.
The compact kitchen has a stainless steel sink and draining board set into a light grey, marble laminate benchtop the colour of which carries over to the tri-fold dining table, while the Swift stove has a 3 +1 cooktop, griller and small oven. Further back is a slide-out pantry and an 189L Waeco compressor fridge, although a Dometic three-way power version is an option.
Our 19’6” model has a roomy ensuite with ceramic toilet and designer basin, long vanity with mirror and a big moulded shower recess. Another layout in this size van gives more kitchen space but a more compact ensuite – it’s your choice which is more important.
We had plenty of time relaxing on the lounge when rain stopped play to form a solid appreciation for its form-fitting softness. Flip up seat extensions meant both our ad rep Rowan and I could stretch out each side of the table as we took in the serenity.
There are 4 X 150w solar panels and 2 X 100a Lithium batteries and a Redarc battery management system, so extended time in the bush is achievable, however you will need a generator for the Ibis low profile air conditioner when you are off the grid.
Despite everything nature threw at us during this review we came away with a strong impression that the Trooper will be a very capable adventure tourer. Sure it’s not going to go everywhere a little camper trailer will, but it’s designed to get into the rough stuff far from main roads. And when you get there the level of opulence will be very much appreciated.
Given its build quality and well-engineered construction the $97,660 list price should be no surprise but that’s still very competitive in its class. ATM comes in at just under 3500kg so you will need a tow vehicle rated to this figure, but keep specified overall weights in mind as well.
Manufacturer: Lotus Caravans
Model: Trooper 19’ 6”
Overall length: 8.5m (includes drawbar)
Travel height: 3.15m
Tare weight: 2800kg
ATM weight: 3500kg
Ball weight: 210kg
Price as reviewed: $97,660
Find Out More
Ian Grant’s Caravans
5357 Princes Hwy, Traralgon Vic 3841
Phone: 03 5174 1381