12 Jun, 2018
Tested: Goldstream Thunder Premium
Tested: Goldstream Thunder Premium
With its external kitchen, this wind-up camper has masses of internal living space and storage
Selecting an RV always involves compromise. After all, even the largest coach-sized motorhome or fifth-wheel trailer might have all the luxuries of home, but they may well cost as much as your home to purchase, and then they're behemoths to manage on the road, to park, and to store.
At the other end of the scale, camper trailers are far more affordable and maneuverable – but space is at a premium and the features list more modest.
Victorian manufacturer Goldstream RV has neatly addressed both issues in its Thunder model, a wind-up camper with a twist. While traditional examples of the format have an internal kitchen, the Thunder takes the bulk of the cooking outdoors.
Located on the nearside just forward of the two-piece door, the kitchen is a stainless steel slide-out affair with Dometic two-burner gas cooktop, Sovereign barbecue and stainless steel cabinet.
The square deep-dish sink is plumbed and comes with a flick-mix tap (with Truma hot water system), and there are stabilising legs to provide a sturdy workplace for al fresco chefs.
The outdoor kitchen is topped off with an external pantry (located aft of the door) and bright LED lighting.
Of course, even this format has its drawbacks – namely braving the elements in bad weather until you can at least get the Fiamma F45 awning in place, and more traipsing in and out between the kitchen and the internal fridge – but what it does do is pack in an impressive amount of internal living space and storage room.
The Goldstream RV Thunder shown here came fitted with the firm's Premium package, with standout items like Al-Ko Enduro Coil independent suspension, Hitchmaster DO35 off-road hitch, BMPRO BatteryPlus35HA battery management system, 80W solar panel, two 9kg gas bottles, 16-inch alloy rims (with 265/75-16 Trazano SL369 all-terrain tyres), the Fiamma awning, and two jerry-can holders, among others (an external shower was also fitted).
The Premium package builds on Goldstream's Off Road package, which covers 150mm x 50mm main chassis rails, 12-inch electric brake hubs and checker plate protection (front, sides and around the two, 50-litre water tanks).
With an ATM of 2182kg, a tare weight of 1672kg and a ball weight of 182kg, the Thunder presented no problems for our tow vehicle,Toyota's 79 Series single-cab LandCruiser.Extended, steeper gradients may have necessitated four or even third gear in the Toyota's five-speed manual gearbox to maintain momentum, but otherwise its gutsy V8 took the weight in its stride.
We overnighted in the Thunder at a suitably rustic site to Melbourne's northwest, and the set-up procedure took around 20 minutes. You could comfortably shave another five or so from that once familiar with the model.
Simply undo the four corner roof latches, wind up the roof with the cranking handle, slide out the bed bases at either end and slot the supporting legs and canopy struts in place. Then unclip the upper half of the door from the ceiling, drop it down and couple it with the lower door section, and drop the stabiliser legs.
It's all pretty simple, and once it's done you'll be impressed with the amount of internal living space on offer. In fact the body measures 4600mm long, or 6850mm with the beds folded out.
There is a double bed at each end, measuring 1950mm x 1200mm at the front and 1950mm x 1500mm at the rear, and we found the foam mattresses offered a good degree of comfort and support. What's more, they're both easy to access and there's a good amount of head space – they're anything but cramped.
Each end comes with its own internal privacy curtain and an external fly too, although we didn't bother with the latter for our brief one-night stay.
There's no external grab handle but a separate plastic step helps you reach the first integrated step, which is fairly high – with its Off Road package the Thunder has a reasonable ride height and healthy ground clearance.
Just inside the door you'll find a Trek LCD display that monitors water tank level and remaining battery charge, plus a Finch RV radio/CD/DVD player with USB port for hooking up an MP3.
Incidentally, the USB wouldn't charge our iPhone and we couldn't find any other USB outlets, which seems like an oversight in this device-prolific age, especially in an RV with a family focus.
Opposite the door is a breakfast bar/dinette, with a forward three-seater couch (four if you must) backing onto the front bed, opposite a two-seater couch with a tri-fold table in between. The full-width couch accommodates the slide-out kitchen beneath, and can sleep a fifth occupant in addition to the four in the two beds if need be.
Behind the breakfast bar lies masses of storage space and bench space, with a small NCE microwave situated on the nearside and a three-way, 93-litre Thetford fridge further back on the offside.
With the blockout curtains folded back and the large PVC windows unzipped, it's a light and airy space, with the blend of white lower walls, charcoal upholstery, slate-coloured folding pop-top sections, cream benchtops and table and dark vinyl flooring creating a stylish, modern interior.
There's a double power point on the bench top just behind the seating and a hatch nearby that leads to a small storage area with a further power point, while internal light is provided by two large and bright round LEDs.
There's good head room throughout – ample for this 188cm (6ft 2in) scribe – and a good amount of room down the central aisle, enough for two adults to pass each other without too much impediment.
There are drawers and cupboards aplenty; the cabinetry appears to be of a good standard and is complemented by quality stainless pushbutton handles and bearing slides.
The entertainment system is piped through two internal speakers and a further two external ones, although we noted the latter were positioned quite low, set into the checkerplate, where they seem rather exposed to the elements and dust/debris.
With the solar panel and two 9kg gas bottles, in addition to its independent suspension, DO35 coupling, and two jerry-can holders, the Thunder Premium is well set up for off-road touring, and maintaining a family away from services. Our test RV came with a single battery, however, to which we'd be adding another for extended stays well off the grid.
To our eye the Thunder Premium cut quite an attractive form on the road behind our LandCruiser, with its ABS-moulded rear section, LED taillight and marker lights, smooth sides and understated graphics.
The black checker plate adds a nice touch and our test camper also came with a mesh stone guard, fitted forward of the checker plate-protected front section with full-width locking boot.
The Goldstream RV Thunder Premium holds plenty of appeal for families intent on exploring some of Australia's more out-of-the-way places. With a rugged construction and plenty of off-road features, it's built for the task, while owners will also appreciate the quick set-up time and extensive features list.
What's more, the external kitchen will bring al fresco dining to life, ensuring the chef is there in the thick of it on those balmy northern evenings, and not tucked away inside when everyone else is out. Add in the extra internal storage and bench space as a result and, especially if you plan on travelling our warmer climes, this layout makes a lot of sense.
At $51,990 as tested, the Thunder Premium isn't the cheapest off-road camper going, but it's made right here in Australia by a firm now in its 25th year. Yes, choosing an RV remains an inherent compromise, but you'll be sacrificing very little when it comes to the Thunder Premium…
Specs: Goldstream RV Thunder Premium
Travel length: 6100mm
External body length: 4600mm
Overall travel height: 1610mm
Ball weight: 182kg
Body: Aluminium composite insulated panels, chequerplate front, ABS moulded rear
Chassis: 150mm x 50mm DuraGal chassis and A-frame with DO-35 off-road hitch
Suspension: Al-Ko Enduro Coil independent suspension
Brakes: Off-road 12in electric drums
Wheels: 16in alloy, 265/75-16 Trazano tyres
Water: 2 x 50 litre fresh water tank
Battery: 1 x 100Ah AGM
Solar: 1 x 80W roof-top panel
Gas: 2 x 9kg
Cooking: Two-burner slide-out external stainless steel plumbed kitchen
Fridge: 93 litre three-way Thetford
Options: Premium package