A lot of travel in the last few weeks saw us stopping in Taupo to catch up with Brent Thurlow from Central RV to view one of the latest model caravans that had arrived, the German-built Dethleffs Camper 740RFK seven-berth caravan, with two separate lounge spaces.

It was a wet day unfortunately so we only had a quick look around the exterior. The model is based on an ALKO anti-sway, galvanised chassis, and up-spec’d with a premium heavy-duty Delta axle, thicker chassis rails, outriggers for body support, and cross bracing at the front and rear. The upgraded brakes and bearings include large, sealed, double-roller, maintenance-free bearings. These are all options available to the dealer or customer to choose from.

View through the large nose window looking from front to rear. The lightweight wood-veneer finishes are top quality Brent tells me. “No light paper veneers here”

Brent tells me there are 162 different upgrade options for Dethleffs caravans coming out of the factory, and for all models he brings into New Zealand he ticks the top options for optimal payload, strength and durability. “I go to the maximum on every caravan we order. Many UK caravans come with minimum options, to keep the weight factor as light as possible, as this meets the needs of those customers who want to use a small tow vehicle, such as a VW Golf. In Germany it is more common for caravan owners to drive a Q7 or similar larger vehicle capable of towing better-spec’d, heavier caravans. So a 3000kg tow vehicle rating will be comfortable for towing this model – a VW Touareg or Mitsubishi Pajero would do the job – you don’t need the big flash Range Rover. Every caravan we order is made to our specifications, for us and us only. Every dealer around the world does the same, picks and specifies options for their market and needs.”

The front locker with aluminium checker-plate floor opens vertically, and three 9kg gas bottles can fit in the insulated space, along with the spare wheel and spare toilet cassette, and even a BBQ could be fitted in. Alternatively the space will take two 14kg bottles if preferred.

The bathroom door opens between the rear bunk-lounge area and main bed space

At the rear of the caravan is a second couch-seating area and two single bunks – what a fantastic use of space, plenty of storage with overhead cupboards and a tall wardrobe cupboard with shelving. The couch converts to a third single if required

The exterior panels are GPR composite with robust GPR roof protection against hail and branches, all Grade-3 fully insulated, and the thermally efficient acrylic windows are double-glazed. Brent assures us that even with seven or eight people inside and with the heater on, there will be no interior condensation in any weather. Acrylic windows are also lighter than the alternative double-glazed glass, an advantage when considering weight. The multi-section front and rear of the caravan is made to be easy to repair as well.

Power-wise, a 150AGM Synergy brand battery is installed, but this can be upgraded to 200AGM with an inverter if re-quired. Solar panels are a standard fixture at 160W with solar controller of course. These are upgradable to 400W, though this particular model could take up to 1000W if a customer wished – the roof space is big enough, that’s for sure. All fixtures on the roof are installed with Urethane down-mounts and the wiring is installed to factory specifications and with factory-supplied fittings. Many people don’t realise that if something additional is installed on the roof of a new vehicle (like solar panels or satellite dishes), the majority of UK caravan manufacturers will void the body-water-ingress warranty should there be an issue in the future. This also applies to putting bike racks on the rear – something to be aware of, that’s for sure. Mind you, keeping a vehicle within its warranty conditions also means keeping to the required annual checks and servicing.

Simple to see and understand monitor unit

Dethleffs caravans come with a two-year general fixtures and fittings warranty, and a six-year body structural-integrity warranty, in the form of a written guarantee from the manufacturing factory, not just a receipt from the seller – quite important Brent assures me. As the official New Zealand distributor for the caravans, Brent has service and repair agents around the country from Auckland to Christchurch, with outreach RV repairers as far south as Invercargill. He also carries a good range of common parts like hardware, windows, drawer runners, catches and the like. Brent doesn’t like customers to have to wait for parts, and if necessary will fly in a warranty part from the factory, freight-free. Despite his company having a strong RV repair history, customer service is so important to Brent and his team of three that they have decided to concentrate their business on only their own client’s needs, and this decision is seeing great results in customer relations. If someone has a problem and needs urgent help or attention they will take care of them – a nice attitude and business ethos that is working great for them.

Heating is via this Truma gas unit, and is multi-functional offering vented heating around the caravan, or direct heating from the unit

Next, the interior. The habitation door is on the right (driver’s side) forward of the twin axles. Stepping inside from a cold, wet day into the warmly lit, bright and airy caravan, I was immediately impressed with all I saw, contemporary fixtures and fittings, modern colours, and a couple of interesting features that jumped out straight away. Was that a rear lounge-diner at the back as well?

To the right of entry, in the nose, is a large lounge area with a height-adjustable, hydraulic, single-column, lifting dining table. Around this generous-sized area there are seven overhead storage lockers with small shelves under them, and there is also some accessible storage under the seating. The two-toned squab colours look great, and the corner-built squabs make the area look so modern and luxurious – especially in leather, which is an option.

The rear bunk room with a ladder, full-length wardrobe/cupboard storage situation. You can see the bathroom door mid-left of this image, and the main bed situation as you walk to the front. Brilliant area back here View from the entry door – the bed has an extendable width available to it, with a pull-out to drop the mattress pillow down. Two large war-drobe units on the left wall with plenty of overhead locker storage as well

Opposite the entrance is the kitchen unit, with a lift-up bench extension. The quality stainless steel tap unit is set into the bench not the sink. A square shallow sink sits next to the three-hob gas cook top and both units have glass tops to expand the bench space. There is split-shelf storage overhead, and below, a large utility drawer and a large drawer next to the compact oven. To the right end of the bench a pull-out pantry unit takes bottles if required. All drawers are soft close. I do like to play a bit with the drawers – it still fascinates me that they can do that. I do it at home as well.

To the direct left of entry is a wall for the 175L fridge/freezer unit, which has the Truma dual-burner heating system below. I noticed vents around the floor up-stands around the vehicle, and Brent explained that ducting takes cold air from the floor, pulls it through the heating system and emits it through vents behind the furniture – convection airflow system really. There are attractive up-spec’ options for customers, with 230V floor heating, or central heating which circulates hot water through glycol radiators and under-floor water pipes as well – all sorts of smart ideas if you want to go that far.

To the left of the fridge is one of two full-height wardrobe/storage cupboards, then a window, lower-drawer unit and the second wardrobe.

The bathroom with vanity unit, storage below, mirrored wall shelf unit, the shower/toilet is to the near-right of this image. This is on the left side of the vehicle looking to the rear, opposite the shower/toilet door

Opposite is the main bed, which has two features of interest to me, one being the ability to pull out a mattress extension piece and push in the width of the bed if required, look at the photographs to see how this works. The second was the quality of the mattress. Brent spoke proudly of the Gelfoam mattress made in Switzerland, featuring seven zones from head to foot – different foam strengths, support for the neck, shoulders and hips. This too can be upgraded to a Premium water-gel mattress which is temperature regulating and heat wicking – meaning it draws the heat out of you and stabilises it through the mattress underneath; very clever technology. Brent tells me they are so high-quality that to buy outright, they come with quite a price tag at £1100. To upgrade is under $400, a much better option for purchasers.

Large 175L three-way auto fridge/freezer unit, with white exterior doors to match the interior finishing

Moving through this area, which can be closed off with a solid door, we have the shower box and toilet on the right, and vanity unit on the left wall – a unique layout compared to normal.
The rear of the vehicle is the other feature that grabbed my attention when I first entered. The L-shaped lounge, with second pedestal dining table and two bunk beds on the right side wall, is an impressive area with lots of light, a great-sized wardrobe, storage shelf cupboard, and nicely placed windows on the sides and rear to make it a comfy and compelling area to sit in. The bottom bunk flips up and can be secured to create a large storage area if required. So great – you can pop the kids down the back, shut the door and sit up the front with your friends, chilling out with your feet up, or enjoying a group of visitors. The bunk beds have the same quality mattresses as the main bed and at 1900mm long they are bigger than most caravan bunks, and the weight capacity of up to 85–90kg is impressive – many bunk beds have 50–60kg limits – so adults could sleep in these as easily as children.

An unusual set up for the bathroom – the shower is in front with folding shower doors, and the pedestal cassette toilet on the exterior wall. The shower box has an inset shower box floor, stepping up slightly to the toilet floor. Storage above the toilet unit, LED lighting. This is in the area behind the bed head on the right side of the vehicle, looking to the rear The full-sized shower with bi-fold doors on each side – the outline of the toilet in-behind – unusual and interesting use of the space

I was excited when I stepped into the vehicle, and stepped out of it even more impressed, loving the diversity of the layout, appreciating the refined colour options for the interior, with modern pops of colour available as part of the over-160 upgrade options available.

Brent and the Central RV team will have this model, and others that have arrived in the last two weeks, on display at the Hamilton Motorhome show in September. If you can, come and see for yourself what a cool caravan this is; there are so many special finishes, options on floor plans and styles to meet a multitude of budgets – come check them all out. There are models ready to take home, or you can order your special finishes and take delivery in a couple of months.

Aerodynamic front, the build looks substantial on the roof and corner pieces from this angle. Large locker storage in the front, handles for moving around and LED lights, overall looking pretty smart even in the rain

specs 2017/2018 Camper 740RFK price this model $93,900
Dimensions – 9420mm overall length, body – 8050mm x 2500mm
Interior – 1980mm headroom
Weight – empty 1950kg, fully loaded 2800kg, payload 850kg

175L 3-way fridge/freezer
Small under-bench oven (upgrade optional)
Glass-topped three-burner hob
150L fresh- and grey-water tanks
Thetford c232 cassette toilet

Middle main – 2000x1450mm
Front lounge converts into 2300x1400mm
Rear beds – two 1900x700mm, 85–90kg weight capacity

160W solar – upgradeable to 640W
150Ah AGM DC battery – upgradeable to 200Ah
19″ Avtex TV
Optional awning – Thule 9200 roof-mounted, 3–6m