The motorhome shows around the country are a great way to see all sorts of RVs in one spot, and I take the opportunity to view all the new products and models I can. At the September motorhome show in Mystery Creek I checked out the latest model Northshore 5th wheeler (592 layout, 8.3m) from Australian manufacturer Sunliner; they produce a modern, sleek model with the latest modern interior finishes and furnishings.
The Sunliner brand has been in New Zealand for many years; after all the Sunliner company in Australia has been building RVs for over 40 years. Tony and Sue Hunter started the business in 1974 with a vision to create a brand that was functional, stylish, quality-built and tailored to the unique demands of the Australian lifestyle and environments, and it was an obvious move over the years to have their products imported into New Zealand where they worked very well in our road and environmental conditions. The manufacturing takes place in Bayswater, Melbourne, with over 120 skilled craftsmen working with a comprehensive engineering and design team bringing together vehicles that not only look great and are innovative with latest technologies, but are safe as well.
Rhys and Michele Hunter were proud to gain the rights to the R.V.I.A Sunliner dealership earlier in 2017. Rhys has a technical background in marine sales and repair and recreational vehicle industries in the Tauranga area, and Michele was a journalist for the local newspaper for nearly 10 years. The couple have two young children and Road Life RV is their new addition to the family, you might say. They both tell me they are passionate about customer service, both before you purchase, and more importantly, after you have taken possession of your new RV. They have an extensively equipped, modern workshop to cater to all RV service, fit-out and accessory installation needs in-house.
Built tough with a lifetime of dependability, the extensively braced, fully welded steel box section chassis and sub-floor frames are carrying all the latest AL-KO suspension equipment, with over-specified high-load ratings and massive electric brakes so you can be sure this thing can cope with all that New Zealand’s roads can throw at it.
There is a steel sub-floor chassis, and the floor is fully sealed where all fittings and fasteners mount, or wiring or plumbing transfer through it. All these features work together as a strong foundation for the support of the coach body. With less movement and flex the tough chassis provides a strong base for securing walls, tanks and under-floor storage areas. The exterior roof is made from a product called DuraRoof™ which has a fully-insulated bonded core, reinforced timber structure combined with compressed Duplo Foam. So essentially there is an inner ceiling finish, inside that compressed Duplo Foam, then a timber sheet and the GPR on the exterior. The walls are from a ThermoTough™ Wall, the toughest walls on the market they tell me. Designed for strength, durability and weight reduction (always important in an RV), 25 years time-tested wall technology gives the extensive insulation of a Duplo Foam with a cross-ply core timber sheet, interior and exterior finishes bound into one 35mm-thick product sheet. The walls are one piece, so no joins or gaps to worry about sealing every year. The walls are rebated and interlocked for strength and the one-piece roof and nose cone are designed for aerodynamic and waterproofing abilities. The beauty of this type of product is you can mount or attach things yourself to the walls inside. For example putting up a spice rack or storage hooks isn’t a problem because you can screw right into the wall if you want to – the internal wood lining gives you attachment and strength you don’t get in a sandwich panel of just foam. Combine this with the strength of the base floor structure, and the fixtures and fittings inside are very well secured.
As with most 5th wheelers, the nose area is home to the bedroom (internally), and the hitch mechanism externally, with a storage boot underneath. Essentially the beauty of these types of RVs over a caravan is the nature of the transference of weight whilst being towed. With a 5th wheeler, a higher proportion of towing load is carried centrally over the rear axle of the towing vehicle, reducing the cantilevering and yawing that a caravan transmits to its tow vehicle through a towbar. All this adds up to the ability, with a 5th wheeler, to have a higher overall towed weight but with more stability, easier towing and less strain on the tow vehicle.
The habitation door is situated on the left (passenger) side of the vehicle; an electric step gives entry, with an illuminated handle.
Upon entry, to the right we have an L-shaped kitchen bench with the sink at the door end. This design makes the useable workspace of the kitchen bench expansive with the hob/oven in the middle and more bench space on the other side. To the rear is the four-seater dinette area; opposite the kitchen is the slide-out that expands the couch and living area significantly. Plenty of overhead cupboards for storage.
Left of the entry door, you walk through to the nose-cone bedroom area, with toilet on the left wall, and shower opposite. Wardrobes are by the bedhead, storage shelf and lighting above, and more cupboard and drawer storage upon entry. Heating is optioned with either LPG or diesel air-ducted. Large double-glazed, fly-screen/blind-equipped windows offer expansive views, so staying in bed with a cuppa while you enjoy the views would be tempting. The vanity sink and storage is sited in this open bedroom area as well, with a good-sized mirror above and storage above and underneath. A nice idea, with plenty of room for make-up, and ablutions. The ensuite toilet is spacious with an electric flush, pedestal cassette toilet. Lots of storage in here and nice to have a roof vent as well as a window for light.
All the interior surfaces are designed with practicality in mind, easy clean, contemporary tones; easy heating; two separate living/entertainment areas with plenty of floor space and passing space (as I call it) so no one needs to squeeze past another to move around the vehicle.
The kitchen is pretty impressive I have to say; you won’t see this sized bench workspace in many other RV vehicles. The L-shape in this particular layout option really works great with the sink tucked away to the right side allowing a big workspace. Cupboards and drawers are plentiful both below and above, and the microwave has its own space as well. Under the sink return there is even more drawer and cupboard storage. The fridge will certainly please a cook; plenty of room for food to go with the wine, beer, cheese and nibbles, and heaps of space for the real food as well. Again more storage with cupboards over this space. You will also note the heating vents at the bottom.
Overall this is a great model of this type of RV – modern, contemporary in design, fixtures, fittings and finish. Built for Aussie roads that are notoriously tough on any vehicles, so running around our New Zealand roads and mountains will be effortless in comparison. You could certainly take this home-on-wheels into a large variety of locations with its height off the ground and chassis set up, more so than the average caravan I would think – only height and length would restrain you from adventuring too far into our wilderness areas. The price point is pretty good as well; admittedly you will need a vehicle specific for towing this puppy, but with the weight being less than some Aussie caravans and the hitch towing situation offering a 20% reduction in that weight and drag, it’s a wonderful vehicle for anyone, especially for those who plan to spend extended periods of time living in their RV and want space to spread out and feel truly comfortable in. These 5th wheelers have realistic and generous payloads as well, with the average unladen weight at 2650kg and a GVM of 3500kg – they can carry a lot. Being a Warrant of Fitness vehicle, it’s a cheap own with registration and license costs minimal compared to its Certificate of Fitness competitors.
Check these out at the Covi Motorhome show in Auckland in March, or get yourself to Tauranga and check out some layout and size options over these summer holidays.
Sunliner 5th wheel Northshore 5.4, from $142,000
Tandem axle, Duro Torque chassis, AL-KO IRS suspension, electric brakes, electric stabilising jacks, alloy wheels GVM maximum laden weight full tanks, people, everything loaded in GVM 3500kg, Tare 2720kg, 780kg payload External length, height, width (mm)
8300(L), 2500(W), 3100(H)
1 x 100Ah battery, 25A 240V charger, 140W solar panel and regulator, inverter optional
20” LCD TV, stereo with external speakers, TV antenna
Innersprung mattress, queen-size island bed
Water tanks (litres)
Fresh and Grey 120L – up to 300L optional
gas heating Cooking
3-burner gas hob and underbench grill, microwave
Hot water system
LED ceiling and reading lights
Full shower and separate toilet room
Roll out standard
Electric entry step