When I first arrived at Land Cruiser Mountain Park (approximately 2.5 hours to the north of Brisbane, Queensland) to put the new Marvel Caravans Thunderstorm through its paces, I knew that I would be in for a good couple of days.
The Thunderstorm is the flagship off-road caravan of the Marvel RV brand. So, a dedicated 4WD park should really test the credentials with a variety of surfaces and terrains to be encountered.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE MARVEL THUNDERSTORM MARK II
My first look at the Thunderstorm from Marvel Caravans was from across a dry creek bed, as it and the tow vehicle negotiated a steep and rutted bank.
Even though I was over 100m away, I could tell that this van was built for the rough stuff.
There was the mandatory powder-coated aluminium checker plate protecting the lower wall sections, front, side and rear.
Ground clearance didn’t seem to be a problem and the mud terrain tyres looked a little larger than standard.
All in all, it cut a pretty fine picture amongst the Aussie bush.
TOWING THE MARVEL THUNDERSTORM CARAVAN
The Thunderstorm was being towed behind a Mitsubishi Triton for our test. Even though it was approaching its maximum towing capacity, the Triton could hold its head high over the fast gravel and seriously rutted sections.
During the course of the afternoon on Day One, we subjected the Thunderstorm to all many of obstacles and surface varieties.
First to be tackled was fast, graded gravel at speeds in excess of 80km/hr. Let me tell you, the disc brakes really come into their own when trying to pull up 3t of van on the dirt.
With limited lock up, just a lot of dust, the van remained in-line with the tow vehicle as the brakes were applied heavily.
Next up, we heasded deeper into the park in search of something a little more technical.
It wasn’t hard to find and soon we were testing the limits of the DO35 hitch through some serious ruts and drop-offs.
Apart from the larger diameter 285/75R16 mud terrain tyres, the additional 4” suspension riser on the chassis ensured that the Thunderstorm didn’t scrape or bottom out once.
One thing to note however, was that the entry step had been removed prior to our off-road exploits. Due to it’s position, it may have got caught up at some point. Fortunately, the step can be easily removed if you know that you are going to get into some tricky terrain.
While you may never wish to subject your own van to serious off-road situations, it’s piece of mind knowing that it can.
Unfortunately, my testing was only carried out on the dirt, but from my experience, bitumen towing should be of no concern.
Sitting underneath the Thunderstorm and providing the impressive ride and handling in all off-road situation is Enduro Outback suspension from Al-Ko.
The independent trailing arms, coil springs and twin shocks on each corner performed well on test. The well-matched suspension system kept the wheels of the van on the ground for as long as possible, as much possible.
It was equally at home during the slow, technical off-roading as it was on the corrugated gravel roads.
CHASSIS AND SUB-FLOOR SERVICES
As you would expect from an off-road caravan, the chassis of the Marvel Thunderstorm is built solid.
A 6” SupaGal drawbar is home to the DO35 hitch, an Al-Ko jockey wheel and hand brake. Anderson plugs take care of battery charging and the disc brakes. The full-width stone guard provides protection for the gas bottles and aluminium tool box.
The drawbar runs into twin 4” chassis rails, creating a laminated SupaGal 8” x 2” beam. Numerous cross-braces provide support for the single piece marine grade plywood floor.
Thankfully, considering its pedigree as on off-road van, all the services (wiring, gas and plumbing) have been tucked up nice and high. Wiring and gas lines have been run through split tube convolute and John Guest fittings are utilised on the water lines.
Mixing traditional building practices with new, the Marvel Thunderstorm sports a Meranti timber frame and polystyrene insulation while the exterior is clad with an aluminium composite panel.
The charcoal grey and funky decals give it a tough look when matched with the powder-coated checker plate.
For maximum thermal efficiency, a single piece fibreglass roof has been used. The one-piece roof minimises joins to help eliminate water ingress.
OFF-GRID CAPABILITIES OF THE MARVEL THUNDERSTORM
Generally speaking, the biggest limiting factor when it comes to remote, off-grid travel will be how much water you can carry.
The Marvel Thunderstorm is served pretty well in its factory specification here, with twin 85L freshwater tanks and a single 90L grey water tank fitted as standard. For longer trip away from water supplies, and extra water tank will be a good idea.
When it comes to the electrical system, you shouldn’t really have a problem. The Thunderstorm sports three 150W solar panels (450W total) and two 100Ah lithium batteries (200Ah in total).
A Projecta PM300 battery management system ensures that the batteries are kept topped up thanks to a 30A MPPT solar charger, 12V DC and 240V AC chargers. Monitoring of the electrical system, the water tank levels and controlling the van’s lighting is done by way of an LCD panel mounted just inside the rear access door.
For me, getting away with a caravan in tow is still all about being outside as much as possible.
The Thunderstorm from Marvel RV will sure have you enjoying your time around the fire, enjoying the great outdoors.
A full-length awning will keep the sun at bay and the fold-down table is the perfect spot for the cheese and crackers when it’s time for a sundowner.
If you do feel the need to catch up on the news or latest sports scores, the Thunderstorm comes equipped with external speakers, aerial connection and TV bracket.
For those that love to cook outside, you are in for a treat. Located on a slide-out in the front tunnel boot is a full stainless steel kitchen.
When it all folds out, it has a sink with plumbed hot and cold water, a Dometic twin burner gas cooktop, preparation benches and a cutlery/utensil drawer. One of the prep benches could also be used for a gas BBQ.
Twin quick-release gas outlets have been plumbed to beneath the tunnel boot to allow for the cooktop and BBQ to be used at the same time.
The interior of the Thunderstorm is modern and well-appointed, finished with ‘on trend’ colours. Contemporary blacks, greys and whites have been used throughout.
The floor plan is one that you have seen before, but a little bit of re-jigging has opened up more storage options.
The shower has been re-positioned, which has allowed for a full-height pantry to be incorporated to the right of the entryway.
Drawers have been used in the vanity which takes up less floor space, making the ensuite feel a lot larger than it actually is, as do the large mirrored doors on the medicine cabinet.
The queen-sized bed is flanked by robes with hanging space, as well as two large overhead lockers. Beneath the robes, each side gets a bedside unit with drawer and a small cupboard.
A two-seater cafe/dinette occupies one side of the central section of the van, with the kitchen taking up the opposite wall.
WEIGHTS AND PAYLOAD
The Thunderstorm boasts a serious amount of storage space located throughout the interior and exterior of the van.
Thankfully, you also have a generous amount of payload, even if you do decide to add an extra water tank.
The Marvel Thunderstorm has an ATM of 3500kg and a TARE of 2649kg. This gives you a payload of 851kg.
Each MARVEL RV Caravan comes with its own weighbridge certificate.
With the second incarnation of their popular Thunderstorm range, the crew from Marvel RV have really raised the bar. A lot of what now comes standard with the Thunderstorm Mark II is an optional upgrade on many other vans in a similar price bracket.
While the Mark II does retail at $5000 more than the Mark I, $79 990 is still a very keen price on a 20’6” van with lithium batteries, disc brakes and extra solar panels.
This is a true off-road, off-grid package.
The Marvel Thunderstorm gets 4 out of 5 Battered Akubras!
MARVEL THUNDERSTORM STANDARD FEATURES
MARVEL THUNDERSTORM PRICE
About the Author:
Hi, I’m Matt. I camp, four-wheel drive, explore the outdoors and get paid to take photos.
I’m happiest when I’m doing all four at once.
Occasionally, I’ll even tap out a couple of words on my keyboard.
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