High standards and ambitious design yield an impressive mix of space and comfort, writes Paul Owen.
The new Coachman Lusso is the UK’s most expensive caravan, and the $NZ119,995 price here certainly raises expectations. Fortunately, the Lusso delivers levels of luxury that more than match the price. First impressions of the imposing front end, with its generous width and triple windows, are favourable. Then you spot the marble-effect graphics and chrome badges, and know you’re about to step into something special.
Yet even this doesn’t prepare you for the emotional lift when you see the interior. This is a caravan that has its wow-phasers set to stun. It’s hard to remain indifferent to the obvious build quality, the spacious layout, all the bells and whistles, and decor that some high-ticket New York designer would be proud to call their own.
Coachman caravans have established quite a reputation thanks to consistently winning annual COTY awards, and are well known for their fastidious detailing – for example, the corners of the drawers are dove-tailed, and the runners are made of metal. The Lusso is arguably the best model from the best caravan-maker in the UK – with a price to match.
New Zealand’s exclusive Coachman dealers, Melissa and Craig Growden, were already aware of the brand and its reputation when the manufacturer asked whether they’d like to become their sole New Zealand dealer. The couple had built up their business, Gateway Caravans in Whakatāne, by refurbishing and selling second-hand caravans, using Craig’s skills as a builder. They began back in 2010 – “doing all the old Kiwi stuff”, according to Craig. Then they moved into importing second-hand caravans from the UK. “When we are sourcing second-hand caravans, we’d always tell our buyer in the UK to find us more Coachmans.”
Gateway Caravans moved to selling new caravans by becoming a Swift dealership. That’s a franchise they still hold after adding Coachman in January 2020, giving them a wide range of new models to sell, alongside the second-hand range, from their high-profile site on the northern outskirts of Whakatāne.
Big is better
The Lusso’s 2.44-metre width is near the maximum allowed for caravans on New Zealand roads, and is the key to all the interior space. The island double bed is oriented east–west, freeing up more of the 6265mm length for other purposes. If the bed were mounted longitudinally, the wrap-around lounge at the front, the midships kitchen and rear washroom would not have been so wonderfully spacious.
Towing and parking up
The overall length is 7.895 metres including the 1630mm drawbar – long enough to make even a Lexus LX450 tow vehicle appear a little puny for the task. But have no fear, the unladen weight of the Lusso is 1800kg – well beneath the maximum towing capacities of most double-cab utilities, and no heavier than an average sized boat and trailer. Maximum laden weight of the Coachman is a neat two tonnes when the 200kg payload is added.
Normally, a two-tonne trailer would put 200kg of downward pressure on the towbar of the vehicle, but the Lusso is designed to reduce this to 100kg, taking half the burden off the rear suspension of the tow vehicle and improving its performance. The Lusso is mounted on an AL-KO galvanised chassis equipped with automatic trailer control to prevent swaying. Stopping force is supplied by AL-KO’s highly regarded AAA brake system. When parked up, two AL-KO wheel locks attached to four 14″ alloy wheels guarantee security.
It all adds up to a caravan that’s easy to tow for its size, but the Lusso reserves what is perhaps its most impressive dynamic for when you reach your destination. It can self-level at the push of a button, thanks to the E&P stabiliser legs and hydraulic rams. “You just press the remote, and by the time you get the deck chairs out and get the top off something refreshing, the caravan has levelled itself out,” says Craig.
You enter the Lusso through a single-piece side door with a window and internal rubbish bin, and walk past a shelf with aerial and power plugs for a TV. Above the door are the two control panels, a large one for lights and battery and tank monitoring, and a smaller one for the ALDE system that heats the water and the caravan. This uses either electricity when connected to mains power, or the 9kg gas bottle in a sealed chamber at the front.
The wrap-around seating looks big enough for an entire basketball team, and receives plenty of light through the windows on three sides and the large sunroof. The corner seats have higher back cushioning, making them as comfy as an armchair.
There’s plenty of lighting (my apologies for not turning it on for the interior photos), including gallery-like spotlights above the lounge and island bed. Also throughout are speakers for the Pioneer head unit above the front seating. This lounge is equipped to be Party Central should the need arise.
Just mind you don’t spill anyone’s drink when moving past the fixed table in the middle of the lounge. It has plenty of adjustability and you can quickly shift the top to allow more space to walk past it. It can also combine with the seating to make a spacious double bed.
If there’s a better caravan kitchen than this, I’ve yet to encounter it. The cooking facilities are the equal of many apartments and take full advantage of the generous width. There’s a handy, L-shaped bench area where the cook can chop away without getting in anyone’s way. Below the bench is an innovative cupboard with dual-entry doors and a sliding rack that’s tailor-made to become an easy-access pantry.
A large Thetford cooker provides a gas-powered oven and separate grille. There are three hobs on top, the fourth position reserved for an electric hot-plate. Above the stove, extractor fan, and wide kitchen window is a Russell Hobbs microwave, which might be placed a little high for shorter cooks.
On the other side of the kitchen is a 177L Dometic fridge/freezer that can run on three energy sources. Nice touches include the way you can open the Dometic’s doors from either side, the salad compartment with separate temperature control, and the marble-effect splashboard behind the bench, sink and stove.
A divider separates the main bedroom from the kitchen and lounge, and the spacious bathroom to the rear of the bedroom gives privacy for dressing. The island bed (1.88m x 1.37m) has a split mattress that you can move backwards when unused, to provide more walk space to the bathroom.
There’s a row of overhead lockers above the head of the bed, and although each appears the same size, they have different internals – some include shelves, others don’t – to suit diverse needs. Facing the bed is another TV shelf with ready to plug in wiring. To the right of that is a huge double-entry wardrobe and a couple more drawers. There’s even more storage beneath the bed, which you can also access from the outside.
If you’re 1.88 metres tall or less you’re in luck, for that is not only the length of the island bed, but also the height of the large shower cubicle. This completes the full-width bathroom, which has a ceramic bowl swivel toilet, a heated towel rail, and separate sink unit with a C-shaped tap so you don’t have to bend over to wash your hands. The back of the shower is clad with the same marbled material as in the kitchen – another example of Coachman’s attention to detail.
The freedom package
For another $7000, the Lusso can be tailored more towards freedom camping with a package: a bigger solar panel (190W plus factory 100W panel), full self-containment certification, and 120L tanks mounted permanently onboard, replacing the portable 36L fresh and greywater tanks. Also included are a 24” TV and an NZ-format automatic satellite dish.
Many will opt for the freedom package to overcome the Lusso’s one limitation in this country – its reliance on campgrounds when left standard. Spending the extra completes what is arguably the most luxurious caravan on the market. Little wonder this Coachman flagship is sold out until 2022. However Gateway does have limited stock of the Coachman Laser arriving soon for 2021.
- Wow factor with a capital W
- Hard to fault build quality
- High resale value
- Decent-sized tanks cost extra
- High-mounted microwave
Coachman Lusso Specifications
|Make & Model||
AL-KO galvanised steel chassis on with Euro axle, new and exclusive premium brake AAA overrun device
Fresh 120L/grey 120L (when fitted with optional package)
2000kg with full payload
Price as reviewed: $119,995 ($126995 with package)
Find out more at gatewaycaracans.co.nz