Dethleffs review

Dethleffs Nomad 560FMK Review

Paul Owen headed to Taupō in search of a classy caravan that also has the technology to handle New Zealand roads with style. He found it in the form of the Dethleffs Nomad 560FMK.

So, you think a single-axle caravan can’t offer the towing stability of a tandem-axle? The Dethleffs Nomad 560FMK consigns this piece of caravanning folklore to the past – thanks to the safety and handling enhancements of the AL-KO heavy-duty chassis and the way the suspension of the Euro Delta axle can make small adjustments to the geometry of the wheels when bumps and corners are encountered.

Where most caravans have to muddle their way over imperfections in the road surface with their fixed wheel geometry, the Nomad, like all Dethleffs caravans equipped with the Euro Delta axle, remains composed, giving the suspension more opportunity to fully absorb the bump without straying offline. This is such an improvement to stability and safety, especially given the bump-infested nature of New Zealand roads, that Dethleffs caravan importers, Brent and Adele Thurlow from Central RV, often wonder why other caravans don’t offer similar suspension formats.

“No other New Zealand, Australian, British or American caravan sold here does this, yet our cars have had suspension like this for decades” says Brent.

Braking is another Dethleffs caravan strongpoint. The vans all come with mechanical override brakes, overseen by Dethleffs’ AL-KO Trailer Control (ATC). The former means the self-adjusting brakes will always work as there’s no opportunity for an electrical fault to separate the braking system of the caravan from that of the tow vehicle. The latter is an electronic towing aid that prevents trailer sway and optimises stopping performance. Couple the way the Delta axle can optimise the toe and camber attitudes of the caravan wheels to the mechanically engaged yet electronically enhanced AAA brakes, then factor in the premium tow hitch with the AKS stability hitch, and you can see why ‘safety first’ is one of the mottos of the German brand.

As for the old single- versus double-axle debate, in their consultations with customers at their premises in Taupō, the Central RV team invites entrenched tandem-axle enthusiasts to take a Dethleffs single-axle model for a tow on occasion, and compare the towing performance to the tandem-axle model they’ve already expressed their interest in. “They always come back and say that it towed as well as the tandem-axle model,” Brent told me.

Dethleffs review
The single-axle Nomad offers the towing stability of a tandem-axle model

CARAVAN CENTRAL

It was the enhanced safety factor that encouraged the Thurlows to take on the New Zealand franchise for Dethleffs caravans back in 2015, after a visit to the factory and the huge annual caravan and motorhome show in Düsseldorf. The pair had started Central RV back in 2011 selling UK and New Zealand caravan brands, and servicing and repairing all RVs.

“We got to work on absolutely everything – Aussie, English, European and New Zealand vans and motorhomes, even some fifth-wheelers at times. It taught me a lot about what I wanted to sell,” says Brent. “I really wanted to take on a brand that would let me sleep at night.”

With the distribution of Dethleffs motorhomes already being handled by Zion Motorhomes in New Zealand, an opportunity came up to handle the importation and sale of the brand’s caravans here. What the Central RV team saw at the factory quickly sealed the deal. The quality was obviously being built into the caravans from the get-go, and the Dethleffs workers were given plenty of time to ensure things were done right.

“Some English and Australian caravan factories take just two or three hours to turn out a caravan, here (in Allgäu, Germany) it was taking two or three days,” says Brent.

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Why so long? Some of the features of the Nomad take time to install, such as the Air Plus ventilation system that’s built into the overhead lockers to prevent condensation. The roof is a single piece of GRP (fibreglass reinforced composite), as are the front and rear walls. There’s an insulation layer that’s 42mm thick for the floor, and 34mm thick for the walls and roof, and the Alde radiator central heating will have little trouble keeping the Nomad’s interior warm and cosy, even in the coldest southerly-style weather. The front locker with mounts for two 9kg gas bottles gets checker plate protection for the floor, and is moulded from special high-strength, long-fibre composite material, as is the lower moulding at the rear of the van. All this is fitted onto the impressive heavy-duty version of AL-KO’s zinc-plated high-strength steel chassis, running 225/70R15 commercial vehicle-grade tyres and alloy wheels, allowing a maximum permissible mass of 2000kg.

Dethleffs review
Double bunks at the rear offer adult-sized headroom

BUNKING DOWN

The ‘FMK’ suffix on the model’s nomenclature identifies this particular Nomad as being equipped with a set of two bunks at the rear (195cm x 75) and a longitudinal double bed (200cm x 155), which is mounted at the front of the left side. This is situated ahead of a U-shaped seating area that faces the kitchen and can be converted into further sleeping quarters (230cm x 115). The sibling model Nomad is the aptly-named RET version; this one offers two longitudinal single beds (200cm x 85), and a lateral bathroom at the rear of the vehicle, with a similar-sized U-shaped seating area up front, creating about a third more floor space.

Adele says that while the RET still outsells the FMK version, the latter is gaining in popularity, particularly with younger buyers who have children in tow.“For many of them, it makes more sense to buy a caravan and tour New Zealand, since overseas travel has become more restricted by Covid.”

The four fixed beds of the six-berth Nomad 560 FMK come furnished with the EvoPoreHRC mattresses made by the award-winning Swiss manufacturer, FoamPartner. Thanks to the exceptional elasticity and adaptive body support of these seven-zone mattresses, FoamPartner says they offer better comfort than the usual box spring mattress, as well as better breathability. Another plus is that they are lighter.


Dethleffs review
There’s room for all the family in the well-built Nomad 560FMK
Dethleffs review
The double bed is offset to the left to make room for the bathroom

COOKING UP

You’ll notice the spatial differences between the 560FMK and its RET cousin most in the kitchen, for the latter has more living area with half of its length donated to the cooking and dining areas, where the FMK contributes roughly a third. Not that you’d call the kitchen/dining zone of the FMK cramped, mind you; far from it. This is a proper caravan, with no need to accommodate things like dashboards, steering wheels, gearlevers and engines, etc. Dethleffs promises that it will be like you’re “cooking at home” when preparing food inside the FMK.

There’s also a good oven, three hobs, a large 142L three-way fridge that automatically chooses the appropriate energy source, and a circular sink of generous depth, with a well-fitted cover so it doesn’t adopt a second life as a frisbee when on the move. It also provides the always-welcome additional bench space.

The many cupboards and soft-close drawers include a practical vertical drawer for wine bottles and sauces, and are finished in a light wood grain called Noce Nagano. It looks suitably classy given the contrast with the faux ‘polished concrete’ theme of the thick linoleum covering the floor. So much so, I’d personally stash the full-floor carpets that come with the Nomad away until resale time if it were mine (nice thought).

The U-shaped dining area seats six, and the space can be illuminated by the flexible LED spotlights above it that can be moved into any position along an overhead track running the length of the dining area. Also on the track is a relocatable USB port, to ensure devices can be charged from any sitting place around the table, or even the bedroom. Nice touch that, along with the quick ‘n’ easy height adjustment of the dining table.

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Dethleffs review
Light Noce Nogaro wood finish is a classy touch inside the Nomad

HANDY BATHROOM

The double bed area at the front of the Nomad FMK can be sectioned off from the rest of the van, although doing this does turn the bathroom located alongside the bed into a personal ensuite rather than a comfort and preening zone for all. At two metres in length, and one metre wide, the bathroom is relatively long and narrow as caravan facilities go. Dethleffs has made the most of the space by separating the shower from the wash basin and tucking the toilet into a corner.

It is a bathroom setup that’s designed to handle the demands of a family; the Thetford cassette toilet can store 18 litres of waste rather than the usual 10, and the crew at Central RV fits larger fresh
and grey water tanks to all Dethleffs caravans as part of their extensive preparations for selling them to New Zealand customers. With 160 litres of fresh water and a 145-litre grey water catch tank on board, the Nomad can camp in one isolated place for quite a while.

Dethleffs review
The long bathroom separates all the amenities

CAMPING FREE

Brent estimates that “…95 per cent of our customers camp off-grid 95 per cent of the time,” after buying a Dethleffs caravan. “Once they first try it and realise how easy and convenient it is, they hardly ever feel the need to hook up to power again. The exception is the family-oriented models (like the Nomad 560 FMK), as the kids often encourage the parents to stay in a campground as it generally gives them access to a playground and allows them more opportunity to meet other kids and make friends while on holiday.”

The major deterrent to freedom camping in the 560FMK is therefore the potential curbing of the social life of younger family members, as the model is well set up for extended stays away from powered sites. There are enlarged water tanks, a 200W solar energy system with a MPPT regulator, and the battery, a 150Ah LifePo4 lithium unit with built-in monitoring, can be checked with a phone via Bluetooth. The gas plumbing includes an external hook up for a BBQ. For those who need more entertainment than the chosen location can supply, there’s a 24” Smart TV sucking in the outside world via a KiwiSat automatic satellite dish.

Should it all go pear-shaped, smoke and CO gas alarms are fitted as standard equipment, along with a fire extinguisher.

SUMMARY: WANDERING WONDER

Nomad is an apt name for this model, given that it conjures up images of entire families living their lives on the move. The difference is that the travel is far more comfortable – and the living is far easier – than that experienced by many nomads. The latter statement applies to just about all caravans, but the added strength, towing performance, safety, quality, comfort, and well-evolved design of the Dethleffs Nomad 560FMK is worth paying extra for.

Dethleffs review

Dethleffs Nomad 560FMK Specifications

Chassis

Zinc-plated AL-KO trailer with AAA brakes

Overall Dimensions

8.18m long x 2.50mW x 2.65mH

Cabin Dimensions

6.75m L with 1.98m head room

Berths

6

Fresh/Grey Water

160L fresh / 145L grey

GVW

2,000 KG

Price as reviewed: $108,900

Find out more at www.centralrv.co.nz

Looking for motorhomes or caravans for sale in NZ? Browse our latest listings here

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