Review: Sunliner Ranger

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer


reversable camera for the less capable A reversing camera is standard... reversable camera for the less capable
wheel 1 ... so are 16”alloy wheels wheel 1
door Wind-out awning is standard door
fuel cap Heating can be converted to run on diesel if required fuel cap
storage 1 Handy narrow cabinet takes care of wallets, phones and other small items storage 1
stove Cooking and dishwashing in one handy compact unit stove
shower Shower and toilet in the wet room adds to the Sunliner Ranger’s practicality shower
bed A ladder eases entry and exit from the above-cab double bed bed

Built on the bones of the market-leading Ford Ranger, this impressively-specified new camper solution from established manufacturer Sunliner will tick plenty of boxes for the keen weekend adventurer

Ute-based campers were a popular option for weekend getaways a couple of decades ago, but as the market evolved in favour of van-shaped campers for those on a budget, manufacturers concentrated on integrated vehicles instead. The separate tub-mounted camper pod disappeared for a while.

With the rise and rise of the motorhome market during the last five or six years though, it was perhaps inevitable that this style of motorhoming would make a comeback.

Thanks to established manufacturer Sunliner, it has. And thanks to Tauranga-headquartered Sunliner distributor, Road Life, Kiwi adventurers have the opportunity to rediscover the benefits of this style of recreational vehicle for a pretty reasonable price.

Market share

Sunliner -ranger

As far as a base vehicle for Sunliner’s Australian Design Rule (ADR) approved camper living quarters, the company probably couldn’t have done better than a Ford Ranger. Both here and in Australia, the ute has single-handedly led the mass-market charge towards the light commercial segment.

Not only has the Ranger been the best-selling ute in New Zealand for an impressive four years in a row now, it has also proven to be the most popular vehicle—bar none—with Kiwi buyers for three consecutive years. That’s right; your country’s most popular car isn’t a Suzuki Swift or a Mazda 3. And it certainly isn’t a Holden Commodore anymore. It’s a light commercial ute.

I mentioned the evolution of the motorhome market above, but the way in which the new car market has changed in the last few years is quite remarkable too.

Last year, the Ford Ranger outsold its nearest competitor—the Toyota Hilux—by more than a thousand vehicles, and the local branch of the FoMoCo shifted more than 9000 Rangers in total during 2017.

Driving comfort

Tow

Before I get to the living quarters, it’s worth mentioning that the Sunliner Ranger drives like… well, like a Ford Ranger with a load in the tray. That’s genuinely about the scale of it. Naturally, you need to be as conscious of the width and height of the vehicle as you would were you driving a medium-dimension motorhome, but overall, there is little to detract from the experience of driving a large-ish ute.

The Ranger cabin is as comfortable as any modern passenger car. Indeed, the efforts manufacturers such as Ford have gone to in order to provide a more cosseted, less workmanlike on-road experience is one of the chief reasons why your local shopping mall car park is full of utes on Saturday mornings. 

The other benefit of having a truck like the Ranger underpinning the Sunliner is that, thanks to a handy 470Nm slab of torque generated through the ute’s 3.2-litre turbo diesel (in 4WD guise; a 2WD version can also be specified), the Sunliner Ranger is a versatile tow vehicle.

The Ranger’s 2200kg braked tow rating means that weekend anglers, motocross fans and anyone else towing the main component of their chosen hobby along behind the vehicle will still be able to access their favourite spots easily.

Solid as

Top -window -to -breathe

Sunliner uses a one-piece construction method for the living quarter’s roof and walls, which ensures a cosy, weather-tight environment to retreat into even during the wettest duck hunting trip. Sunliner’s own toughened construction material—known as ThermoTough—is used throughout, with specially-moulded fibreglass side skirts, bumper assemblies, and wheel arches giving the vehicle an integrated look.

This is no quick-fit bolt-on special. Everything about the Sunliner Ranger’s construction is factory designed, fitted, and bonded. The walls are rebated and interlocked with the roof and floor panels to mitigate moisture ingress. Similarly, the floor has no joins and an underfloor seal for extra protection. The windows are all double-glazed too.

Accommodation for action

Inside -sunliner -ranger

The way the Sunliner Ranger has been packaged is impressive. This four-berth unit provides for sleeping spaces over the cab (a permanent possie accessed via ladder) as well as at the rear thanks to a converting U-shaped sofa. I’m not suggesting four blokes and all their gear would be reclining in spacious comfort, but for two—or possibly three—weekend adventurers, the Sunliner Ranger’s dimensions provide a roomy environment.

The fact that the Sunliner unit boasts a sink and three-burner cooktop, microwave, 90-litre fridge, along with a self-contained toilet and shower facilities in a wet-room amidship, makes this a perfectly serviceable vehicle for a night or two in the wilderness.

Even better, a large storage cupboard, augmented with other cubbies, means you’re not stumbling over fishing gear, motocross helmets, or other items you don’t want to leave outside.

There is even a handy shallow cabinet alongside the entry door, which is the perfect place for wallets, phones, and other smaller items. Good quality trim materials, a 19-inch flat-screen TV, and LED lights give the accommodation pod a real top-notch motorhome feel too. Distributor Road Life says that with a $2000 conversion, the Sunliner Ranger can be set up to provide heating and cooling via the diesel reserves on-board. Otherwise, twin 4kg gas bottles serve to keep things cosy.

Verdict

This is a brilliantly packaged way of getting into the great outdoors for a few nights. What’s more, when in town, the Sunliner Ranger is only slightly longer than the conventional ute upon which it’s based, with a footprint not too dissimilar to that of an average mid-sized motorhome.

The price is rather attractive too. If you consider a mid-spec Ford Ranger with a couple of options boxes ticked is going to cost more than $50,000, the $139,990 sticker price (which includes on-road costs) makes this a pretty robust value proposition. Whether you’re chasing the surf or the salmon, recreational vehicles for the weekend adventurer don’t come much better kitted out than this.

Sunliner Ranger Specifications

Vehicle make/model: Sunliner Ranger
Transmission 6-speed: automatic
Berths: 4
Approx. overall height: 2900mm
Approx. overall length: 5800mm
Tanks: 110L fresh, 62L grey
Gas: 2 x 4kg
GVM: 3200kg
Price (as reviewed): $139,990

Storage

Pluses

  • Popular donor vehicle upon which the accommodation pod is built
  • Quality fittings throughout, matched with robust body construction 
  • Plenty of storage on-board, even though dimensions are designed to be compact

Minuses

  • Sleeps four, but you’d only want to in a pinch

For further information call, Road Life on 07 579 6489 or visit roadlife.co.nz.

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