Review: Alpha Wolf 27RK

By: Malcolm Street, Photography by: Malcolm Street


A new caravan range built in the United States offers size, practicality, and comfort, says NZMCD writer Malcolm Street

In an industry dominated by local, European and Australian RVs, rigs built in North America are comparatively rare in New Zealand. It’s a niche that David Sharp from Select Caravans has decided to move into by importing a range of Alpha Wolf caravans.

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An impressive sight on the road

Alpha Wolf, a brand from Cherokee, is part of the Forest River conglomerate, which produces a wide range of travel trailers (caravans to you and me), camping trailers, fifth-wheelers and motorhomes of all sizes. Alpha Wolf manufactures a selection of vehicles from 8400mm to 11200mm in length - quite long by New Zealand standards and all of them have a slide-out, something not so familiar here.

My review van, an Alpha Wolf 27RK, has an external length of 10210mm and, being a US-orientated model, has a nearside slide-out and a mid-offside wall entry door. RVs imported from overseas have to be compliant with local regulations, particularly electrics and LPG.

When I asked David Sharp about that, he advised me that all regulatory work is done here in New Zealand by independent re-fitters and certifiers. The cabling is fitted on the production line in the US as per New Zealand specifications (AS/NZS 3000 wiring rules), but finishing, power points and appliances are done here using New Zealand-sourced fittings and supported by New Zealand warranties.

Unlike RVs imported from Europe, which uses similar mains supply voltage to New Zealand, the US standard voltage is 110V AC. Hence it has been completely upgraded to 230V. All the gas pipework is replaced here in New Zealand under AS/NZS 5601 (gas installations), and a new oven is fitted.

On a few weighty matters, the 27RK has a tare mass of 2792kg and a GVM of 3459kg which gives it a payload of 667kg but also puts it, if fully loaded, just under the 3500kg maximum towing mass of vehicles like a Toyota Land Cruiser or utes such as the Ford Ranger or Isuzu D-Max.

Ute owners should keep in mind the 6000kg Gross Combined Mass (GCM) when loading up. Build-wise, there are some items familiar to New Zealand products and some not so. For instance, instead of an RHS box section chassis, 200mm I-beams are used for the main chassis rails and the more familiar RHS used for the drawbar.

Instead of being galvanised, the steel is powder-coated. Roller-rocker leaf-spring suspension is used for the 15-inch alloy wheels. A look under the chassis won’t tell you much because, apart from the suspension, it’s all enclosed by fluted Polypropylene sheeting.

That acts as both a protection and insulation for the sub-chassis area. A benefit of the sheeting is that it leaves that area looking quite ‘clean’, although there were a few wires and terminals at the drawbar end that could have done with a cover.

At the pointy end, the drawbar looks almost conventional with a ball coupling and dual 9kg gas cylinders. Instead of a jockey wheel, there’s a powered front jack complete with a light for night use. Aluminium framing is used for the general bodywork, 50mm solid foam for the insulation, and laminated fibreglass composite for the general cladding. That includes the slide-out. Well-sized passthrough storage is fitted at the front of the van.

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An electric awning means a quick campsite set-up

Windows all round are glass and sliders, rather than the more familiar acrylic awning style. Given the height of the 27RK from the ground, it’s not surprising that a decent set of steps (much better than some I have seen) and a grab handle are provided for getting into the van.

For barbecue-lovers, there is space for a Weber-style BBQ in an external kitchen compartment towards the rear of the van. That’s also where the external sound-system speakers are located. An awning covers the doorway and BBQ area. 

Stepping aboard

Alt TEXT HERENot quite a dance hall but still plenty of space

With the habitation door about half-way along the 27RK, the layout neatly divides itself in two; the front half is the bedroom and bathroom area, the rear is for catering, dining and lounging. The general decor is what might be called ‘toned-down American’. It’s a little different, but not at all hard on the eye.

What makes the kitchen/dining/lounge area quite different is the slide-out opens on the nearside wall. It’s long enough to contain both a café-style dinette and a leatherette upholstered three-person lounge.

Just in case that is not enough seating, there are two moveable easy chairs on the facing wall. All are orientated so that a large flat-screen TV (not supplied) mounted on an entertainment cabinet against the bedroom/bathroom wall can be seen without too much difficulty.

Kitchen

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The U-shaped kitchen means everything is close to hand

All this still allows for a decent-size kitchen in the rear offside corner. It comes with the somewhat familiar Dometic four-burner hob, grill and oven, a Sphere microwave oven, a VRV250 204L 12/24V compressor fridge and a sink that is larger than is usual.

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The kitchen pantry offers plenty of shelf space

That does have a stylish-looking mixer tap that I’d associate with a restaurant kitchen and is very functional. There’s a reasonable bit of benchtop space, and the general storage consists of a selection of cupboards, two drawers and a multi-shelf full-height pantry that sits adjacent to the dinette.

Dining

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The dinette converts to a bed if needed

Located but a short step away from the kitchen, the dinette will seat four people comfortably. Being in the slide-out, it has windows on both walls. Two full-length drawers make for generous under-seat storage, and the dinette can be folded down into a bed if needed.

Front bedroom

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The bedroom has a full storage complement

In the forward area, the island bed sits centre stage and comes with the expected accoutrements of bedside wardrobes, overhead lockers and well-sized bedside shelves. Double power points are fitted on both sides of the bed.

Large bathroom

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The bathroom can be accessed from either side

The size of the 27RK's bathroom is surprising. It’s against the nearside wall and leaves enough space on the other side for a walkway to the bedroom area. It also has two doorways, one from the walkway and one from the bedroom, giving it the impression of a larger size.

Fitted into the bathroom is a semicircular shower cubicle, Dometic porcelain foot flush toilet, vanity cabinet complete with washbasin, a set of cupboards adjacent to the bedroom and room to move.

Utilities

All the comforts of home are fitted into the 27RK. A Suburban 22L heater delivers the hot water, a Suburban 3.1kW forced-air heater keeps things warm, and the toilet drains to a 132L black tank. For those planning a little remote camping, 200AH of battery capacity is fitted, and the fresh- and grey-water tanks are sized at 185L and 265L respectively. Solar panels are an option but worth a consideration.

Verdict

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Floor plan

A van this size certainly requires a large tow vehicle, but for anyone desiring space, the Alpha Wolf 27RK has much to offer. The van itself provides a very comfortable lifestyle. It has everything and more besides for the good life on the road. 

Pros

  • The slide-out creates a fantastic amount of interior space.
  • Well-sized kitchen bench.
  • Comfortable lounge area.
  • Glass windows (scratch less easily than acrylic).
  • All compliance matters attended to.

Cons

  • It’s a long van and requires a 3500kg tow vehicle.

Alpha Wolf 27RK specifications:

Year 2020
Axles tandem
Berths 4
External length 10210mm
External width 2450mm
Tanks fresh 185L, grey: 265L, black: 132L
Gas 2 x 9kg
GVM 3459kg

Price as reviewed: $99,000, including all on-road costs and full LPG cylinders

For more information, visit selectcaravans.co.nz

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