AUTO-TRAIL HAS A comprehensive line-up of motorhomes for 2014 season. We report on every range and every model, and pick out our favourites. In this story we focus on the V-Line.
Auto-Trail has always been based in the North East of England. The former caravan repairers started production of coachbuilt motorcaravans at its Stallingborough premises back in 1982. After several changes of ownership it became part of the global giant Trigano Group and currently occupies a huge state-of-the-art purpose-built manufacturing facility, just a hop, skip and a jump north of Grimsby, in North Lincolnshire.
Auto-Trail doesn’t build horseboxes, mobile shops, touring caravans, holiday homes or anything else, just motorcaravans… and its staff are very good at it. This is probably why the current hands-on, highly experienced senior management team have so much autonomy and freedom to develop their uniquely British model ranges.
V-LINE MARKS AUTO-TRAIL'S RETURN TO VAN CONVERSIONS
The big news is that after a long gap Auto-Trail has re-entered the panel van conversion market with its V-Line range of compact leisure vehicles. There’s just one layout at the moment, with another two following shortly.
AUTO-TRAIL'S COACHBUILTS BUILD ON SUCCESS
Its range of coachbuilts has been so successful that there are no significant changes, no model deletions and no new entrants. Every model is set to continue, for 2014, from the highly-manoeuvrable Tracker RS to the palatial tandem-axle luxury Frontier Arapaho, Chieftain and Comanche. That said, there have been some minor tweaks and useful equipment upgrades, with all Apache and Frontier models getting new upholstery.
Other interior upgrades include a better control panel for the Combi boiler, a family-sized 175-litre fridge-freezer, USB charging point, more ventilation in the shower and a high-gloss finger panel to the locker doors. Outside there is a new grille and new rear light clusters.
Media and Sportline packs also create added value, mostly ‘bling’, but all of it is well-chosen and entirely appropriate. These goodies include stainless steel ‘bumper’ bars and chrome cab door handles. For 2014 the Sportline pack will continue to include the metallic Carbon Black (dark silver-grey) cab with matching graphics.
A new cost-option that we reckon will be popular is a fully approved Witter tow-bar. Towing a trailer makes it possible to take extra sports kit, a motorbike or car on tour.
APACHE, TRACKER AND FRONTIER: STILL STRONG
Apache, Tracker and Frontier have had specification changes, but we want to focus on V-Line first. Why? Because there is nothing quite like it from any other British manufacturer, or even from a mainstream European one.
V-LINE OUTSHINES RIVAL 'VAN CONVERSIONS
To call it a ‘van conversion’ seems a bit underwhelming, because although it is based on a van, even the most cursory glance reveals it to have the stance and presence of a 21st-century leisure vehicle, rather than of a bread van with windows. The standard colour is white, and you can add stainless-steel front and rear protection bars, side-styling ones and chrome door handles.
Inside, the ‘leisure vehicle’ vibe continues, thanks to the contemporary furniture and fabrics and a surprisingly airy ambience. If you look closely you’ll soon appreciate that the basic vehicle has been totally remodelled. The rooftop panel and overcab section have been substituted with what must be the most stylish extra-high-top on the planet.
Standard equipment includes the full-length (opening) Skyview rooflight, solar panel and the recessed colour-coded wind-out awning. The full-length wrap-around ‘glazed’ panels are another industry first, combining the automotive good looks of single-glazed glass windows with the practical advantages of acrylic double-glazing.
This is a genuine four-season motorcaravan, with 12V heating for the fresh and waste water tanks, a double-floor, protected pipework and a thermal insulation efficiency that easily surpassed Grade 3.
Finally, there’s a wonderful pod-style moulded washroom in the rear that looks bigger than its dimensions.
V-LINE IS OUR 'STAR VAN' FROM AUTO-TRAIL
V-Line is such a significant new development, it had to be our ‘Star Van’. Auto-Trail is offering it at a launch price from £47,999 OTR (130bhp) but before you dismiss it as expensive, consider what you are actually buying. It is so much more than just another ‘van conversion’; the superb extra-high roof-line and double-floor really puts it in a class of its own. Not only that, but the standard specification is so stratospherically-high that oxygen may be required when comparing it to rivals’ offerings.
AUTO-TRAIL: ALL RANGES AND MODELS FOR 2014
Packaged in a van just under 6m long (19'7"), the 600 van conversion has a rear washroom, amidships kitchen with 'black granite-effect) worktop that extends, with curved edges, down the side of the kitchen unit. Behind the cab are twin facing sofas that turn into a double bed. We love the classy and practical upholstery. The standard version has dark grey 'silhouette' twin needle upholstery, with deeper colour on the edes and olive green cushions. But the Sport-line cost option pack version adds pzazz with burnt orange satin-effect bolster cushions, hardwearing black panels where fingers touch on the overhead lockers and equally practical black panels on the sofas, where knees and thighs would rub. Cab seats swivel for lounging on site.
This panel van conversion is also packaged in a van just under 6m long (19'7"), the 610 layout features the washroom behind the driver's cab seat, opposite the kitchen, just behind the passenger's cab seat. This allows for a comfy rear lounge/double bed well away from the habitation door. It's a very popular layout.
Auto-Trail, Trigano House, Europarc, Grimsby, North Lincolnshire DN37 9TU Tel 01472 571 000
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