Mike Le CaplainSee other News articles filed in ‘Motorhome’ written by Mike Le Caplain
In recent years it has seemed that motorhome manufacturers have been quite deliberately low key at their new model launches. So it came as a pleasant change to hear the management at Auto-Trail sounding so upbeat this year – not just about the season that’s about to end, but about the future, too.
The Grimsby firm kicked its season off with a record NEC show that saw some £15 million worth of sales recorded.
Since then, the dealer network has seen sales up by 19% compared to last year, thanks in part to increased production – including for the Australia and New Zealand markets. Given that Auto-Trail is part of the giant Trigano Group – whose annual turnover is on course to hit £1 billion – this bodes well for the future.
Speaking of which, with production capacity likely to reach its limit by 2017/2018, Auto-Trail is planning to expand its factory next year, linking the two existing buildings and moving the ‘dirty’ manufacturing processes to a new one.
In addition, Auto-Trail is claiming its new five-year warranty across all vehicles as an industry first.
The range has expanded for 2016, with V-Line now split into two model ranges: SE, which retains the standard Fiat roof; and the more luxurious Sport, which uses Auto-Trail’s own GRP roof. This brings the total line-up to seven models (four SE and three Sport).
Elsewhere, the only big change to the core Auto-Trail line-up is the addition of an island-bed 730 model to the Imala range, which made its debut this time last year. This slots in above the existing 720 and is priced at £46,995 OTR.
Auto-Trail claims that it always intended to expand the V-Line range – introduced for the 2014 model year – into two distinct line-ups. As such, the existing V-Line range has been rebranded ‘V-Line Sport’, and retains its high spec level and Auto-Trail’s GRP roof.
V-Line SE, however, is new and comprises a more affordable version of the Sport. Despite being the more affordable of the two ranges, the V-Line SE comes with a metallic silver body, 130bhp engine, LED daytime running lights, air conditioning, ESC and traction control, plus a Bluetooth-enabled CD/radio all fitted as standard.
The range kicks off with the smallest 5.41m-long 540 and progresses through 605, 610 and 635 models. All sport a parallel end lounge of varying sizes, although only two – the sub-6m long 605 and 6.36m-long 635 – warrant the handy forward low storage unit. Prices start at £43,793 for the 540 SE and peak at £46,778 for the biggest 635 – which is over £3000 less than the cheapest Sport – impressive, given that standard spec includes a new Status aerial, provision for an optional second leisure battery, a microwave oven, cruise control, a solar panel, and a 25-litre underslung LPG gas tank. All bar the 540 get a 68-litre fresh water tank (the 540’s is 58 litres), too.
Sport continues much as last year. It now uses a wholly metallic silver body and colour-coded front bumper/grille, and the smallest 600 finally gets the 25-litre underslung LPG gas tank.
Where the SE range sticks with parallel rear lounges, however, the Sport retains its variety of layouts. The 600 has a large side washroom and a forward lounge facing an additional seat, while the 620 offers a transverse rear double bed and a forward settee. This can be swapped for a half dinette, which adds additional travel seating. The 610 retains last year’s huge U-shaped rear lounge.
Improvements for 2016 include stainless steel side and rear bars that are now fitted as standard. Also making the move from the options list to standard kit is the starter pack, which comprises two deck chairs, a table and a pair of levelling chocks, all of which live neatly in the rear in dedicated storage areas.
Media Pack 2 is a cost option (£999) that’s offered only on the Sport, and brings with it an Avtex drop-down TV/ DVD player, satellite navigation, a colour reversing camera and steering-wheel radio controls. Sport prices are frozen until 18 October this year.
The second big change to Auto-Trail’s line-up is the addition of a new model to the Imala range, launched last year. The 730 is both the longest (at 7.25m) and at £46,995 the most expensive, and in addition to its twin forward settees comes with a longitudinally mounted island double bed in the far rear, which retracts by 30cm in ‘day’ mode.
Interestingly, given that this is a two-berth ’van, buyers will be able to opt for a forward half-dinette in lieu of the standard side settee, which brings with it a pair of rear travel seats. This is, however, only available on the 3650kg chassis (a no-cost upgrade from the standard 3500kg chassis).
Available in both Hi Line and Lo Line body configurations, the 730 also offers exterior access to the under-bed void via an opening hatch in the rear panel. Prices start at £46,995 OTR.
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Other V-Line SE kit worth noting includes standard-fit alloy wheels, a roll-out awning, an underslung spare wheel and a TV aerial. Main services are confined to the offside under-settee void, while the interior is lifted by new ‘Adrianne’ soft furnishings, lift-out carpets, soft-touch walls, and pleated blinds and flyscreens. Woodwork is ‘Aosta’ cherry with curved upper panels and hidden positive catches.
The Sport, meanwhile, gets a new design of kitchen with a denuded two-burner gas hob, plus ‘Duo Gloss’ upper locker doors and new ‘Baldacci’ square chrome cupboard catches.
Imalas get improved LED lighting, the upholstery has a new name (‘Iris’), but it’s otherwise the same as last year. Fridges are upgraded to a 96-litre model with removable freezer box, with provision for a second leisure battery and a roof-mounted 120W solar panel key among the options.
Tracker remains broadly unchanged for 2016 (bar the adoption of a new Status 570 folding TV aerial), but Apache and Frontier get new upholstery schemes (‘Arianne’ and ‘Fern’, respectively) and both Tracker and Apache get provision for a second leisure battery (standard on Frontier, along with 12V thermostatic fresh- and waste-water tank heaters).
The island bed design in both the Frontier Delaware and Comanche has been tweaked for the new season. It’s wider (by 80mm) and the Combi boiler that previously lived in there has been moved to a new location and the void has been equipped with additional storage and drawers, and a large nearside access door.
All Tracker, Apache and Frontier models also now get a roof-mounted solar panel as standard, while opting for Media Pack 3 now brings with it a new fully automatic folding Maxview dish in place of the previous dome.
Practical Motorhome's star 'van – Auto-Trail V-Line 540 SE
This is the Auto-Trail to look out for. It brings with it 90% of the standard Sport’s style and kit, but at a lower price. It’s also the only model within the V-Line range to duck beneath 5.5m in length. You lose the forward storage area, but the settees (and therefore the bed) are still a good size, and you get a proper washroom and kitchen. At well under £44,000, it’s the cheapest model in the range.