Benjamin Davies

See other motorhome reviews written by Benjamin Davies

Get the full story on the Auto-Trail Apache 632 in the expert Practical Motorhome review

Design

The habitation body, with its bulbous roof and squeaky-clean lines, is both distinctive and elegant. If there’s a problem with the Apache’s looks, it’s that Auto-Trail’s recently launched sub-brand, Excel by Auto-Trail, pinches a bit of the spotlight by looking more striking.

Inside, it’s what we’ve come to expect from this company – it wouldn’t be a stretch to call Auto-Trail the Jaguar of the motorhome world, because it offers luxurious, modern design that is distinctively British. The interior colour scheme and the soft furnishings are particularly smart: they offer a very good sense of light and space, and are neither dark and claustrophobic nor light and cheap-looking.

The Apache’s quality is excellent inside and out, and we love some of the clever touches that Auto-Trail incorporates, such as the lipless gas locker, which is set as low as possible in the body, making exchanging gas bottles a painless task.

On the road

Auto-Trail knows a thing or two about managing the balance of its habitation bodies, too, because the Apache 632 proved a capable performer on the road, even when conditions took a turn for the absolute worst, with snow and sleet blanketing the roads of North Yorkshire, where we conducted the test.

Our tester appreciated the friendly handling and the relatively short overhang, which ensure that driving is never too taxing or stressful. Especially useful is the Apache’s reversing camera, with its screen built into the stereo fascia; it’s part of Auto-Trail’s excellent £999 SE pack.

The 130 MultiJet engine is fitted as standard and provides ample shove. We detected no reverse-gear judder in testing, but Auto-Trail does offer an upgrade to the clean reputation of the 160 MultiJet that’s paired with Fiat’s excellent ComfortMatic six-speed gearbox, for the (admittedly steep) premium of £2670.

On the road the Apache is about as clattery as butter, thanks to Auto-Trail’s standard wall-to-wall carpeting, which is fitted before the furnishings are put in, creating an additional layer of sound-deadening material between the furnishings and the body.

Lounging & dining

The lounge comprises two very comfortable, facing settees and a big 95 x 58cm freestanding table.

With the cab seats swivelled it will accommodate up to five people. When not in use the solid table stows in a dedicated locker over the cab area, but because it’s so hefty it’s sure to improve your upper-body strength if used frequently.

Thankfully, the clever folk at Auto-Trail have thought of this and incorporated an additional, smaller table to solve the problem. This round table is mounted in a bracket at the front of the nearside lounge settee, and can be rotated into position so that loungers in both settees can use it for mugs, books and the like. When the lounge is set up for meals, this table provides for diners in the cab seats. When not in use, it can be swung to one side so as not to impede access to the cab, and its sturdy construction means that it can be left in place when you’re travelling.

One thing that’s lacking in the Apache’s lounge is a three-pin power point. Lack of power sockets tends to be a weakness with Auto-Trail ’vans, although the company is by no means alone in being stingy with them. The excuse that campsites can’t provide suitably reliable power supplies is rapidly losing ground to the demands of the modern motorcaravanner, who requires power sockets to charge his or her increasingly numerous electronic gizmos.

Otherwise, the lounge is a smart, cosy place to sit. There’s all-LED lighting, which is efficient and sufficiently bright without being harsh. The dimmer switch for the main lounge lighting is also useful, particularly when you’re watching TV.

Kitchen

The fixed-bed layout always poses a challenge for the poor soul in charge of kitchen design. Fixed beds take up space, as do lounges – particularly longitudinal ones with facing sofas, as in the Apache – and when the two are combined, more often than not designers end up simply squeezing the kitchen in.

To solve this problem, Auto-Trail has put an L-shaped kitchen in the Apache 632. This allows for a large sink and draining board, with covers that create ample amounts of workspace – but are homeless once removed.

One concern, though, is the lack of artificial light around the kitchen area. There is no light immediately outside the washroom, and the area can become quite dark, particularly at night. The Dometic fridge in our test ’van worked fine off gas or electric but didn’t have a working interior light, so after dark you have to rummage around for a while to get to what you’re looking for.

There’s also only a single power socket in the kitchen area; two should really be the minimum supplied.

Storage space in the kitchen has been maximised by positioning the fridge closer to the bed area, beneath the wardrobe – a clever solution that allows for large, deep drawers to complement the overhead lockers. There’s also a full cooker unit, three gas rings and an electric hotplate, as well as separate oven and grill units.

Sleeping

The rear bed area is one of the Apache’s star turns. The bed is unusually low given that it sits over the garage, but the resulting loss of storage space is more than made up for by two things.

First, there’s the ease of access to the bed – no clambering over the side or climbing a cold aluminium ladder here. A headboard and enough headroom for reading is another benefit of this.

Second, there’s the acres of wall space around the bed; or, to be more precise, what they’ve done with it. Lifting a page from the rear U-shaped lounge design textbook, Auto-Trail has incorporated two large windows around the bed, giving occupants a generous view out of the rear and sides of the ’van. When you’re pitched up somewhere with a gorgeous view, nothing beats waking up, drawing aside the curtains and lying in bed with a hot cuppa to take it all in.

You’re quite likely to end up enjoying the view for a while, too, considering how roomy and comfortable the bed is. The shelf over the head of the bed is practical as are the two handy swivelling reading lights, which will also contribute to many mornings spent having a lie-in.

The facing-sofa lounge is particularly well adapted to the requirements of lounge-bed design, and the Apache displays this fact with aplomb. The two sofa bases contain extensions that slide out to meet in the middle, and then a simple rearrangement of cushions is all that’s called for to create an excellent, comfy and almost flat double bed.

Only the lack of two extra belted passenger seats keeps this ’van from being a complete tourer for four. For £743 you can have two half-dinettes installed in place of the sofas (to allow for extra forward-facing belted seats). This is a more attractive possibility for those who also opt for Auto-Trail’s no-cost option of a ‘Hi-Line’ roof with an overcab bed.

Washroom

Another space that often gets compromised in a layout such as this is the washroom, but Auto-Trail has allowed for a good chunk of space for the Apache’s facilities, allowing for separate shower and toilet areas.

Before you notice any of that, though, you’ll see the snazzy LED night-light strip beneath the door, so occupants can find the washroom in the dark. The only downside to this cool feature is that the strip is so bright it can disturb sleepers, because the rear-bed curtain isn’t long enough to block the light – a simple change of curtains will solve this, though.

The carpeted toilet area is bedecked in plywood, giving the washroom a warm and luxurious feel and banishing the sterile white polycarbonate to the shower, where it belongs. The shower stall itself is roomy; it has a proper screen instead of a curtain, which often don’t act as a proper barrier against water.

There is ample knee- and legroom in the toilet, although the unit itself does impede slightly on standing space when you’re using the teardrop-shaped sink. Storage is good thanks to a tambour-doored cabinet overhead and a shelved toiletries cabinet beneath the sink.

The mirror is an ample size, and the the big towel rack is a welcome inclusion – it’s cleverly located on the rear wall, above the heating vent, so towels stay dry and warm.

That vent is a thoughtful addition, but is close enough to the door to work in concert with the vent in the base of the rear bed, creating a sweltering little tropical zone in that area. All of this is nitpicking, however – the Apache offers a highly commendable washroom, which will work perfectly for any touring couple.

Storage

The secret to the Apache’s success here is that the designers have worked out compromises without resorting to tokenism. Yes, the lounge eats into the kitchen, as does the bed into the garage and the fridge into the wardrobe space. However, the kitchen has ample storage, the wardrobe is roomy, with a light and enough space to swallow up a couple’s (and, at a stretch, a family’s) clothing, and the garage is large, which even – with the removal of a front wheel – accommodated a bicycle.

The four lockers in the lounge, one of which is a huge space with two doors, will take heaps of stuff, and there are three more lockers above the rear bed, plus a storage space under the farside lounge sofa.

The shelved external locker, located right next to the hook-up inlet, is ideal for cables, chocks and so forth. However, it would be useful to have a light in the garage for use when it’s accessed from inside.

Technical specs

Sleeps4
Travel seats2
MTPLM3500kg
Payload390kg
Length6.7m21′12″
Width2.26m7′5″
Height2.84m9′4″
Waste water55L

Verdict

The Auto-Trail really does stand with the best the Continent can offer. As a luxury ’van for couples seeking a special experience, there isn’t much on the motorhome market that compares.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Efficient and effective use of LED lighting throughout; panoramic windows in the rear bed area; generous, imaginatively located storage options

Cons

  • Separate oven/grill too small; shortage of three-pin power outlets
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