Benjamin DaviesSee other News articles filed in ‘Motorhome’ written by Benjamin Davies
Part of the vast Trigano group of manufacturers, the popular British company Auto-Trail has made some significant changes for 2012, discontinuing an entire range and introducing two new compact ’vans. The company is planning to display 24 of those models at the NEC show, including one with all the factory-fitted optional extras on board.
The biggest news for 2011 is the deletion of the Excel range, Auto-Trail’s four-model range of entry-level coachbuilts that was launched during the economic downturn, in September 2008; Auto-Trail believes that the Excels’ budget price tag didn’t sit well with the reputation for luxury that the company has long enjoyed.
This left a dearth of more-compact vehicles in the Auto-Trail stable; so enter the newly expanded Tracker range. The existing EKS model is now joined by a pair of sister ’vans: the end washroom RS, and the fixed-corner-bed FB. (The new Tracker range costs £46,694-£48,570.)
Elsewhere, Auto-Trail’s model line-up remains the same, although all ’vans (other than the Tracker EKS) for the 2012-season are now based on the 3650kg or heavier Ducato chassis as standard, depending on the model. Replating to 3500kg, if done prior to first registration, will be a no-cost option. The Scout and Delaware, meanwhile – this year both with a price tag of £61,770 – will be built on the new XX LWB Ducato chassis; the AL-KO chassis will now only be used on twin-axle ’vans.
All Auto-Trail models will be Euro 5-compliant for 2012, delivered with the 2.3-litre, 130bhp Multijet II engine and six-speed manual gearbox as standard. The Chieftain, Arapaho and Comanche meanwhile (all at £68,894) come with a 150bhp engine as standard: interestingly, Auto-Trail says that both 130bhp and 150bhp automatic transmission options will be available to order in the first quarter of 2012. In addition to a raft of cosmetic improvements across the board, the specification options list has also been expanded. Winterisation has also been improved: all 2012 models receive Grade III heating classification.
Finally, the company has revamped its branding – the logo introduced three years ago now gets a patriotic red, white and blue colouring.
What you need to know
We’re excited by the arrival of two new Tracker vehicles, which increase the popular range from one to three models. Both are relatively compact, the RS at 6.10m (20’) in length, and the FB at 7.09m (23’3”) long.
Despite its compact dimensions, the two-berth RS gets a good-sized washroom across the rear of the vehicle, including a full shower cubicle. The FB, meanwhile, has a rear fixed corner bed on the nearside, with a spacious washroom alongside. Both vehicles can be specified with a half-dinette to replace the offside sofa, and a roof-line choice.
Potential Auto-Trail buyers who don’t have a B+C1 licence (ie, who didn’t pass their test before January 1, 1997, or who are over the age of 70 and who haven’t passed a medical and renewed their licence) will need to be aware of the fact that all the company’s 2012 vehicles (except the Tracker EKS) will now come based on the 3650kg Ducato chassis – or heavier, depending on the model – as standard. On smaller ’vans this can be replated to 3500kg prior to first registration for free; after this, the buyer will need to pay an administration charge.
Auto-Trail will take a view on whether a specific vehicle can be downplated in future; those with additional passenger-carrying capabilities (ie, with the optional half-dinette) are unlikely to be, due to payload considerations. While the heavier weight does create an improved payload figure, buyers will need to decide whether they should downplate at initial purchase. However, it will be possible to downplate, then revert to the original 3650kg MTPLM in future.
Other changes include the option of specifying the transverse-fixed-bed Apache 632 (£48,570) with a half-dinette for the first time in 2012, as a cost-option. Auto-Trail is rightly proud of the flexibility that it offers in terms of options: once again, you can elect to have that half-dinette, full double-dinette or lounge-dinette in most models, depending on the layout. We recognised Auto-Trail’s super-lo-line roof moulding in our recent Awards (on the Frontier Comanche); it continues to be a no-cost option (along with the hi-line and lo-line) on all models except the Apache 634.
The popular Media Packs have also been improved; the regular Media Pack (£999) now includes European sat-nav and Bluetooth connectivity, while the Media Pack+ (£1799) also adds a satellite TV unit with remote.