Gentleman Jack

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The new Shire Phoenix XLR Twin is an extra-long Ducato-based high-top campervan from an award-winning Yorkshire converter – here's why our expert loves it!

Overview

Despite being a relative newcomer, West Yorkshire-based Shire Conversions is already a prolific award-winner. In its 2016 brochure and on-line, Shire proprietor Darryl Healey has provided valuable insights into the company ethos. It’s all within a framework it calls ‘iDesign’, which encompasses design, manufacturing and customer choice.

For me, though, and with a nod to 1980s pop poppets Bananarama, ‘It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it... and that’s what gets results’.

Design

Many rear-lounge conversions opt to put the washroom behind the driver although this frequently prevents the person behind the wheel from pushing the seat very far rearwards. The Shire Phoenix XLR Twin favours a different washroom location: across the aisle.

The XL body allows the washroom to be placed further back so it doesn’t block very much of the side door’s aperture. While we were evaluating the high-top conversion, it became crystal clear just how inspired this design decision was.

On the road

At the pointy end was the last of the Fiat Ducato's Euro 5+ engines, with 150bhp over 2.3-litres capacity and a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s good – so good, in fact, that it will be carried over to Euro 6 with minimal changes.

There is a reason why the Ducato (and its Boxer and Relay siblings) have achieved such a high level of market penetration in the panel-van conversion market. It isn’t just because they’re cheap – as is frequently argued, because they aren’t particularly. The real reason is that these vans are so suitable.

Although the view through the rear windows was adequate, I wished that a rear-vision camera and monitor had been ticked on the options list. My view is that such devices are worth every penny they add to the price tag.

Lounging & dining

Rear-lounge motorhomes have either parallel or U-shaped seating. Shire has put a lot of thought into providing bench seats that can be either. The twin settees are ideal for when you fling the rear doors wide to enjoy the view and to be at one with nature. The wrap-around seating arrangement is well-suited to cosy, socially inclusive lounging.

Two other examples of clever design were corner shelves for putting down a drink when the dining table isn’t deployed, and storage for the table in the side door.

The forward lounge is not only a pleasant place to relax but, because of the sliding worktop extension, it will be great for laptop tapping, tableting or gaming, both electronic and board.

Kitchen

Next is the offside kitchen. However, we start our examination of it with the washroom just behind the passenger seat. Shire has come up with another winner by moving the washroom door from the central aisle to the forward- facing wall. It is such a simple thing to do, but the benefits are huge. Shire chefs can create without being interrupted by the opening and closing of the washroom door.

Among the storage options are plenty of deep drawers; you can’t have too many, because they allow you to retrieve items easily and stocktake at a glance. The microwave is sensibly and safely positioned just above the half-height fridge. Taken overall, this is one of the best linear galleys I’ve seen in a ’van this size.

Sleeping

It is quite common to offer a choice of two singles or an all-over double bed, but once again Shire has gone just that bit further by including the option of making a transverse double of standard domestic size, leaving some seating.

If you choose to make up two longitudinal single beds, they will measure 1.88m x 0.66m (6'2" x 2'2"). If you prefer to sleep on a longitudinal/transverse double bed it's 1.88m x 1.85m (6'2" x 6'1"). Alternatively you can make up a transverse double bed measuring 1.85m x 1.22m (6'1" x 4').

Washroom

Inside the washroom, you’ll find all the usual kit (Thetford C403 toilet, tip-up basin, shower, vanity unit, rooflight for ventilation) plus a reasonable amount of floor area. My photograph suggests that there is a noticeable colour difference between the loo and the rest. It didn’t register contemporaneously so it may have been exaggerated by the camera’s flash.

Storage

If any prospective purchasers think there is insufficient storage, they may want to consider whether motorcaravanning is for them. There are oodles of it... no question.

It is worth reiterating that the choice of finishes to the locker and cupboard doors is yours. Some opt for a unified décor, others to have a different finish in the kitchen.

Equipment

Standard equipment level on the residential side is high but if you start ticking popular items on the options list, such as cruise control, cab air-con, rear-view camera, alloys and an awning, the items quickly bump up the price.

Equipment includes: a Truma 4e Combi water and space heater, swivel cab seats, two x 110 Amp leisure batteries, full LED lighting, 25-litre Autogas tank, 100-litre insulated fresh water tank, 60-litre insulated waste tank, 12v socket, seven 240V power sockets, an 88-litre Dometic Fridge (3-way), a three-burner hob, a 36-litre oven/grill, microwave oven, refreshments cooler, a waste bin, fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, removable carpets, and acoustic-thermal insulation.

Technical specs

LayoutVan conversion, rear lounge
Sleeps2
Travel seats2
MTPLM3500kg
Payload550kg
Length6.36m20′10″
Width2.05m6′9″
Height2.62m8′7″
Engine (capacity)2300
Engine (power)150
Fresh/waste water100L / 60L
Leisure battery110 Ah
Secondary leisure battery110 Ah
Gas tank size25kg
Number of gas tank compartments1
External Options
Aluminium sidewalls
Kitchen Equipment
Thetford Fridge, 3-burner gas hob, Combined Oven/Grill, Microwave
Heating
Truma Electric/Gas Blown air heater, Truma Electric/Gas water heater
Security
Immobiliser

Verdict

This layout was rethought and reworked with insight and skill. It lets you choose what you want, rather than having to put up with what a focus group thinks you want. And that is a real bonus.

We've given the 2016 Shire Phoenix XLR Twin a four-star rating.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Washroom door opens away from the kitchen
  • Flexible choice of bed shapes and sizes
  • Flexible parallel sofas or U-lounge
  • Plenty of storage

Cons

  • Reversing camera is a cost-option
  • All the desirable extra goodies add up
  • Only two beds
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