FEATURE: CaravanTimes introduces long term tests with the AutoTrail Tribute

We will be living with, in and around these leisure vehicles for long periods of time, throughout the year.
We will be living with, in and around these leisure vehicles for long periods of time, throughout the year.

Friday, 07, Jul 2017 07:26

by Daniel Cartwright

Here, at CaravanTimes we have reviewed literally thousands of caravans and motorhomes over the years. We have been involved in challenges, events and press junkets and now is the time to take it to the next level with long term reviews.

Our long term reviews are real life reviews, not technical reviews. We will be living with, in and around these leisure vehicles for long periods of time. We will be taking them on long trips, short breaks and doing everything from wild camping to family holidays.

Our aim is not to tell you the inside dimensions of the overhead locker but to give you ideas of how you can use it, to inspire you to use your leisure vehicle more and provide that "my friend has one and says" insight into owning each vehicle.

Each week we will blog on different topics and at the end we will produce a full review based on that leisure vehicle. There's no point talking about how 2-berth fares for the family holiday!

Our first test is the Auto-Trail Tribute 670. The Tribute 670 is a 2-berth van conversion with 4 belted seats, swivel captain seats and a front dinette with a centre kitchen and a big (for a van conversion) centre washroom. The Tribute is a very nice place to be and has all of the luxury features you would expect from Auto-Trail. You can see the full specs here: https://www.auto-trail.co.uk/range/tribute

To kick our reviews off we will talk about practicality - how does the Tribute fare as a vehicle?

In today's leisure vehicle market many people are trying to choose between a caravan and a motorhome, either for first timers who are new to both or for those considering a swap. One big factor in this decision is the practicality of using a motorhome as a vehicle, compared to say a second tow car. It was job one to test the Tribute as a vehicle - not the driving, but the practical side of using it as an everyday vehicle.

For anyone who is a regular reader of my features you might have picked up that I'm an "ardent caravanner". That doesn't mean I don't like motorhomes - because I do. But I have always viewed them as a caravan with an engine. A holiday vehicle that will inevitably spend longer on the drive than on the road... I was wrong. Let me explain how the Tribute has changed me.

Being a van conversion, the Tribute is a total pleasure to drive. Having driven to pick up the Tribute in a Citroen C3 Picasso the swap to the Tribute was instant, it had better more comfy seats, better dash and console, it drove better, turned better and accelerated better - but this isn't a driving review it's a practicality review and it was the practicality that really got me. Having had the Tribute for less than two hours I was still driving home, south on the A15 towards Lincoln, and then suddenly my phone lights up and starts vibrating, I ignore it, less than a minute later the same thing happened again - the office needed to speak to me and it sounded urgent. I saw a lay-by and pulled over. I started calling the office who needed some information from my laptop . My laptop battery was very low, normally this would mean a huge delay in getting the info and making it home as I find somewhere to stop and have to spend money on a coffee whilst I charge my laptop etc. but not the in the Tribute! I simply swivelled my chair, plugged in my laptop and put the kettle on (yes, I had put some water in it). 10 mins later I'm on the road again, with the wife happy that I'll be home on time and the office happy too. That started me thinking.

The next day I was due to test how the Tribute performed driving around town and with tight manoeuvres - what better place to do that than commute to the office 70 miles from Suffolk to Central London in rush hour, park and then go home. As I'm on the A120 I hear on the radio there is a big delay on the M11 and Google estimates a 1 hour delay. Once again I simply pull over in a lay-by, swivel my chair, plug in the laptop, link my phone and call the office - I'm working, not sat, sweltering on the M11.

Over the coming week, I used the Tribute for everything I could and every time I used it, I fell more and more in love, the Tribute isn't just a leisure vehicle it's a practical and luxury vehicle that helps you through life, it's better than a car if you want to use it as a second vehicle. Airport runs with delayed flights are no problem, just take the Tribute and have a coffee or a nap whilst you wait. Trips to the supermarket when your toddler has a melt down half way there are no problem now. One of you stays and does the shopping, the other takes the toddler to the Tribute, gets them a cold drink and puts on Peppa Pig! The practicalities are endless for this as an everyday vehicle.

So it works as a vehicle. A damn good vehicle at that. But not only that, but the versatility changes what you can do and where you WANT to go. I got a phone call from an old friend saying he had some time off and wondered if I fancied going to the British superbikes' free practice on a Friday afternoon and camp overnight so we could have a few beers together. Without the Tribute I would have been camping in the rain drinking warm beer that has sat in a car all day and eating horrible packeted food that doesn't go off. it was a possibility but I probably would have said no. With the Tribute I not only said yes but I was really looking forward to it. I simply went to the supermarket the day before, switched on the fridge, drove it into work, picked my friend up at lunchtime and two hours later we're at BSB with fresh food, cooking facilities and cold beer. When the inevitable rain came we sat in the Tribute watching old races on YouTube! The next morning, after a good night's sleep, a decent wash and a simple breakfast, we're home to our wives, refreshed and ready for the day - not looking and smelling like extras from a zombie movie after a rainy uncomfortable night in a tent!

The Tribute passes our Vehicle Practicality test with flying colours. There are always compromises with any vehicle and the space in the Tribute is limited but that's a different test for a different day. Keep an eye for our next instalment from our new Long Term Tests!

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