TRIBUTE TESTING BLOG WEEK 4: The perfect holiday companion?
Wild Camping in the AutoTrail Tribute 670
Thursday, 27, Jul 2017 07:49
by Dan Cartwright
As part of our long term test, we have tested and written about the AutoTrail Tribute 670's practicality, how it performs for short breaks and how it drives.. in this weeks blog I look at the holiday. The long breaks, the big summer holiday trip or even the couple of months getaway of a lifetime that you have always wanted to do. As in the other review, we will compare the tribute to other types of leisure vehicles for those of you who are trying to choose between a big or small van conversion, a van conversion or a coach built motorhome and those comparing between a caravan and a motorhome.
As part of our long term test, we have tested and written about the AutoTrail Tribute 670's practicality, how it performs for short breaks and how it drives.. in this weeks blog I look at the holiday. The long breaicles for those of you who are trying to choose between a big or small van conversion, a van conversion or a coach built motorhome and those comparing between a caravan and a motorhome.
Before comparing the tribute to any other leisure vehicle the biggest factor affecting how it will perform for you on your holiday is understanding how you holiday. If your big trip is indeed a journey, visiting different places and trying different things and having the freedom to go anywhere including being off grid or "wild camping" then you should read more. Tribute could be your perfect companion. On the other hand if your big break is spending two weeks in the same spot on your favourite campsite then there are other leisure vehicles that will suit your holiday better. The Tribute is a touring vehicle and it would be a shame not to utilise these capabilities.
Being a tourer simply means moving around, for example if your two weeks in Cornwall involve travelling the North Cornish coast. Perhaps you like walking, hiking, bird watching, fishing, foraging, surfing, paragliding or sampling different cream teas or local ales from an area. For this type of trip the Tribute 670 is, in my book, a class leader compared to other leisure vehicles. Being so manoeuvrable and easy to drive means you can go to those remote spots or park in little towns and villages very easily especially compared to a big coach built motorhome. Being a motorhome means wherever you go the Tribute is with you, so if you are going to different locations to walk or surf, you still have all the home from home comforts with you compared to caravanning and the Tribute's level of specification, Truma heating, full wet room and big fridge make it much more suited to the longer getaways than the smaller van conversions.
Specification, Luxury and the van conversion.
Many people who like to tour, who like to get out and about when they first enter the leisure vehicle market see the smaller van conversions like the VW T5/6 conversions and think, yes it has a bed, yes it looks a bit like a car, it has cooking facilities - lets go for that one. They often regret this, especially on long holidays, as their small van conversion ends up being little more than a weekend getaway vehicle. With the Tribute, you can have both. Looking purely at the specification and level of accessories of the Tribute it has everything you would expect in a big motorhome or caravan. The newbie or the experienced "outdoorsperson" may think this is all unnecessary for their extreme outlook on life but they are wrong.. this level of specification actually makes it possible to do more, go further, be more remote and be happier in your motorhome for longer.
Let me give you a real life example. I was in the Cantabrian Mountains in north Spain in May a few years ago with a small van conversion and a friend while we did some mountain biking and hiking. The temperature on the coast was 25 degrees but at 2500 meters above sea level (nearly double Ben Nevis) the temperature dropped dramatically at night and changed quickly. The first afternoon the temperature dropped, the rain set in and the mist came so much so that we could barley see, so we started to head back to the van to call it a day. When we arrived at the van we were forced to empty all our kit in the rain just to get room to make the beds, we had to stand outside showering the mud off and trying to make a cup of tea out of the back pull out kitchen with the wind constantly blowing the flame out was impossible, never mind cooking food. In the end I'm ashamed to say we abandoned it. Freezing, we attached the bikes to the rack and headed on a treacherous route down the mountain to warmer climates. Had we been in the Tribute, we would have simply headed back to the van, switched on the heating running through the internal LPG gas store, had a nice warm shower, switched on some mood LED lighting, got our food out of the huge fridge, swivelled the captains chairs and spent the evening and night in total comfort. The point is that the specification of the Tribute isn't a luxury. When you need it to continue your adventure, it's a necessity.
So is the Tribute a giant slayer?
As mentioned earlier, if you look at the specification of what is included, you have most of the specification of the bigger coach built motorhomes only in a more practical and accessible vehicle... But.. the Tribute, whilst being luxury by other standards is still an entry level model from AutoTrail and it is still a van conversion. The large rear bed takes about 30 seconds to turn from lounge into bed but it still isn't a fixed bed. People won't gasp at your decadence as you cruise around town or pull up onsite. What I'm trying to say is, if drive a range rover around town that has never seen a muddy field because you want people to know you have range rover then the Tribute probably won't suit you.
When considering any leisure vehicle you will have to compromise on something, space, access, driving, manoeuvrability, price, quality of finish etc etc... For me the Tribute 670 has three compromises, particularly over bigger and more expensive motorhomes. One - The storage is limited, ample for you and your things for a holiday but not a canoe, surfboard and full rattan furniture set. Two - The access around the habitation area is limited, with a narrow main gangway through from the kitchen to the rear lounge/bed area. Actually this isn't a problem due to the huge sliding side door and rear doors, it just takes a bit of getting used to, and it might be easier to go the outside way if your partner is cooking. Three - The lack of a slide sunshade / side awning. On a nice day with the side door open and the rear doors open the Tribute is amazing, it feels like you have taken your kitchen and lounge outside. My wife and I take an inflatable sofa and one will sit just outside the door while the other cooks looking out over them. When the inevitable shower or strong sunlight comes. there is no protection. AutoTrail don't do a factory specification sun visor for the Tribute, but dealers will supply and fit them and this is something I would strongly consider.
The Tribute is like one of those children in school, the one that's good at everything, the one that's on every sports team, in the top sets and is still a really nice kid, the one thats good at everything except sitting still! I personally have spent 8 nights in the Tribute in different circumstances and places, each time it impresses me with its capability. One huge surprise for me has been its ability to go off grid. The integrated LPG tank is a real strength of the Tribute. Not only is it cheap, easy to fill and light but it has a real fuel level so you know how much you have. Couple this with low energy LED lighting and you can go for days off grid knowing that you will be warm, have cold fresh food and lighting in your motorhome. It's not that I have stopped staying on-site, it is just that sometimes if I just want to pull over (somewhere legal) and change my plans to spend the night where I am, there are little drawbacks to being onsite.