Auto Trail Apache 634

By: Lawrence Schäffler


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You don’t have to be a wild-spirited maverick to enjoy Auto Trail’s Apache, though it would probably help. If you’ve got the game, it will test your zest for adventure – and at the end of the day, you can cosset yourself in its plush interior, writes Lawrence Schäffler.

Auto Trail Apache 634
Auto Trail Apache 634

Auto Trail does balance exceedingly well, mixing excellent design and superbly presented vehicles with a healthy dose of sensible, pragmatic user-friendliness. I like to think of them as go-anywhere vehicles that don’t expect you to abandon your standards, which accounts, I guess, for the enormous popularity of the UK manufacturer’s motorhomes.

The 2012 Apache 634 continues this legacy. It’s designed for a couple and other than your imagination and a road map, there’s not much you need to add to the package. It introduces a few minor changes over last year’s model, items like the darker veneer (it looks richer) and the sink’s cutting board is a one-piece unit – last year’s was a two-piece affair. And you can understand Auto Trail’s reticence: the Apache is already a hugely popular model – there’s no need to amend it radically.

Like all Auto Trails, this one’s built on a Fiat Ducato chassis. Not everyone likes the front-wheel drive configuration which is standard with the Ducato but you can’t fault its performance. For my money, the enjoyment of the Apache derives largely from the way it drives – in a word, beautifully.

Standard Apaches come with a 2.3-litre, four-cylinder 130hp engine, with optional upgrades to the 150hp or 180hp variants. Our vehicle was equipped with the latter: a three-litre turbocharged unit that shifts the motorhome (all 3.6 tonnes of it) along effortlessly. The engine meets Euro V emission standards and delivers a whopping 400Nm of torque at 1400rpm.

Traction to the road is delivered via a six-speed Comformatic (auto) gearbox and in sixth gear, at the legal speed limit, the engine burbles along at just over 2000rpm – so it’s also a frugal beast.

Stopping the Apache is equally hassle-free: ABS and disc brakes all round keeps things nicely under control – even under severe braking (I wasn’t concentrating on the route and nearly missed a turn-off!).

Choice of three

There are three models in the Apache range. This one – the 634 (7.09m) – sits between the slightly smaller 632 (6.95m) and slightly bigger 700 (7.46m). That doesn't sound like much of a difference and apart from the interior layout variations, it isn't.

But there is one crucial distinction with the 634 (and it's something of a pity): it isn't available in the Super Lo-Line version. Super Lo-Lines, an option on many Auto Trail models, have a more aerodynamically-sculpted body. They lose the traditional over-cab bed and instead gain a sleeker top profile and a large sun roof. This gives them lower wind-resistance (and better handling and better fuel efficiency). The 634 is only available in the two other variants: the Hi-Line or Lo-Line. The former features the over-cab bed and the traditional bulbous roof, while the slightly trimmer Lo-Line swaps the bed for extra locker space.

Layout

Depending on the model, the Apache 634 can accommodate four adventurers (Hi-Line) or two (Lo-Line). Ours was the latter and I prefer it – call me selfish, but it seems a shame to squeeze too many people into that cosy interior.

Couples will relish the comforts on offer here. It's standard Auto Trail fare: sharp workmanship, great attention to detail, quality fittings and stylish decor.

At the back you'll find a large U-shaped lounge, with long settees that deploy into a large (2.1m x 1.79m) east-west bed. It can also be configured as two (north-south) singles. One of the lounge's best features is the panoramic view, courtesy of large windows on three sides. However, having the lounge at the rear has a slight drawback: while the two seats up front are swivel models they're a little too far from the action to be considered an integrated part of the lounge. There's ample seating on those long settees, though, so you probably wouldn't need them.

My favourite feature of the lounge is the way the 15" TV is stowed: it retracts behind on overhead locker – neat, out of sight, very clean, and easy to deploy when needed.

Meals are served to a free-standing dinette table (when it's not in use it's stowed in a dedicated locker), so it's easily transferred for outdoor dining. Work surfaces in the kitchen are generous and complemented by a stainless steel sink, a 96-litre fridge (with removable freezer compartment) and four-plate hob with a separate grill and oven below.

I like the configuration of the hob. One of the plates is electric and it will shoulder most of the action when you're hooked up to 240-volt AC power. The Apache is also equipped with an external BBQ point and when the weather allows, it will become a popular cooking option.

You won't be cold in the Apache – its insulation is legendary and is supported by double-glazed acrylic windows. The interior is serviced by a large (3kW), Trumatic, gas-fired/electric heater. Its placement, though, might not please everyone: it's directly under the kitchen's work bench. You might find your loins warming in sympathy with the sirloin in the oven.

When it's time spruce yourself up for dinner, you'll enjoy the bathroom. It is very classy, with classic wood panelling and crisp white surfaces. The shower is separated from the swivel Thetford toilet and washbasin by bifold acrylic doors and ducts from the heating system keeps things toasty and dry. I like the LED strip lights alongside the large mirror. As expected, all lights in the Apache are battery-friendly LEDs.

There's no shortage of locker space in the Apache – the designers have utilised every conceivable area. One of most practical is the large, full-width locker at the rear of the motorhome, accessed externally from either side. Golf clubs, surfboards, fold-up bikes… It will swallow the lot.

Media pack

One of my favourite Auto Trail features is the optional entertainment package (media pack) it provides with its vehicles. It comprises a 7" dashboard-mounted touch-screen radio/DVD/MP3 player, with Bluetooth connectivity and a SD card reader. The screen also functions as the reversing camera's colour monitor. You can spend hours integrating your music, photos and movies, although you might need to ask your teenage nephew for help.

I only have one quibble with the Apache: an irritating rattle from an area just behind the passenger seat – and I couldn't identify it. It detracted from the otherwise exemplary quality of the vehicle and, to be fair, I'm sure it's nothing a few bits of strategically-positioned sticky rubber strips wouldn't fix (once it's found).

Overall, though, this is a robust, versatile, stylish motorhome, and if Geronimo, the legendary Apache chief were alive today, I am confident he'd happily swap his wigwam for one – and his squaw would love him all the more for it.

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