Elddis Affinity 540

By: Bill Savidan

Elddis Affinity 540 Elddis Affinity 540
Elddis Affinity 540 Elddis Affinity 540
Elddis Affinity 540 Elddis Affinity 540
Elddis Affinity 540 Elddis Affinity 540
Elddis Affinity 540 Elddis Affinity 540

Bill Savidan finds the Elddis range of caravans live up to the hype.

Elddis Affinity 540
Elddis Affinity 540

In the highly competitive caravan market of the United Kingdom, cover pages of caravan brochures are like billboards, covered in punch-lines drawing attention to their product’s points of difference; the features the marketers hope will draw you, the buyer, to their product. Like the brochure I am looking at right now — 'revolutionary construction system'; '10-year water ingress warranty'; 'exclusive luxury range'; 'in partnership with world-renowned specialists'; 'exclusive to'; 'the widest choice of layouts in the UK'.

Two-years ago, Mike Irvine and Barry Avery of then Cars and Vans, now the RV Leisure Centre in Nelson, were investigating these points of difference trying to decide which caravan brand to pursue for a New Zealand agency. After 12-months they made a decision, but it took a further year of negotiations before they secured the New Zealand master agency for the caravan of their choice, Elddis UK, which is part of The Explorer Group Ltd.

Since RV Leisure Centre took up the agency, Eldiss caravans have won a number of awards in the United Kingdom and Europe. In October 2012 the Affinity 540 won the Practical Caravan 'Tourer of the Year' award. In the same month the Caravan Talk forum members chose the Elddis Crusader as the Best Family Caravan and the Elddis Xplore as the Best Small Caravan for the past twelve-months. In the Caravan Club Design Awards in Birmingham in October this year, Elddis won two categories with the Affinity 530 and the Avante 462. Also in October at the Utrecht Show in the Netherlands, the Elddis Avante range was voted 'European Tourer of the Year'. These consistent results across the Elddis product range confirmed for Mike and Barry as agents, and the buying public, that Elddis are producing caravans that appeal to UK and European buyers. Will they have the same appeal for New Zealand buyers?

I asked Barry why he and Mike were putting the Elddis range along side their existing caravan agencies, Ci Munro and Southern Star.

"It's a different market," he says. "The Elddis range can be towed by a family car. Our Kiwi brands are bigger and need something gruntier to tow them. The Elddis offers buyers driving a family car the opportunity to go caravanning in a product that has all the comforts of home in an affordable package."

Pointing to the Affinity 540 hitched up to his 2012 Ford Mondeo 2L diesel with a six-speed auto, he says "Take that out for a test and see for yourself."

The white single-axle caravan looked the goods behind the charcoal-black car. The GRP moulded front of the caravan slopes slightly, reducing the amount of sunlight inside on hot summer days. The two-per-side stylishly raked windows and one in the rear add up to less 'glass' in total than most Kiwi caravanners are accustomed to. Even so, the light levels in the interior are fine. Three exterior hatches on the kerbside appealed to me, even after I found out one was exclusively for the house battery. The BBQ (which connected to its own dedicated external LPG point) and outdoor furniture would have easy-access accommodation in the remaining lockers. The 9kg LPG bottle stows in the front locker (there is room for another). As the LPG bottles are not in their own separate, sealed compartment, the entire front locker is vented meaning it is not dust or waterproof. Some Kiwi buyers would want that changed so that items carried 'up front' remained clean and dry. It wouldn't be hard to do but it would be an added cost.

Looking underneath the caravan, I was introduced to some of the point-of-difference features highlighted on the brochure cover. The Affinity 540 sits on a swing Vtec chassis made by BPW that features a chassis axle designed to keep the wheels vertical under load to improve stability when driving. The underside of the floor is skinned with fibreglass to resist water penetration. The cover over the drawbar is strong enough to stand on and tidies up what can become a scruffy-looking part of a caravan. A fast coupling WS3000 Winterhoff Stabiliser hitch connects the caravan to the tow vehicle. This anti-sway hitch uses compression pads that grip the tow-ball to reduce swaying when the vehicles are in motion. The Affinity range also features the BPW Intelligent Drive Control (iDC) system that "works like an electronic stability program (ESP) in your car, detecting and eliminating any critical snaking of your caravan in unfavourable driving conditions." As you would appreciate, I wasn't willing to put this feature to the test, but the BPW website demonstrates its capabilities to the that extent I was reassured it was a benefit.

The 'unique to Elddis' feature incorporated into the Affinity 540 is the new wall-to-floor and wall-to-roof bonding system Elddis have named 'SOLiD'. Over a three-year period working with Henkel Adhesives, Elddis have created and tested this 'keyway joint' bonding system (see www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo3_BfN-8fw). It offers a 63% increase in bonding area compared with a butt join allowing the panels to fuse together like a seamless weld that is capable disseminating stress along the whole join. Elddis claims it is stronger, lighter and dryer than their previous construction method. From now on they are using it in all models of caravan and motorhome. So confident are they that these joins won't leak that in addition to their three-year manufacturers warranty they offer a 'ten-year water ingress warranty' covering the buyer against water leaks through these new glued joins (see www.elddis.co.uk/my-elddis/help-advice/warranty). An impressive claim, indeed.

The interior of the Affinity is warm and welcoming. The combination of timber cabinetry, plush buttoned, sprung upholstery seat cushions and muted fabric colours invite you to sit and spend a quiet moment enjoying your surroundings. The twin settee lounge is a versatile space. It can be a lounge area for reading, TV-watching, quiet conversation or happy hour entertainment; a formal dining space with the large dining table; informal dining using the foldout cabinet table top; a sleeping space by converting the settees into a bed. While the caravan body insulation wards off winter chills the trump card keeping you warm is the Alde programmable gas/electric central heating system. Radiators and ducting to all parts of the caravan, including the bathroom, guarantee total warmth all the time. The Alde heater is dual purpose; it heats the domestic water as well. The floor carpets are loose fitting so they can be stored away during the summer months.

It is a very workable kitchen with plenty of room so that others passing through do not to interfere with the food preparer. As this is basically a two-person caravan, the 112-litre underbench fridge should be sufficient. With a full oven and separate grill along with a microwave all forms of cooking are catered for. The granite effect bench-tops are a nice touch of luxury.

The double bed with inner-sprung mattress offset against the wall looked and felt inviting. I was tempted to catch up on my beauty sleep. Opposite the bed is a large, full-height wardrobe (one of the largest I've seen in a caravan) with double doors and there's more storage under the bed itself. Great if you are touring and your wardrobe has to cater to all seasons. There are lots of overhead lockers for to accommodate personal items.

Saving the best for last, the full-width rear bathroom is a winner. A generous, separate shower with an effective screen; a swivel toilet in the corner with the handbasin alongside; all with sufficient room for use without awkward posturing. Nice extra touches include LED down-lights in the domestic-style bathroom.

But how does it tow behind the Ford Mondeo? It towed as though it was on rails. I drove 30km out to Mapua and back on a mixture of 90kp/h smooth surfaces and windy, undulating country roads and to use that old hackneyed phrasem — "You wouldn't know it was there, mate."

I think it will appeal to New Zealand buyers. Apart from the fact it's lightweight, it is packed with features that appeal to caravanners; more features than I have space to write about... An alarm system, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, high-security external door locks; the list goes on. The Affinity 540 retails for $63,995 on the road inc. GST. Don't forget RV Leisure Centre is a factory-appointed master agent, offering full factory warranty; after-sales service and parts supply.

So if you are in the market for a caravan and want more information give Barry or Mike a ring at RV Leisure Centre on 03 5438284 or visit rvleisurecentre.co.nz They've appointed two New Zealand dealers so far with more to come so keep an eye out.

Many thanks to the Tahuna Beach Holiday Park, Nelson for allowing us to photograph the Affinity 540 in their beautiful campground.

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