Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed

By: Lawrence Schäffler

Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed
Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed
Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed
Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed
Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed

Already one of Auto-Trail’s most popular sellers, the Tracker range’s appeal will surely widen with the introduction of a new island bed option for 2013. The change is complemented by a number of additional upgrades, but the bed’s the master stroke, writes Lawrence Schäffler.

Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed
Auto-trail Tracker Rear Bed

A point of difference the Tracker range has over rival, similar-sized motorhomes is the optional fixed-bed (FB) layout — a north-south, double bed tucked into the rear of the vehicle. The new RB (rear-bed) model presents an alternative fixed-bed layout.

The bed's still at the back of the vehicle, but it's a transverse (east-west) structure that is also 'retractable'. The mattress has a built-in kink and in day-mode forms a short-ish bed with a back rest (perfect for reading). At night the base slides out about 300mm and the mattress slides flat, creating a sizeable bed (1.9m x 1.3m).

This option delivers a couple of advantages: while the bed has the same dimensions as the one in the FB Tracker, it is a full bed. The FB's bed has a trimmed corner to facilitate entry to the adjoining bathroom, a shape that may compromise longer-limbed sleepers.

Better still, as an island model the RB's slide bed offers complete access all the way around, even when it's fully deployed. This is a major benefit for those who need to get up a few times in the night as there's no need to clamber annoyingly over a sleeping partner.

I also prefer the location of the RB's bathroom. It's still an en suite, but it's a little farther removed from the bed, so you won't be forced to monitor your partner's ablutions with quite the same clarity (only a thin bulkhead separates the bed from the toilet/shower in the FB model).

So overall, I think the island bed, its orientation, and layout work better. The FB Tracker has always been one of my favourite motorhomes — I confess my allegiance has shifted to its newer sibling.

Other changes

At first glimpse, the rest of the new RB model is not hugely different from the FB. Externally, the most obvious change is the vehicle's snappy colour scheme. Like all Auto-Trails, the new Tracker RB is built on a Fiat Ducato chassis. The cab is now finished in a fetching metallic carbon-black, with matching graphics on the body.

Fiat's other cosmetic changes include the LED running lights in the front spoiler and, inside, a facelift for the dash. The new dash looks particularly good and, with Auto-Trail's Media Pack, boasts an impressive array of music/communication/navigation electronics.

An excellent upgrade is the new curved skylight above the cab. Its effect is much more noticeable inside than out, but its shape draws your eye to the vehicle's streamlined aerodynamics.

Like the FB, the Tracker RB is available in three versions — the Hi-Line, Lo-Line and Super Lo-line. The Hi-Line gets a second, over-cab double bed — in the Lo-Line and Super Lo-Line, this feature is swapped for additional storage.

What the latter two lose in accommodation though, they gain in improved aerodynamics, driveability, and fuel efficiency. On the other hand, lying in the Hi-Line's over-cab bed under that large skylight must offer superb stargazing opportunities. Choices, choices, choices...

The skylight also provides much more natural light in the RB's lounge area. This area comprises two facing settees, a free-standing fold-up table for meals (it lives in a slim-line locker in the kitchen) and a fold-out occasional table. The settees also deploy into a second double bed, making the Tracker RB a good selection for a couple with children.

Another candidate for my favourite RB upgrade is the pair of Captain's seats in the cab. They're fitted with armrests and are infinitely adjustable (including tilt and height) and it's easy to adapt their contours and orientation to your frame. They swivel through 180 degrees and convert the lounge area into a comfortable spot for six.

I also like the discreet locker below the microwave, purpose-designed for the sink's cutting board. It's a snug fit, and it keeps the board safe, secure and out of the way – and best of all, silent.

But perhaps the most basic yet practical feature is the umbrella built into the motorhome's door — immediately accessible when you have to venture out into the downpour.

On the inside

Conventional, top-notch, Auto-Trail quality here. The solid workmanship has all but eliminated drive rattles and the light, spacious design has been embellished with upmarket fittings and appliances. I like the bathroom's separate walk-in shower cubicle with its curved doors, the large mirror, and the masses of natural light from the overhead skylight.

Immediately opposite is the well-appointed kitchen, and it's received an upgraded 800-watt stainless steel microwave. There's also a four-ring hob (three gas, one electric). The area works well, and boasts masses of storage lockers and drawers, good surface areas, and light. The only concern I have is the size of the fridge: 96 litres. It's fine for a touring couple but those with children might find it a little limiting.

Auto-Trail has also introduced a few more subtle upgrades to complete the package. Consider the switch to magnetic door catches — unlike the previous, more conventional locking models, these won't snag and damage your clothing.

It also has a warm and welcoming interior. LED lighting has been spec'd up with the lounge receiving stylish downlights. The Tracker RB comes with a 7" touch-screen radio/CD/DVD player and a 15" drop-down TV monitor has been fitted to the roof of the cab — perfect for lounge viewing. A second TV can be fitted to the bulkhead at the foot of the island bed easily (antenna and power have been pre-wired).

The Media Pack also includes bluetooth telephone connectivity, a SD card reader, AUX/MP3 input, and a colour/infrared reversing camera.

Drive time

The new Tracker is available with three engine options (130, 150, and 180hp) — all are four-cylinder, turbocharged, intercooled Multijet power plants. Ours, the 150hp model, was fitted with a six-speed Comformatic gearbox and the combo performed well.

The RB weighs 5290kg (some 500kg heavier than the FB and, at 7.6m, about 500mm longer), so I'd opt for the 150hp, rather than the 130hp, or even the 180hp if the budget allows.

Still, the 150hp option is hardly a slouch. Cruising sedately at 100km/h in sixth gear, the engine turns over at a modest 1900rpm. I don't have consumption figures, but the 90-litre fuel tank should give you plenty of range.

In addition to its smooth operation, a major appeal of the engine is its peak torque (320Nm) arriving at 1800rpm. That means maximum torque is instantly available at cruise speed — important for those overtaking manoeuvres when you inevitably find yourself stuck behind a belching behemoth.

There is much to admire in the 2013 Tracker RB — it's a natural fit for couples looking for a vehicle with a few home comforts, without sacrificing space or style. The greatest difficulty prospective buyers might face, I suspect, is whether or not to opt for the Hi-Line with its extra bed — if only to enjoy the heavenly views at night.

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