Wheel estate: Auto-Sleeper

By: Lawrence Schäffler


Auto-Sleeper Auto-Sleeper
Auto-Sleeper The bathroom is adjacent to the rear bedroom suite Auto-Sleeper
Auto-Sleeper The galley is compact with an extra fold out benchtop Auto-Sleeper
Auto-Sleeper The plush interior is fully carpeted Auto-Sleeper
Auto-Sleeper The bed is fully orthopaedic Auto-Sleeper
Auto-Sleeper The Gloucesters will suit those seeking comfort and quality Auto-Sleeper
Auto-Sleeper Auto-Sleeper
Auto-Sleeper Auto-Sleeper
Auto-Sleeper Auto-Sleeper

In a shift from its home-grown focus, Pukekohe-based RV manufacturer TrailLite has secured the agency for Britain’s Auto-Sleepers range of motorhomes. The vehicles’ reputation for quality is underscored by its RWD Mercedes chassis — complementing the local product perfectly. Lawrence Schäffler reports.

Wheel estate: Auto-Sleeper
One for the RWD enthusiasts

At 7.29m long, the Gloucester sits midway in Auto-Sleepers' Coachbuilt range — flanked by the entry-level 5.94m Stanton and the flagship 7.88m Burford. The fleet also includes the Burton (6.44m) and the Winchcombe (same size as the Gloucester). All are built on the identical Mercedes Sprinter chassis powered by a turbocharged, 163hp, 2.2-litre, four-cylinder engine.

Like TrailLite, Auto-Sleepers has tapped into the fact motorhome owners tend to fall into two camps — those that like (or don't mind) front-wheel drive vehicles, and those that don't. TrailLite's vehicles are geared to the second camp — and Auto-Sleepers' Mercedes specification extends that strategy.

As such, the Gloucester is a marked contrast to the scores of European-built motorhomes using the popular front-wheel drive Fiat Ducato chassis. I like the Ducato and the way it drives, and in particular its stylishly-finished cab. By comparison, the Mercedes' cab is a little bland and utilitarian, but there's no faulting the Gloucester's driveability.

Power is courtesy of Euro V technology — an emissions-friendly, direct injection, turbocharged engine that develops its peak 163 horses at 3800rpm, with a healthy maximum torque (360Nm) available between 1400 and 2400rpm. It's transmitted to the rear wheels through a silky-smooth, six-speed automatic gearbox.

This means the Gloucester (weighing in at 3373kg) cruises along effortlessly and with that wide torque band, there's a healthy reserve for overtaking manoeuvres. The Coachbuilt sculpting delivers a low, nicely-streamlined profile, minimising drag and wind buffeting.

The particularly light power steering emphasises the sense of car-like driving and, with standard Mercedes features such as electronic stability, anti-lock braking, electronic brake force distribution and acceleration skid control, there's a comforting sense of security. A big thumbs up from me.

Auto-Sleeperses enjoy a few modifications once they land, to cater to our freedom-camping mindset. Most British RV owners tend to overnight in motorcamps and, as a result, their vehicles are equipped with modestly-sized water tanks and batteries.

TrailLite upgrades the standard fresh and greywater tanks (91 and 79 litres, respectively) to 140 and 100 litres. Similarly, the standard 105Ah battery is replaced with a heftier 200Ah powerhouse, and the standard 30-watt solar panel makes way for an 80-watt model. Features that remain unchanged include the four-kilowatt Truma Combi heater and a manual satellite dish.

Interior

Gloucesters are designed for four, with sleeping accommodation split between a fixed, double rear bed and a fold-down, double up-front manufactured from the dinette settees. The bathroom's tucked down the rear, next to the bed. Elegantly-styled and fairly spacious, it has a separate shower, a heated towel rail, and an elegant bowl-style basin.

The rear suite's double-bed has a tapered corner to facilitate entry to the bathroom. It's still a generous bed, but it will dictate which side the shorter person sleeps. It's billed as an orthopaedic bed (complete with electronic controls) for adjustments to your specific preferences.

All in all, a comfortable arrangement — ideal for a couple, but easily able to cater to a small family.

It's a plush, fully-carpeted interior with masses of natural light offsetting the lustre of the Amarti timber cabinets and chrome fittings. There's a near-panoramic sense of viewing through the large windows in the lounge and kitchen, supported by light from two large overhead hatches. Just as well they're all fitted with concertina shades — I can see the hatch over the cab might turn driving into a sauna experience on a sunny day.

The kitchen is fairly compact with limited work surfaces, though there is a fold-out countertop next to the sink for when you need extra space preparing your canapés. Both sink and cooker also have glass covers to extend the working area. It's a four-burner hob (one electric, three gas) with oven. Behind you, on the opposite side, is an 88-litre Dometic fridge/freezer and above it, a Daewoo microwave.

A stand-alone table needs to be retrieved from under the rear bed for meals and with the front swivel seats, it will easily cater to dinner parties for six. The table makes al fresco dining an easy option, particularly as you have a four-metre Thule Omnistor awning.

I like the spring-loaded wineglass rack in the locker above the near side settee as it's easy to reach. And in a piece of design dear to my heart, all the lockers are equipped with rubber absorber strips to minimise rattles.

Overall, the Gloucester's an attractive proposition for those seeking comfort and quality at a reasonable price ($165,000) — and particularly for those nervous about front-wheel drive motorhomes. It's well-appointed, elegantly-styled, practical and with its Mercedes chassis, a pleasure to drive.

For more information contact TrailLite at 0800 872 455.

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