The Explorer Group introduces two new and unique transverse-bed layouts for 2017. Both have bedrooms at the rear, and separate shower and wash-toilet cubicles forward of the bedroom. Both have twin axles. One arrives in the top-spec range of the brand new Compass lineup; that’s the Camino 660. The other is in Elddis’s long-established flagship range, Crusader.
Traditionally named after the famously powerful storms of the world, Crusader now gets a model whose name means “gentle breeze”. But the Zephyr is surely set to make a powerful impact on caravan choice, for this model brings the twin-axle Crusader line-up a caravan with, effectively, two rooms.
Two factors make the Zephyr’s layout different from the now-vast choice of transverse-bed caravans. First, the bedroom is an entirely self-contained room, feeling much more like a bedroom in a static caravan than in a tourer.
Second, a firm sliding door, rather than a pleated fabric partition, separates the bedroom from the showering and washing arrangements. And another door, this time piano-hinged, closes forward of the whole bed-ensuite arrangement. The Zephyr, thus, is a caravan with two rooms.
And in the living room, a long rectangular roof light has been introduced for 2017; Explorer calls it Stargazer.
So, stunningly designed inside, the Zephyr, along with all Crusaders, is a head-turner outside, too, with Champagne-coloured sides accentuated by while locker borders.
Crusaders have all the spec you’d expect at this price level. Heating is Alde. There’s a 40-litre onboard water tank, an extractor fan, an alarm and tracker system ATC stability control, and, new for 2017, there’s a mains supply load monitor to prevent you from tripping out your pitch’s power supply.
The system automatically switches off the heating while you are using a device such as a hairdryer. Owners will appreciate this feature, especially on campsites where the power is limited to 10amps. And it underlines the Crusaders’ suitability for year-round use when the Alde heating will be on all of the time.
Also, new on the spec list is an LCD panel which monitors battery charge state and the amount of water in the caravan’s tank. That’s especially useful when it’s shower time…
The shower is on the nearside; it’s nicely proportioned at 79cm x 65cm.
The big circular Ecocamel shower head minimises water use by mixing air and water to enhance flow rate. It’s mounted on a beautiful black panel that rises and into the roof, where its surrounded by sparkly bright white LEDs.
More LEDs, this time smaller, illuminate both sides of the mirror in the washbasin-toilet compartment opposite. Three roof -mounted bright white LEDs ensure a sufficient level of lighting here.
A wide wall cabinet and four shelves, plus a cabinet under the washbasin provide enough space for washing paraphernalia and cosmetics. And the heated towel rail is here to make sure at least one towel is nicely warmed when you step out of the shower. There’s also a towel loop.
There are two aspects of the Zephyr’s sleeping department that makes this a unique caravan. One is its seclusion, two doors away from the kitchen and lounge. The other is the amount of floor space around the bed; 36 cm at each side en route to the wardrobes, and 70cm at the foot of the bed.
That’s when it’s in its daytime, retracted position; perfect for feet-up relaxing, shoulders nestling into the high bolster section of the mattress which rises when you push the bed back to this position.
When it’s fully extended for sleeping, the bed is 1.9m long. There are TV points and two USB chargers alongside the corner, two-shelf dressing table cabinet.
So this isn’t just a bedroom, it’s a charming enclave of tranquillity for daytime relaxation. That’s when you’ll be especially impressed by the ambience. Two windows make sure it’s lighter and brighter than most transverse bedrooms. And when the light fades, you’ll notice the strip of bright LEDs running the length of the bedroom semi-concealed by a pelmet.
The eyelet style curtains hang on bold chrome café-style poles. And the light wood that’s an attractive feature of 2017 Crusaders makes the bedroom look even larger than it is.
The wardrobes each provide 33cm of hanging width, plus three drawers.
Under-bed storage is fine, even though the water tank is here, and the bed rises smoothly, with the only finger-tip effort required.
The Zephyr is, of course, a four-berth; a double makes up in the lounge and, importantly, the settees are long enough to be used as beds, so this is a fixed-bed caravan that can be regarded as suitable for a family as well as a couple. And that point is further enhanced by the position of the washing arrangements, accessible from either end of the caravan.
With loads of space under the bed, buyers of this model would probably never need to store stuff under the settees; in case you do, there’s 1.8m length under each settee, and with full-length drop-down hatches.
When you add in the top lockers on each side of the lounge and more over the bed, storage can safely be regarded as more than adequate.
The table stores away within the kitchen cabinet. Pulling out the lower section of the front-central cabinet top creates a level table area of 64cm wide and 76cm long; that’s plenty for most mealtimes.
The Zephyr’s lengthy lounge is among its high points. The 1.8m-long settees have four chunky armrests plus four big cushions. Comfort and space are guaranteed here. So, too, is a huge quantity of daylight, streaming in through the 1.32m-long “Skyscape” roof light set into a matt white surround which has eight spotlights set into it. Very stylish!
There are two USB charging points alongside the mains socket in the lounge; that’s a total of four in the Zephyr when you add in those in the bedroom, too. The mains socket count in this caravan is generous, too; there are seven, with two above the dresser, two in the kitchen, two in the bedroom and one in the lounge.
Elddis has taken care of the practicalities in the Zephyr. But it’s the lovely pale woodwork and the beautiful 2017 fabric scheme that will grab your attention first. The coppery-orange injects a nice warmth to the look, teamed with bits of shimmering white to accentuate the vibrant hues in the cushions, and palest cream for the curtains.
Elddis calls the scheme Sahara; we think it’s one of the most eye-catching and memorable fabric schemes of 2017. And it’s Aquaclean-treated to resist stains.
The kitchen surface is 1.5m long, with the area to the left of the sink measuring. 60 x 68. That’s enough for most cooks, we think, but a hinged extension would have put this kitchen up there among the most spacious.
Storage capacity is brilliant, with a large fridge and separate freezer and a 40cm-wide two shelf main cabinet, three drawers, each 43cm wide plus a small cabinet in the dresser opposite, and four top lockers and a cabinet over the microwave.
The height of the microwave, above the fridge-freezer, will suit the vast majority of statures.
The Zephyr’s twin-axle geometry ensures stable towing characteristics, and AL-KO’s ATC automatic electronic stability control system is in place for added protection against deflection caused, in particular, by the proximity of large vehicles and in windy conditions.
We didn’t get an opportunity to tow the new Zephyr; we were reviewing this model while it was still top-secret, before its public unveiling, so understandably it wasn’t allowed outside the factory gates. We’ve towed twin-axle Crusaders previously, though, and they’ve displayed the sort of sure-footedness that produces comfortable, relaxed towing, perfect, then, for long, cross-continental journeys.
The Elddis Crusader Zephyr is named after a gentle breeze is actually set to create a stir among buyers seeking caravans in its spec and price bracket.