Making a V-Line!
Auto Trail dares to be different with its V-Line 600…
By Malcolm Street
Generally speaking large van conversions take a predictable route with the layouts used. There are some good reasons for that, the prime one being a finite space that means only a few layouts are practical and customers like.
Every now and again, though, one comes along that is right outside the box and definitely attention getting: A case in point being British manufacturer Auto Trail's V-Line 600. I first saw it at the NZ Hamilton show in March this year. Freedom RV's Neil Whithear was extremely keen to show it to me and it did not take long to understand his enthusiasm
For a start, it's very sporty looking. I consider the Fiat Ducato on which this motorhome is based to be the sports car of the motorhome world and so it is quite impressive just to look at this conversion. What Auto Trail has done is raise the roof by cutting off the original Ducato roof and fitting its own moulding. Apart from improving the interior height, one of the side benefits has been the fully recessed awning, which looks a whole lot better than the usual add-on item on many vans. Also interesting are the windows, which take the "flush fitting" concept to a whole new level because the panels of the windows, both real and pseudo, run the length of the motorhome. It's a good look and quite a clever design as the window apertures are actually smaller than the window “panes”. Low profile tyres aren’t a usual motorhome characteristic, but they’re what AutoTrail has used, all in the name of adding to the V-line 600’s ‘look’.
On The Road
Given what else I have seen out of the British motorhome industry I sort of understand why AutoTrail has used the Ducato Multijet 150, the 2.3-litre mid-powered turbo-diesel. But given the image this motorhome projects it would seem more fitting to have the 3.0 litre 132 kW/400 Nm engine as standard, which is certainly an option. Having said that, the AutoTrail certainly moves along smartly enough, with the 2.3-litre engine bolted to the optional 6-speed AMT gearbox. I guess a true sports car would have a manual gearbox, but I am aware most of our readers prefer the more relaxing style of automated gears.
As noted above, the layout in this van conversion is a little different to the usual. It comes with a front dining/lounge/bed area, a mid (mostly offside) kitchen, a nearside rear corner bathroom and a large cupboard area opposite.
Setting the general tone of the interior is the black leather upholstery, along with the skyview hatch at the front and concealed LED lighting. In some ways the rear area looks a bit cramped, but it's actually very cleverly designed. One of the benefits of the new roofline is that there is plenty of overhead locker space. And like any good design, most of the electrical controls are located above the sliding side entry door.
Opening the rear barn doors reveals a few surprises. Sometimes doors have pockets inside (as this does), but in addition the nearside rear door has been fitted with a storage cover for two folding camp chairs, whilst the other door, a little more conventionally, has a shoe holder covering the window area.
Next, the rear wall of the toilet/shower cubicle isn't just a rear wall. It's designed to hold the table above (tripod style leg in the corner) and battery box below. Under the floor walkway is a semi-concealed drawer that could be used for small valuables. Filling the space between the cabinet and the rear door is a floor level gas cylinder bin. Whether that arrangement is legal in Australia, should the V-Line 600 ever get there, might depend on which State its compliance is done in, but I digress. Above the gas cylinder bin is a drainage tray, which might sound a bit odd but it's been designed to take a pair of wet shoes and a couple of wet jackets hanging above. In rainy Britain, and to a less extent NZ, it makes a considerable amount of sense. Finally, under the hanging area is a small slot designed to accommodate two levelling chocks.
In short, this entire area has been designed to fit a number of items that otherwise might be floating around the motorhome somewhere. In a van conversion where external bin space is usually limited, it's a winning idea!
Stepping into the van itself, the shower/toilet cubicle door can be used to close off the rear area, thus giving both privacy and an extended (dry) area for the bathroom. That same area contains a fixed-head shower, moulded-in wash basin and a Thetford cassette toilet, along with a few racks for bathroom essentials. Facing the bathroom, the cabinet area opposite is fitted with an exceptional amount of cupboard and drawer space.
Moving forward in the motorhome brings us to the kitchen. One of its more interesting features is that it doesn’t look like a kitchen and, like several other features in the V-Line 600, is done a little differently.
The flush lids above the sink and hob on the nearside look like part of the bench top and match neatly in with the bench top on the opposite side. Also, the area under the cooktop, where you might ordinarily find a grill/oven, is occupied by a drawer style Isotherm 65-litre fridge. This drawer style unit might sound a bit odd, but in the confines of a van conversion it's actually much easier to use. About its only downside is its relatively small capacity. Taking up the rest of the under-bench area is cupboard space and wire basket slide-out pantry.
On the opposite side of the motorhome the smaller section of the kitchen bench is where the grill and oven can be found. I have to say that like the rest of this motorhome the kitchen is a slightly different design to the norm, but there certainly isn't anything unworkable about it.
Up front the lounge/dining area has to be one of the largest I have seen in a van conversion this size. Both lounge seats mesh in well with the swivelled cab seats and there is certainly room to stretch out. An upside down lap-top-style TV, mounted on the ceiling above the cab seats, ensures it can be seen from both lounge seats and yet remains unobtrusive and head-banging free when not being watched. A centrally located pole hole ensures the table can be used from the seats on either side.
If there is a disadvantage with this layout it’s the fact the bed has to be made up every night and there is an obvious restriction on length, given the van’s width. So your choice is either a double bed at 1.85 m x 1.33 m (6 ft 1 in x 4 ft 4 in) or 2 singles, made up the other way and incorporating the swivelled cab seats. You have to be a little creative here!
What I think
Although this layout might not be for everyone – there are more ‘standard’ alternatives available – it’s hard not to be impressed by the Auto Trail V-Line 600’s design. In addition to the height raising roof, it incorporates a number of space saving and convenience items that are typical of many a Euro design. In a van conversion, given the space constraints, these become very important. It's also certainly a very sophisticated design, with features like the recessed awning, extensive LED lighting and ducted heating – all of which adds up to a very classy package indeed.
- Stunning looking van conversion
- Different style windows
- Excellent interior storage
- Recessed awning
- Effective use of interior space
- Hinged kitchen bench tops
- "Wet" drainage in rear
- Bed has to be made up each night
- Bed length
- No external storage