Detailed ReviewTHE caravan press has been banging on for years about how the industry has always seemed obsessed with change for change’s sake every year, and how the next raft of whizz-bang changes can serve only to make the models you bought last year instantly outdated, with suitably dire implications for their residual values.
Bailey was arguably the first company to break with this frankly rather tedious tradition when it decided, a few years back, that it would update its models only as and when it felt updates were needed.
The likes of Fleetwood and Coachman have followed suit, and now, following its comprehensive re-design of the entry level Dart range in 2007, Avondale has chosen to keep things quiet for 2008.
Fundamentally, however, Argente was, and is, a good, solid range of caravans.
And this, the 650-6 is, in many ways, the cream of the crop. Granted, you’ll need a towcar with quite a bit of poke and an awful lot of heft behind it to cope with its 1451kg MRO and whopping 1700kg MTPLM (only Land-Ranger is heavier), and the twin-axle chassis makes manoeuvring the thing by hand completely out of the question.
But check out that layout: is there a more family-friendly caravan floorplan than having two huge parallel lounges at either end, with all that space in between to guarantee privacy?
With this tried and tested (and, rather surprisingly, increasingly rare) layout, Mum, Dad and four offspring can bed down each night – entirely separately, if they prefer – with next to no effort, and with no compromise made to the daytime set-up.
This is something that families currently obsessed with island bed layouts seem to forget. Mum and Dad might be able to sleep on a bed just like the one at home with this layout, but what happens when the little ones want to disappear off to their (front) beds, and Ma and Pa haven’t finished their G&Ts?
Either the kids get the big bed out back, or the parents end up retiring very early every night.
The rear bunks
In the 650, though, they can disappear off into their distant playroom-cum-bedroom, pull the concertina door across and repair to their respective bunks, the erection of which is the simple pull-and-fold-out work of a matter of seconds.
Failing that, they can sneak in one final peek at the TV (or one final go on the PS3) thanks to the thoughtful provision of a mains socket and somewhere in which to plug a standard aerial lead.
There’s a central chest of drawers, just like the one up front, in which to stow all those books, magazines, CDs, DVDs and video games, too. It’s very well thought out in there, in fact.
Up front, Mum and Dad get a similarly pleasant place in which to relax, and while the predominant colour of the launch models’ New Tobago upholstery – a sort of warm oatmeal – might not be to all tastes, there is a thoroughly restful Stilo alternative available as an option, which is more of a light fern green.
The kitchen is another area in which the 650’s extra length has been put to good use, with ample worktop space even with the sink cover raised, while ample roof locker provision means the locker you lose to the standard-fit microwave oven isn’t really missed.
Such a pity the folding table still lives in a vertical void whose opening slot makes your average letterbox look like a gaping maw. Those with anything less than agile, little hands need not apply.
If you’re looking for cutting-edge interior design, lantern-jawed exterior design and innovation by the bucket-load, then you should probably look elsewhere.
If, on the other hand, your priorities include such factors as resilience to the attentions of boisterous families, a layout that keeps everyone happy by day and by night and a washroom that’s a cut above the usual family caravan fare of all-in-one shoeboxes, then the big Argente hits the spot.
MIRO: 1451kg (28.6cwt)
Payload: 249kg (4.9cwt)
MTPLM: 1700kg (33.5cwt)
• A full version of this review appeared in the December 2007 issue of Which Caravan. To order a road test reprint contact Tina Beaumont on 01778 391187.
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