Detailed ReviewTWO lounges, a bunk rising from the rear wall over a double making from a dining area – it’s a pattern repeated many times, and one that has been around for a long time.
That’s because this five-berth configuration works terrifically well, not only for families but for couples, too. Why? Two lounges – and therefore also two sleeping areas – give you versatility. You can leave the rear area made up as a bedroom for three and there’s plenty of daytime space at the front.
Caravans of this layout may be numerous, but the new Coachman Amara 550/5 version has a number of specific features which set it apart from the pack.
Its front settees are full adult-single-bed length. The base of the double bed in this area draws out laterally from under the offside settee and comes across the caravan to meet the other. It’s smoothly engineered and easy to operate.
This aluminium-frame bed construction is a feature Coachman introduced throughout its ranges for 2011.
You gain access to these lockers through the top; the seat bases are supported by gas-filled struts. On test we found that getting stuff in and out of these storage areas seems far easier than through the more often-found drop-downfront doors.
Both dining tables are freestanding (as distinct from the rear one clipping to the wall) and both seat four. You can use one of the tables in your awning.
You can keep the lounge as a lounge and eat in the rear area. You can keep the rear table up for the kids to play on and turn the lounge into a dining room. Lots of options…
Coachman caravans have very solidly-built cabinetry. On this model, big, chunky hinges secure top locker doors; they’re so strong that there’s no need for a catch at the base to ensure they stay closed on tow.
There is, though, just one little furniture feature that’s not as solid as the rest of this Coachman, the television table in the rear family area hinges down to rest on two plastic supports which don’t seem to match the quality and solidity elsewhere in this caravan.
We’re sure Coachman designers must have done their average television weight sums but we’re equally sure that it’s likely someone at some time would lean on it, accidentally, and apply more weight than those plastic stays are designed for.
While we’re on the wish-list trail, at this price, we’d have liked to see a solid sliding door to the kids’ area.
Our third item on the list of issues is the rear bedding locker design. While the front lockers, with their lateral-slide bed construction, are refined in design, their ease of operation isn’t matched in the rear bedding lockers.
Like the front ones, you get in from the top. Then you slide the slatted bases backwards – but they’re stiff. And we found it’s necessary to remove the settee bases to extract or stow sleeping bags easily.
But the well-known Coachman mixture of refined and robust features is evident elsewhere – in the (offside central) wash compartment the semi-circular shower door glides on runners that are exceptionally smooth. It’s the little things like this that help add up to a well-designed caravan.
It’s slightly heavier and more expensive than many single-axle tourers of this classic five-berth, twin-lounge layout.
But the Amara 550/5 has more finesse than most and its furniture impressed us with its quality of construction in every area (except that very minor TV bracket!). Amaras may be the lowest-priced of Coachman’s four ranges but they’re refined and solid.
In many cases that solidity is hidden from view. Take for example the tough Finnish spruce wood that’s used for the timber fails inside the floor, and the roof that’s double laminated and strong enough to stand on.
It all adds up to strength and rigidity – and that’s what Coachman caravans are all about.