Detailed ReviewRIGHT up among the best equipped of caravans, the Sterling Eccles range stands out from its price-sector competitors for its pale styling.
When this distinctive interior colour scheme was introduced last year to celebrate the 90th year since the production of Eccles caravans began, many caravanners expressed resistance to such a radical departure from traditional woodwork.
Sterlings, though, aren’t all the same. They are all gorgeous in terms of looks. But, for one member of the Sterling family, the look is especially stunning. It’s the Elite Searcher. Why is this caravan so different? Partly it’s the layout.
Partly it’s the equipment level – notably the big fridge with separate freezer. And partly it’s the work of the pale ingredient in the upholstery that works with the matching pale cabinets to create an especially light, bright lounge.
Some say the Searcher’s principal function in life is as a couples’ caravan. That’s because it’s a permanent-bed model and most of them seem to be pigeon-holed into that category.
But we think its well worth thinking of this one as a family caravan. It acquits itself well as a four-berth, with oodles of storage, a kitchen that’s very able to cater for four, and a large and luxurious end-washroom. It’s ideal for young-families.
That’s because the lounge settees are great for kids but too short for adults; one is 1.63m long, the other 1.55m. (This area does of course make up into a double bed.)
So, if you’re passionate about modern looks, need a good kitchen, a full-size fridge with separate freezer, a washroom with separate shower, read on, for there is much more about the Searcher that will entice you to give it a place on your shortlist.
Take the stability advantage of twin axles for example (although, at this price we’d have liked to see the ATC stability control system as standard). Our initial test-tow involving some dual carriageway (A1), some winding lanes and some town-centre (Grantham) roads swiftly demonstrated the unstinting predictability of this big, hefty twin.
So, the towing is easy. And when you arrive on site, you’re greeted by another example of top-notch luxury. That’s the Alde central heating system – and its 24-hour programmable control system is a dream.
This system heats the caravan evenly, cocooning you in exactly the sort of hot-water-based central heating luxury you enjoy at home.
You set the timer to make sure the caravan is warm when you return after a day out – and it’s really efficient.
Warm air circulates from behind the settee backs, through a gap between front window sill and furniture, beside the bed via a panel between outside wall and bed, along the corridor leading to the wash room via an aperture in a low windowsill…
We’re in the washroom now, and appreciating one of the biggest plus-points about Alde heating. It gives you a true drying cupboard, with two rails for towels and two shelves above.
At the base of the cupboard is an aperture through which the fins of the radiators that run right round the caravan send up warmth.
More luxury? Stay in the shower room, for there is much to admire. Big rectangular shower with an extension of the shower tray that’s designed as an areas in which you can towel dry.
It’s also perfect if you’re showering young children; there’s plenty of space to help them – and more space in which to dress them.
Storage comes in the form of a three-shelf wall cupboard and a two-shelf cupboard beneath the washbasin. It’s a lovely environment – except for one thing. The window is somewhat small for such a big room. Had it been twice its size, practicalities such as shaving and putting on make-up would have been a lot easier.
But you can’t have it all in every caravan – and the Searcher does give you a lot. Bedroom luxury is right at the top of the tree, with a deep, sprung mattress, four overhead storage lockers (all with positive catches) and a large wardrobe with capacious shoe cupboard beneath. There’s enough space in here for shoes for eight people...
We’ve taken you into the lounge, into the washroom, into the bedroom – and we’ve left the best part of this caravan until the last.
That’s right in the centre – the kitchen. That brushed-steel fronted and gorgeous-looking 175-litre fridge with separate freezer cuts down on the frequency of supermarket visits.
And the two enormous kitchen cupboards ensure food and cooking equipment storage will never be a challenge. Two wire basket shelves plus the cupboard-base on the left. There’s a central cupboard containing a good-sized cutlery tray with two more wire baskets and space beneath.
The kitchen work surface, at first glance, may seem restrictive for four; a large proportion of the space to the right of the big, circular sink is occupied by a plastic drainer when it’s in use.
To the right of the hob (three gas burners and a mains hotplate) is a hinge-down section that doubles your total working surface. Granted, it’s over the bed, so it’s not a food-prep area, but it’s great for popping stuff ready for cooking.
Above this area, which forms the divider between kitchen and bedroom, is a cupboard with tinted plastic door and a television bracket behind it. Sounds neat – but attach a television onto this bracket and then swivel it into the position which enables you to watch from the lounge and you’ll realise that you’ll have to be mighty careful not to bang your head on it as you walk into the bedroom.
And, in a caravan of this price, we’d have much preferred a solid wood room divider rather than a flimsy concertina type.
But, in a model that has so much going for it, a gripe about a divider pales into insignificance beside other features… Like the lighting.
As evening draws in we switch on the over-locker mood lighting, the six lounge spotlights, two more over the kitchen, more in the bedroom, more in the washroom plus a stylish light hidden above the wall cabinet – yes, the Searcher does lighting well, too.
As you’d expect with all this style, there’s high spec to match, including an alarm, AL-KO Secure wheel locks, tracking system and a 40-litre under-floor water tank with automatic fill system.
This caravan excels in so many ways. It’s expensive – but it looks it, and has the spec to match (except the ATC traction control system).
Its washing arrangements are a joy, its bedroom is lovely, kitchen storage space is superb. Anything not to like? Well, yes, there is; the lounge is too short to make single beds and feels a touch dominated by the big fridge and freezer just to the right of the door. But perfection is hard to attain.
And, if this Sterling completes your search for your next caravan (pardon the pun), you’ll be well satisfied on the value, luxury and specification it offers.