25/07/2007
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Motorhome review: the Airstream International 542

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The Airstream, and the ‘international’ interior design theme in particular, is uncompromisingly modern.

Not modern as in a few bits of brushed chrome and a few less flowers on your upholstery but modern in the way “modern art” is modern.

Best to start with the familiar rather than futuristic and there’s nothing more familiar than this basic layout - a two-berth with full width rear washroom, central kitchen and parallel settees up front.

Even more comforting is the knowledge that the caravan is underpinned by the German BPW chassis capped with Winterhoff’s excellent stabiliser, all very common fare on hundreds of UK caravans.

It sports components from Dometic, Whale, Alde, Reich, Heki and Spinflo, all of which are familiar in UK tourers, and its interior makes use of joinery manufactured by Moser of Germany.

And this is chunky stuff often plain in the extreme. And that’s the idea. Simple, bright white work surfaces mesh perfectly with the clear reflections of the exposed aluminium shell of the Airstream.

But then smack! Let’s chuck in some bright orange panels, and whilst at it illuminate them behind the transparent upper locker fronts.

The interior design theme would take many more words to detail here, but buyers in this international trim will spend many hours looking, pondering and evaluating the design detail.

Other than its invincible body shell, where the 532 also shines is its specification, most notably the Dometic vacuum toilet.

They aren’t cheap, but they are incredibly efficient (if a little noisy at 3am). Then you’ll be warmed (as is the water) by Alde’s wet central heating system.

Practical issues are covered by a handy onboard 45-litre fresh water tank, 110-litre Dometic fridge (fine for two) plus extractor fans in both kitchen and bathroom.

Odd, though, that the microwave only makes the options list and there’s no BBQ point on this all-American great outdoor icon.

The rear washroom (vacuum loo aside) is probably the most conventional interior space within the 532.

There’s a nearside shower and loo with offside wardrobe, then a smart stainless steel sink against the rear panel. Even the lime green partition between shower and loo can’t beat the main cabin’s bright orange.

The ribbed aluminium cage gives the body immense strength and structural rigidity. It’s then clothed in sheet alloy to complete the aerospace-style structure.

The market needs it, the industry needs it and so apparently do a select band of customers. So is £34,800 expensive by comparison, and in comparison to what? Viewed as it should be, in total isolation, who can say that it’s not worth the sum of its parts? 

Facts: Airstream International 532
Price: £35,380 (inc delivery)
Berths: 2

•    A full version of this test features in the August 2007 edition of Which Caravan.

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