Sterling Eccles Sport 636
There’s a crop of family caravans right at the top of their game in terms of length and space. Among the new arrivals in this category for 2013 are the Elddis Crusader Tempest EB, the Lunar Lexon 650 – and the Sterling Eccles Sport 636. All have twin bunks and side dining areas. All three have practical layouts – and all three have their own distinctive character. The Sport 636 is distinguished, at first glance, by the colour of its woodwork – a sort of cappuccino shade that conjures a welcoming, warming look. Real warmth comes in the form of the Truma Combi space and water heating system which pumps warm air into the caravan from four outlets including (importantly) one in the shower room. It’s a big caravan and it took a few minutes to heat up at the start of our test day; once toasty, it stayed that way. Families will love the versatility of this layout. The settees are single-bed length and the offside dining area is wide enough for four to sit (providing they’re small). And if there are four, rather than six, in the family, you can keep the side dining area in daytime mode all the time (it can be converted into two bunks).
With all this sleeping accommodation and seating, you could perhaps forgive the 636 for a compromised shower room; you might expect a squashed affair in a corner. Well, you’d be right in that it’s in a corner (the offside) – but it’s not as squashed as you’d imagine. The shower has its own space. And the toilet-washbasin area is plenty large enough for ablutions and for a parent to towel dry and dress small caravanners. But there’s a shortcoming. The little room has only one towel loop – for six towels? More towel hooks/loops could easily have been attached to the door; they would have made minimal impact on the weight of the 636 but would have made a great impact on the practicality of the showering arrangements. Something to ask your retailer to supply if this caravan is otherwise ideal for your family.
Children will love the cosy bunk area; each bunk has its own light, in a recess which also provides a small shelf for phones and books. Two more can make up bunks in the dining area; the top bunk folds upwards from the wall. The lower bunk is 59cm wide and the width of the top one is 72cm. Slats roll out from under two drawers at the centre-front to create a lounge double bed as an alternative to two full-length singles. This is just about as good as it gets in terms of family sleeping accommodation.
Storage, too, came in for praise during our test. In particular, we love the lower bunk storage opportunities. You can get into the locker under the bunk by hinging down a door in its base – or by opening an exterior hatch. And you can lift the bunk base up; it secures with webbing straps, so that you can use the whole area for storing large items. And, because the 636 rides on two axles, nose weight and loading is much less critical than with a single axle caravan, so you can put an awning in here (providing it’s not grossly heavy) without upsetting stability. Wardrobe accommodation is well up to the task for six. There’s a full height wardrobe between the bunks and the shower room, with two small shelves inside and a shelf beneath which is ideal for footwear. A second, half-length wardrobe sits forward of the shower room, with the fridge beneath it. Seven top lockers will gobble up the t-shirt-type stuff – and the two nearest to the front of the caravan are larger than they look, extending right to the front of the caravan. Full-length drop-down doors give good access to the spaces under the settees. You get into the storage area under the side dining seating by lifting the tops.
The freestanding table stores in its own cabinet alongside the fridge. It’s a substantial structure, plenty large enough for four place settings. So, four can dine in the lounge and four more in the side area. Or, of course, for snacks and coffee-time, the top of the chest of drawers extends to form a table for two.
The adults will surely claim those stretch-out settees at the front. But there’s still plenty of space for the kids – they can make the dining area their playroom. Importantly, there’s a power point near this area. It’s set into a sort of mini dresser that divides the dining area from the lounge. The television aerial connection point is here, together with a 12-volt power socket. A TV placed here could be faced towards either the dining area or the lounge. For our money, though, we’d have liked a second TV point in the lounge, so that families would have the option of putting the TV on the front cabinet; here, it could be watched from both the lounge and the dining table. Comfort is superb. The seat bases and backs are quite firm and supportive – and, when it comes to kick-back relaxing, you discover that the Sport has a cleverlydesigned feature. It’s the shape of the armrests. They’re wedgeshaped, with a top section that you can remove (it’s attached by two strips of Velcro), though quite why you’d want to take these sections off is lost on us. The shape of these firm armrests, at an angle that just fits into your back, makes feet-up, or corner-snuggling-relaxing, a very pleasant feature of the Sport 636. Fabrics, too, play their part in the appeal of this caravan. OK, it’s all about fawns and creams – and we often hear it said among caravan purchasers that there is too much of these shades in caravans. But this time, it’s different. Hessian-look seat bases look practical and plain. The interest is in the backrests, armrests and cushions, which are swirly pale creams on a coffee-coloured base. The curtains are the colour of milk chocolate and the tie-backs match dark chocolate. Remembering our comment about the cappuccino shade of the woodwork, Sport décor, therefore has a coffee-andhot- chocolate appeal.
In a caravan designed for six, it’s the kitchen that’s crucial to practicality – and family harmony. The 636’s culinary department measures up superbly, with a surface that’s around a metre long and three cavernous cabinets plus a fourth in the small dresser just forward of the dining area. Three top lockers are deep and wide (although shelves in one of them would have improved flexibility). Three drawers complete the storage suite. There’s a mains hotplate plus three burners (and grill and oven, of course). The microwave is set amid the top lockers; some will say that its position is too high for all except tall caravanners. That apart, making meals for six would be easy here. This is one caravan in which you wouldn’t struggle to prepare good food when rain stops barbecue play.
So, lounging, making meals, storing stuff and bedtime flexibility are all pretty much up there with the best in the 636. That’s fine once you’ve arrived – but the driver ought to be considered, just as much as the rest of the family, when you’re choosing a caravan. The 636’s test tow proved (if proof were needed) that this caravan has first-rate road characteristics, thanks to the enhanced stability factor of those two axles. Cornering is more accurately predictable with a twin than with a single axle – so the whole towing experience is easy; as pleasurable a part of the holiday as it gets. And you have the added assurance that the ATC stability system will detect, and then electronically correct, the first signs of snaking before it has chance to develop and cause a potential problem. There’s a saying about if the kids are happy the parents are happy too – well, if the parent who does the towing arrives at a holiday destination having had an easy-drive journey, the chances are the kids will happily escape the frayed tempers that a long journey can produce. The Sport 636, thus, is a caravan to go for if you want the journeys to be enjoyable as well as the liveability.