With showroom appeal in bucketloads, Sterling’s Elite range stands out from the crowd. Inside, the previous cold, grey woodwork has made way for much warmer and possibly more traditional tones, but extensive use of plastic mouldings and up-to-date soft furnishings keep things very appealing. With an MTPLM of 1834kg, this is no lightweight, so you’ll need a hefty car to do the towing.

Dominating the market since their introduction (especially where caravanning couples are concerned), fixed-bed, end-washroom models will be seen on almost every site, and it’s easy to see why. However, they’re not generally brilliant as family vans, as space is often compromised elsewhere to make room for the bed and washroom.

Pitching and setting up

The Searcher is built on an Al-Ko chassis and is fitted with a buttonless handbrake, AKS 3004 stabiliser, ATC stability control, alloy wheels and a spare wheel. A side-lift jack and wheel-locks are supplied as standard too.

The large front locker lid is held up out of the way by a pair of gas struts. Unusually, the gas bottle mountings are fitted to the nearside, leaving a huge amount of storage space. Access to the corner steadies is excellent.

An external gas BBQ point, mains socket and a couple of under bunk/bed storage hatches are on the nearside, with water inlets, an external shower point, and the battery/mains locker on the offside. The two waste water outlets are located on the offside too, just behind the wheels. All the main electrical controls are placed above the entrance door.

Lounge

One of the areas that generally suffers space-wise in this layout is the lounge. The Searcher doesn’t buck that trend, as its seat measurements are identical to the single-axle Amber.

That said, there is an illusion of space, helped no doubt by the huge amount of light let in and the light colours of the furnishings. It’s very comfortable, too. Two connection points give a choice of TV location. One is on the front chest, with the second being in a dedicated unit above the dresser unit.

The slide-out occasional table should be adequate for most couples’ meal times. That’s good, because the main table is stored underneath the fixed-bed at the opposite end of the caravan.

Kitchen

The second area often short on space in this layout is the kitchen. The extra body length of the Searcher is used here, although possibly not to the best advantage. A huge 190-litre fridge/freezer is to the right of the main kitchen. Opposite, the dresser unit offers a little work surface, although at a much lower height.

A fold-up extension at the lounge end of the kitchen unit gives some useful added work surface, as does the fitment of a removable drainer, but space is still lacking.

Equipment-wise, there’s very little missing (if anything), with a dual-fuel hob, separate oven and grill, and a sensible height (1.47m from the floor) microwave. A couple of mains sockets, good storage and an Omnivent complete the picture.

Washroom

The end-washroom puts you in no doubt that this is a top-end van. A bi-fold door gives access to the fully lined shower, which has a very useful hanging rail for wet towels and bathrobes.

The attention to detail continues with things like a pair of roof-mounted radio speakers, so you can listen to your favourite programme (or CD/iPod track) whilst carrying out your ablutions.

Natural light is good, thanks to an opaque window and a mini-Heki, but when it’s dark there are several LED lights together with a back-lit mirror to keep light levels high.

Cupboards and shelves provide storage for all those nick-nacks that find their way into a washroom. A heated towel rail and a small vent provide the heating, but we’re not sure whether it will be sufficient in cooler climes.

Beds

The fixed-bed is undoubtedly the main attraction of this layout, and this example is very comfortable indeed. It measures 1.88m x 1.43m (tapering to 1.06m at the foot), and should give a good night’s sleep.

The bed’s only negative point is that the person sleeping next to the wall will probably disturb their partner if they need to access the washroom at night-time, as they’ll have to climb over them.
Each occupant gets a reading light and a small shelf for cups/glasses. The huge wardrobe does restrict space between it and the bed, though.

The lounge converts to a double bed (2.06m x 1.12m) or a couple of short singles (nearside: 1.56m x 0.71m; offside: 1.55m x 0.71m) which would be suitable for occasional use by children or young teenagers.

Storage

With the number of cupboards, shelves and drawers in this caravan, it would be quite easy to grossly exceed the MTPLM if all were used. The extra body length has allowed Sterling to increase kitchen storage, giving it two large cupboards and a pair of cutlery drawers under the sink, and another pair of cupboards and a drawer in the dresser unit opposite.

There are no less than 13 overhead lockers of varying sizes, and that doesn’t include anything in the washroom. The wardrobe is huge, with lots of hanging space and several shelves. If the above is not adequate, there’s the void under the bed and nearside bunk (the offside bunk is home to the water tank).

Technical specs

Berth4
MiRO1674kg
Payload160kg
MTPLM1834kg
Interior length6.27m
Shipping length7.99m
Width2.31m
Height2.62m
Awning size1065cm

Verdict

This is a great caravan for couples, but perhaps a little restrictive for families. Restrictive in the sense that the lounge is on the small size and if the front beds were needed for youngsters, there’d be nowhere to sit (unless an awning was used). Sadly, manufacturers always seem to put huge fridges in the twin-axle versions of this layout, and the Searcher is no exception. A smaller (and from experience, adequate) fridge unit would allow for much more kitchen work surface, and would also open up that area. However, these are relatively small gripes in what is otherwise a brilliant caravan with excellent attention to detail.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Comfortable fixed bed, high equipment levels, modern appearance

Cons

  • High weight, limited kitchen work surface and lounge space
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