Alastair Clements
Group editor

See other caravan reviews written by Alastair Clements

Be wowed by the spacious, flexible and family-friendly 2017 Elddis Avanté 866, a twin-axle caravan that's good to tow and weighs less than you might think

Overview

Luxury means different things to different people. For some, it means a fixed bed – or these days, more likely an ‘island’ bed – while for others it might mean a top-notch specification. For families, it means space ... space so that you aren’t tripping over each other; space so that you can banish the kids to the other end of the caravan when they are playing up; space to be flexible, and accommodate the occasional guest when the children make new friends.

And space is where the new Elddis Avanté 866 excels. It’s one of two additions to the 2017 Avanté range to feature an 8ft-wide bodyshell – an innovation introduced by parent company Explorer Group two years ago in its flagship Buccaneer brand. To accommodate the extra width, there’s an all-new, slightly blunt front panel, with a wide silver-grey locker door that meets the new chrome grabhandles at its corners. Even the large panoramic front window looks slightly lost in that wide prow, but the smart new graphics and raked side windows give a modern look to this twin-axle caravan. And to see other Elddis caravans for sale, click here.

Pitching and setting up

Despite its gargantuan dimensions, with the right tow car the 2017 Elddis Avanté 866 is not an intimidating caravan to tow. Its Al-Ko chassis is equipped with ATC, shock absorbers and an AKS stabiliser, and at 1738kg fully laden (with an option to upgrade to 1800kg, boosting the payload to 241kg) it’s not as heavy as you might expect – in fact, it’s lighter than most of its twin-axle rivals. That’s testament to careful weight-saving and Explorer’s SoLiD (Strong Light Dry) bonded construction method.

With that in mind, we can forgive it the standard lightweight steadies, which are all easy to access, and it’s good to see that the services are all on the offside, bar the fridge vents.

Lounge

Plenty of glazing at the front, side and in the roof of the lounge means that the Avanté feels spacious and light as soon as you step aboard through the glazed stable door – and that sense is certainly aided by the new wallboard and pale ‘Linden’ soft furnishings with smart tartan scatter cushions. At first, the pale upholstery might appear a touch impractical, bearing in mind that this van is aimed at families, but Elddis has equipped it with Aquaclean fabric – so the inevitable spillages should sponge clean with water.

High-level perimeter lighting should keep things bright at night, when the whole family can gather on the huge sofas. There are bolsters up front to help you recline, though the main seatbacks do feel a little shallow. If you’ve still not enough room, you can replace the central chest with wraparound seating for £210 (and you keep the chest, in case you change your mind later!).

But of course there isn’t just one lounging area in this caravan. There’s a central dinette (which we’ll come back to shortly), then at the rear of the 866 you’ll find the kids’ zone; behind a fabric screen there are the fixed bunks and, alongside, a small two/three-seater dinette – just the place for a game of cards or a sulk, out of the way of mum and dad!

There’s a second TV point (to join the one in the lounge) and a socket back here, too, and it’s easy to imagine the children using the large, rather blank expanse of wall alongside for posters and pin-boards.

Kitchen

It’s often said that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and with the 2017-season Avanté 866, Elddis has ensured that it’s the heart of your home-from-home, too. Straddling the aisle in the centre of the van is a true ‘kitchen-diner’ consisting of a very well-equipped galley and a fabulous family dinette, with a sturdy, Continental-style fixed table with a telescopic base. It’ll seat four or five at a push around its U-shaped seating and it’s easy to imagine the whole family gathering here for a sociable breakfast.

The kitchen opposite has a new splashback design and plenty of task lighting. To the left there is a conventional fridge/freezer with a microwave sited at a sensible level above – and a locker above that, plus three more in the main kitchen area. Beneath the long worktop you’ll find two cupboards and a couple of drawers, and if you need further food-preparation space there’s a solid cover for the large sink and an extension flap. There’s a dual-fuel hob, plus a separate oven and grill.

Washroom

A corner washroom you say? Well, it must be tiny, right? The entrance is narrow, but once inside it’s surprisingly large – incredibly so, bearing in mind it’s joined by a dinette and a set of bunks across the back of the van.

There’s a proper, fully lined shower, a pair of small cabinets and shelf space, too, although the room could be lighter – at night there are just two spotlights, and during the day only a rooflight; a window would have been a boon here, because it would break up a large block of exterior wall.

New to the Elddis Avanté for 2017 is a smart bowl sink with pop-up plug – so no more searching for the missing plug after a particularly bumpy tow.

Beds

Amazingly, there is not a bed inside this tourer that measures less than 6ft. Use the sofas as singles and they are 6ft by a generous 2ft 4in, but make it up into a double – by pulling out the wide slats from the front chest, rearranging the cushions (so the curve of the backrests meets the curve of the bases) and adding an infill section – and it’s a colossal 4ft 8in by 7ft 5in! It is figures such as these that demonstrate, more than any other, just how large the 866 is.

Drop the dinette table (easily done by pulling a lever then leaning on the top), flip up the flaps on the sides, rearrange the cushions and add in a couple of infills and you get a second large double, at a very adult-friendly 6ft 3in by 4ft 5in, with a privacy curtain that can be pulled around to close it off from the rest of the van.

And then there are those bunks at the back – or rather, the ‘sleeping pods’. These funky spaces look cosy and inviting, giving seclusion without feeling claustrophobic; and, at 6ft 4in, they are amazingly long for fixed bunks, albeit not enormously wide at just under 2ft. Each one gets a window, a reading light and a thick privacy curtain, plus there’s a rooflight overhead.

Storage

It really doesn’t matter how many people you have on board the Elddis Avanté 866 – you will have enough storage. There’s a large ‘soft-close’ wardrobe between the washroom and the dinette, with two hanging rails and storage for the lounge table.

There is acres of space to be found in the bases beneath the front sofas (where the only intrusion is from the electrics), both dinettes and the rear bunks; what’s more, there are drop-down flaps for them all, so you don’t have to keep removing base cushions or mattresses to access your gear. The Whale water heater and blown-air space heater are underslung, to avoid taking up any valuable storage space. Overhead there are seven lockers – not including those in the kitchen.

The only real complaint concerns the lack of any external access to these areas, though there is the front gas locker (which is admittedly a whopper) and an external front hatch is only a £66 option, bringing with it an external 230V socket.

Technical specs

Berth6
MiRO1559kg
Payload179kg
MTPLM1738kg
Interior length6.95m
Shipping length8.05m
Width2.45m
Awning size1090cm

Verdict

The 2017 Elddis Avanté 866 might just be the answer to families’ prayers, and it’s been put together with phenomenal attention to detail.

Its layout is hugely flexible, and the bunks are large enough that you won’t need to upgrade as your tots turn into teens. It’s also brilliantly priced – even at a little over £21k it seems decent value, bearing in mind just how much real estate is packed in – and it’s not as heavy as you might expect, though you’re still going to need a large SUV to tow it.

Conclusion

Pros

  • The children's area is brilliant
  • It has a fantastic kitchen/diner
  • This is a flexible layout for families of all sizes
  • Considering what you're getting, it is surprisingly light

Cons

  • You'll need a big tow car – and driveway!
  • There are no externally accessible lockers
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