Instantly recognisable, Airstream caravans have acquired a reputation not far off that of Winnebago motorhomes.
In both cases, they are the US brands the public seem to latch onto, even though you rarely see them on British roads.
Airstream’s future in this country looked doubtful a few years back, when Adventure Leisure Vehicles pulled out of importing them. There was a brief spell when Swift took over UK distribution, then the baton passed to Lowdhams.
With new Airstream ranges due on its Nottinghamshire forecourt, we thought it was time to check out one of the brand’s more mainstream models, the Tourer 534, a four-berth with a rear fixed transverse bed caravan layout. You can find out more about Airstream in our round-up of the best caravan manufacturers.
Pitch and set-up
There’s only so far you can go in discussing Airstreams before you have to mention one thing: the price. Yes, £85,000 is a lot to shell out for a 6.81m-long single-axle, given that there are many much cheaper models available. But that price can partly be explained by the way this caravan is made.
Each one is the result of about 350 hours of labour – compared to some 40 hours for a conventional UK tourer. The difference is not surprising when you consider the Airstream is a monocoque, which should make the likelihood of water ingress over the years much less. But you notice its other advantages as soon as you walk in: external noise is muffled, and it feels cosier.
Other factors influencing the price include adjustments to exported Airstream models that make them more amenable to European markets and regulators.
Models for export are built on an Al-Ko chassis with a BPW hitch. This is made in Europe and shipped to the US, where the van body is added, before it is shipped back again. So the costs mount up.
That said, some aspects of the design are a bit old-fashioned. The metal shell does look stylish, but opening the windows with two levers that slide down inside seems a world away from modern European design.
The U-shaped lounge centres on a large pedestal telescopic table and is big enough for four. Our test model’s upholstery was teal blue. Lowdhams has moved away from some of the Americana touches, such as ‘cowhide’ upholstery, but you still have a choice of 84 fabrics to select from.
The large rooflight lets in plenty of light, as do the windows. A flyscreen seals off the opening window, but you don’t get blinds on those front windows.
Sockets, including for the TV, are located above the small sideboard to the left. Two swan-neck spotlights in the lounge should make night-time reading easy.
Kitchen in the Airstream Tourer 534
The kitchen includes a marble-effect work surface with a permanent drainer, and is well lit with two LEDs. An extension flap folds down to reveal a handy spice rack. You get a gas hob with three burners, but the sink is big and there is a mains socket placed exactly where you need it.
There is a combined oven and grill, but the sideboard opposite houses Dometic’s latest two-way opening Series 10 fridge.
The washroom looks very like those you find in aeroplanes, except for the large opening window, furnished with a roller blind – there’s no flyscreen.
Headroom is excellent and the handbasin is large, too. The mirror on the cupboard at the far end, while small, is well positioned for all heights. The shower is a good height, but there is no separate cubicle, and the only drainage hole is beyond the toilet.
The shower screen seals off the door.
Beds in the Airstream Tourer 534
The comfortable fixed bed at the back has two swan-neck spotlights at the head end and an LED and two speakers under the locker. There is a second set of TV sockets by the kitchen extension, so you can easily watch TV in bed. The second double is quickly made up by lowering the table.
Storage in the Airstream Tourer 534
There is a cavernous area under the fixed bed, but you are probably only going to access it via the relatively small doors on the side. At the other end is an underseat locker accessed through a hatch to the right of the door.
The cupboard by the washroom includes a large shelf with a hanging rail.
Overhead lockers at both ends of the van and in the kitchen are well lit, and have sliding, see-through doors. Elsewhere in the kitchen are three big drawers above a pan locker, a cupboard, and another pan locker under the oven. A second spice rack by the door could double up as a handy place for keys.
Most people buying Airstream probably do so for its iconic looks. The monocoque design of the 534 is beautiful, the kitchen is ample and the beds are comfortable. But long-term caravanners might be surprised at the spec on a caravan at this price point, and at some of the interior finish, too.
If you’re after some more tourer inspiration, be sure to take a look at our guide to the best four berth caravans too, where we pick out the standout vans on the market.
Things we like
- Comfortable bed, large kitchen
Things we don’t like
- Relatively few blinds on windows, unusual window opening
Or you could try…
- Eriba Touring 820: Underfloor heating and a great build are just some of the things that make this an attractive – but expensive – option.
- Bailey Alicanto Grande Porto: An excellent washroom is provided in this twin-axle van.
- Swift Challenger X 860: This single-axle tourer provides good spec and a comfortable touring experience.
- Price: £85,000
- Berths: 4
- MTPLM: 1900kg
- MiRO: 1600kg
- Payload: 300kg
- Shipping length: 6.81m
- Interior length: 5.32m
- Width: 2.29m
- Alde heating
- 122-litre Dometic fridge
- Thetford Triplex oven with three-burner hob
- 45-litre onboard fresh water tank
- Al-Ko chassis with BPW hitch
- Winterhoff WS3000 stabiliser
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|Interior Length||5.32 m|
|Shipping Length||6.81 m|