Norm GuthartzSee other caravan reviews written by Norm Guthartz
Practical Caravan’s experts review Dethleffs stylish and aerodynamic pop-top model, the Tourist HD 460 DB
Dethleffs is a German firm best known for manufacturing motorhomes – indeed it produces more motorcaravans than any other brand. However, it also does a respectable line in touring caravans. One of its caravan ranges, the Tourist, is sold exclusively in the UK by Automotive Leisure in Poole, which also sells Eriba and Knaus tourers.
Our first impression was that it’s very different from the regular white boxes we see at big caravan shows and on campsites. For starters, our test model came in an attractive pastel shade called Laguna Blue (a £450 cost option – it comes in white as standard). The Tourist models are also available in Cacao Grey (which is oddly a golden brown) and silver.
Our test van was a 2013 model, but the only real change for the 2014 season is a differently engineered roof, which is lighter. The result is a higher payload than before.
Pitching and setting up
The obvious benefit of having a pop-up roof is that the caravan is not as tall as a fixed-roof model, which can improve the outfit’s aerodynamics on the road. The Dethleffs is just 2.42m high with the roof down, and is narrow at 2.1m (barely 7ft) wide, while its rounded roofline and front panel reduce drag. These factors should help a car get better fuel economy than when it tows a conventional tourer of similar weight.
The Tourist is built on an Al-Ko chassis, with an AKS stabiliser and heavy-duty steadies. With a standard chassis rated at 1300kg, it’s a tourer that’s easily towed by most family cars without the need for the B+E licence entitlement required to drive outfits weighing more than 3500kg.
It has a small, square gas locker in front, with a door that raises and clips to a plastic stay.
The pop-up roof is elevated manually by releasing four plastic catches and giving it a push; it lifts easily. Internal headroom measures 2.1m with the roof raised, and it has two massive, opening rooflights and multiple spotlights built into it.
The one disadvantage of the pop-up roof is its vinyl sides and zipped vents – they’re not designed for year-round touring on these shores, at least not with the roof up.
Without the roof raised, headroom at its centre point is 1.8m, so not everybody will need to raise the roof on every trip. Also, like many Continental vans, the interior windows come with blinds, flyscreens and net curtains, rather than full curtains as used in UK-made vans.
There’s a square stainless-steel sink, and an 86-litre fridge-freezer, but forget about such frills as a microwave oven. The rest of the space in the galley is given over exclusively to storage. In some ways, this is closer to campervan or tent camping than it is to luxurious caravanning.
Should you need more berths, the lounge can be converted into a double bed. Simply unclip the table, fold it at the knee, reattach the table by clipping it to the lower rail and drop the backrest cushions in. It may need a mattress topper to make for a more even surface. This would only serve as a double bed for very young children, though.
The fixed bed’s base is also home to a 38-litre on-board fresh-water tank and a spare wheel with carrier, both fitted as standard. A hot water system costs an extra £500.
There is plenty of room in the bed boxes at the front and the rear, where the fixed double can be raised on gas struts. They’ll support the weight of the mattress when you have to step in to lift heavy items from it. It can also be accessed via an external hatch, which oddly fouls the ground on level pitches when opened.
The gas locker’s space is beautifully organised, which is a Dethleffs signature. For example, a small clip holds the waste-water container while in transit. Its door is secured with sturdy finger latches, as is the outside hatch to the fixed bed’s base. They feel much more robust than the usual rotating locks.
The Tourist isn’t a caravan aimed at people who rally, spend 100 nights a year on site in all weathers or rely heavily on the on-board facilities. Anybody interested in this van should be prepared to use site washblocks. And with a starting price of £18,999, it’s not cheap considering the basic spec. But if your idea of touring involves frequent trips, this lightweight, compact and cool-looking van may be a perfect fit.
- The Tourist HD's good looks will have heads turning
- It is robustly built to last
- The height, width and shape help make the outfit more aerodynamic
- This van may be compact but it's packed with storage options
- It is short on equipment, especially in the kitchen and washroom
- The caravan is rather expensive for what it offers
- This is not a van for people who tour year round
- The washroom is not closed off from the rest of the van because of the pop top