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Rob McCabe tests an ‘Exclusive’ four-berth dealer special
The Swift Challenger Exclusive is effectively the Challenger SE with an upgraded spec sheet, and it’s only available at 18 dealerships. The retailers who stock the Exclusive are spread out across the UK (14 in England, two in Northern Ireland, and one each in Wales and Scotland) – but is it worth making a detour, however slight, to go and see one for yourself? This exclusive first test of the four-berth, island-bed Grande 560L should help you make your mind up.
Golly, where does the time go? Swift’s ‘SMART’ advanced build process is 10 years old now. In a nutshell, inner and outer GRP body panels, sandwiching a polystyrene core, are hung on a composite frame that’s impervious to water. As I’ve come to expect from Swift products, the test vehicle was superbly presented: neat as a pin everywhere, including behind the scenes, and high-quality materials much in evidence – for example, cast-iron pan support on the hob, pleated blinds on all windows and sunroofs, and really lovely woodwork.
Of the nine Challenger Exclusive models, five are 8ft wide – and the Grande 560L is one of these. As such, that does mean a little more advance research may be called for when route-planning because those extra few inches can make you feel as though you need to pull your tummy in on some country roads and village streets.
As you’d expect, it’s not exactly a lightweight – but its MTPLM of just over 1,700kg is within the reach of many SUVs and double-cab pick-ups, while Al-Ko’s ATC watches reassuringly over you on every journey. One of the Exclusive upgrades is the heavy-duty jockey wheel, which certainly looks like it’ll be operating as expected for many years to come.
The sheer amount of floorspace is the first thing that grabs you as you step inside, thanks to the combined efforts of the 8ft width and the open configuration of the L-shape lounge.
If you told someone that the décor of your new caravan was largely beige and brown, they might not be impressed, but actually the overall ambience here is calm and classy, and everything blends together in perfect harmony. The ‘Willow’ fabric with quilt stitching is another Exclusive-only touch.
As in most L-shapes, the seating is fabulously sumptuous for two (which is how it’ll be most of the time) but less so for any more – there are really only two comfortable corners to flop back into. The lack of a front chest means bringing the freestanding table into play at meal times – and that lives in one of the wardrobes right at the back of the bedroom.
There’s plenty of tech on board, ranging from a good Bluetooth/DAB stereo and lots of USB sockets to ‘Exclusive exclusives’ such as a wireless phone charging pad, 4G Wi-Fi and the super-clever Swift Command control panel that allows monitoring and control of onboard systems including the lights, heating, solar panel and fridge. You can even operate it remotely from an app on your phone.
The lengthy equipment roster also includes a lot of good stuff externally: 100W solar panel, gas barbecue point, mains socket, offside services light and exterior shower point. The Exclusive-only diamond-cut alloy wheels are very posh – you’ll want to keep some wheel cleaner and a polishing cloth in the gas locker!
In the bedroom, the extra width allows for the beautifully comfy island bed, a luxurious 4ft 8in wide – two inches more than the width of a standard double.
And it sits in lovely surroundings too. The wall panel at the base of the bed (complete with socketry for a TV) is tastefully backlit, and the wardrobe doors on either side of the bed are mirror-fronted for a touch of dressing-room practicality. Attractive, soft-touch wall panels adjoin the windows, which themselves are bordered top and bottom by dark wooden strips that contrast elegantly with the pale walls.
Up front, the seating converts into a decent double bed, although there’s a fair bit of heaving and upholstery wrestling involved – not a big deal if you’re making it up as a guest bed on the odd occasion, but having to do it with any regularity would get tiresome.
All that floorspace is of particular benefit to anyone busy in the kitchen – you certainly won’t feel pinched for room as you flit seamlessly from fridge to worktop to hob and back again. While there is only a modest amount of work surface, a fold-flat extension opens up into the lounge area.
You’re certainly not left wanting on the appliance front. The hob has an electric hotplate to complement the three gas rings, and the neatly fitted microwave is one of the latest flatbed models. Behind you lives the classy, slimline fridge/freezer with a dual-opening door, and above you there is an Omnivent extractor fan. Storage is good too, and includes a large pull-out wire rack.
If you do have overnighting guests, the centre washroom is equally accessible from both sets of sleeping quarters: two sliding doors shut it off from the bedroom, one on each side of the bed, while a single solid door separates it from the front of the caravan. The shower cubicle is big and practical, with a well-designed shelf/footrest and handy trays for gel and shampoo. The mirror above the washbasin is usefully large but, although it does have an LED lamp directly above it, there isn’t any backlighting – which does feel like an omission on a caravan that’s otherwise so lavishly kitted out. There’s a rooflight but no window.
You get pretty much the full house in the lounge and bedroom: reading lights (all incorporating USB slots), ceiling-level strips and wall-panel backlighting. Better still, you can dim the strip lighting over a wide range, allowing you to set the ambience precisely as you like it. The kitchen is served by an under-locker strip, although it falls short of the hob, which is a bit of a shame. The washroom has that lamp above the mirror, a strip above the wall-mounted locker and an attractive one in the shower cubicle.
Is it worth a visit to one of the dealerships that sells the Challenger Exclusive? In purely financial terms, yes. For an £1,800 premium over the Grande 560L in its Challenger SE guise, you get a very desirable bundle of goodies. It’s a lovely thing to behold – especially the bedroom and the lounge.