Windy Wiltshire – Part 1– All Change

Good morning! Yep, it’s half-term and so time for another dose of delirious drivel coupled with pointless piffle from the Blogger in Black and his Portly Partner.

We’re in sunny (yeah, right) Wiltshire just a few miles west of Devizes. As I type the wind is howling and the rain is falling – which it’s been doing almost constantly since December. We’ve all had enough of it but I really feel for the poor buggers in Somerset. It must be heart breaking.

So, what’s new since my last communication. Well, those that read the online version of my blog will know that we’ve been spending – we have a new caravan. Yes, we’ve traded in dear old Patsy for something a little larger. I say new, but I mean new to us. Patsy 2 is a Coachman VIP 520/4 of 2007 vintage – about three feet longer and whilst only a couple of inches wider it really is noticeable. I’ve always said an inch or two could make all the difference. Ahem, anyway, the layout is similar – front seating area and rear bathroom but with the addition of a side dinette – for eating and blogging. This area can also be converted to bunks to accommodate two extra people – a useful facility but one that we’re unlikely to use.

Having spent the first night in her, she’s warm, dry and even more comfortable that Patsy 1. So far so good. Anyway, here she is:

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Now Patsy 1 was no lightweight, something I alluded too more than once. Coachman don’t skimp when building their vans and Patsy 2 is even heavier – some 200 kilos and when fully laden she’s approaching 1.6 tonnes. Our venerable tug Jessie could have pulled that – and indeed she has done when we picked the new van up from the dealers – thanks to the remap we had done on the engine last year, but she simply wasn’t heavy enough. For those that don’t know but care – the towing vehicle must always be heavier than the van – in fact club recommendations say that for ultimate stability the ‘van should be no more than 85% of the weight of the car, or else the tail can start wagging the dog as it were. So Jessie had to go.

The heavier the ‘van, the less there is to choose from when deciding  what to tow with. Power is not an issue any more with modern engines, but weight is. Manufacturers are necessarily building lighter and lighter cars so it took a lot of flipping through web pages checking kerb weights to find something suitable. We had always planned to go back to a Nissan X-trail but they were simply too light to tow Patsy 2 safely. One of the X-Trails’ main rivals – the Honda CRV ticked all the boxes and that’s what we ended up with. Of course black would have been good, but I guess it was time for a change, so say hello to our new tug; Rosie:

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Right, what’s she like? Well, things didn’t start off too well. Within hours of picking her up from the dealers it was apparent that there was in issue with the handbrake – the cable turned out to be corroded and seized but the dealers were quick to have a new one fitted. Sadly it’s pretty ineffective and whilst day to day it’s easy to manage, when you’re stopped at a junction on an incline with over a tonne and a half of caravan on the back a good handbrake is quite useful! It will either have to go back again or we’ll get our local guy to look at it.

Driving wise, great all round vision thanks to the higher driving position and a clear view of the rear thanks to the wing mirrors. We’re both minibus drivers so have got use to a commanding driving position and great vision. Parking sensors aid getting her in to tight spots. The 2.2 litre turbo diesel engine is a little noisy when cold but soon settles down. The clutch is light and soft and a pleasure to use. So, how’s it drive? the 140 BHP is enough to get you around reasonably swiftly and, solo, economy has been good. Steering is a little heavy but is assured as is the handling and it’s very comfortable. It’s not a drivers car like the old Jag  – it imparts very little driving ‘pleasure’ but it is a different beast entirely of course.

We bought her primarily as a tow car, and having travelled from Brighton  to Wiltshire yesterday in very windy and wet conditions am happy to report that this she does very well. With the rear seats folded down there was loads of room for all the usual caravanning ‘stuff’ – long leather coats, boots etc. On the road she was very stable in the face of some very strong winds and she kept Patsy 2 on the straight and narrow extremely well. Fuel consumption was, given the conditions, understandably poor though – having hit 30mpg on the M25, once we joined the M4 and headed west, hitting the wind head on, it dropped gradually, levelling out at only 26mpg. I am sure though that will improve once (and if!) the wind ever drops. Power when towing was adequate. Moving off was easier than with the Jag with a lot less throttle needed. It was in the 40-50mph range when the engine was found to be a little sluggish – where, conversely the old Jag excelled. Once we’ve driven in more normal conditions we’ll be able to make a better comparison and decide whether it’s worth paying out to have this engine remapped too.

Right, this where I’m going to end this one. It’ll soon be time for a shower and then we need to go and do some shopping. The sun is putting in a very brief appearance but the forecast for the rest of the day is not good. Tomorrow promises some dry spells at least though.

So, standby for part 2 where there’ll be more about the site, an extremely close ‘research’ facility, and hopefully some photo’s of this attractive – though currently rather soggy – county.

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