Long and wide, with some clever weight-saving construction, Paul Owen reckons the Bailey Alicanto Grande Porto a great British buy.
At 2.45m wide, the Alicanto Grande Porto is quite a bit wider than most Bailey caravans. This creates extra cabin space all along the length of the body than similarly laid-out dual-axle models like the Unicorn, which is 250mm narrower. So, make sure you have invested in some proper towing side mirrors (we recommend the affordable Milenco range) before hooking this British-made behemoth up to your touring vehicle of choice. That 2.45 width dimension is eight feet in the old money.
On reflection, perhaps ‘behemoth’ is too strong a word, as you won’t need to use a tow vehicle that is rated to haul 2,500kg or more with the $99,990 Alicanto GP. The length of the cabin is 6.33m and the Bailey is 7.86m long overall once the Automatic Trailer Control (ATC) equipped Al-Ko hitch and drawbar have been accounted for. Thanks to weight-saving construction and the use of rollaway water reservoirs, the New Zealand version of the Bailey tips the scales at 1,687kg when it leaves the factory.
That’s despite the New Zealand model’s 50mm higher ride height and heavier-duty Duratorque torsion bar suspension controlled by Al-Ko shock absorbers, which increase the 160kg payload of the UK model by a further 153kg. Utilising the 313kg New Zealand-spec payload to its fullest will see a laden Alicanto Grande Porto reach a maximum towable mass of two tonnes, so you don’t need a full chassis tow vehicle like a double-cab ute or a ute-based SUV to haul the Alicanto. Many of the popular medium/large sized SUVs with lighter monocoque body construction – Toyota Highlander, Skoda Kodiaq, VW Tiguan etc. – can cope, and potential fuel savings on tour await those who choose one to do the mahi.
Bailey says that the shells of its caravans are ‘so much more robust and durable than anything else,’ thanks to the interlocking aluminium framework that clamps the Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) body panels together. I’d have settled just for the ‘more’ in the statement rather than the ‘so much more’ but have no doubt that there’s some truth in the statement.
When a manufacturer has been making caravans for 70 years, develops a patented new way of doing it 60 years later, and then proceeds to build over 70,000 leisure vehicles using that process, it’s absolute proof they are onto a good thing. The company calls the construction Alu-Tech, however polystyrene and other plastics also play significant roles, such as the composite plastic extrusions that protect the outer edges of the inner polystyrene cores of the inner and outer GRP-skinned body panels (the front and rear panels are single skinned in the interest of increasing the internal length of the cabin), and the special sheeting that covers the aluminium frame rails to fully insulate the cabin. When it all comes together, the final step in the construction is a finishing layer of lamination.
Although Bailey doesn’t crow about the thickness of the insulation found in the body panels of the cabin, the wall panels are on the thick side, suggesting that the core polystyrene is at least 20mm thick, if not more. This caravan appears to be ready for all four seasons; the cabin should be capable of remaining warm and cosy with the help of the Alde heating system during a hoar frost coated morning in Central Otago, and cool and refreshing after a hot day’s picking during the cherry season at the same location.
Bailey’s signature design feature is a middle window at the front that curves right over into the roof panel, letting lots of light into the lounge area of their caravans. The 2023 version of the Alicanto gets an even larger middle window, and lying down on one of the comfy bench inner sprung seats of the front lounge is a great position from which to cloud-gaze. The curvaceous design of the front end of the Alicanto also promotes aerodynamic efficiency when on the move. Another nice detail of the body is that it comes prewired for both motor-mover and wi-fi reception installs.
Further changes to the 2023 version include the shifting of the mains hookup plug to the right side of the van so that the cable no longer runs through any awning that may be attached to the left side. There’s also new graphics and an exterior mount and 230v wiring for a TV. However, the new party trick of the Alicanto GP is the one the owners will most show off. It’s the way the colours of the underfloor lighting can be selected according to mood. If this system could put on a light show changing colours according to the beat and tone changes of the music emanating from caravan’s Pioneer audio system, it’d be perfect. Maybe next time, Bailey…
Heavy stuff in the middle
Towing stability is virtually guaranteed with the Alicanto. Not only does it come equipped with ATC, where the brakes of the caravan’s individual wheels are automatically applied whenever the system detects trailer sway; Bailey has also ensured the layout and design places most of the heavier items right at the middle of the caravan, as near as possible to the dual axles and the four 14” wheels. The gas locker for the dual 9kg bottles sits just behind the wheels on the outside, while the 95Ah AGM battery is skillfully tucked under in the middle of the caravan floor. With a longitudinally mounted island bed at the back sitting above the largest storage locker in the caravan, users are encouraged to store the heaviest and bulkiest items in a place where they’ll lighten the weight on the towball of the tow vehicle instead of increasing it.
The front lounge/rear main bedroom layout also ensures that heavier appliances like the 153L Dometic fridge/freezer, dual source four-burner hob, and separate oven/grille of the kitchen are located right over the wheels. Bathroom fittings are also located only slightly rearward of the centre of mass, including a toilet with an 18L catch cassette, a large mirror, fold-down heated towel rail, and a sliding door that encloses the bedroom as well as a central hinged door that either shuts off the toilet/ washroom, or divides the cabin into two sectors – living and sleeping/relaxing.
Back to the front where the 50 percent larger middle window floods the lounge with light. The settees, complete with corner headrests, feel comfortable and are served by a small pull-out table and the handy top of the set of drawers up front. If there’s more than two to serve, a larger table can be retrieved from its storage under the island bed at the back. There are no fewer than six USB ports located in this part of the caravan as well as six mains plugs wired nearby. Surely that’s enough for a family of four. The TV mount near the door and the pair of attendant speakers will also provide entertainment at night.
Bench space in the kitchen is enlarged by the L-shape of the lower cabinetry, the flip-down wooden cover for the four-burner (one electric, three gas) hob, and the cover to the circular sink complete with drainage channels. There’s a further two mains power sockets located in the cooking area, and the high-mounted microwave oven will also come in handy when the caravan is connected to the national grid. To the side of the gas oven/grille, there’s a stack of circular cutouts to stow four bottles of wine, while a set of pantry shelves can be pulled out on the other side. Three drawers and two overhead lockers ensure there’s plenty of storage for food, cutlery, and cookware.
The fridge is located on the other side of the caravan, with a storage locker and shelf between it and the partitioned entry door. It’s the bathroom/grooming area where the spatial advantages of the extra width of the Alicanto Grande Porto really make their presence known. There’s a lot of floor space between the shower cubicle and the washroom/toilet and a couple of adults could easily get dressed in that area without coming to unintentional blows.
The washroom is particularly luxurious with a large basin served by a U-shaped tap, a huge mirror, and a ladder-style radiator to keep everything warm and cosy. The extra width of the Alicanto GP is also fully exploited by the design of the island bedroom. The mattress is 1.52m wide, meaning those of smaller stature can lie across it and not have their feet hanging over the edge. That extra bed width also pays a storage dividend due to the large storage area located beneath the gas strut-supported frame, which spills into a garage locker that can also be accessed from outside the caravan. The wardrobes located either side of the head of the bed have an attractive inside curve so that the wide mattress can fit between them.
British caravans, including those made by Bailey in the past, are often known for their conservative style when it comes to decoration, but the Alicanto lifts the ambience nicely. There’s the ‘Satin Cashmere’ finish on the overhead lockers, the tasteful use of shiny metal strip highlights and the lighter wood veneers chosen. The loose fit ‘Hazelnut’ drop-in carpets finish things off nicely.
Freedom to camp
The Bailey isn’t readily adapted to long-term freedom camping despite the extra payload of the New Zealand model. However short-term independent camping is still on the touring agenda as there’s an 80W solar panel to keep the 98Ah AGM battery powering up the three-way fridge/freezer. An AGM battery can only be discharged to 50 per cent however, and by the time the fridge and the lights have drawn 49 amps of current it’ll be time to move some place where mains hookup is available. Want to stay longer?
Upgrading the AGM battery to a Lithiumion equivalent is an easy freedom camping enhancement for the Alicanto as Li-ion batteries can be discharged to 20 per cent of their charge capacity. Doing such a battery upgrade would then make the 40L portable freshwater and greywater tanks the biggest limitation to long-term camping freedom (if there’s no water source and dump station nearby).
Like a lot of Blighty caravans, the Bristol-made Bailey is tailored to the UK preference for camping in holiday parks. If that’s your preference as well, the Alicanto Grande Porto is one of the best British caravans available when it comes to construction integrity, plenty of living space and value for money.
For more information, visit: https://www.deluxegroup.co.nz/
|MAKE & MODEL:
|Bailey Alicanto Grande Porto
|Galvanised Al-Ko trailer with dual-axle
independent suspension and ATC coupling
|Fresh 40L/Grey 40L portable tanks
|UNLADED MASS (TARE):