Tested: Thule Force XT Alpine Roof Box

If you think about roof boxes, you probably think, well, er… um?

What you see in your mind is a box by Thule, the Swedish manufacturer that’s got the market wrapped up with boxes of every conceivable size for every conceivable vehicle. Want a basket for your SUV? No problem. A ski box for a saloon car? All good. Or how about a simple, massive box for an estate car that’s practical and easy to fit? That brings us nicely to this, the Force XT Alpine.

Part of the Force XT range, the Alpine brings together some clever thinking on Thule’s part with sleek Swedish design. The range starts with the S (for small) and moves through the self-explanatory M, L and XL. Then, to confuse matters, there’s the Sport and the Alpine.

Both the S and the Sport will take 300 litres of family holiday detritus, but the Sport packages that into a longer, lower and wider box. If style rules, the extra £25 over the £300 the S costs might be money well spent.

At the other end, the Alpine on test here has a 420-litre capacity, which falls a little short of the L (450 litres) and XL (500 litres) but, again, it’s longer, lower, wider and sleeker than the more traditional boxes.

You’ll need roof bars to attach the box too, something provided on the Volvo V60 I was testing the box on, but Thule will sell you some for virtually every car. Then it’s just a case of taking the roof box out of the enormous cardboard box it arrives in, and then lifting it onto the car.

The Alpine weighs in at 19.4kg, making it just about possible for a single person to manipulate onto a car, but two people would be a far more sensible option. With an extra pair of hands it’s almost child’s play attaching the Force XT box to the Volvo.

Thule’s PowerClick system is the reason it’s so simple. All you need to do is line up the ‘jaws’ that poke out underneath the box with your roof bars, and then turn a knob clockwise, watching the jaws clamp themselves to the bar, until it clicks. That means it’s locked in place, with virtually no effort required. It’s genuinely brilliant.

It’s also easy to manouvere the box forwards or back, which is handy when you’ve not bothered measuring anything and realise it’s too far back for the tailgate to open. Happily, that took less than a minute to resolve.

Once in place, hinges on both sides of the box allows for easy access, regardless of where it’s mounted. I went for a stylish off-centre look, but locating the box in the centre of the car will mean you can get into the contents from either side. Those who shouldn’t be looking are kept out thanks to some sturdy looking locks on each side, which all operate using the same key. Prising and pulling at the edges away from the locks didn’t achieve enough bend or flex to access anything inside, so casual thieves will be kept at bay.

Out on the open road there’s almost no wind noise. A low rumble can be heard, but there was never any whistling even at higher speeds in stormy conditions. Not a drop of water ever got into the box either, despite the terrible weather. Despite blocking the car’s aerial, there was no interference on the radio either, and DAB stations seemed as strong as ever.

Summer’s coming up, so it’s peak time for preparing for the holidays. Opting for a Thule box to upgrade the luggage capacity of your car might be an expensive option, especially as this Alpine version costs £400 direct from the manufacturers, but the simplicity of use, elegance of design, and quality of construction means it’s the sensible choice.

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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