I haven’t done a road test for some time, gentle reader, so I’ll remedy that omission right here.
Last week my bride and I drove a Mercedes Benz Motorhome from Brisbane to Melbourne on a relocation for a hire company. These opportunities are routine. The upside is that it makes for a cheap way to see some country (nominal day fee of either $5 or $1 daily). The downside is that you don’t have time to stop and smell the roses.
We had four days.
|The sliding door is heavy.|
The vehicle’s full name is Mercedes Benz Ultima 3 berth Motorhome. It is on the MB Sprinter chassis, and has a 2.2 litre turbocharged diesel and a seven-speed auto transmission.
It’s not small (6961 mm long, with a 4325 mm wheelbase and a 1614 mm rear overhang), but the biggest concern for me, a novice driver of such a large vehicle, was the height of 2650 mm.
I did lots of looking up.
Despite its size, it is a very easy vehicle to drive with light steering and great visibility. It has the best rear view mirror setup I’ve ever come across, with views at driving height and kerb. I managed a three-point part at one stage, although I did notice the bloke in the vehicle parked in front looking nervous.
The other pleasant surprise was the fuel consumption of around 11 litres per 100 km. When you consider that you’re driving around one double bed, one single, a refrigerator, a kitchen, a bathroom and toilet and a full set of cupboards, it’s remarkable. The travel was mostly open road cruising, but it didn’t vary much in give and take country.
Controls are well arranged around the cabin, and there is heaps of accessible storage. The delivery van heritage is an advantage, as it was obviously designed with the welfare of a working driver in mind. I’ve never seen a vehicle with so many handles.
The cruise control, once you’ve read the handbook, is very easy to use, and the brakes light and progressive. It handles well, in a ship at sea fashion, which reminded me of Toyota Coasters I have driven, but the steering was less wandery than what I remember of the Coaster. The only downside here was the susceptibility to side winds. It was never dangerous, but your concentration level had to be consistently high if it was blowy. We struck some gale force winds on day two.
So much for the vehicle – let’s look at the motorhome side of things.
|Dusk in Goondiwindi|
It was air conditioned, which was a godsend on the first night with day time temperatures of 40 plus in Goondiwindi, our first stop. Once your gear is stored away in the cupboards, there is plenty of swinging room, although you need to be organised when cooking or getting dressed.
The shower toilet is OK, but for skinny people only, and the bed quite comfortable. You can opt for a double, which creates issues when one person has to get up during the night, or two singles. The third single bed folds out crossways at the front.
|Handy overhead storage|
Stove (three burner) and fridge are reasonably accessible, and there is a second swing out barbecue on the passenger side rear. A range hood pretty successfully sends cooking odours and heat outside, although the inbuilt fire alarm went off when my bride was searing some delicious pork chops.
It can be used independently (without hooking up to mains power) but you wouldn’t want to do this for more than a day or two – you’d run out of gas and battery after that time.
|In its natural habitat, but you have to watch the tree branches.|
It’s a machine I’d happily drive anywhere. It’s big enough for two. Anything larger would be a bit of an overindulgence, and would become troublesome when it came to parking anywhere in a built up area.