Building on this success, the jumbo 747 was followed by an even more attractive six-wheeler A-class - the I-Elegance 821 - so the arrival of a tag-axle low-profile to 'complete the set' should come as no surprise. That the (new for 2006) Delfin Performance t821 should be the first motorhome to combine Al-Ko's six-wheeler chassis with a Renault Master cab is just a sign of Bürstner's impressive innovation.
The first Delfin motorhomes arrived for the 2004 season, showcasing the then brand-new Renault Master. When others jumped on the Gallic base vehicle bandwagon, Bürstner responded with the more upmarket Delfin Performance - with Al-Ko chassis and double-floor - for 2005. The new t821 model is simply the flagship of Bürstner's extensive low-profile line-up (which also includes Fiat and Mercedes-based models).
And what a beast it is. The silver cab and baby blue bumpers and skirts have become a Delfin trademark, though 2006 models can also be ordered with a vibrant metallic copper - called Fire - in place of the blue. Never before has a Delfin been such an eye-catcher - the extra length (and extra wheels) make for a motorhome that takes the expression 'long'n'low' to the very extreme.
Details include a shapely rear panel as seen on the A-class range, with ultra-modern road lights. There's no external shower or gas point - both are inexpensive options - but practical touches extend to a myriad of hatches in the skirts to access the shallow double-floor 'basement'. Bigger items will go in the rear garage, of course, which owners will surely make full use of as this Delfin boasts a 5-tonne gross weight and a huge 1,590kg payload.
The Renault cab heating proved more than up to the job for our winter touring in the gloriously picturesque French Alsace region, and in slippy conditions we were grateful for the reassurance of standard ABS. Indeed, the Delfin's cab spec comes with pretty much everything you'd wish for - from a four-speaker radio/CD/satellite navigation system to central locking and electric windows and mirrors. The latter lack the blindspot lenses of much of the opposition, but in practise the electric step which does not auto-retract proved more annoying. In any case, manoeuvring more than eight metres of motorhome is best done with a co-operative passenger - and a reversing camera, which is a pretty essential option and about the only thing you'll need to pay extra for.
Sitting in the driver's seat it is easy to forget just how much length - and potentially weight too - is behind you. The Aguti captain's chairs are quite superb and the cab - either left or right-hand drive - is a familiar (and well laid out) Renault environment. On the road the considerable wheelbase and double back axle just add to your confidence with utterly composed manners that were unshaken by wet weather and passing slow HGVs through their spray on the Autoroutes. On drier roads the big Delfin would reach an 80mph cruise with little effort, though it has to be said that we were loaded for just a week's touring and much of the Bürstner's storage was unused.
Nevertheless, we were once again impressed by the 3-litre dCi engine, which comes as standard with the t821, precluding the automatic option available on smaller Delfin and Delfin Performance models. Combined with a slick six-speed manual gearbox it makes for very refined cruising, while also feeding enough torque to the front wheels to climb the steep mountain passes of the Alsace without a struggle. The Master has just a bit more power and torque than the rival Fiat Ducato, while also feeling more sophisticated and offering a smoother ride.