This new addition to the Tessoro range takes the usual Benimar attribute of an impressive standard spec and adds the must-have layout of 2020. Its feeling of space belies the relatively compact 6.98m length, while the garage and washroom are generous, too. Only table storage needs a rethink, although a more sumptuous upholstery wouldn’t go amiss now that the price is close to £60k.
Price from: £58,995 Base vehicle: Ford Transit Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 6.98m Width: 2.30m Height: 2.89m Gross weight: 3,500kg Payload: 390kg
This is probably the most en vogue motorhome layout right now – a drop-down bed over long parallel settees up front (but with transformation into travel seats possible) and an across-the-rear washroom incorporating a vast wardrobe, with a garage below.
It ticks a lot of boxes for two people, keeps overall length to a relatively modest 7m or less, and can even be pressed into occasional four-berth service if the need should arise (perhaps for occasional trips with the grandkids).
Of course, this Benimar is not the first of its ilk. As you might have expected, two of Europe’s most innovative mainstream brands, Bürstner and Chausson, were the instigators of this design, with Adria and Pilote joining the fray and, arguably, improving on the concept at the start of the 2020 season.
Now, there’s another alternative – this Benimar Tessoro 487, imported from Spain by Marquis Leisure (both companies are part of the French Trigano Group).
Being a Marquis product, the Tessoro comes with a very comprehensive standard specification. There are no packs to add and no lengthy options list to consider – just choose manual or automatic gearbox and, maybe, haggle to get an awning or TV included in the deal.
The Ford Transit base vehicle already comes with a 9in Xzent touchscreen, including DAB radio, Bluetooth, sat-nav and reversing camera display. On the outside, alloy wheels and a silver metallic cab are standard, while the kit list goes on to include air-conditioning, cruise control, ESP, Hill Assist, remote central locking (cab doors only), electric/heated mirrors, Ford’s useful quick-defrosting windscreen and automatic lights and wipers.
You won’t even have to fork out extra for the security tracker that your insurer will probably demand on a near-£60k motorhome, as a Trackstar Leisure Category 6 system is fitted and the first year’s subscription is already paid.
Another advantage over the mostly Fiat Ducato-based opposition is the Transit’s driving environment. Facelifted last year, its in-cab ergonomics now make the Ducato look very dated and the latest Euro 6d 2-litre engines are claimed to be more economical.
Certainly, the standard 168bhp (170PS) unit fitted here is not short of grunt – I even managed to spin the front wheels at a greasy T-junction. The key thing is that you won’t have to worry about whether to go for an engine upgrade because Benimar has included it for you.
You’ll also enjoy a good driving position, thanks to plenty of adjustment on both seats and steering column. It’s possible to sit lower, in a more car-like posture here, if that’s what you prefer. My only gripe then was with the slightly baggy fit of the cab seat covers.
The driving character of the Ford is different to the Fiat, too, with a softer ride that seems to result in fewer rattles from the living area (once the cooker has been silenced by removing the grill pan and adding a judiciously placed tea towel). All the controls are nicely weighted and the manual gearshift is as slick as you’d expect of a vehicle wearing the blue oval.
It’s an ‘any driver’ 3.5-tonne chassis and, despite the lack of an upgrade option, payload is a reasonable 390kg (although that doesn’t include any allowance for fresh water).
Those who do all their touring on British soil will be pleased to see that Benimar builds the Tessoro with its habitation door on the UK side, especially for Marquis. The Spaniard is also NCC-approved.
A mooch around the exterior reveals a barbecue point on the nearside, an entry door that requires no external step, a big overcab sunroof and upmarket framed windows (including a slider on the nearside, with the double benefit of it not clashing with the door and being openable when travelling for rear passengers).
A TV aerial and solar panel are mounted on top and bike rack mountings (but not the rack itself) are pre-fitted on the Benimar’s rump, while underneath the waste tank is insulated and heated and has a good-sized outlet for draining.
You’ll probably keep your pedal power indoors anyway, as there’s a garage here, of course. Not only does this have loading doors on either side (larger on the nearside) but internal access via a sliding panel into the washroom, too.
There are 12V and 230V power points and an LED strip light runs right across the back wall, so finding that elusive item is eased. Internal headroom is a generous 1.31m, while a hatch on the offside makes possible the loading of long, upright items such as skis. A full-sized spare wheel resides in the garage, but, less conveniently, so does the table.
Whether you like to invite friends and family in of an evening or you simply want room to put your feet up, the 487 will make a great first impression. As you enter through the habitation door, the sofa facing you is more than 6ft long and the feeling of space is rare for any motorhome, let alone one of just under 7m in length.
The side windows are large, there are big rooflights fore and aft of the drop-down bed, and a host of ceiling-mounted spotlamps serve when the evening draws to a close. Key to the Tessoro’s spaciousness, though, is the amount of floor space – made possible by the (rare in a continental motorhome) omission of a fixed table.
Here, a large free-standing unit is provided instead – a great idea but not so great is its storage location in the garage, especially as it’s heavy. If the garage is full of gear you’ll also have to go outside to get it. Benimar should include a table locker alongside the galley, as you’d get in an Auto-Trail.
Otherwise, this lounge/diner works brilliantly. The settee backrests are slightly angled, scatter cushions are provided and the cab seats will rotate through a full 180 degrees so you can recline with your feet up. Or you can take a snooze, using the sofas as day beds (feet going onto the cab seat on the shorter nearside bench).
Reading lights (with built-in USBs) are fitted over the front seats and even the TV bracket (by the entrance) gets praise for its height adjustment, allowing comfortable viewing. The beige vinyl upholstery fails to convince as a leather substitute, though, and I’d much prefer a warmer-to-the-touch fabric option.
The travel seats use the same material and you’ll find in the garage a large bag (460mm by 620mm by 550mm) containing the four extra cushions required (plus twin headrests) to make two forward-facing seats. The conversion is simple and these pews are Isofix-equipped and have rake-adjustable backrests but their limited legroom suggests only children will sit here.
Their steel framework is reassuring and the five large settee cushions left over when the seats are in travel mode will need to be stowed in the washroom or garage en route.
It’s also possible to convert the lounge into a transverse double bed, although you’ll need to retrieve from the garage both the table and an extra wooden panel to support the centre of the bed. In any case, you’ll only do this when using the Tessoro as a four-berth because there’s also a drop-down bed above (rated at 230kg max).
The latter can be stowed with a duvet in situ (but probably not pillows, too) and lowers to any height, allowing double bunks in four-berth mode, when a ladder will be required.
More likely, though, you’ll put the kids in a tent or awning outside and bring the bed right down to seat height (just 860mm off the floor) for easy access.
It’s not the biggest bed of this type but it’s big enough for most folk and the kitchen and doorway both remain completely unobstructed with the bed down. After a night at the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Sandringham site, I can certainly vouch for its comfort.
If your idea of cooking on holiday is taking an M&S ready meal out of the fridge/freezer and popping it into the microwave, then the Benimar is talking your language. The cold/frozen food department has a generous 149-litre capacity and automatic energy selection for ease of use, while above is a 700W Svan microwave.
As that’s around 5ft off the floor, you’ll need to be careful when extricating your hot lasagne unless you’re very tall.
If you’re a bit more Gordon Ramsay than that (cooking-wise, not the swearing), then the Tessoro has you covered, too, because there’s also a three-ring hob (two gas, one mains) and combined oven/grill on the opposite side of the vehicle.
There’s a Baraldi cooker hood, as well as a ‘belt and braces’ roof vent with extractor fan to remove culinary odours.
Convenient 12V and 230V sockets (just one of each) are sited on the front of the kitchen unit and there’s a very neat removable shelf that can be positioned over the sink or alongside the cooker, above the end of the offside settee.
Storage is pretty generous and includes three soft-close drawers (including one deep one for pots and pans and one with a cutlery holder).
An angled and offset door next to the fridge leads, via a 160mm step in floor height, to a full-width washroom that’s wider on the nearside, where you’ll find the corner basin and swivel cassette toilet.
There’s plenty of shoulder and legroom ‘on the throne’ and a good section of worktop next to the basin, plus a large opaque opening window here to supplement the roof vent in the shower cubicle on the offside.
A long towel rail is provided, plus a selection of hooks that mimic the Benimar ‘b’ logo, a soap dispenser and a toothbrush mug, while the hidden loo roll holder neatly supplies its wares through a slot in the cupboard door.
The shower, behind heavily tinted doors, comes with both a duckboard and a foldaway drying rail, while a wall basket holds your gel and shampoo. Then, afterwards, twin drains in the tray ensure all the suds flow away efficiently, while good water pressure in the shower ensures that you’ll never be tempted by campsite facilities.
Headroom here is 1.90m, compared with a top-hat-friendly 2.10m in the galley and 1.88m under the drop-down bed.
Unlike some motorhomes, where a washroom becomes a sauna with the (Truma Combi 6kW gas/mains) heating on, here it seemed to be the coolest part of the living area. That didn’t stop this being one of the best aspects of the Tessoro 487, though, not least because it’s also an excellent changing room.
Above the garage and behind twin mirror-fronted doors, is a huge wardrobe, complete with two drawers for underwear, a selection of shelves for folded jumpers, etc, and an extra-long hanging rail (with 840mm drop) for enough jackets, shirts, skirts and trousers to keep you looking dapper or chic on the longest of continental grand tours.