Big and bold, this A747 has the potential to make a brilliant family motorhome and a good alternative to a large A-class, especially as it’s likely to also be much cheaper. There are a few niggles, with maybe just the lack a bedroom-enclosing door causing the most annoyance when a family is on board. It does sit on the heavy five-tonne chassis, so make sure you have the correct category on your driving licence.
Price from: £84,995 Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Berths: 7 Length: 8.86m Gross weight: 5,000kg
Some motorhome layouts and designs disappear quickly from the market if few are sold. So, if you want to get a bit of an idea wether a particular motorhome works really well, one of the things you can do is look at longevity. In short, if it’s been made, pretty much unchanged, for a long period it means it’s been selling well. The Argos 747 has been on Bürstner’s motorhome menu for well over a decade – a good sign that it does its job in very effective fashion.
With the advent of drop-down over-lounge beds, overcab coachbuilts in general are less numerous these days and especially very big ones such as the 747. But there’s more to this mega-motorhome than size and space as it’s one of the very few that completely separates its cab from the living quarters.
One of the main reasons for this is the inclusion of another feature and that’s a deep, storage double floor. This raises the living area up much higher than the cab, rendering it unable to become part of the front lounge that begins the internal layout. Aft of the lounge is the kitchen, then the washroom facilities and finally, a transverse double bed above a garage. Back up front, another transverse double bed lives above the cab. All this is transported by Fiat’s Ducato and supported by Al-Ko’s four-wheel rear chassis.
The standard-fit 747 engine is Fiat's 150bhp unit, so expect to pay £2,300 for the 177bhp upgrade if you would like to drive at normal road speeds and in different conditions when loaded.
And this motorhome's five-tonne chassis means you must check your driving licence before you buy. You will need category C1 or higher (entitling you to drive up to 7,500kg max weight) to legally drive the 747.
The Ducato cab can be entered through a sliding door in the lounge, thus avoiding having to go outside and get in through a cab door. The base of the overcab bed lifts to allow passage without bumped heads.
In the cockpit, standard-fit kit includes important stuff often found on other models’ options lists: passenger airbag, cruise control and cab air-con are all there. And, on the subject of heating and cooling, with an enclosed cab, both should work far better than in the usual open motorhome interior.
Folks sat in the four rear travel seats are looked after though as the living area heating can be used en-route. This is thanks to the standard-fit Toptron unit, which cuts the gas supply in the event of a crash and even if the ‘van just ends up at an extreme angle – maybe after leaving the road in slippery conditions.
For me, a rear camera is a must-tick on the options list, while the auto gearbox would make driving and manoeuvring much easier and less stressful. One thing that’s good to have and costs nowt is a prominently located sign that tells length, width and most importantly, height of the vehicle in both metric and imperial measure. Always a good idea of course, but even more so here. This is a big and all motorhome.
FIRST CLASS CABIN
The lounge’s leather clad upholstery isn’t a cheap option, but it is lovely stuff and seems right in this situation. Consisting of a sofa facing a Pullman dinette, the two are married into a great wrap-around lounge, once a seat section that fills the entranceway to the cab is inserted. At least it should be great but it’s marred a little by the inserted section’s rather mean dimensions and a seemingly poorly designed backrest cushion next to it and at the forward end of the sofa. All this was so ill-fitting, I was worried that I’d put it together wrongly, but no, the picture in the Bürstner brochure showed it the same. This is a same as it’s the only thing that’s not spot-on about this impressive setup.
Plenty of motorhome bench seats are referred to as sofas, but this really is a sofa, with domestic lounge talents and adjustable rake backrests. The table has a drop-in leaf that extends its top towards the it for dining. This is a seven berth van and if a full complement are to have dinner, the three people at the sofa end will need to sit offset to approach the table at the point where their plates will have enough room.
The galley comes with a full cooker, sink with draining board and a very good slab of working surface. This is one of the most uncontinental European motorhome kitchens I’ve seen in a long time. OK, so there’s no microwave, but the rest is all there and easy to use.
The whole is aided by a couple of deep drawers, a cupboard containing a small drawer and slide-out recycling bins. Above, a trio of lockers provide more storage capacity. No surprise to find a big fridge/freezer opposite and there’s more storage here too – a drawer below and a cupboard above, seemingly good for cereal containers and their like or maybe even that missing microwave? Two hatches that give access to the double floor cavity – or as I prefer to call it, wine cellar – are located within easy reach.
A cooker hood is fitted, although the example in the test ‘van did a passable sound impression of a miniature chainsaw when its fan was on. As is usual, the hood has built-in downlighters, but fitted with old fashioned, power-supping, halogen lamps. Really? Yep, and I have the burns to prove it!
So it a very good a spacious, practical, well equipped kitchen with no niggles? Well, not quite, as I'm not keen on the downward curving end of the unit at one end of the sink. It looks a bit like a waterfall waiting to happen and with me as pot washer, it’d be certain. A bit more horizontal surface please and a lip to stem escaping washing-up water.
The ablutions stand either side of the aisle, cheek-by-jowl with the rear bed and separated from the main living area by a sliding door. The first points-loser to be found is the lack of door to enclose the bed from the area. There is a tambour door that encloses the nearside located toilet/washroom, but this still leaves the shower opposite unable to be used in private by folks sleeping up front when someone is in bed in the rear. A bit of an omission really – and given that this motorhome is just 11 inches short of 30 feet long, there should be room to fit one.
No complaints with the shower as it’s spacious, includes a small locker and shelf and is enclosed by rigid doors. Next to it a large wardrobe with drawers below, gives changing/dressing room status. The toilet room is well appointed, with Bürstner’s usual and sensible set up of plenty of storage, big mirror and deep basin. Unlike some, the swivel-bowl loo isn’t raised up on a plinth, so there should be comfortable sitting for all.
The overcab bed is spacious and pretty good. Volume and ventilation are always needed or the overcab will become ‘sauna’ in warm weather. Fresh air is supplied by a window at the foot of the bed and a rooflight above. A pair of snazzy lamps illuminate the head and while there are no shelves for nighttime stuff, the adjacent flat tops of the lounge’s overhead lockers might do the job as they’re within reach.
The over-garage bed in the aft end works well as it’s roomy and with good headroom, it boasts individual mattresses with rising heads for inclined relaxation, but the rearmost comes up against the overhead locker directly above, so seems rather pointless.
With a rooflight and window at the bedhead, there’s good ventilation, but you must be careful that your pillows don’t damage blinds and or flyscreens. Unusually, there are fitted sheets supplied for both doubles.
In the lounge conversion to bedroom is done in the usual manner. It’s just the lower portion of the sofa backrests, plus the backrest cushion at the cab end, that need to be removed to create the single bed. Opposite, the table drops and cushions are added to create a bed in the Pullman dinette.
This is billed as a double, but it’s just an inch wider than a domestic single so two slimmer folks will sleep here. We need smaller people on the single as well, but this time not so tall as it only manages 5ft 9in of length.
IN THE HOLD
Aside from a plentiful supply of overhead lockers, there’s storage volume aplenty thanks to the volumous garage and a considerable acreage of the double floor cavity. Good access into both areas sees a large garage door on each flank and further forwards, hatches on both sides.
Terrific stuff, but beware when you load up for a trip, there’s the lion’s share of three quarters of a tonne of payload, but with all this stowage space (and don’t forget the weight of the residents) it would be quite easy to overload this motorhome.
That said, the amount of space for lots of bulky, but lightweight holiday paraphernalia is impressive. I’d take a kayak or maybe a paddle board.
We start with a fully winterised motorhome and that’s because its heated double floor contains both fresh and grey water tanks so they won’t freeze when the temperature drops. And the heating is well up to the job as it’s by Alde and with a boiler that warms concealed radiators throughout the interior. And this is so much better the alternative blown-air systems – quieter, and less power-hungry. The control panel is notable as much for its style as function. Plenty of tech as is usual these days, but displayed and controlled from an interface that looks more than a bit traditional and more than a bit ‘luxury yacht.’