This is the pinnacle of low-profile pricing but the Mercedes chassis, deep double floor and extensive spec help to explain the cost. Storage space is designed with (very) lengthy tours in mind, and there’s a payload to match, while the lounge is a star feature and the bedroom impressed, too. If only the T 148 had a fold-in-half table and a privacy screen for the rear bedroom…
Price from: £78,700 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Base vehicle: Mercedes Sprinter Al-Ko Length: 7.62m Width: 2.27m Height: 2.95m Gross weight: 4,500kg Payload: 1,085kg
Words and photos: Peter Vaughan
There aren’t many campsites with a resident wild peacock, but Gerald has lived at the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Lower Wensleydale site (where we tested the C-tourer) for six years. Equally, we don’t see many low-profile ’vans that have over £33k-worth of options added. But this is no ordinary low-profile.
From a marque best-known for its A-classes, this is the third best-selling model on the British market. Its layout is offered on the Fiat, but a large dose of extra appeal comes with the Merc option (both have a rear Al-Ko chassis). Unusually, though, you cannot have the 148 H as an A-class. Pity.
As a low-profile, its price tag – £112,175 – causes a sharp intake of breath. And, no, that’s not because someone ticked options boxes like a teacher marking a star pupil’s work. Actually, we’re told, this is a typical spec for UK customers; only the towbar (£1,460) is unusual.
Don’t think of this as a 3,500kg motorhome, either, because the options alone (which add 380kg) would eat up most of the payload. With the 4,500kg upgrade costing just £435, it’s a no-brainer. Carrying capacity is then restored to well over a tonne as tested.
With all the toys, from two TVs to a lithium battery and 4.5m awning, I was expecting something special and just reading through the kit list before setting off had me salivating.
If Fiat’s top power unit has 178bhp and this Mercedes engine summons 170bhp (a £1,860 upgrade from the standard 143bhp), then I can only think that the German horses have been fed a better diet because they certainly seem healthier.
Unsurprisingly, they’re mated here to the nine-speed automatic gearbox (£2,415), while it’s worth reminding you that power goes to the front wheels (RWD Sprinters still exist but are relatively rare as motorhomes).
Combined with a low-frame Al-Ko chassis, the Merc’s road manners are exemplary, whether cruising up the A1 or heading across country on the winding A6108. The 9G-Tronic transmission is never caught napping, the steering is more precise than Sprinters of yore and the wide rear track ensures that wobble and wander are a thing of the past.
Of course, the Mercedes cab feels like a much more up-to-date place to sit than the Fiat, too, although you’ll pay handsomely if you want it to be exactly like this.
The essential Chassis package (£4,735) adds the Tempmatik semi-automatic air-con, cruise control, a leather multifunction steering wheel, an increased load limit for the front axle, automatic wipers and more. Also included is the height/tilt adjustment for the Aguti seats, but I found myself wishing they’d go a tad lower. I had no such issue with the reach/rake-adjustable steering wheel.
It’s the Media package II (£3,795) that brings the digital reversing camera and 7in MBUX multimedia display to the party (as well as a 24in telly in the lounge). Upgrade that central screen to 10.2in (as you will) and that’s another £490 but the resultant crystal-clear mapping will soon have you forgetting the price.
You haven’t stopped spending yet, though, because the Driver’s assistance package (£2,115) adds the latest safety kit. Adaptive cruise control, active braking assistant, alertness monitoring, lane departure warning and road sign assistant all feature when you tick this option.
This Carthago may retain the steel cab from Mercedes-Benz but the rest of the body is as you’d expect from this premium brand. There’s the characteristic curve from side walls into the roof, with associated claims of improved rigidity and less sensitivity to crosswinds. It definitely looks good and there were no creaks and almost no rattles from this vehicle.
The walls feature aluminium on the inside (with a soft covering) as well as the outside, which Carthago says is 1,000 times better for heat distribution than traditional wooden internal walls, while a 10-year water ingress warranty is there for peace of mind.
Just like its A-class sisters, the T 148 has a double floor, too. It’s not just one of those shallow areas for the vehicle’s services, although it does house the 150-litre fresh water and 140-litre waste tanks.
This is a true double floor with basement storage right across the width of the vehicle, accessed via external hatches behind the cab on either side as well as trapdoors in the floor inside and by lifting the seat bases.
There’s a stowage height of up to 550mm, with an especially deep compartment in the centre of the ’van, where you’ll also find all the water drains in a frostproof space – the whole underfloor area is heated.
Not only is there loads of storage in the floor, but even more space in the ginormous rear garage (with headroom of 1.18m and width of 1.24m).
The chequerplate flooring, needle felt walls, luggage nets and outside shower are all optional extras here, as is the second loading door, but we’d have still liked better lighting of this huge space, which can carry up to 350kg, thanks to the chassis rails running beneath.
I’m not sure what Humphrey Bogart would have made of it, but Carthago calls this furniture ‘Casablanca world of style’; it costs £525 more than the Epic interior and replaces Bright Ash with lighter Noble Cherry wood.
Here, it’s mated to Davos part-leather upholstery (£320), although there are also four standard fabrics as well as all-hide options. The combination here seemed well judged and it’s not hard to see why the T 148 H is a UK favourite – the lounge, with its long offside sofa, is extremely appealing.
For a start, there’s a flat floor from the cab right through to the bedroom. Then, there are settees that are supportive, well-shaped and just the right height off the floor. There’s headroom of 1.82m with the drop-down bed fitted, 1.96m without, and in the former a large (almost horizontal) overcab sunroof lets in lots of daylight.
As many as 15 downlighters in the lounge (including the cab) mean that there’s no shortage of illumination when the sun goes down but, in this case, it can be a bit too much.
With so many lights operated by one switch, I wished for a more restful feel, perhaps with a dimmer function. At least you can separately turn off the lights above the telly, which is raised manually from its hidey-hole behind the offside settee.
If the TV seems just the right size (24in), the table (930mm by 660mm) threatens to spoil the spaciousness of this area. In the usual Carthago fashion, it slides and twists (once you’ve put your foot on a button on the floor), but it would be so much less intrusive if it also folded in half.
Table aside, this is a first-class lounge and, while you’ll note the rather small cupboards beneath the drop-down bed, these are more than compensated by the unusually generous top lockers above the cab.
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In recent seasons Carthago has, at last, been replacing inconveniently high Tec-Tower ovens with much more practical Duplex units built-in low down in the main galley. Hurrah for that, even if it’s still an £805 option.
The kitchen scores well in other aspects, too. It looks good, with curves aplenty and a mix of pale wood, gloss white and contrasting mottled charcoal worktop.
The Master Gourmet hob surprises with its cast iron trivets. More practical is the huge amount of drawer space – three deep pull-outs under the sink and a fourth, with bin, below the oven.
Another plus is the sink cover that inverts and becomes a useful (and surprisingly sturdy) shelf. Then, there’s the giant fridge/freezer – a two-door (doors opening from either side) model with 153-litre capacity and automatic energy selection.
The only thing missing that you might expect in a top-class German ’van is a coffee machine; that’s another option.
If you expected the fridge to be opposite the galley, rather than adjacent, the other surprise layout-wise is that the washroom is one unit, rather than separate shower and toilet facilities on either side of the ’van.
Of course, the ablutions take up less space this way but it’s a tad disappointing that Carthago has not managed to incorporate some form of screen or division to create a private changing area at the rear. When you come out of the shower you’ll need to be well wrapped in your towel if you haven’t closed all the blinds.
Inside the washroom itself, though, the space is well used. There’s plenty of storage, including recesses with rails to keep their contents in place, and good details such a drying rail and useful worktop around the basin. The mirror area is vast, helping the space to feel roomy but, perhaps, too vast if you’re not fond of your own figure!
Plastic screens fold and rotate to create a fairly generous shower with excellent water pressure, as well as pockets for shampoo, etc, while the optional floor covering (to match the living area) can now be left in situ as it’s waterproof.
After your shower, fresh clothes can be found hanging beneath the nearside single bed in a wardrobe that’s bigger than you’d expect. As it drops down into the double floor, hanging height from the rail is a useful 1.04m.
A second, smaller wardrobe is located under the offside bed. Here, removable shelves are fitted.
You shouldn’t want for bigger beds, at least not on the nearside where the mattress measures more than 2m in length. And, before you groan at the sight of those lockers over the head of the beds, note that the end of each bed’s slatted base can be raised on a ratchet system to allow comfortable sitting up in bed. There’s much more variety in lighting here than in the lounge, too, including reading lights.
There’s also the possibility of extending the central section of the bed. The standard cushion between the beds is 1.12m long but, with a slot-in additional cushion, this grows to 1.57m. Now you could have a transverse double bed 2.12m long, or room for a child to sleep ‘piggy in the middle’, but the clever bit is that the bedroom steps slide forward, so they can still be used.
You’ll need a ladder for the front drop-down bed, though. This requires two seatbelt-style buckles to be unfastened before removing the travel seat head restraints and pressing a button.
The double that lowers into place is a rather odd shape but widest where you need it and it doesn’t obstruct the kitchen or the doorway. Its reading lights at the nearside dictate that heads go this end, while headroom is an excellent 710mm.
Of course, those needing just a two-berth can save themselves £1,765, while the C-tourer can also be specified as a five-berth featuring an additional bed made from the lounge and a fifth travel seat adapted from the offside settee.
Five berths or two, the C-tourer certainly lives up to its luxury billing, albeit at a price that puts it up against A-classes and bigger motorhomes.
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