Base vehicle: Mercedes Actros Price from: €990,000 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 12.00m Width: 2.50m Height: 4.00m Gross weight: 26,000kg Payload: 3,000kg
Words: Peter Vaughan
Photos courtesy of Dembell
One of the most jaw-dropping aspects of the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, apart from the sheer scale of the show and the number of vehicles on display, is the ‘premium’ hall, where you probably need at least 250,000 euros to buy even the most affordable model (all things are relative!). You’ll require an HGV licence for many of these liner-class motorhomes, too, or maybe a modern-day Jeeves to do the driving for you. These aren’t merely A-classes; they tower above more modest motorhomes, stretch width to the legal maximum, and often have a garage not for your pushbikes but, as a minimum, a Smart car (although a Maserati and a Bugatti featured as runabouts in conjunction with two of this year’s show vehicles).
Into this rarefied world enters a new brand – Dembell – and it describes its vehicles not even as liners, but ‘land yachts’. With prices starting at just under a million euros, the likeness to a superyacht is perhaps closer than you might think and even the customers may be similar.
The base for such an ultimate leisure vehicle, of course, is also suitably upscale – in this case a Mercedes Actros, powered by a 12.8-litre diesel engine producing 530PS and 2,600Nm of torque (eight times that of a typical Fiat motorhome) at just 1,100rpm. It drives the rear axles (plural, with steering) through a 12-speed automatic transmission.
Dembell isn’t unique in selecting such a heavy truck from the three-pointed star but its external design is worthy of comment. For a start, everything is aluminium and the sides are smooth, with no visible handles or protrusions. That clean look extends to glass windows that sit completely flush with the huge body – they’re heated, too. Even the awning (measuring 6.3m by 3.5m) is special; it has no support legs and retracts automatically if the windspeed rises beyond the predetermined safe level of 39km/h.
Of course, there’s a car in the back – here, a Smart painted to match the motorhome in pearl white. In fact, the little car is included in the price but this is the model with ‘small garage’. You can, alternatively, choose a side garage version (for motorbikes) or a ‘large garage’ model for cars around 4m long – or you could always tow a second car (or a boat) up to 3.5 tonnes. And the exterior can be any colour you like; if it’s metallic it will have three layers on top of a basecoat, then four layers of anti-graffiti crystal lacquer taking two days to paint.
Climb the eight steps to get on board and the interior of the Dembell will exceed your expectations. The boating connection returns here, as the Italian design studio used previously worked on Azimut yachts (prices of which start at over £2m). No plastic is used anywhere inside the motorhome and everything is electrically operated – from the window blinds to the height of the table and the drop-down bed in the front. There’s no gas on board, either; the Scheer 17kW heating system runs off diesel, while there’s a 4.8kW generator and four 200Ah lithium batteries to provide your electrical needs when not hooked up to the mains. Separate air-conditioning units cool the living area and rear bedroom.
You’ll not be short of living space as the twin slide-outs increase the vehicle’s width when parked from 2.50m to 3.70m. Of course, you can choose the real wood veneer for the furniture, as well as the lacquered wood flooring. When you’re spending this much, every vehicle is bespoke to your taste.
Forget motorhome/caravan-type appliances, too. Here, they are domestic fittings and mostly from renowned German brand, Miele, which supplies the microwave, extractor hood and induction hob – as well as the combined washing machine and tumble dryer found in the bathroom. The huge, drawer-style dishwasher is a brand-new design from Fisher & Paykel, while the Liebherr fridge has 184 litres of cooled capacity plus a 59-litre freezer.
Surprisingly, perhaps, all this extravagance and grandeur isn’t just for two. The Dembell is a four-berth motorhome – sorry, land yacht – with four travel seats. These aren’t just ordinary chairs, though – they’re heated, air-conditioned, seats with air springs and a massage function (and on the show vehicle, upholstered in white Maserati leather). Maybe you’ll do your own driving, after all…
Behind those four chairs is the main living area, with the all-black kitchen on one side and the lounging and eating area opposite. The two portable dining chairs (each worth €2,000) can be used outside, too. There’s a 50in ultra-HD 4K television – and, of course, a second, similar telly in the bedroom – as well as a Bose sound system. Equally impressive is the flat floor running right through the motorhome – even the cab and bedroom are step-free and headroom throughout is 2.05m.
Between the living area and the bedroom (with its 2.00m by 2.00m double bed) is the bathroom, where the coverings are stone and the basin and loo are ceramic – you don’t have to worry too much about payload when the gross weight is 26 tonnes. Dembell’s Sales Manager, Peter Feige, jokes with us that the toilet (costing €3,000) is the world’s most expensive loo. It’s heated (of course) but also includes a bidet function, so no paper is ever required. There’s a 350-litre black tank for the toilet, plus a 550-litre grey waste tank and fresh water capacity is 1,000 litres. That should last a while but you won’t be popular while you refill it at a campsite tap – just think of the queue behind…
Most of us will never have to worry about such trivialities but it’s interesting to step briefly into the opulent world of the land yacht, where size and weight are way beyond the motorhome norm and the specification really is like a penthouse on wheels. This wasn’t even the Salon’s most expensive vehicle, although Peter’s parting shot that everything (even the Smart car) is included in the price tag of just over €1m, and that all you need to add is clothes and food, almost makes it sound like good value. Almost.
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