There are numerous unique features from this premium brand that genuinely make it stand out, not least the rear-wheel drive Mercedes chassis, which, in this latest 2-litre, 190bhp guise with the nine-speed automatic gearbox, seems better than ever.
Base vehicle: Mercedes Sprinter Price from: £192,890 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 8.04m Width: 2.30m Height: 3.23m Gross weight: 5,500kg Payload: 1,045kg
Words and photos: Peter Vaughan
For nearly 50 years, Frankia has built motorhomes on Mercedes chassis and, latterly, its flagship Platin models have benefited from the legendary 3-litre V6 engine – a veritable powerhouse that’s not available with front-wheel drive. But times move on, emissions regulations get ever tighter and the OM642 motor is no more. Frankia ordered as many of the run-out models as it could and, last September, it announced the appropriately named Final Six – a one-layout, one-spec, Platin with even more equipment.
In the end, Mercedes called time on the six-cylinder unit earlier than envisaged, making the Final Six even more exclusive. In its place, comes the visually identical Edition One – the same motorhome, but with the latest Merc power unit. However, can a 2-litre motor, even with twin turbos, ever be a replacement for a unit with 50% more displacement? Frankia importer, SMC, lent us both a Final Six and an Edition One to find out…
The OM654 engine that is now used across the entire Sprinter line-up comes in four different power outputs, the top model matching the old V6’s 190 horsepower, albeit at 4,200rpm rather than 3,800rpm. More importantly, torque is up slightly from 440Nm to 450Nm at lower revs (now just 1,350rpm). It’s a proven engine, too, having first been introduced in the E-class saloon in 2016. Unlike its predecessor, the new motor has an aluminium block (saving weight), while the Nanoslide cylinder coating is said to reduce friction, helping to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Of course, the new Sprinters meet the Euro VI-E standard but what you really want to know is whether you’ll miss those cylinders.
Driving the Final Six first reminded me why I love the V6 motor and, jumping into the Edition One, there seemed to be a less silky and sophisticated engine note under acceleration. However, once at a 60mph cruise on the A1, mechanical din seemed to disappear almost completely with the new four-cylinder unit – and a lack of any rattles from the living area only enhanced the sense of calm.
It’s not just the engine that’s changed, either, but the automatic gearbox, too, as RWD Sprinters now have the nine-speed transmission previously only offered in front-wheel drive derivatives. The old seven-speeder was once seen as a paragon of smoothness, but the new gearbox appears to pick up pace more keenly. You’d swear that the Edition One had an extra 10, or even 20, horsepower. Not only that, but driving the two motorhomes back to back over the same test route, we achieved 20.0mpg from the V6 and 22.2mpg from the four-cylinder model, a small but useful improvement.
Of course, both Frankias are almost unique in the market, being based on the rear-wheel drive Sprinter with twin rear wheels and a 5,500kg gross weight (direct rivals are more likely to be based on an Iveco chassis). Driving the rear wheels is better for towing and superior in conditions of poor grip, such as on wet campsite grass.
Not only that but, as part of the package with the two special edition motorhomes, the Merc chassis is uprated with FSD front shock absorbers and full VB air suspension at the rear, replacing the original leaf springs. As well as endowing this 8m motorhome with a comfortable ride and impressive stability, the VB system allows the rear of the motorhome to be lowered (when loading the garage) or raised (for boarding ferries).
The Edition One is not a new model, being based on the existing Platin I 7900 GD. No other layouts are available for this limited edition, which gets the straight nearside sofa and linear galley as standard (usually an optional extra in place of ‘L’ shapes for settee and kitchen). The exterior is classic Frankia and only offered in white, while the interior adopts Visby/
White furniture (the Noce/Bianco alternative is not available here). Upholstery mixes a microfibre material with real leather in brown.
At 8.04m long, this is one size down from the ultimate Platin, but there is no reduction in spec. In fact, the Edition One gets all the usual Platin toys, plus a 5.5m electric awning with
full-length LED strip light, the latest Dometic Freshlight roof air-con unit with integral rooflight, and a step for the cab door.
To go with its generous payload of over a tonne, the Edition One still has Frankia’s super-sized garage with a huge top-hinged tailgate. With practical, heavy-duty flooring and 1.24m headroom, this is a class-leading space, while another Edition One feature is the additional locker just forward of the garage with a slide-out rack for smaller items.
Then there’s the double floor, of course, with three hatches in the living area floor (including one for shoes as you enter the motorhome) and external access, too. The rear-wheel drive chassis limits the depth of the double floor compared with front-drive models, but the Frankia is hardly short of storage. Other external lockers also reveal a spare toilet cassette (a vital addition for off-grid living) and built-in hoses for fresh water and grey waste, as well as a mains lead that pulls out from under the diesel filler – all practical and typically Frankia. Water tanks are housed inboard, of course, and the fresh tank holds a generous 270 litres. But that’s not the full story when it comes to self-sufficiency. Where other top-end A-classes require you to carefully study the options list, Frankia has always equipped its Platin range for life away from campsites. Here, that means two 120Ah lithium batteries, four 110W solar panels and even a 1,700W sine wave inverter, so 230V appliances can be used when there’s no hook-up. You can monitor your power consumption easily, too, with a pair of LCD displays showing power coming in from the sun and also what you are drawing with lights on, etc.
Climb one external step (which auto-retracts) and two interior steps and close a habitation door with the solidity of a bank vault; now you’re in eight metres of mobile luxury. You’ll appreciate it even more, perhaps, in the depths of winter, as not only is there an Alde heating system, but it includes a heat exchanger, underfloor heating and even additional ducting and a blower to keep the cab (the coldest area) warm in extreme temperatures. I couldn’t try that out in British springtime, but I could appreciate some of Frankia’s superb attention to detail.
Aspects like the double-glazed cab side windows and, especially, the double-insulated blinds throughout are rarely seen, while Frankia also pays particular attention to its furniture construction. Top locker doors are mounted on substantial hinges that are, in turn, attached to a continuous aluminium profile. Combined with thick bookends to the units and shelves on metal fixings (not the usual flimsy plastic), such refinements help with long-term durability, as well as limiting squeaks and rattles.
The living area boasts a single floor level and, because the cab is lower, you raise the Isri captain’s chairs when you swivel them to become part of the lounge. They’re as comfortable on site as they are for driving, but the sofas were just a tad too firm for my liking. Slot-in backrests allow the settees to become occasional rear travel seats.
A more unusual – and impressive – feature is the way the table extends with a pop-up centre leaf. That makes a family-sized 920mm by 650mm dining surface, but one that’s beaten for ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ bragging rights by the telly – a 32in screen by the entrance, which has to tilt onto its side when stowed. It comes with a Teleco satellite dish and Alpine Dolby surround sound speaker system – all as standard.
Unlike some German motorhomes we’ve tested, there are very few options on this Edition One. The only one of real note is the Dometic full cooker, which seems to have been installed to suit the UK market. It even has a mains hotplate, as well as a separate grill and gas oven.
The high-end kitchen worktop also hides a surprise, as the split cover for the sink doubles up as a worktop extension, using a slide-out frame. And the positives keep coming, with four large soft-closing drawers, one with a cutlery holder and another with a bin. Surprisingly, there’s no extractor hood, though. Opposite, you can’t fault the fridge size – 153 litres – or its spec, with separate freezer compartment, automatic energy selection and doors that open from either side. There’s a super-sized cupboard above for cereal packets, etc, as well as a small pull-out pantry unit to the left of the cooler.
Then, to the right, is a huge wardrobe with removable shelves, upper and lower hanging rails and an almost floor-to-ceiling mirror. This speaks of dressing for special occasions or fancy restaurants, but the layout also includes two more wardrobes, one on each side, sliding out from beneath the single beds. How much designer garb do you need?
The giant wardrobe is also outside the en suite bedroom area to the rear, which becomes a separate space when you open the toilet room door across the aisle. It locks into position, with sliding doors then providing privacy from the bedroom and creating an excellent en suite across the full width of the motorhome.
The toilet area has a ceramic loo, tall mirrors fronting plenty of storage (with upstands on the shelves to keep their contents in place) and the high-quality Argo tap is a solid metal one (just like in the galley).
On the offside, the shower not only has metallic fittings, but glass for the shower doors. Even the shower tray feels like a domestic item, as well as having diagonal drains for when you’re not parked quite level.
Beyond the washroom, the Edition One is only available with a twin bed arrangement, although an option is a metal base and extra cushion to extend the centre part of the bed from 1.05m to 1.63m long. Having seen simple-to-use sliding arrangements from rival makers, this option seemed a bit clumsy.
The single beds themselves are long but not super-long; where they impress is with width as, at shoulder level, they’re over a metre across (and meet in the middle). Magazine pockets and flexi-wand reading lights with two USBs each also garner praise but, once again, overhead cupboards stop you sitting up.
If you want an even bigger bed, why not sleep up front? The A-class drop-down here is more of a whirr-down bed as it lowers electrically. However, its party piece is that it then extends lengthways (manually). At 2.02m by 1.92m, it’s bigger than a domestic super king size!
Another electric fitting is the windscreen blind, which also doubles up (lowering a restricted amount when the engine is running!) as a sun visor. On site it can also be opened from the top, to give daylight while retaining privacy, so it’s just a shame that it rises and falls with the pace of a snail with a hangover.
Motorhome supplied by
Tel: 01636 670760
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