Here’s a vehicle that has been built up to a quality, not down to a price tag. All the equipment and fixings on board are of the highest standard available and there’s an impressive 11-year water ingress warranty, too. If you’re in the market for a five-star hotel that can be very conveniently moved from place to place, the Frankia Platin I8400 Plus should definitely be on your shopping list.
Price from: £160,200 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 2/4 Base vehicle: Mercedes Sprinter Length: 8.58m Width: 2.30m Height: 3.23m Gross weight: 5,500kg
Part of the mighty French family-owned Pilote Group, German brand, Frankia, is one of those marques that seems to almost fly under the radar.
While brands like Hymer and Niesmann+Bischoff are well known for their high-end A-class motorhomes, Frankia seems to hide its light under a bushel. But don’t be fooled – if you’re in the market for a seriously good luxury A-class, Frankia is one name that you need to have on your list.
This new model is from the flagship, fully-loaded Platin range, which outguns almost all of its rivals in terms of standard equipment and comes exclusively on the rear-wheel drive Mercedes chassis.
The I8400 is the biggest available, at 8.58m (there are 8.04m and 8.14m layouts, too), while the ‘Plus’ suffix refers to a Brit-pleasing rear lounge, here in fashionable C-shape format.
With a maximum gross weight of 5,500kg, you’ll need the C1 category on your driving licence to pilot this 8.58m motorhome but, thanks to the Sprinter base vehicle and great mirrors, it’s not as intimidating as you’d expect.
As with many A-classes, the first impression from behind the wheel is of the vast windscreen, which gives the classic panoramic view. On the Frankia the windscreen is several feet ahead of the driver, which adds to the feeling of size and makes the front corners quite hard to judge.
Fortunately, however, you won’t ever have to mop the ’screen manually (not that you could reach it!) as there are several adjustable demisting vents fringing the front of the dashboard and climate control is standard, too.
It’s also worth pointing out that the habitation air-conditioning or heat exchanger can be used while on the road, so maintaining the whole interior temperate will not be an issue wherever you choose to travel.
Thanks to comfortable, multi-adjustable captain’s chairs, you really do feel like the captain of the ship. The driving position is excellent, with lots of room around both occupants and plenty of storage compartments for all your on-the-road kit.
Typically with an A-class, there is just one cab door, which remains on the left-hand side on this right-hand drive vehicle.
The top-of-the-range 190bhp V6 diesel engine (fitted as standard) pulls really well and gives the Platin a surprising turn of speed. The Sprinter base vehicle also means it’s far more refined than Iveco-based rivals. Engine and drivetrain noise are minimal.
It’s not all good news, though, as Mercs tend to be quite softly sprung (being rear-drive this is a Mercedes chassis, not an Al-Ko). The lofty, 3.23m tall body does tend to lean in the corners and I’d be tempted to tick the rear air suspension option to curb this if spending £150k on a motorhome.
Parking on the campsite proved a doddle, thanks to the standard-fit reversing camera and the jumbo-sized, bus-style mirrors. Then, when stepping into the main habitation area you can’t help but be impressed by the sheer feeling of space, the high quality of every fitting and fixture, and the luxurious style of it all. This motorhome really does have the instant wow factor.
The optional grey leather trim (priced at £3,760) and the satin white resin worktops in the kitchen (another £1,970) look really sharp against the gloss white cabinet doors and dark walnut-effect trim.
You can choose from 30 different interior colours if this upholstery isn’t to your taste, as well a variety of cabinetwork, so getting a Frankia that suits you shouldn’t be an issue.
While the cab seats both swivel and have handy worktops to each side for drinks or plates, most people will head rearwards to relax. Here you’ll find a raised lounge area with a C-shaped settee facing four ways around a fixed dining table.
With large windows to three sides and two overhead sunroofs (the second is an option – we’d tick it!) lots of natural light floods into the lounge and, in summer, the windows and rooflights can all be opened to provide great cross ventilation.
The lounge has been carefully laid out and, as well as having drinks cabinets in the two rear corners for grabbing your favourite tipple, there’s also a 32in TV that slides out of a cabinet to face the lounge from the offside wall.
Press a button marked ‘Sat’ on the control panel and a Teleco S85 dish flips up and automatically locks onto your chosen satellite to give you a wide range of TV and radio channels, all fed through an Alpine Dolby surround sound system. It’s an intuitive system and had found loads of TV channels in minutes. We’d be lying if we said testing these vehicles is always a tough job…
Another big plus is the double floor, which sees all the vital services – including fresh and waste water tanks and all the electrics – sandwiched in a heated void. This not only prevents any frost issues in winter but adds an extra layer of insulation to the living area for year-round comfort.
With Alde ‘wet’ heating throughout and radiators in every zone, as well as a Dometic air-conditioning for the habitation area, you can set the internal temperature just so.
This particular Frankia also had a pair of optional rear travel seats. The nearside one is an Aguti item that lives underneath the settee base and flips up when needed. It has an adjustable headrest and Isofix.
The second seat is much more cumbersome, however. When not in use, it lives under one of the seat bases, but the entire seat and frame has to be lifted across and bolted to a mounting plate underneath a flap on the offside. It really is just an occasional travel seat.
Backing onto the C-shaped lounge is a generous kitchen, which, thanks to the UK spec, also includes a Thetford Duplex oven in addition to a three-burner gas hob. Actually, it’s a two-ring gas-on-glass hob, with an additional single-burner cooker recessed into the worktop under a removable worktop panel. There’s also a stainless-steel drain plug here, so maybe it’s for messier cooking?
There’s plenty of worktop and a durable grey resin sink fed by a proper chromed metal mixer tap. I’d have liked a draining board to be built in but there’s ample space (and storage) for a removable plastic one or a tray.
Also inset into the worktop is a rubbish bin that will be ideal for sweeping your veg peelings into. And a pleasing addition to the UK spec is the Nespresso machine, which can be used at any time thanks to the standard-fit inverter.
With several drawers in the galley base unit and lots of securely latched and deep overhead lockers, there’s lots of storage in the kitchen, as well as a vast 153-litre fridge with a 29-litre freezer and the clever hinge system that allows it to be opened from either side for maximum convenience.
It’s a real treat to see how comprehensively Frankia has tackled the challenge of powering all the I8400’s many electrical systems. For starters, the engine features a whopping 220A alternator that can put serious charge into the leisure batteries.
These batteries, and the electrical systems, are located behind a clip-off meshed panel in the garage and sit alongside all the 12V fuses and the 230V consumer unit. So, all the electrics are conveniently grouped in one accessible place for easy maintenance.
Two 110Ah Lithium ferrous polymer batteries are fitted as standard and are charged by either a 90A battery-to-battery booster system or a 40A charger.
In addition, there are four 110W solar panels on the roof that feed a 35A solar regulator. To give you 230V power when you’re on the road, or camping off-grid, there’s also a monster 1,700W pure sinewave inverter.
The whole shooting match is linked to a pair of computer-controlled displays above the entrance door to give an easy at-a-glance indication of charge. It’s all set up perfectly for wild camping.
Even on the overcast day of the test, the solar panels were still chucking out an impressive 7.1A and were recharging the batteries faster than the many LED lights were draining it. This is like a master class in how to do motorhome electrics and is several thousand pounds’ worth of high-end kit. Frankia has even thought about adding more power sources, so the Platin is pre-wired for an Efoy Comfort fuel cell.
In addition to high-quality blinds on the side windows, light in the cab is sealed out at the touch of a button with a roller-shutter on the windscreen. This also doubles as a blind for sunlight in the daytime, but has its travel limited when the ignition is on – so the dog can’t rest his paw on the control and cause a crash!
When it comes to beds, you’ve got two options – lower the rear table and add an infill cushion to create a large bed or simply press a button and watch the front bed come down over the cab seats.
A drop-down bed is one of the great benefits of an A-class and this is a cracker. It lowers to chest height and then extends forward to create a massive 2.06m by 1.93m double with a central cut-out at the foot. A two-step footstool slides out of an adjacent cabinet to make it easy to get in.
Thoughtfully located next to the front bedroom – with privacy doors to both sides – the washroom has a separate shower cubicle on the driver’s side and a toilet and basin opposite. The shower is of a decent size and features twin drains, a roof vent and a high-quality metal tap, but an oversight is the lack of anywhere to put your toiletries while showering.
The toilet is the ceramic bowl version of Dometic’s cassette and is linked to a fan and an active carbon filter system. The practical changing area is completed by a high-quality resin basin and metal mixer tap, a stout triple-door mirrored toiletries cabinet, a towel rail and a handy wardrobe
Everywhere you look in the habitation area, there’s storage, storage and more, er, storage. A family of four would struggle to fill it all, let alone a couple.
Then, it gets even better when you venture outside.
For starters, all the exterior lockers are dedicated to a particular function, including a locker with an automatic dispensing cable reel for the mains hook-up lead.
A separate locker for the plumbing features a wide-bore waste water point with an internal on/off handle (no grubbing about to find a dirty emptying handle underneath the motorhome here), as well as a hose reel with various Hoselock-style connectors for fresh water filling. The water pump is also sited here for easy maintenance.
Best of all is the garage than can be accessed by a large flip-up hatch in the rear panel or a door on the nearside. Pleasingly, this area contains a full-sized space wheel and the electrical services point.