Price from: £87,800 Base vehicle: Mercedes Sprinter Al-Ko (FWD) Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 7.54m Width: 2.35m Height: 2.76m Gross weight: 3,500kg (4,500kg) Payload: 325kg
It was the arrival of a front-wheel drive derivative of the new Sprinter that persuaded French firm, Rapido, to link up once again with the three-pointed star. Mercedes-based models (mostly A-classes) had once been a key part of its motorhome range but the difficulty of offering a full double floor in combination with rear-wheel drive saw a temporary divorce between the two marques.
Now, the Série M sees a return of a Rapido with the Stuttgart star proudly displayed on the grille – and, as before, different styling to its cheaper, Fiat-based sister models. There are just two layouts on offer for now – M66 with high-level single beds and M96 with an island bed – but we’d be surprised if this line-up wasn’t expanded for 2021.
Both of the initial M models are 7.54m long and use the Al-Ko chassis in combination with the front-drive Sprinter and 143bhp engine. A 180bhp upgrade and nine-speed automatic gearbox are available, while the standard maximum gross weight is 3,500kg. While this any-driver mass will be welcomed by some, it should be noted that payload is pretty meagre (325kg before options), so the 4,500kg chassis is the one to have.
After all, this is a motorhome on which you’ll want all the toys. The £4,490 M Pack (including everything from the 10.25in MBUX dashboard display with sat-nav and reversing camera to keyless starting and an electronic handbrake, plus automatic headlights, etc) is an essential starting point, but it’s worth noting, too, that UK models come as standard with carpets, Combi 6EH heating, a second leisure battery, oven, three-burner hob, corner steadies and external shower over and above the continental spec.
However, with the chassis and engine upgrades, auto’ gearbox, leather trim, alloy wheels and other details such as a memory foam mattress topper and double-glazed cab side windows, this particular M96 topped out at £105,100.
Inside, the M range is said to encapsulate the best of the existing Fiat-based 80dF and Distinction ranges. It has striking, new, angular top lockers in a high-gloss white finish, while the heated double floor (with full-width external storage) allows a flat floor throughout the living area. There’s a large garage at the rear with electric height adjustment for the bed above.
Heating is by Truma (blown-air) as standard but can be upgraded to the Alde Arctic Comfort Plus wet radiator system as an option.
The side settee lounge is virtually de rigeur in 2020 but, as ever, it feels more spacious in an A-class. The fold-in-half tabletop helps, too, while armrests and scatter cushions are welcome additions to the sofas.
Centrally located on the nearside, the kitchen has a fashionable burners-in-line hob to free up preparation space, while the oven is mounted in a convenient position. There are three drawers (locked by a single rotary knob), plus illuminated holders for kitchen roll and spices. The 149-litre fridge/freezer (with automatic energy selection) is opposite.
At the rear, the bed slides back to create more space for changing (it’s quite tight with the sliding bedroom doors closed) as well as a comfy place to recline. There are the usual his and hers wardrobes but the bedside pigeonholes are a neat and useful addition. Then, completing the floorplan are the separate toilet (very smart, as you’d expect of a Rapido) and shower (a good size with central drain) – both areas have roof vents and can be closed off from the forward living space.