Base vehicle: Mercedes Sprinter L3 H3 rear-wheel drive Price from: £79,995 (as tested £124,980) Berths: 2 Travel seats: 2 Length: 6.97m Width: 2.02m Height: 2.98m (excluding roof air-con) Gross weight: 3,850kg (also available at 3,500kg or 4,100kg, depending on spec) Payload: Around 350kg as tested
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Pull firmly on the handle and the big sliding door powers back. Press a button just inside the opening (or another on the centre of the dash) and it’ll glide closed.
There’s a full flyscreen across the entrance, with a flap to ensure no gaps for those pesky mozzies to sneak around, while the electric step pokes out from the bespoke bodykit that gives this motorhome a ground-hugging stance.
Above, the Omnistor awning is electric, too, as well as being mounted on special brackets that incorporate drainage channels at either end. You just press a button inside the passenger cab door to operate it and it whirs out to provide shade and shelter.
Maybe you’ll sit there and admire the way this L3 H3 (that’s long-wheelbase, extra-high) Mercedes Sprinter panel van has been transformed into a luxury home from home with a subtle, restrained vibe – no shouty graphics, just flush-fit double-glazed windows mounted in carbon-fibre-style panels, Mercedes alloy wheels and that big chromed three-pointed star on the nose.
You’ll justifiably be proud of this campervan, because it aims for the very pinnacle of the van conversion market, with prices starting at £80k and heading up to around £125k for a spec’d-to-the-hilt example as seen here.
The options on this example of RP’s latest Explorer 2 start with the base vehicle. The most expensive item is the 190bhp V6 diesel engine, an upgrade over the standard 163bhp four-cylinder unit that costs £4,812.
That seems like a bargain compared with the £3,444 that Merc charges for colour-coded bumpers, while the 10.25in MBUX multimedia touchscreen is a further £2,172 and the LED high-performance headlamps cost £1,764.
Then, there’s VB air suspension at £1,495 and the seven-speed automatic gearbox at £1,824.
In all, there are £26,035-worth of extra features on the Merc side of things alone, from the mundane (£132 for mudfaps and another £132 for two additional keys) to luxuries like that electric sliding door at £822.
There’s plenty of safety kit, too, including Active Lane Keeping Assist, foglamps with cornering light function, High Beam Assist, Traffic Sign Assist and a Parking Package that not only includes a reversing camera and the usual front and rear sensors but also flashes up warnings on the MBUX screen if you’re in danger of clouting those long flanks. It’s one hell of a package.
It’s just as impressive on the road, too. That six-cylinder engine beats any other light commercial vehicle diesel motor for buttery smoothness, as well as its seemingly limitless supply of torque.
Driving on some hilly, twisty Yorkshire Dales roads, this big van conversion behaved as if the countryside was as flat as the Fens, while the air suspension ensured a comfortable ride without any of the crashiness often associated with vans.
The fact that we were testing this motorhome in the Dales, perhaps gives a hint at its maker – RP Motorhomes, whch must not only have Britain’s most picturesque motorhome factory location, but is also immensely proud of its Yorkshire background.
What we did see was lines of expensively-equipped Sprinter vans waiting to become RP motorhomes – the order books are full well into next year – and this latest model, the Explorer 2.
This is a beautifully appointed rear lounge van conversion based on the seven-metre Sprinter, but it’s also so much more than that…
For a start, this motorhome is loaded with the latest tech to make your motorhoming life better, easier, and more independent of site facilities.
RP’s MD, Steve Young, believes in using only the best components, even if they cost considerably more, and that starts with specifying lithium batteries from Victron Energy to ensure a reliable power supply. Standard equipment is a 100Ah lithium battery but this example was upgraded to 200Ah at an additional £1,995.
But with Truma habitation air-conditioning on the roof and a brief that shouts ‘off-grid motorhoming’, this Explorer also boasts a 5kW inverter system to give you mains power wherever you are.
At £6,000, though, this isn’t a cheap add-on. But then this is very much the ultimate van conversion, aimed at customers who have had Concorde, Morelo or Niesmann A-classes and want that same standard, just in a smaller package.
The Explorer might be long for a van conversion, but it’s still van width and that counts for a lot on the little lanes of this green and pleasant land.
RP says the Explorer will give you between three days and a week of off-grid independence and its discreet design will be a lot less obvious when wild camping than a big (probably white) A-class.
Of course, wherever you are, you can also control and monitor the habitation functions from your phone, while inside the vehicle the brand-new Victron touchscreen control panel allows you to examine all the levels at a glance.
Equip your Explorer as extensively as this one and you’ll need a 3,850kg gross weight, but a more modest model (on the lower L3 H2 van) could be built as a licence-friendly 3.5-tonne motorhome.
That’s a surprise because the Merc has a reputation for being heavy and this isn’t a small campervan, but it’s a direct result of the hybrid construction of the furniture. Wood is used only where it is required for strength or fixings, while a lightweight plastic honeycomb ‘wood’ is used for large panels, such as the sides of the washroom. This construction saves a massive 100kg of weight in the Explorer.
Of course, when you have a list of options as long as this – including £18,950-worth of kit, such as the TV, carpets, side door flyscreen, half-leather upholstery, RP’s own bodykit, external gas barbecue point, habitation air-conditioning, electric step, electric awning, solar panel and the inverter and battery upgrade, you need to gain some payload elsewhere (and the base vehicle can also be plated up to 4,100kg if required).
Even the fresh water capacity is exceptional for a van conversion. There are twin 70-litre tanks, supplying the kitchen and washroom in parallel, sited over the rear wheelarches, so weight distribution is never impaired by their levels.
You can upgrade to 200 litres in total, too, while their inboard location is perfect for winter camping. Only the waste tank (115 litres) and the gas tank (30 litres) are underneath the van.
Heating comes from the excellent Truma Combi 6D, the all-too-rarely seen diesel version which reduces your reliance on gas and which we thoroughly recommend.
RP’s attention to winterisation continues with 3in of insulation in the floor. Not only does this have obvious benefits for off-season touring, but it levels up the floor inside, so there’s no step from the cab into the main body of the vehicle. And interior headroom is still very generous because RP uses the extra-high Sprinter van.
In fact, the living area of this luxury two-berth feels remarkably spacious. But, before we discuss the layout, there’s another important USP from RP. You’ll not see any old-fashioned carpet trim on the walls (the only carpet is on the floor) and no bare painted Mercedes metal is on show, either.
Throughout the vehicle, the walls and doors are trimmed with plastic moulded panels – very automotive and more the sort of touch you’d expect from a manufacturer the size of Hymer, not a niche player.
Where, perhaps, RP has played it safe, however, is with the layout – a classic rear lounge design – but even here there’s outstanding attention to detail.
If you love cooking, you’ll be right at home in the Explorer. The worktop – in Corian with an integrated draining board – is more than two metres long. Yes, two metres. And then there’s a flip-up extension – in Corian – in case that’s not enough.
The cooker has a separate oven and grill, three gas rings and a mains hotplate. Storage is very generous in a range of different-sized drawers and then, opposite, is a tall, slim 152-litre fridge.
It’s a compressor fridge because they’re better and more efficient, says Steve. And with all that battery power you won’t need to worry about draining your 12V. Nor do you need to concern yourself with gas consumption as the underslung tank serves only the cooker, so unless you do a roast every single day of the year you might be buying a new campervan before the 30 litres of LPG run out…
Opposite the galley is the washroom. A sliding door provides easy access here without disturbing the chef, while inside is RP’s own one-piece bathroom pod, as well as more Corian for the worktop alongside the basin.
Twin soap dispensers are fitted, there are two drains in the shower tray, and towel hooks and a drying rail are provided, but my favourite feature is the shower mounting that operates on a suction cup, so it can be positioned anywhere on the washroom walls.
Such attention to detail continues with an opening window and a vent over the bathroom door to prevent steaming up, and even an extra blind to protect the regular pleated window blind when showering.
While the cab seats swivel (and have their own triangular table), the main lounging, dining and relaxing zone is in a generous U-shaped seating area, which also converts easily into a 1.98m by 1.42m bed. RP is proud of its new bed make-up and we can see why. Pull out a slatted support to fill the area between the settees and the cushions simply slot in to make a big, flat bed. It’s a doddle.
In the day, this is a space in which a couple can easily put their feet up, even take a nap, while six could sit around the large dining table. Most of the time, however, the small, square table will be sufficient and it gets top marks for its sturdy design and height adjustment, too.
Then, open the back doors and you can really enjoy the views – or unload your outdoor chairs from the storage below the rear sofa. Or, if it’s Yorkshire weather, there’s a 27in smart TV working through the Maxview Roam WiFi booster to give a super-sharp picture.
Steve Young jokingly tells us that RP stands for ‘reet proper’ in Yorkshire style. The name actually dates back to the company’s origins building motor sport vehicles under the Race Pro tag, but, now focused on the very top end of the leisure market, the brand seems to have found its niche.
This Explorer is, possibly, the most expensive van-based motorhome ever to appear in these pages, but it’s not the price that we’ll remember, it’s the way RP has striven to be the best.