Stunning to look at, beautifully built, and with so many options that your vehicle will be very bespoke, the latest Arto remains at the top of its class.
Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Al-Ko tag-axle
A sub-£100k starting price might sound relatively affordable. But this motorhome is almost 60% more expensive, at £150k. That’s the rarefied world of the Liner class.
Not all the extras seen here are essential. But you’ll certainly want the 3-litre engine, Alde heating, additional garage door, waste water drain hose and the second leisure battery. There are the inevitable packs too, and that’s before we get to the Goldschmitt ADC full air suspension.
Next to the driver is a touchscreen display. Prodding a red icon on it will automatically level the vehicle. You can select another icon and raise the vehicle by an extra 100mm for more ground clearance, while Goldschmitt’s air suspension also allows you to lower the vehicle slightly on site (great for loading the garage). But the most novel feature is the icon you press to give front and rear axle weights.
The motorhome’s underpinnings are Fiat Ducato. Here, though, we have the ultimate 3-litre power unit, the Comfort-Matic gearbox and an Al-Ko chassis – as well as the air suspension.
The fit and feel of the Arto elements is vastly superior to the original base vehicle plastics. When you reverse, a camera pops out from under the N+B ‘Polch Lily’ badge. The SKA seats have a massive variety of adjustment, but handbrake access isn’t great.
At cruising speeds, not only is there very little noise from the habitation area, but engine noise is better suppressed than in most motorhomes. The Goldschmitt suspension completely transforms the ride and handling. The ride quality is more Merc-like, more supple, without losing the Ducato’s famed surefootedness. A vehicle this big has no right to drive this well!
With the 88 E single bed model proving to be a best-seller right across Europe, it’s no surprise that this 88 EK should follow for 2016, combining twin beds with a bigger galley.
We can’t think of another A-class that would attract so much attention on the road, but the beauty is in the build too. The whole roof is safe to walk on, there’s no wood in the construction, the skirts are aluminium, the cab side windows are double-glazed, and the 290mm double floor houses both water tanks and all three leisure batteries. The LED light runs the full length of the awning – you won’t return to the wrong ’van at night!
There is a drawer on the nearside that would be perfect for a mains lead and water hose. And the garage is huge, with high and low-level tie-downs. Its flooring looks heavy-duty and practical but the second loading door is disappointingly not full sized.
The lounge pays the price for the EK layout’s larger kitchen but it is still more than generous. It’s an L-settee on the nearside and a double inward-facing settee opposite. There are four choices of base and cab seat cushions and an extensive range of backrest cushions. With cream locker doors or wood to choose too, it’s no wonder that N+B talks about over 500 possibilities. At least you won’t see another ’van just like yours. And you can even order a second set of backrest cushions.
The seat bases also hide a generous amount of storage, with the offside settee easily accessible by the doorway, although there’s also a shoe rack for two more pairs opposite. That’s at the base of a wall which houses the control panels and the Caratec TV.
The permanent table seems ideally sized for two people and it moves in every direction. For more diners, a centre leaf can pop up. The head restraints for rear passengers are also removable to ensure no visual separation between lounge and kitchen. Even the vital splashguard is glass.
The extra worktop in this galley is welcome and the optional Corian-style surface befits a vehicle of this class. The integral drainer, the locking handle for the whole suite of generous drawers, the quality of finish, the plentiful storage, the twin waste bins all speak of careful design and build. Only the Dometic three-burner hob looks ordinary.
Above the 190-litre Tec Tower opposite sits an oven (no grill) at a lofty 1.53m above the floor. Importer Travelworld offers a smaller fridge with consequently lower oven above, and a microwave above that.
Open the toilet door across the aisle, close the sliding door to the bedroom, and you have a complete washroom that’s better than many hotels.
The shower is perhaps the star feature for its spaciousness and domestic-style water pressure. The Corian-style washbasin is almost equally impressive. Another new option is the Jabsco marine toilet with 120-litre tank. It further increases the feeling of being in an apartment, even if its flush is too noisy to use at night. And in such a spacious en suite it’s a pity the toilet area is tight for space.
Beyond the en suite, two steps lead up to long and luxurious mattresses. Little details like the pockets for books and spectacles complete a comfortable bedroom. There’s even a pair of shallow wardrobes under the foot of each bed. There’s lots of lockers, too, but these will prevent you sitting up in bed.
You can sit up in the front bed (the usual A-class drop-down), which is equally comfortable, but we couldn’t lock the bed in its raised position once duvet and pillows had been added. Maybe the electric bed option would solve this.
This is an abridged version of the full review appearing in the May 2016 issue of What Motorhome.