Last year’s comprehensive reorganisation of its ranges certainly paid dividends for popular French manufacturer Pilote: sales were up by 37 per cent overall with a 42 per cent increase in exports. The UK was a strong performer in Pilote’s overseas markets, with sales jumping by over 50 per cent.
For 2016, there’s a change of emphasis, with the core low-profile and A-class offering remaining more or less the same, save for the addition of a couple of new models and a choice of more bed configurations for selected ’vans. The big news is further up the portfolio, with the premium Le Voyageur integrated more into the Pilote fold and receiving a makeover to go with it.
So with the new additions and variants, there are effectively 100 different Pilote ’vans to choose from in 2016. For example, the same floorplan is available at lengths of 6.5m, 7m and 7.49m, enabled at the shorter lengths by the multi-function washroom as seen in the Pacific P650P, which launched successfully last winter.
Three new models are added to the Pacific range of low-profiles: the P600, P656 and P706. The former comes in French bed form (P600P), while the P656 is available in two flavours – island bed (P656C) and twin single beds (P656GJ). There are three bed options for the P706: island bed (P706C), garage bed (P706G) and twin single beds (P706GJ). In Pilote parlance, ‘P’ denotes French bed, ‘C’ island bed, ‘G’ is garage bed and ‘GJ’ (garage jumeaux) is twin single beds.
New sleeping configurations are added to existing models. For example, the hitherto island bed P650C is now also available with twin single beds (P650GJ), while the island bed P700C is joined in the line-up by the garage bed P700G and twin single beds P700GJ.
For 2016, only two trim levels are available in the Pacific range: Essentiel and Sensation. Emotion continues alongside Essentiel and Sensation in the Galaxy A-class line-up.
Three new Galaxy models will appear this autumn. The G600 is available without a fixed bed (G600L), with a garage bed (G600G) or with a French bed (G600P). Joining these new models will be the G650, again offered in three flavours: without a fixed bed (G650L), with a French bed (G650P), or with twin single beds (G650GJ).
The existing G700GJ gets a boost with two new sleeping configurations, island bed (G700C) or garage bed (G700G). If ordered with an Al-Ko chassis, then the G700 becomes and G701; buyers can choose between an island bed (G701C) or garage bed (G701G).
In addition, a new island bed option will be offered in the G740, the G740C. This joins the garage bed G740G and twin single beds G740GJ.
Pilote van conversions receive a new-season refresh, too. A new model joins the range, the 5.4m-long rear transverse bed V540G. A 65-litre compression fridge and 120W solar panel come as standard.
For 2016, established models V600 and V630J will benefit from the option of a microwave or an oven. If selected, this will be facilitated by moving the wardrobe above the foot of the bed, where it will slide out from the nearside bulkhead for ease of use.
There are two versions of the 6m-long model: the V600G features a 141-litre fridge next to the bed, with a sliding wardrobe on the nearside, while the V600F has an 80-litre fridge and low wardrobe in the offside kitchen. This large fridge and slide-out wardrobe combination is repeated in the new V630F, which offers the same fixed twin single beds layout as the V630J.
Pilote has also added a new overcab coachbuilt to its portfolio. The 7m-long C700 is designed to appeal to large families or rental fleets, has six travel seats and sleeps six (or seven if you have a small child). There are plenty of storage spaces and a 590kg payload.
At the top of the Pilote portfolio, Diamond has been discontinued, and the iconic Le Voyageur will become more integrated within the Pilote stable. In the UK, Le Voyageur will be known as Pilote Premium Class, although Le Voyageur branding will still appear on the exteriors.
Bodywork on the new ’vans will be made from GRP, with convex-profiled polyester roofs to avoid water retention, a borrow from the US RV market. The front and rear sections are new, and the driver sits closer to the front of the vehicle, where there are no blind spots. Rear storage compartments are lowered for ease of use, and there are all-in-one service hatches.
Interiors are expensive-looking, with cues from yacht design including cabinetwork with long sweeping lines, rounded cabinets and seating. ‘Design kitchens’ with soft-closing drawers feature, as do extra-large shower compartments with stainless steel ceilings and step-free access to the bedroom areas.
The new Le Voyageur collection will debut with a range of body lengths: one at 6.8m, two at 7.25m, six at 7.85m (including one rear lounge floorplan), and four at 8.55m. Two models will be displayed at October’s NEC show: the island bed 7.2CF and twin single beds 7.8GJF.
With an imminent chassis tweak due, Le Vogageurs based on Mercedes-Benz are unchanged, although as with the models riding on the Fiat Ducato, the brand name and external graphics will change.
In other news
The whole Pilote portfolio benefits from wood-free Isotek construction, which features an aluminium profile around the leading edges to which GRP roofs, 28mm Styrofoam sidewalls and polyester floors are attached. As a result, a five-year body integrity warranty is offered. Double glazed windows are standard, as are chassis extensions, to help offer larger payloads.
Alloy wheels can be specified across the whole portfolio, but on low-profiles they will have to be accompanied by Al-Ko’s Air-Top suspension.
Across the coachbuilt and van conversion ranges, interiors benefit from a new ‘Walnut’ wood finish. Six upholstery schemes – two fabric, two imitation leather and two real leather – can be chosen from, and there’s a choice of eight scatter cushion packs, so if buyers want to refresh the interiors of their ’vans after a season of touring, they can do this cost-effectively.
Models in Essentiel trim get a new rear bumper with built-in LED lighting for 2016. This comprises three separate sections so scratches and dings are easy to repair. Habitation door footwells on 600, 650 and 700 models lose their plastic mouldings, to reduce road noise and potential cold spots.
Pacific models in Essentiel trim will receive double separation washroom doors as standard, so users won’t have to close blinds when getting dressed.
Drop-down beds are now electric as standard, with security switches, and maximum loads of 200kg. Vehicles up to 7m get 138-litre fridges, with 149-litre models fitted to ’vans over 7m.
The foldaway seats fitted in the G650P and G650P, which provide a handy footrest for the person sitting in the rotated driver’s seat, are now available in the G600G and G600P, as well as in the P656.
Galaxy Sensation and Emotion models get new Aguti seats, and white fuel cap covers are rolled out across all A-classes.
Selected ‘GJ’ models (650 and 700) will have the option of low or high beds for 2016, with more models (740 and 780) set to receive this option later in the season. If the lower bed height is specified, then wardrobes will have to float, and headroom in the rear garage drops to 0.82m.
Alde heating is available in selected models: only Pacific low-profiles longer than 7.81m, although all A-classes longer than 7m can take the system. A fifth belted travel seat is available in any lounge with L-shaped seating.
A further customisation option is available for Pacific buyers: they can specify sidewall decals from a higher trim level. On Sensation, this gives you an infill behind the side windows. This is also available on Essentiel and Sensation A-classes.
Practical Motorhome's star 'van – Pilote Galaxy G650L
Our top pick is the new Pilote Galaxy G650L. With its rather large lounge making it ideal for those who like spending time indoors, this 6.5m-long A-class will surely be popular with British buyers. Our photos show the G650L in Essentiel trim, with the new Walnut wood tone, Cocon upholstery scheme and Tangerine curtains (two other trim levels – Sensation and Emotion – are available in the Galaxy range).
A drop-down bed above the lounge will take care of seeping duties, with a further couple of berths on hand in the lounge. Further rearwards, you’ll find an end washroom – another favourite with UK buyers. A large storage compartment is accessible from the offside rear corner, tall enough to load easily with touring kit. And a narrower fridge (not shown) permits a large wardrobe for couples on tour.
And then there's more from Bavaria
Bavaria is a Groupe Pilote brand, and its motorhomes are manufactured at the company's La Limouzinière factory in France. The vehicles are based on those in the Pilote portfolio, and have a good reputation for build quality. The line-up covers low-profiles (named T), A-class (I) and van conversions (V).
Three trim levels are available on the coachbuilt ranges: Style, Class and Allure, which correspond with Pilote's Essentiel, Sensation and Emotion. Bavaria's white exteriors have grey and gold graphics schemes, while interiors feature Chambord cabinetwork: a darker wood than the Walnut finish introduced in Pilote ranges for 2016.
Bavaria motorhomes are exclusively imported to the UK by Oakwell Motorhomes in Barnsley. The ’vans appeal to those customers looking for something a little different from the mainstream, and (despite not being manufactured in Germany) the Bavaria name has connotations of quality and refinement.