Benjamin Davies

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Check out Practical Motorhome's review of the Auto-Trail Frontier Delaware, which has an island bed

Overview

The Frontier Delaware is Auto-Trail’s contribution to the island-bed trend that has taken the 2008 model year by storm. The Delaware made its debut at the Shepton Mallet show in January 2008, before taking pride of place 
on the Auto-Trail stand at February’s NEC show.

The advantages of a walk-around bed are obvious 
– no longer any need for one partner to clamber over the other to answer the call of nature in the middle of the night. The disadvantages are that a sizeable chunk of your vehicle’s living space is redundant during the day.

Our test ’van came in luxury two-berth guise – that is, the low-line roof option, with 
a transverse lounge up front. An optional high-line roof, 
and a lounge dinette with three-point seat belts on the forward-facing passenger seat, are both available as an option. The Delaware is also available on the rear-wheel drive Mercedes Sprinter base vehicle.

Design

Auto-Trail’s low-profile sections have always been more bulbous than those of its ultra-streamlined Continental competitors. However, they 
do have distinctive design touches such as the rear-mounted spare wheel that 
is the company’s trademark 
on its bigger coachbuilts.

There are exterior gas and shower points and a few clever touches, such as the key-less 
gas locker which opens via 
a bonnet-type catch, down by the passenger seat in the cab. External storage trays under the floor of the motorhome have locker doors built discretely into the skirts.

On the road

The ’van felt sure-footed on the road throughout our extended tour of Brittany. It has an extra half-metre of wheelbase over 
a standard long-wheel based Ducato, and a lower centre of gravity thanks to the Al-Ko chassis, making for a very large, stable footprint.
For a ’van measuring 7.74m, though, the 2.3-litre 130 MultiJet engine sometimes fell short, especially on open road inclines. An extra £1530 would buy you the more able 3.0-litre 160 MultiJet unit. With an unladen weight at a shade under 3500kg, we would seriously consider this option.

The £849 SE Pack fitted to our test model includes cab air-conditioning, home entertainment centre with CD/DVD/MP3 player, a flip-down colour TV monitor, recessed awning and reversing camera. That’s good value, and our model also came with cruise control fitted.

Lounging & dining

The cab seats swivel and the lounge sofas are extremely comfortable, and as the picture in our adventure feature shows (pp19 & 24), there’s plenty of room for four or five to have a fine feast in comfort. The large oblong table, and an occasional table, both stash in the lockers above the cab when not in use.

With all the wild camping we did on the France Passion sites, we were glad of the low-energy LED strip lights, one of which lights the step up into the bedroom area. The Delaware’s integral lighting comes with dimmer switches, and there are directional reading lights at the cab end of the sofas, too. However, there’s no lighting for the cab area, which does get rather dark in the evening when the integral cab blinds are drawn across. Flyscreens, pleated blinds and domestic-style curtains on poles make it feel snug, though, when settling down at night.

The lounge carpets are fitted (laid before the furniture is fixed to the floor to cut down on road noise), although the bedroom makes do with drop-in carpets with press studs.

Kitchen

A big double beds means that space-saving is required in other parts of the floorplan, and it is the kitchen that suffers the most here. The slide-out worksurface which covers the circular, steel sink is a neat feature from the Auto-Trail design team. However, it blocks access from the lounge to the exit door and prevents you from opening the fridge door. There’s a separate clip-on plastic drainer, too.

Three gas burners and a hotplate with spark ignition are domestic-standard and there’s good lighting, and a fan over the kitchen. A fitted waste bin is moulded into the entry door.

Sleeping

Of course, the rear island bed is the premium sleeping space in the Delaware. It really is massive, and there’s 70cm of headroom, with directional spotlights, so it’s a pleasure to sit up and read in this bed.

Wardrobes and drawers stand either side of the bed at the rear wall, and at the foot of the bed are two corner lockers, one of which has a linen basket built in. Again, it’s thumbs up to Auto-Trail for its attention to small details.

When my wife Anna’s parents stayed at the weekend, Anna and I shared the large, single bed at the front – it was quite comfy for two, providing you don’t mind tangling feet! Anna’s folks especially liked the roof light over the double bed for stargazing, saying it felt like “real camping”.

Washroom

The shower and toilet sit on either side of the ’van, with 
the toilet door able to swing through 90 degrees to close off the rear bedroom, effectively making an en suite. Alternatively, with the rearmost concertina blind pulled across, it feels like 
a vast bathroom – and when you’ve got guests, the blind does the job of keeping the rear bedroom private while leaving the facilities available throughout the night.

The wooden panels in the toilet/washroom make it feel quite stately, although the toilet is rather crammed 
into the corner, making it uncomfortable to sit on, while gents will notice that the wall prevents the toilet lid standing open without support.

The washroom itself looks, and feels, bomb-proof with high-quality panels and sealant work, and the 136-litre fresh water tank was a bonus, too.

Storage

There’s a good amount of external storage space on offer here, including a slide-out locker built into the sills, 
and a rear garage. However, the premium storage space is under the island bed, which 
is supported by a ratchet that allows you to step into the storage area underneath the bed and remove heavier items without the risk of straining your back.

Technical specs

Sleeps3
Travel seats2
MTPLM4250kg
Payload795kg
Length7.74m25′5″
Width2.31m7′7″
Height2.97m9′9″
Waste water68L
External Options
Integral awning, Awning light
Kitchen Equipment
3-burner gas with electric hot plate, Extractor fan
Washroom
Separate shower cubicle

Verdict

Auto-Trail does ‘luxury’ well, and that’s just how this layout feels – luxurious. The manufacturer has made a good stab at serving up a big island bed in a sub-8m body, without the sense of over-compensating in too many other areas of the vehicle’s floorplan.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Massive double bed; spacious shower cubicle; washroom feels luxurious

Cons

  • No lighting for cab area; toilet isn't ideally placed
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