Read the Practical Motorhome Coachmen Concord 275 DS review to find out what the experts think of this US built 'van
Mention American motorhomes and most people think of the coach-sized, luxurious A-class, beloved of movie stars. However, this 30ft Coachmen Concord 275 DS is described as a ‘mini motorhome’.
It’s as big as the larger European A-classes, and it’s against these that it is best compared in terms of price, size and specification. In terms of design approach, European and US motorhomes are poles apart. What marks this Coachmen out is that it offers superb living space and standard specification in a relatively small package and at a comparatively low price. Yes, it costs £70,000, but if you spend months at a time in your ’van, the Concord can be driven off the forecourt and into the wide blue yonder without any optional extras.
Around the back, the overhang seems big, emphasised by the large rear window. At about a third of the vehicle’s length, you wouldn’t want the overhang to be bigger, but the chassis coped easily with the body. There are no corner steadies, but we felt these weren’t needed. The twin rear wheels provided enough on-site stability and there was no sense of any movement in the living area.
The exterior colour scheme is a good, unobtrusive match for the body shape, but the large rear window will get the most comments: it provides natural light for the bedroom and the whole interior, even with the day blinds down.
The slide-outs are a key part of the equation, providing a superb interior width of almost 10ft in the lounge, with room for a walk-round double bed and a double wardrobe facing it. This means similar comfort to that of an A-class RV, though the slide-outs only extend 2ft externally, whereas A-class slides tend to protrude around 3ft – often the difference between fitting on a campsite pitch or not. These are electrically operated with a manual override, and can function on 12V electrics. Each slide-out has an integral awning that rolls out to protect it from the elements. Even without the slide-outs, there’s plenty of room.
Those of us who use stopovers regularly don’t always want to ‘set up camp’, as extending slide-outs implies. Yet without the bedroom slide extended, you can’t walk around the bed. The entry door is noticeably wider than on most European ’vans, with a sturdy lock, a wide electric step, a low internal step and a grippy rubber mat at the entrance.
Setting up is easy. The gas tank can be filled at petrol stations with LPG pumps, the water filler has a hose attachment and simple control panel, with settings for a simple tank fill, or for connection to mains water. The two large-bore waste pipes empty quickly and the waste hose is stored in a dedicated cupboard.
The hefty, 30A electric cable is permanently attached to the ’van, with its own locker space, though at only 16ft 5in long, you will need an extension. Once you’ve extended the slide-outs at the touch of two buttons, electric water heating, gas blown-air heating or air conditioning (through the same ducted vents) can be engaged at the flick of a switch.
Finally, the interior decor is more old-fashioned than in most upmarket European A-classes, with pelmets, curtains and wooden trim everywhere. It’s also a lot sturdier, with solid hardwoods and a Corian-style kitchen worktop that could grace any domestic kitchen.
On the road
We found the 6.0-litre turbo-diesel effortless to drive, thanks to a fully automatic gearbox and an almost indecent 440 lb/ft of torque, which really showed itself on the hills. Though the Ford engine takes a while to reach top speed, it maintains momentum well, as we found driving along dual carriageways en route to our Peak District destination.
We were cruising at 70mph at 2500rpm. In fact, the Ford only broke through 3000rpm with the overdrive gear disengaged and the accelerator pressed to the floor. As we joined the single-carriageway A6, which threads up and down hills and through town centres in the Peaks, we were surprised at how little body roll there was through the corners. There was no noticeable road noise, too, even with kitchen cupboards full of crockery, packets and cans. Our only dissatisfaction came at motorway speeds: we felt a bit of slide from the rear wheels after changing lanes. This could perhaps be alleviated by increasing rear air suspension to the maximum 100psi intended for towing fully laden.
Compared to similar-sized European motorhomes we have driven, the Concord’s handling and ride were superior, thanks largely to that rear air suspension and a confidence-inspiring chassis.
We felt that those used to driving smaller motorhomes would favour the driving position in the Concord, whose cab is similar to that of a Ford F-series pick-up truck and more car-like than most Euro-commercials. Some may find the relatively long distance from the steering wheel to the windscreen disconcerting on A-class ’vans. The leather cab seats are comfortable, if a little over-cushioned, with a large, soft lumbar support squab.
What about fuel economy? Importer Travelworld claims ‘late teens’ is achievable. Our figures – taken from only 136 miles of driving, including dual-carriageway and single-carriageway ‘A’ roads, with some town traffic – returned a figure of 12.40mpg. The Concord had only 1460 miles on the clock when we took it, so there’s possibly room for improvement. If you’re on a limited daily budget, however, fuel costs are worth considering, or you could convert the standard petrol engine to LPG.
Lounging & dining
Add a custom-built entertainment centre (which includes a flatscreen television for 2007 models), a domestic-quality sofa-bed and a swivel armchair (a free-standing recliner in 2007) and you have a space where two or three people can spend a whole evening without getting under each others’ feet.
Rear speakers across the cab deliver a signal from the radio which runs off the leisure 12V system, as well as from the standard-fit TV and this model’s optional VCR/DVD. We found the reception from the omni-directional TV aerial poor at our campsite, and digital users may need to get a directional aerial fitted.
The single-glazed glass windows don’t look large in proportion to the 6ft 6in-tall living space, but they’re a similar size to those on European ’vans. There’s a permanent flyscreen panel over the opening window section: this only amounts to a third of each window space, so you’re a bit more reliant on the air conditioning, which we felt was too noisy to use after 11pm on most campsites (depending on the proximity of your neighbours). However, there is a full-door flyscreen with a sturdy catch. The hefty window-frames obscure the views a little, but these were superb from our pitch in the Peak District National Park.
Light floods in from the rear window and from the textured-glass door window. There are no panoramic rooflights, though there is a small rooflight behind the cab, with a three-way extractor fan that has a winter heating element. The frosted-glass main light and central lounge light are attractive and have a weighty, domestic quality to them. There are spotlights over the armchair and sofa, three-pin sockets by the entrance door and sofa, and heating/air-con vents at the base of the kitchen unit.
Criticism is reserved for the two small, slightly unstable, single-leg removable tables. They’re fine if you want to eat all your meals in front of the telly, but not for socialising. The seating in the lounge area would seat four comfortably, five adequately, though Travelworld can retro-fit swivel cab seats. Alternatively, there’s an optional U-shaped dinette in place of the sofa, at no additional cost. We liked having a large television and DVD player, but found it positioned too high for comfortable viewing. For dining, the table was completely inadequate: unstable, too small and too close to the seating. You’d be better off with a tray on your knee.
The flooring in the lounge was attractive and practical. The carpet gave a feeling of warmth, while the flagstone-look vinyl could be easily cleaned.
The eye-level convection oven/microwave covers a lot of bases, but it’s not a ‘proper’ gas oven. However, the hob is of domestic size and the ultra-hard-wearing worksurface has none of the flimsy feel of some motorhome kitchens.
Then there’s the fridge: many mid-price ’vans have a 150-litre fridge as standard, but it’s still a pleasant surprise to look inside the sturdy, spacious, wood-panelled fridge door and find almost double that capacity. Automatic energy selection and temperature control is convenient, and soon had the freezer ice-cold. We were impressed by the automatic locking door catches.
There isn’t enough preparation space, however. You’re forced to use the rickety table, which in turn would encroach on the lounge area. However, the over-hob extractor fan work well and aren’t too noisy, and both the hob and the working area are well-lit.
The sofa makes up to a flat double – albeit with a narrow trench down the middle – in two simple movements: just lift the seat cushion so that the back cushion lies flat, then let the seat slide down flat again. The only difficulty for guests who are using this bed is keeping the light out: a thin, lined curtain attaches across the cab with Velcro tabs but there’s nothing to stop the light coming in through the textured-glass door window.
There’s a TV shelf to the right of the twin wardrobes in the bedroom; the mirrored fronts seem a little excessive, but add some sense of space.
There’s no headboard, but you can lean back against the pleated fabric blinds without risking damage; these are lightly tensioned by a cord attached at either side of the bed. There are three-pin plugs and shelves on either side, though we found the quiet humming of the electrical transformer that lives under the bed too noisy on the first night. By the second night it was no longer noticeable, but light sleepers beware.
When it came to emptying the toilet tank, we easily found an appropriate mains sewer drain at our campsite (though we’d called ahead to check). We found it no more inconvenient than emptying a cassette; in fact, you’re much further away from the ‘business end’, and you simply add your chemicals and some water via the loo itself to refresh the tank.
There is a separate shower cubicle in the washroom with just about sufficient headroom for a 6ft-tall person, but we felt the shower screen was flimsy. We did discover a small leak through this pleated, vinyl screen when we used the shower but this could easily be sorted. Crucially, the shower head has a cut-off switch for economical water use. Even with the Concord’s 23-litre gas/electric water heater, the fixed shower head is not positioned high enough for anyone who is much over 5ft tall. An extractor fan within a clear rooflight adds ventilation, and a translucent, fixed dome rooflight sits above the shower.
The only disruption was the Shurflo pump, which caused an audible vibration every time it was used.
There is a rear UK-offside locker that could hold two standard folding chairs, but was a bit shallow for our two recliners. The 4kW generator, which provides mains power for appliances like the TV, oven/microwave and roof air-con, is in a skirt locker behind the driver’s door, with a similar shallow locker behind it.
The generator is very useful, but far too noisy for campsite use. The gas tank is on the opposite side: its connections are secured, so there’s no need to switch on and off whenever you pitch camp. Two lockers behind the habitation door house, respectively, the twin leisure batteries and a space big enough for a water hose and an extension power cable.
The nearside corner locker is home to the electrical systems, though there’s room for some large levelling ramps. In front of this you’ll find the grouped water, waste and electrical services and in front of these, in the lounge slide-out, there’s the only locker of any great depth: about 60cm (2ft) deep, the same width and around 30cm (1ft) tall. The standard detachable towbar is superb value.
Inside, you may want to add storage bins; the three lockers above the sofa access a huge space that’s 2ft deep but with no dividing internal walls. There are no catches on these lockers, either, though the hefty doors will keep most items lighter than a hardback novel secure.
The kitchen drawers have no catches, but need to be lifted to allow them to open, which keeps them snugly in place on the road. Despite having thrown in loads of pots and pans, the kitchen stayed quiet on-road, though the small, under-sink drawer has no divisions for cutlery. The shallow drawer under the hob was ideal for the sink covers and oven plate, while deep drawers beneath this and the fridge took larger items.
The two double cupboards over the sinks and on the floor below can hold lots of tins and packets, a 500g cereal box and a three-part stacking steamer set. The lower cupboard also houses the large-bore, domestic-style plumbing, which includes domestic-sized plugholes.
In the bathroom, there’s a towel rail behind the loo, a couple of bottle shelves in the shower, and three cupboards and a drawer. The bedroom has three overhead lockers, a chest of drawers and two large wardrobes with dedicated clothes-hanger slots to keep hangers from falling to the floor in transit.
Finally, around the cab, there are TV/hi-fi cabinets above, with glass-fronted shelves for videos and DVDs either side. With a magnetic push-catch and a small restraining clip, these are not suitable for heavy items. In the four slim, glass-fronted lockers at either side of the cab, there’s space for up to 12 (75cl) wine or spirit bottles, though it would be wise to fit cushioned bottle holders with straps.
Dometic Fridge, 3-burner gas hob, Oven, Microwave, Extractor fan
Thetford C-250 toilet, Separate shower cubicle
You get a lot of motorhome for your money. In terms of specification and living space, the Concord beats European competitors hands-down and is cheaper than most. The sticking points? First, fuel economy. The 6.0-litre diesel is designed for a country where fuel is cheap. Second, there’s build quality. We’ve no doubt this Coachmen will weather well and do its job, but its finish is not as neat and crafted as a European ’van. Yet it is often far, far sturdier. In conclusion, for long-range touring space and driveability, the Coachmen is hard to beat.