I have a confession to make. Motorhomes aren’t my usual patch.
I work for sister magazine Practical Caravan, reviewing tow cars rather than motorhomes. So my recent trip to Switzerland in Practical Motorhome‘s Benimar Tessoro 481 was a first.
My experience of driving motorhomes to date had been limited to a lap of the NEC in a Lunar Vacanza and, to be honest, I didn’t have high expectations of how the Benimar would drive.
In just about every way, I was pleasantly surprised. As you may know, the Benimar is built on a Ford Transit chassis. Driving away from the Camberley storage site, the Tessoro felt more wieldy than I expected, with precise steering and an impressive turn of speed from the 170bhp engine.
As a newcomer to motorhomes I can’t claim to be familiar with the other commonly used chassis from Fiat and Peugeot, but my colleagues tell me the Ford base is the best of the lot if you enjoy driving, and I can well believe it.
Four wheels for a two-wheeled adventure
I’d picked up the Benimar a week before the start of the trip, which turned out to be a wise choice, as the habitation control panel didn’t work. But with the help of Marquis Leisure’s Chieveley branch, the fault was quickly traced to a dead leisure battery and fixed in time for my trip.
With Eurotunnel tickets and European cover arranged through the Camping and Caravanning Club’s Arrival breakdown service, I set off on a cold and grey February morning.
Now, skiing might be the most common reason for a Brit to go to Switzerland in February, but I was heading for a cycling race. I’d entered the second running of the Tortour Cyclocross, a three-day event held mostly off-road.
I could have looked into fitting a cycling rack to the Tessoro’s rear wall, but instead I made use of the motorhome’s towball to fit a cycle carrier. The carrier locked to the towball and I locked the bike to the carrier whenever I stopped for fuel or a bite to eat. It worked well.
Comfy and compact
The convenience of motorhome touring was what really struck me. The ’van wasn’t just good to drive – it was relaxing, too. The miles whizzed by.
Not only that, but the Benimar Tessoro 481’s compact proportions – it is just 5.99m long – meant that driving on and off the Eurotunnel, or negotiating any of my route, was worry-free.
Yet every night, I was able to appreciate the comfort of a drop-down bed and the luxury of the Benimar’s powerful diesel-fuelled heating system, as temperatures hovered around freezing.
The journey back home was as hassle-free as the journey down. And I am pleased to report that the Benimar returned having achieved 26mpg on the 1300-mile round-trip.
In just about every way, I was pleasantly surprised