The Auto-Trail Grande Frontier is a recent addition to the brand’s flagship ‘Frontier’ line-up – and it also isn’t. In fact, the Grande Frontier first appeared more than 15 years ago.
Like our generation of Grande Frontier, this was a range of A-class (integral) coachbuilts, but it was underpinned by the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. It was well received initially, but fell victim to the financial crises.
Fast forward to 2020, when the ‘all-new’ Fiat Ducato-based Grande Frontier range was unveiled to the press by the motorhome brand.
Production commenced for the 2021 model year. Initial and subsequent reactions from prospective purchasers have been very positive – in fact, the Auto-Trail Grande Frontier GF 88 was a winner at the Practical Motorhome Awards 2022, as our judges picked it out as the standout 4-berth motorhome on the market.
In-depth evaluation suggests that these are fine types of motorhome, which compete well against European rivals and (crucially) are designed and built for UK purchasers.
It remains a mystery to me why folk would spend this amount of money on a competitor to have both the driver’s cab door and the habitation door on the ‘wrong’ side for right-hand-drive vehicles. Well done Auto-Trail for getting this aspect, and much more, absolutely spot-on for Brits.
The launch range consisted of three models, all with a generous drop-down transverse double bed above the cab. They’re not small motorhomes – the 6.93m (22’ 7”) GF-70 features a forward lounge ahead of a central kitchen, with a full-width changing and washroom at the far rear.
Additional sleeping accommodation is available using the lounge settees. An offside single is one option, or both settees convert to form an additional transverse double.
This is the only model available at a licence-friendly 3500kg MTPLM, but payload is limited and rear travel seats can’t be specified.
However, the 3650kg version was free of charge, and 4750kg and 4900kg upgrades were cost-options for the first purchaser. If specified, the rear travel seats on the GF-70 ‘heavies’ are in the form of an offside half-dinette.
Standard motive power was the latest Multijet turbodiesel rated at 140bhp, with engine upgrades and automatic transmission possible.
Next up is the GF-80, which, as its moniker suggests, is around 8m in length… 8.07m (26’ 5”) to be precise. Default underpinnings move to Al-Ko independently sprung galvanised chassis extensions plated at 4500kg.
The third model, the range-topping tandem-axle GF-88, stretches the tape to 8.79m (28’ 8”) and weighs in with an MTPLM of 5000kg.
Internal motorhome layouts for the GF-80 and GF-88 are similar, the only significant difference being that the 88 has longer settees in the forward lounge. At the back, they are both the same, with a central kitchen and rear bedroom.
The latter has a permanent island double bed, flanked by half-height hanging wardrobes, and benefits from en-suite facilities that comprise the washroom, the toilet, and a walk-in ‘teleporter’ style shower cubicle.
Engines fitted as standard are the 140bhp (GF-80) and 180bhp (GF-88).
Across the range, the equipment inventory is particularly well judged, without resorting to overcomplication and/or fripperies.
Space- and water-heating is courtesy of Alde’s domestic-style radiator central heating system, which can be used to heat the interior while travelling. Contemporary cabinetwork features duo-finish doors in Moyen Oak and gloss white. Used ’van buyers always inherit the initial purchaser’s choice of soft furnishings, and leather is very popular. (It would not be the author’s choice, so he would have to budget for professional recovering.)
What to look out for in a used Auto-Trail Grande Frontier
The platforms for Grande Frontiers are highly regarded by builders of A-class motorhomes in the UK and throughout Europe. The GF-70’s standard Ducato chassis-cowl has the most compliant suspension. The GF-80 and 88 run on independently sprung Al-Ko chassis extensions and both corner as if on rails, while offering huge payloads.
The 88’s tandem rear axles provide ‘six appeal’, although buyers should be aware that drivers of such palatial vehicles with lengthy wheelbases must take care to avoid cutting corners, and pull well forward when emerging from narrow entrances before turning the steering wheel, to avoid ‘tail swipe’.
As usual, ensure that mechanical servicing has been at time intervals, rather than by mileage covered.
At this age, the habitation part should be immaculate. Check that servicing (in particular, a thorough investigation for water ingress) has been carried out at the required time intervals, so any remaining warranty can be transferred. It is not possible to have rear travel seats in the GF-70 if it is plated at 3500kg or 3650kg MTPLM.
All three are highly desirable. GF-80 is a good compromise lengthwise, and my choice. GF-70 is the most compact, but won’t suit if you want a permanent bed. That said, those planning extended tours or winters on the Iberian Peninsula would benefit from the extra space of the GF-88.
What to pay
Even the oldest isn’t really old, so the prices will be high, reflecting their youth and condition. Three years is a common ‘churning interval’, so more are due to become available over the next year or two. I found a 2022 GF-88 automatic, fully loaded and with under 3000 miles, for sale privately at an asking price of £120,000 including a ‘toad’ (tow car) and A-frame.
I reckon this is a saving of at least £18,000 on a new ’van and similar car.
Too much? Look for examples of the previous generation. Guide price: £40,000 for a 2007 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter automatic.
Auto-Trail Grande Frontier essentials
- Auto-Trail Grande Frontier (GF) on Fiat Ducato and Fiat Ducato Al-Ko chassis-cowl
- Built 2021–present in Europarc, North Lincolnshire, UK
- A-class (integral) coachbuilts
- Overall length: GF-70 6.96m (22’ 8”) to GF-88 8.8m (28’ 8”)
What I like:
- British-built A-class
- Good payloads (mostly)
- Contemporary interior
- Choice of lounge layouts
- Auto-Trail’s online weight calculator
What I don’t like:
- Leather upholstery on seats used as beds (personal opinion)
Alternatives to the Grande Frontier range
There are no alternatives from volume UK converters, but there are ‘bespoke’ UK manufacturers of A-classes, such as RS Motorhomes, SC Sporthomes and the like, aimed at the motorsport market.
You could also try a different type of motorhome – I’ve previously looked the Pilote Galaxy (2015-2021) range, which provides a good choice of layouts. The Auto-Sleeper Duetto is another ‘van which is not only affordable but also practical.
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