You’ve probably heard the term ‘dealer special’, but what does it actually mean?

Dealer specials are – depending on how you see them – either a way for a dealer to differentiate from the competition, or a way for them to throw in a selection of extra items, and maybe new decals, and try to claim that they’re offering an all-new ’van.

If you are a cynic and take the latter view, you’ll no doubt be aware that dealers have to work closely with the manufacturers as these special-edition models go down the assembly line.

So what happens when the original manufacturer makes major changes to its original vehicle? Let’s find out with the Lifestyle and the Majestic, two dealer-special ranges from Britain’s largest dealer network, Marquis Leisure.

Marquis Lifestyle 685

The Lifestyle is based on the entry-level Escape range, but Swift considerably expanded this line-up for 2017, taking it from two to eight models, all low-profiles.

When turning the ’vans into Lifestyles, Marquis has retained only five of those eight models. It has dispensed with the three new conventional four-berths that Swift added, but retained those layouts that feature a drop-down bed either as standard, or as an option, to make the ’van a six-berth: the 684, 685 and 695. It has also retained last year’s two-berth 622 and four-berth 664.

Swift also considerably modernised the Escape interiors. Some dealers, faced with the task of actually selling the vehicles, might be tempted to settle back on something more tried and tested, so it’s good to see that this design, with its chunky lockers, curved panelling and funky hexagonal designs to the window surrounds, has been retained. It also has a warmer, red-and-brown colour scheme instead of the original’s grey and blue.

There’s been more fun on the outside, too. In its original form the Swift Escape is fairly plain-looking, with just one blue swoosh providing detail.

In contrast, with a Lifestyle you get a black cab, matching black bumpers, and a black and red decal that sweeps two-thirds of the way down the ’van. It’s finished off with ‘Lifestyle’ in large grey letters to the rear of the side panel. You also get 16-inch Fiat alloy wheels.

A question of kit

All this will set you back a few grand more than the regular Escape, however. Even with a special launch offer, the Marquis range starts at £45,995 for the 622. The same ’van with an Escape badge costs just £40,745. So what else do you get for your money?

The 2.3-litre, 130bhp Euro 6 Fiat Ducato engine is the same, but Lifestyle buyers also get a significantly improved cab, with touchscreen digital radio, sat-nav, automatic lights and wipers and a rear-view camera (rather than just sensors).

They’ll also receive cab air-conditioning, cruise control, a pleated windscreen blind and a passenger airbag (although these last extras are also included in Swift’s Comfort Pack).

Elsewhere in the vehicle, Marquis has added a habitation door window, a 100W solar panel, a useful external shower, barbecue and power point, an Omnivent extractor fan, and a superior changeover gas regulator.

Then there’s a panoramic opening sunroof, a concertina door flyscreen, and a Status TV aerial – but all of these are also included in the Comfort Pack.

The wastewater-tank heaters, pipe insulation and fridge vent covers that it includes are also featured in Swift’s Winter Pack. Marquis does throw in an awning, however.

The differences about what is included, and what is or isn’t in a certain pack, do make a direct comparison tricky.

But it is probably fair to say that you would be hard-pushed to add all of the items you get in a Marquis Lifestyle to a basic Swift Escape and come away with much change – and the process would invariably involve more hassle.

The real question, therefore, is whether you think the extras are worth it – and whether you like the new styling.

The Majestic alternative

So how does the Marquis Majestic range compare? Unlike Lifestyle, the Majestic line-up covers every ’van in Elddis’s output.

This means that you get the new low Peugeot Boxer chassis with Euro 6 engines, the 196 model with the drop-down bed, and the same 130bhp engine on the Majestic 115 that you get on the Autoquest 115.

There is just one version of exterior styling – Marquis has replaced Elddis’s designs (including the slightly bizarre tyre-track decal that you get on 2017 Encores) with uniform grey and red decals, and the lighter grey shade matches that of the special metallic cab. Inside, the upholstery colours are beige and regal red, rather than blue.

In terms of spec, buy a Majestic and you also get a 100W solar panel, sat-nav, hill-assist, a factory-fitted awning, automatic lights and wipers, an Omnivent, a dual-fuel hob, a Heki 2 instead of a standard rooflight, and an external shower point.

You also get cab air-con, a Thatcham alarm, a rear-view camera, a Tracker, a microwave and cab blinds (which you don’t get on standard Autoquests); if you want to include these in a standard Elddis, it’ll cost you an additional £2723.

For another £305 the manufacturer will add the Winter Pack, featuring tank heaters, plus a fridge vent cover, which Marquis includes as standard in the Majestic.

In terms of the cost advantage: we would say that it’s marginally better value to go for the dealer special. Again, though, it comes down to convenience and whether the styling appeals.

There remains the issue of what happens when you come to sell your ’van on. Even with a company the size of Marquis creating them, there are likely to be fewer used Lifestyles and Majestics coming onto the market each year than there are used Swift Escapes and Elddis models, so theoretically they should retain their value better.