A wonderful example of what designers can accomplish if given the licence – it’s simply beautiful inside and is every inch a luxury, all-season tourer.
Outstanding interior aesthetics; high levels of winterisation; sleeping arrangements
Square kitchen sink; lino floor in garage; specification for the price
As the first angular corner of the bold, new S-Liner caught my eye, I felt as if I had been the victim of a smart left-hook from a boxer.
Standing there on Lowdham’s forecourt I was left reeling. I was amazed by the outlandish, unorthodox and downright bizarre shapes before my eyes.
Soon afterwards, I realised that I should not project onto this motorhome my own biased view of how a motorcaravan should look. So, stepping out of my comfort zone and looking again, I began to understand. Knaus wants the S-Liner to amaze.
Breaking the mould The design is radical and demands that you drop your guard, discard the motorhome mould and take note of what you are seeing.
Underpinning the S-Liner’s avant-garde external design is the 2.3-litre 130 MultiJet Fiat Ducato. Then, moving inside, I was immediately dazzled by the combination of halogen spot- and strip-lights, twinkling in my peripheral vision.
The cab has plenty of good storage spaces, a high level of build quality, and in-cab comfort has been heightened to luxury levels in the S-Liner by the car-like bucket seats which have seatbelts built into their backs to ensure a comfortable fit across the wearer’s shoulder.
Other base vehicle improvements include a lowered windscreen, which now extends further towards the road than usual, and improves visibility.
Another nice feature, and one which will be appreciated by passengers, is the slide-out section of the forward-facing dinette bench seat. When the seat is slid across, passenger leg room is increased (and when returned the seatbelt column is hidden behind the soft sofa). However, if you plan to tour mainly at home and are thinking of stumping up the cash for this polished diamond, bear in mind that Lowdham is only importing left-hand drive models.
Quality and choice Moving through the living area I was struck by the quality of fixtures, fittings and upholstery. There are two colourways (beige or blue) of durable, well-stitched soft furnishings from which to choose. You can also have your seats tailored in luxurious leather which to me looked cream-coloured despite Knaus’ insistence that it’s ‘champagne’. What is most notable about the upholstery is that although it is sumptuous, it is also understated. There are no bright colours, tasselled cushions or heavy, floral prints. Instead, you just get classy, elegant design.
With a choice of woods for your cupboards – either Loft Cherry or Passion Cherry – the level of customisation is superb. It is all typical of the S-Liner: Knaus is selling sophistication and, as with all luxury items, customer satisfaction is paramount.
Multimedia options So, if you want a state-of-the-art entertainment centre beaming out TV and booming out music, you won’t be disappointed. Knaus’ spectacular ‘media package’ costs £4695. But if you’d rather choose your own, you can opt for the Multi Media Tower for around £1000 and a flat-screen TV for about £700. It’s not cheap but that’s unlikely to worry potential buyers who realise that quality costs money.
With your TV, DVD player and surround-sound speakers you’re in lounging paradise. The set-up is such that wherever you sit you will have a good view of the television screen, but if you choose to have the cab drop-down screen fitted as well, then everybody gets a ring-side seat. In fact, it’s so comfortable sitting on the L-shaped nearside sofa that the only danger is you’ll never want to get up again.
Standard specification includes a wardrobe instead of the entertainment centre, although every vehicle Lowdham is importing will have the ‘media package’ fitted. But let’s be honest, in a dream motorhome such as the S-Liner, to choose extra storage space instead would be regrettably conservative. Either way, with the cab seats swivelled there’s room for four to lounge in comfort, with acres of leg room for all.
Despite the abundance of hi-tech toys, the lounge space doubles well as a dining area. Four can fit comfortably around the table – or five at a push, if one sits in the corner of the L-shaped sofa. And, the aisle from the kitchen is wide enough for cooks to slip past other passengers without dropping the spuds, before dishing up at the extended dining table.
Kitchen: style over substance? When preparing dinner, cooks are relatively well catered for but the area of available work surface is limited. Yes, there’s a wooden infill for the sink, but even with that in place the worktop is only a bit bigger than your average chopping board. Better are the thoughtful design touches and high level of equipment: an extractor fan and a trendy tower unit that includes a fridge, freezer, oven and grill. The Dometic Ceran gas hob looks nicer than traditional units and, when not in use, provides a much-needed work surface because it is flush to the worktop.
Kitchen storage space has been practically designed, too. The cutlery drawer has wooden dividers to section off utensils, and another drawer’s foam infill safely and securely holds two wine bottles and five glasses. There’s also a handy, recessed spice rack and kitchen-towel holder. Cupboards are plentiful and include overhead lockers to store food for four people.
My only other niggle is the square sink: it looks fancy but ultimately it is awkward and has unnecessarily hard-to-clean corners.
Storage Inside the huge garage there is yet more practical storage space which easily swallows a couple of bikes and is accessible from both sides of the motorhome. A metal runner is provided for when you need to strap down bikes or other bulky items when in transit. However, the floor would benefit from the fitting of real checkerplate and the garage interior, considering its size, might also benefit from additional lighting. Loading is easy enough, though, thanks partly to the lowered Al-Ko chassis: the lip of the garage doors is closer to the ground than on the standard Fiat Ducato version.
Hotel-like washroom The washroom in the 700 LG is not quite as impressive as that of its big brother, the 800 LEG, but is nonetheless a pleasant space in which to scrub up. The gentle lighting is reminiscent of a hotel bathroom, and a halogen spotlight sits directly above the smart, rectangular shower head. With all the storage space and glass-fronted cupboards that you’d expect, and more, I found it really hard to fault. When I stepped out of the roomy shower and stretched out on the rear bed, I felt almost guaranteed of a good night’s sleep. The transverse double is supportive yet yields pleasantly, moulding to the shape of your body. There’s a fabric magazine wallet at the nearside end, plus plenty of natural light from the skylight and two windows. The two steps up to the bed are permanent fixtures, making getting in and out of bed a cinch. The rear bed is sectioned off from the rest of the motorhome by a concertina’d curtain, which saves space.
Overhead lockers above the cab area are standard specification but all Lowdham’s models will have a drop-down A-class double bed (1.88m x 1.4m) fitted instead. So, four people can sleep in comfort, or couples will be able to stretch out individually in their own separate doubles.
While this motorhome is undeniably luxurious, opulence is nothing without a solid and reliable build quality. The S-Liner is made from a wood-free sandwich construction with a shiny, aluminium exterior. Dig a little deeper and you will discover 28mm sidewalls stuffed with rigid Styrofoam and high-density insulation, in addition to sheet metal inserts to toughen up the walls. The roof is insulated, too, with 28mm polystyrene, and the window panes are supported by lightweight aluminium frames. Furthermore, thanks to the Al-Ko chassis, the designers have been able to incorporate frost-resistant in-board water tanks – which are easily accessed via sliding drawers – to complete the comprehensive level of winterisation.
Sky-high luxury, sky-high price After nosing about the S-Liner I stepped out and began rifling through my pockets, looking for the lottery ticket I had bought the week before. You see, my only problem with this wonderfully crafted and wickedly attractive motorhome is the price.
Admittedly it costs less than say, a top-end Concorde, but once highly specified its price tag rockets to over £70,000. And, at this price, small things such as the provision of an awning, as standard, cannot easily be forgiven.
But to focus on small details, and my budget, is to miss the bigger picture. The essence of the S-Liner is that it is unique. Knaus has pushed back the boundaries of accepted design with its trail-blazing A-class and I, for one, would love to have its head-turning bulk on my driveway. Now, if only I could find that ticket…