Andrew McPheeSee other motorhome reviews written by Andrew McPhee
Find out how much French style and flair has gone into the Pilote Explorateur 685 FG with the Practical Motorhome review
Being a French ‘van, you would expect the Pilote to have lots of style, but would that only be skin deep? In fact, a good number of what we had first thought of as styling points turned out to be well-designed, useful features.
The construction was typical of this — beneath the attractive GRP body shell, there’s an aluminium alloy, Duralinox body skeleton, similar to that used in Pilote sister brand Le Voyageur’s super-luxury A-class.
Outside locker doors all fitted well and details such as handles and locks were well designed and added to the feel of quality that gives owners pride in their vehicle.
Pilote has spent time and effort making sure that all parts of the ‘van’s exterior are finished in exactly the same shade of bright white. Obvious as this may seem, it’s still surprisingly rare.
We use a Wastemaster to collect grey water, but the waste-water outlet dumped directly onto the suspension damper making it difficult to catch it — an extension waste hose will be needed for anyone using waste drains that you can’t drive over.
On the road
The little dashboard mounted six-speed gear lever is so smooth and positive, it could definitely teach other manufacturers a thing or two.
The seats, however, despite lots of adjustments, were a disappointment. We just couldn’t get the settings right to turn them from ‘adequate’ to ‘really comfortable’.
Rear visibility was the biggest problem. The blackout blind cassette on the driver’s door was directly in my sight line to the door mirror – I needed to move my head forward to get a clear view behind. There was only a tiny amount of visibility through the rear window.
Lounging & dining
We sat four comfortably for drinks and snacks around the beautifully designed oval table, which adjusts and moves smoothly in all directions.
Seating is comfortable, but as so often with rear-fixed bed layouts, the bed is the only place to stretch out during the day. The cab seats revolve easily to offer extra seating at the dining table.
The inside of the ‘van is just as stylish as its exterior with lots of curved walls and the lighting is truly superb.
One notable missing item was a mosquito screen for the door and surprising when the windows and large roof-vents all have such good flyscreens.
An adequate worksurface area is helped by a portable moulded drainer. A neat rack over the round sink keeps things tidy and a lift-off lid gives access to a small, removable waste bucket that keeps the small worktop clear.
Slide-out trays and racks provide good storage space for pans and food and there is a large fridge and freezer.
A disappointment is that there were only two mains sockets, but there are plenty of sockets for 12-volt appliances.
The ‘van also, has a dedicated baguette storage bag and even a tiny ‘wine cellar’!
The dinette converts into a single bed using the oval table as a base for the mattress that is stored in the rear garage.
The shower had plenty of room and the high-pressure pump makes it a real power shower.
Full marks too for the glass doors that seal away the shower, and we liked the two large drains that keep the shower tray clean and dry.
The toilet is a fixed bench design, and the new-style Thetford cassette can be rolled to the disposal point.
It makes the most of that space with good access to the shed space from inside the ‘van as well as two exterior doors.
The lounge has only two eye-level cupboards, but plenty of shelf storage and a cupboard in the overhead pod. The bed area also has four useful eye-level cupboards.
4-burner gas hob, Oven, Separate grill
Thetford C-402 bench toilet, Separate shower cubicle
The Pilote is impressive – although you’re close to A-class prices and it's in close competition with classy rivals. It’s a stylish and well-built motorhome, demonstrating the very best of Gallic style and flair. It gets high marks and we felt comfortable and at home it in from day one.
- Kitchen and wine ‘cellar’
- Use of space
- Awful rear visibility
- Position of the waste water point
- There's no flyscreen to the door