Andrew McPheeSee other motorhome reviews written by Andrew McPhee
It's roomy and luxurious, but how does the Auto-Trail Frontier Comanche perform in the tough Practical Motorhome review?
Island bed motorhomes probably offer greater sleeping comfort and luxury than any other motorhome, thanks to big double beds in rear en-suite ‘bedrooms’.
It’s no surprise, then, that luxury marque Auto-Trail has an island bed ’van in its flagship Frontier range, called the Comanche (known until 2010 as the Cheyenne 840D). At nearly 9m-long, the tag-axle giant is nonetheless a two-berth, with a premium on luxury and space.
Auto-Trail launched a third option for 2011, dubbed the ‘super lo-line’. It’s a more eye-catching, sleek low-profile habitation moulding which, when coupled with Auto-Trail’s elegant graphics and eye-catching (but optional) silver cab paintwork, it makes for one of the best-looking ’van ranges to roll out of a UK factory.
Auto-Trail ’vans generally have their facilities on the offside, but the design of the Comanche’s washroom means that the toilet cassette locker is on the nearside. The gas locker design is the best in the business – low to the ground and opened via an internal lever. We loved the rear-mounted spare wheel, an Auto-Trail trademark – there’s no need to scrabble under the motorhome for the spare should you get a puncture.
On the road
The 157bhp engine gives reasonable acceleration even in sixth gear, and all six wheels are fitted with disk brakes, too, so even when fully loaded, stopping shouldn’t be a problem. In terms of fuel economy, we managed 21.4mpg, but there were only 678 miles on the clock when we started, so the engine wasn’t fully run-in. We’d expect this figure to improve.
Lounging & dining
The top of the small cupboard next to the nearside sofa can be used as additional table space – for mugs, books and the like – and those who are still left wanting can specify an additional, circular lounge table on a boom arm for occasional use.
We really liked the asymmetrical sofas, with their plush, optional leather upholstery – they’re very comfortable. They’re certainly great for lounging, but unsuitable as travel seats, and end up restricting this to a two-berth ’van with benefits. Thankfully, Auto-Trail allows customers to specify a dinette instead (an £800 cost option) with two proper belted travel seats, so the Comanche will be able to carry as many people as it sleeps. In pure lounge-lizard terms, though, the facing sofa version is king.
Despite the compact size of the kitchen there’s plenty of storage space. The semi-circular door below the sink opens to reveal deep shelves and alongside this three pull-out wire baskets. The large crockery locker is well placed, right above the cooker. A small foot locker beneath this houses the gas taps and an electric socket for the fridge.
The concealed lighting is attractive, too, a design theme that also runs through the lounge; it’s both effective and generously bright.
There are bedside cabinets at either side, each with a drawer and cupboard beneath. There are also two corner storage units, one of which has been cleverly fitted as a laundry basket and the other as a shelved cupboard.
The bed can be screened off from the rest of the ’van by means of a concertina screen, leaving the washroom accessible to those sleeping in the lounge bed, or the whole area can made into an en-suite by pulling the washroom door across. In the lounge, the two sofa bases pull together without even the slightest squeak of dissent, to form a big double bed for guests.
There’s only one drain point in the shower cubicle, so if the ’van isn’t completely level the water tends to collect in the base. The toilet cubicle also feels very small and cramped and storage seems lacking. Still, having a separate cubicle does mean that the toilet is available when the shower is in use.
We were quite impressed by the shower cubicle and its bi-fold door, too. However, there’s no escaping the fact that with a little tweaking - replacing the (inexplicably clear rather than frosted) window with a smaller unit and deleting the shelf over the toilet, for example – the Auto-Trail’s toilet could be improved.
On the outside, there’s a large storage locker running the full width of the ’van, with access from either side. There isn’t enough headroom for a full-sized cycle, but it’s still very large.
An offside external locker, revealed by lifting up a portion of skirting, has space for levels, hoses, cables and so forth, and conveniently enough this also houses the hook-up point.
Dometic Fridge, 3-burner gas with electric hot plate, Oven, Separate grill, Microwave
Thetford C-250 toilet, Separate shower cubicle
We’re big fans of the Comanche’s practicality, luxury and quality. Our only major gripe concerned the motorhome’s size – when you’re travelling in a ’van of this size and weight, pitching up is less spontaneous, as you need to give greater consideration to the roads you use and where you camp. If you want a luxurious two- to four-berth low-profile and don’t mind the hassle of going big, though, then the Comanche certainly merits your attention.
- Spacious, comfy bed
- Poor kitchen workspace
- There's only a small waste water tank