Andrew McPhee

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Practical Motorhome reviews the Mercedes-Benz based Pilote Explorateur 733FC

Overview

Pilote’s flagship, the Mercedes-based A-class, is already looking like a lot of ‘van for the money, with high quality structural build, innovative specification and a walk-around island bed.

The Mercedes base offers real luxury, as far as any European commercial base will allow, thanks to the option of a 184bhp, 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel and an automatic gearbox, available on right-hand drive models. The standard, 2.2-litre power plant is still pokey enough, with 150bhp and a six-speed manual stickshift.

The integrated, all-white GRP exterior doesn’t look radically different to last year’s models, bar the new Merc’s more bulbous nose, though it belies an aluminium alloy structural skeleton which is claimed to provide a great deal of structural integrity and is normally only seen on ‘vans with a six-figure price tag. There’s a two-door garage with a shower and four fixing points and a long (2m) slide-out storage tray in the skirts behind the passenger (and only) cab door.

The advantage of integrated A-class design – where everything from the wheels up is the work of the convertor – is a custom-built cab, which allows more room in the living area. With two side-facing sofas and commodious Isringhausen cab seats, it’s a true lounge space. In an innovative piece of Pilote engineering that we have yet to test, the sofas convert into travel seats, which are tested to EU Whole Vehicle Type Approval standards. The round, fixed single-leg table is not too big to allow free movement and has an extra leaf attached beneath, so four can dine. We really liked the fold-out arm for the flatscreen TV, which is stored discreetly above the sideboard and is visible from the bed as well as from the lounge.

The kitchen is small, but storage space is maximised with a slide-out wire rack, a small sideboard and a plastic, clip-on sink drainer. There’s a full-sized Smev cooker with a drawer beneath and a bin in the worktop for vegetable scraps.

The compact washroom has ease of access due to a sliding door and although space is limited there is a separate shower with an adjustable head. The high quality shower tray (which we assume has a high-density foam base) has an edge channel and a sill, with a single drain plug.

This ‘van’s raison d’être, though, is its spacious end bedroom. There’s a comfortable Bultex (in effect, latex) mattress and the bed lifts up to provide access to the space beneath, and the fresh water tank. There is a wardrobe on each side, a sliding door and a large headboard.

Over the cab, there is a comfortable-looking drop-down bed which could be used by guests.

The walk-around island bed layout is common in US A-class ‘vans (and has been seen on Pilote’s sister brands Frankia and Le Voyageur), but this incarnation is the most affordable and driveable yet. Luxury does not come cheap, but it now costs a little less.

Technical specs

Sleeps4
Travel seats4
MTPLM3500kg
Length7.3m23′11″
Width2.3m7′7″
Height2.86m9′5″
Waste water130L
Kitchen Equipment
Dometic Fridge, 4-burner gas hob, Oven, Separate grill
Washroom
Thetford C-250 toilet, Separate shower cubicle
Heating
Truma Gas Blown air heater, Truma Gas water heater

Verdict

For the money, you get a layout that’s extremely comfortable and has an unusual island bed. The kitchen is small, but overall it’s a very enticing package.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Price; island bed; lounge

Cons

  • Small kitchen
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