The Explorateur P715 FC is an extremely comfortable island-bed model, perfect for two to travel in luxury on a long-term basis. For three or four, though, its lack of a fourth travel seat and difficult-to-assemble extra bed make it an impractical proposition.
The island bed; the 142-litre fridge/freezer; storage space inside and out
Lack of kitchen worksurface; tiny bin; few power points; the mock-walnut dashboard fascia
The lounge/dining space, situated to the right as you enter the offside habitation door, seats four around the fixed table. In its closed position the table is ideal for two, but can easily be extended to accommodate more guests. With the cab seats swivelled you could squeeze in another two diners but the total of five quoted by Pilote is more realistic.
An extra half-moon crescent section swings out from below the table top. It is easily released by using the pull-down handle. However, when the extra surface is extended it feels quite wobbly and makes the rest of the table less stable. Space around the table can feel a little tight at times and, when sitting in the offside cab seat, it’s easy to bash your head as you rise. Even if you remove the table top to gain extra space when lounging, it’s still all too easy to stub your toe on its screwed-down base.
Then there’s the impracticality of the beige seat covers: we really like the look of the beige suede, but we’re worried about ruining the fabric when sitting down to eat. We can’t help but think that it will soon get grubby-looking.
However, despite these cosmetic niggles, the deep seat bases and backs are extremely welcoming and comfortable.
For lounging, there’s leg room for four, but the table still gets in the way slightly. It’s telescopic but only drops to the level of the seat bases (for assembling the bed).
There’s a drop-down cabinet opposite the kitchen with an extendable arm for mounting a flatscreen television, enabling loungers to see it from nearly every lounge seat. Beneath the cabinet is a three-shelved cupboard that provides useful extra storage, although we had reservations: there’s no way to secure items to stop them rattling.
The look of the lounge is helped by removable carpets and attractive, beaded curtains. Ultimately, it all feels homely and well built, although slightly short on space. There’s a sense that the area has been ‘squeezed’ to accommodate extra room around the island bed, which makes the lounge feel more like a dining area.
The best features of the Explorateur’s kitchen are the good level of specification and the masses of storage space. Equipment includes a 142-litre Dometic AES fridge, a three-burner hob with hot-plate, grill and oven, and an extractor fan – it works really well and its light provides a nice gentle glow in the evening.
There’s plenty of storage space in the fridge, and the AES system brings a certain peace of mind that an AES version brings.
The plentiful storage space is spread about with two overhead lockers above the sink and a useful locker below the oven, for pans. There are two generously-sized drawers: one for crockery, and another with a plastic infill to keep your cutlery from rattling. The crockery drawer has a section built into its front to store a couple of bottles of wine, but there is no way to secure plates and bowls.
Above the fridge there’s a small locker which houses a socket for the TV aerial, a 12V socket and a two-pin French mains socket.
The biggest disappointment is the lack of food preparation space – there is only the sink cover and the surface of the small cupboard beneath the TV cabinet. The narrow worktop around the sink is further reduced by the bin, which is recessed into the worksurface behind the sink. It would be a better use of space, and more hygienic, if the bin was fitted to the habitation door.
The ergonomics of the space were frustrating, too. As well as a removable sink infill, there is also a removable draining board – but nowhere to put them when you’re not using them.
Despite the limited amount of worksurface and tiny bin, UK buyers will appreciate the grill, oven and storage space in this well-specified kitchen.
The nearside washroom has something of a homely feel thanks to the sliding door that sections it off at the bedroom end of the ’van. It feels like a dedicated en suite and, although there’s not a lot of leg room around the Thetford, the roomy, separate shower makes up for this lack of space.
The separate shower has bi-fold doors, so there are no horrible, clingy curtains to get stuck to your skin. Practical fittings such as this make this washroom a favourable alternative to on-site showers.
The washroom feels big considering that it is tucked between the bedroom and the lounge. There is lots of storage space, too: in the under-sink locker, the mirrored wall cabinet or the corner wall cabinet.
For electrical appliances there is a 12V socket and a mains socket. It’s the only other socket in the ’van apart from the one in the kitchen, so if you need to plug in, say, a phone charger, the washroom is where you have to do it.
There is a generously-sized washbasin, attractive lighting and fittings. However, when washing at the basin, you have to take care not to hit your heads on the edge of the mirrored cabinet, or on the soap dish that is attached to the wall above.
The separate shower is a delight, but the rest of the washroom is a little short on space as a result.
The island bed is the star of the show. It has a slatted base and a Bultex foam mattress, which is extremely comfortable. According to the brochure, the bed is a lavish 2m long but this is true only at its longest point; this is a bit of a problem taller occupants – the foot of the bed is curved, which has the effect of reducing the overall length, so taller sleepers can feel rather draughty around their feet. Nevertheless, the advantages of an island bed are clear – you can get up in the middle of the night without disturbing one another.
Aesthetically, attention to detail makes the bedroom feel grand and opulent. There is a separate, removable carpet, an offside waist- to head-height mirror and a padded headboard with directional spotlights for reading. And, with the bedroom door closed, it is such a cosy sleeping space that you could be forgiven for thinking you were tucked up in bed at home.
The main differences are that the step up is easy to trip over, and you’ll hurt your feet if you step on the rail on which the door slides if you are not wearing your slippers. Another negative is the lack of plug sockets in the bedroom.
Further forward is the assembled bed, which, Pilote claims, will sleep two. We reckon it is only really suitable for one adult due to its lack of width. The bed is assembled by dropping the telescopic table to meet the level of the side-bench bases. The mattress is made up by using the side bench cushions, plus two larger cushions (carried separately). However, the user manual provides no assembly diagram, so it can take time to work out where the cushions should go.
The obvious place to start is the garage, which has access from either side of the ’van. This provides lots of storage space, although it’s not quite big enough to carry adult bicycles. It seems that space in the garage has been sacrificed to give more headroom over the island bed.
That said, though, as the Explorateur hasn’t got a rear window, it would be easy to fit a high-mounted cycle rack.
Further external storage comes from a series of exterior lockers, while there is plenty of storage space in the lounge. There are cubby-holes built into the low-profile front, plus four overhead lockers, two of which have space-saving sliding doors. There is also a large, hidden, wet locker in the floor between the lounge and the kitchen.
You’d expect a lot of storage in the bedroom, especially a fair amount of room beneath that large island bed. Well, there is a good amount of storage space around the bed: wardrobes either side and two overhead lockers (care is needed when opening the wardrobes, though, because the doors slide flush over the bedside tables and it is easy to spill bedside drinks). However, under the bed doesn’t give as much space as you might think, however – it is compromised by the 140-litre inboard fresh water tank housed there. There’s just about enough space beneath the mattress to store the heavy, suede bed cover.
|Shipping Length||7.21 m|