FOR THE 2021 season, Auto-Trail launched the first British-made A-class for more than 20 years. Since that time, the lockdowns and social distancing have mean the Auto-Trail Grand Frontier GF-88 has not been as visible as you might have expected. But we have finally managed to view this 8.79m-long twin-axle, the largest in the three-model range.
The Grand Frontier has s stylish exterior: mostly white except for the tinted windscreen and a wide decal that wraps around the side. It looks like a motorhome with designer shades on.
The vehicle sits on an Al-Ko chassis with a standard Fiat Ducato cab, but unlike many Continental vehicles, you can climb into the driver’s seat via a driver’s door on the ‘correct’ side.
Fiat’s 160bhp engine is fitted as standard. Our test model came with Fiat’s nine-speed automatic gearbox (a £3354 option), so there was little obstruction in the gangway to the lounge, where you find two travel seats, assembled by removing the middle section of the offside settee.
Like the exterior, the lounge is very understated. The warm oak veneer is even included on the underside of the dropdown bed – we’ve rarely seen a bed panel finished so tastefully.
And yet this is still a well-lit lounge, with a Heki rooflight, big windows, four spotlights, strip lights under the lockers and plenty of ambient lighting. The nearside settee is long enough to provide stretching room, even with the folding table in place. That table, stored by the fridge, easily has room for four. The 21.5-inch Avtex TV (part of a Media Pack that costs £1299 but is standard on the Grand Frontier) is hidden in a locker by the habitation door.
The kitchen worktop is so convincing, it’s easy to believe that it’s slate – it’s actually considerably lighter compact laminate. Most of the work surface is between the sink and a four-burner dual-fuel hob, above the oven and grill.
There are two mains sockets, and this area also has a strip light. You might feel a little hemmed in here as the cook, however, as the travel seat headrests cut this area off from the lounge.
Across the aisle is a 171-litre fridge (not a two-way-opening model) with a separate freezer. A microwave with a matching fascia sits above. You have to step up to the washroom, but there are no more steps in standard spec between here and the rear of the vehicle.
Both the toilet and the shower are tucked away behind partitions. The toilet (and therefore its exterior locker door) is on the awning side, but the handbasin next to it is large. The circular shower on the other side has reasonable headroom, a roof vent and space for toiletries.
The island bed does not roll back to make a day-bed, and in standard spec, there are no steps either side of it.
The bedroom is lit by a rooflight and LEDs. There are shelves either side of the bed, with lockers below. In the front nearside corner is a second set of TV sockets and a USB.
Drop-down beds are an A-class staple, of course, and this one – lined with a muslin fabric all round – is large and comfortable. It’s easy to climb up into it, too, and there is a pair of spotlights for bedtime reading.
There is nothing understated about storage in this ‘van. The standard garage is probably just a little too small for an upright bike, but it is lit. There are two lockers as well as the gas bottle locker on the nearside of the ‘van’s exterior, and another tall locker plus a skirting locker on the offside.
There are four huge overhead lockers in the lounge. Most underseat areas are clear, with various ways to reach them.
The bedroom has two wardrobes and a selection of drawers. Kitchen storage is also good, with plenty of shelving and two overhead lockers. There is more than enough shelf space in the washroom, too.
PRACTICAL MOTORHOME SAYS…
This is a promising restart for British A-classes. The Grand Frontier has enough understated style to really set it apart from some of the flashier examples that you can get from the Continental manufacturers. Perhaps, the only surprising omission is any day-bed function in the island bed, but you still have a huge, comfy lounge in which to relax.
The Grand Frontier has enough understated style to really set it apart from some of the flashier examples that you can get from the Continental manufacturers.