Malcolm Street escapes to the CMCA Rally, courtesy of Apollo Rentals…
One of the easiest ways to find out what’s going on in the motorhome world is to get along to either the Anniversary or National rallies of the Campervan and Motorhome Club (CMCA). Once there it mostly involves attending a few Happy Hours and getting all the gossip and scandal – I mean facts and developments.
As these rallies are held all over the country, one of the challenges is getting there. In this case it was Murray Bridge in South Australia and I flew to Adelaide, where Apollo Rentals was kind enough to lend me one of its Star RV Euro Tourers for a few days. Thanks Apollo!
Euro Tourers are a Mercedes Benz Sprinter conversion, in this case the 313 CDI model. For the external conversion Apollo doesn't have to do a great deal of obvious work. The standard van windows have been retained and there's no awning, which leaves the gas cylinder bin, hot water heater, cassette toilet door and the utilities connections. Of course a look at roof level reveals a few more items, like an air conditioner, TV aerial and a ventilation hatch at the rear. The 313 CDI model comes with a 2.2-litre, 95 kW turbo diesel and a very smooth 7-speed fully automatic gearbox.
On the Road
I have to say this is a very easy vehicle to drive. My little trip to Murray Bridge involved everything from the streets of Adelaide to the Princes Highway freeway. About the only place where easily achieving the speed limit was a problem was the long haul uphill in the Mount Barker area.
Apart from that it provided a very easy cruise. One of the benefits of the all-round windows is excellent vision. Even so, the Euro Tourer still came with a reversing camera; the screen of which was mounted to the right of the driver. Getting my iPod Bluetoothed to the Benz radio was done after a bit of a fiddle and after that it did not take any time at all to get to the rally site. I wasn't able to do a proper fuel economy check but my circa 160 km trip cost me less than $30 for diesel.
Set up time is minimal with something like the Euro Tourer: In short, park and open the sliding door. Well there was getting level, but that was quickly sorted by the CMCA siting guru, Paul Flynn, who loaned me a couple of wooden blocks (they being difficult to carry when flying). There wasn't even the power cable to connect because I didn't have a powered site!
With the all round windows, sitting in the Euro Tourer was a bit like being in a gold fish bowl. I don't necessarily mind that because I like space, both real and perceived. A downside I thought was the lack of opening windows. There were two, one mid-offside and one in the sliding door, but neither had insect screens. Certainly not a problem where I was with overnight temperatures getting down to 5º C and sunny but very windy days. However, in hot and tropical conditions a very different matter! Sure the side and rear doors can be left open, but again with no insect screens. If plugged into mains power the air conditioner, incidentally a new Dometic Fresh Jet unit, can be used, but if free camping then it's open the doors or nothing (It appears Apollo expects rental customers to always stay in caravan parks on powered sites - Ed).
Still on windows, I'll mention the curtains. I've seen a few motorhomes where curtains almost seemed to be an afterthought, but these were good – easy to use and covering the entire window area, including the drivers' cab, without difficulty.
There were no surprises with the layout, which follows the standard rental pattern in having two sideways facing lounges in the rear that can be used as either single beds or a large double. Behind the driver's seat is the shower/toilet cubicle, which leaves the bit in the middle on both sides for a kitchen.
Generally speaking there's plenty of internal storage space – there are no external bins – with lots of overhead lockers, kitchen drawers, cupboards and under-seat areas in the rear. The latter looks a bit odd because although there's a closed-off bin under the kerb-side bed, the rest is just open space. It's something that works quite well, though, because instead of wrestling to lift seat cushions to access under-bed lockers, it's just a matter of sliding gear under the seats. This is very useful for items like camp chairs and travel bags.
Two little tips here: If ever doing a fly/drive motorhome holiday take soft-sided bags as they are so much easier to squeeze in somewhere. Also, when travelling make sure that all the gear under the seats is firmly wedged in. In the event of an accident you don't want any loose missiles flying around!
Between the shower cubicle and the driver’s side kitchen bench is a good sized wardrobe. Excellent for not only hanging clothes, but also storing one's camera bag – mine is larger than most, which is why I mention it. Above the wardrobe is a very good 12 V electrical panel with switches for every circuit: something I much appreciated given my very necessary power conservation efforts. In addition there was a battery voltmeter and water tank gauges.
Not being on a powered site and standing still for several days did create an electrical problem. The fridge, being a 12 V compressor unit and there being no solar panels, I had to be very careful with battery use. Two things worked in my favour. One was that the temperature was quite cool, so the fridge was not working very hard. The second was that I was able to use the CMCA office for charging my laptop, iPad and camera/flash batteries.
Although the Euro Tourer was well lit with low energy LEDs, there was only the master switch for turning them on, so it was all-on or all-off. That also meant clambering into the van, and into bed, in the dark unless I remembered the torch (a triumph of design - Ed). I was able to survive for four days in this mode and I noted that the battery voltage was still above 12 V, but I reckon I did not have much longer and would have to have fired up the Sprinter’s engine for a while.
Time to Eat
In many ways the Euro Tourer has quite a simple and usable kitchen. Fitted in to the kerb-side bench top is a combo three-burner cooktop and stainless steel sink. Under the bench is the 110 L Waeco fridge, whilst in the overhead locker area is a small microwave. I always think a grill would be a useful item with a rental motorhome, but it generally appears rental companies don’t. I tend to cook fairly simply when travelling and in this case I did not have the use of the microwave oven.
Bench space was excellent, with the cabinet opposite the kitchen bench offering a very generous extra area, which not only stood up to my catering needs but also a parking space for laptop, phone and iPad. That also happened to be where the 12 V socket for the TV was and so was convenient for 12 V charging.
Under both kitchen benches was a generous amount of storage space, mostly cupboards but also with two drawers. One drawer was neatly compartmented to securely store the plates, cups and glasses and the other was for small items. Although there was plenty of storage space, I did think that at least one of the cupboards could have had a few shelves to make it more user friendly.
Dinner time was easily handled by the Lagun-mounted table. It could be swivelled around any which-way and pushed to one side if not needed. Additionally, if guests turned up there was a freestanding table stored behind the driver's seat
One of the benefits of travelling by yourself in a motorhome like this is that unless you really want a large double bed, one of the lounges can be made up as a single bed and the other kept just for sitting on. Apart from anything else, it means not having to make the bed every day! It was a bit of a trick folding the sheets up for the single bed, but once achieved, it all stayed together. Being a rental motorhome, all the necessary sheets and doonas were supplied and I was fully appreciative of the second doona that was thrown in just before I left the Apollo depot!
Back to lighting, there were no reading lights and neither was there a switch within easy reach for the main lights. I have to say, as someone who likes to read themselves to sleep at night I did find that annoying. I also had my Kindle book, which not only meant I could read in the dark, it lit my way from the master switch back to the bed!
No surprises in the bathroom – very compact to say the least, with just a cassette toilet and flexible hose shower. There was room to turn around but not too much, and the bathroom did come with a (switchable) LED light, but no ventilation fan.
What I think
Rental motorhomes are built differently to those for the private market. Although sharing many of the essentials, they are finished in a more basic style. This was the case with the Euro Tourer, which although it had most of my essential desires for this working trip, also had some design ‘lapses’.
One of the features I like about van conversions is they are excellent for single people or couples who travel light. They have just enough space for the "essentials" we have all come to expect, and on the road are very manoeuvrable and fuel efficient. An added bonus for the single traveller is that there is no need to go outside at night, while locking all the doors is just one push of the remote button.
- Great for fly/drive trip
- Excellent for singles or couples who travel light
- Generous kitchen area
- Easy to access under-seat storage
- Lagun swivel table
- Room to move in a relatively small interior
- Driving the Benz
- All-round vision when driving
- Good fuel economy
- Only one light switch
- Minimal opening windows with no screens
- No solar panels
- Kitchen drawer/cupboard space usage
- No lining on rear doors
- No bathroom vent fan
- Limited load capacity
Fly-Drive Motorhome Travel
I've learned a few things over the years when doing fly/drive trips, so here are a few tips:
1:Take soft travel bags for easy storage in the motorhome
2: We all have plenty of devices that require chargers. Try and ensure all have a common USB style connection at the charger end. That way multiple leads but only one charger needs to be carried. Well two actually, having both 240 V mains and 12 V chargers is very handy.
3: Items like washing up liquid are a pain. Frequently not sold in small quantities, consider taking a smaller quantity in a quality container from home
4: Ditto an item like toilet rolls. Ever tried to buy just one? Frequently that is all you need for a short holiday. Likewise, carry a few plastic sandwich bags – they are great for sealing loose items in the fridge
5: When returning the motorhome, check all drawers and cupboards and don't do what I did and leave a few precious items behind. Fortunately the Apollo team in Adelaide was on the ball and posted them all back to me!
Click HERE to visit Apollo's website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications and contact details.
Apollo Euro Tourer (1528 KB)