C FOR YOURSELF
Here’s a motorhome you can try before you buy...
by Richard Robertson
Few motorhome manufacturers have the wherewithal to run demonstrator vehicles that you can truly try before you buy. Mostly it’s a drive around the block or maybe a few hours out-and-about, while the dealer anxiously awaits your safe return. The problem for dealers is that, unlike a caravan, putting test miles on a motorhome devalues it.
Talvor might not be a household name amongst campervan and motorhome buyers, but that is changing. The Company is the name behind Apollo Motorhome Rentals and started out manufacturing basic vehicles for its growing rental fleet back in the mid 80s. Today, Talvor is branching out and manufactures a wide range of vehicles – some quite upmarket – as well as caravans, and has plans to become a major player on both sides of the Tasman.
Rental vehicles are usually far from glamorous as they need to be tough and as idiot-proof as possible. The problem with trying to make anything idiot proof, or course, is that idiots are so ingenuitive. For the most part, rental vehicles seem to survive with varying degrees of success before appearing on the second hand market.
The Talvor Murana is a fairly typical four-berth C-Class motorhome and clearly has rental DNA. It’s also very similar in size and specs to the Winnebago Ceduna tested elsewhere in this issue and the two make an interesting comparison.
The Murana, which is longer, is also the heaviest and weighs in with a tare of 4040 kg (the Ceduna is 3756 kg), from a GVM of 4490 kg. The thing is, by deadline time I was unable to ascertain if that includes fuel and water. If so, it would put the tare weight around 3830 kg, which is in line with the slightly shorter Winnebago’s figures, which are based on a little fuel and empty water tanks.
The bottom line is you need to watch weights very carefully in all motorhomes, especially those aimed at the rental market, as these require a gross weight below 4500 kg so they can be driven on a standard car licence. Remember, the driver is always responsible for a vehicle’s weight and ignorance is no excuse if you’re pulled over for a spot check.
Moving on, the Murana rides on a VW Crafter cab-chassis, just like the Ceduna. I’m going to cut-and-paste from the Ceduna test here, although I will update a few things along the way. So please bear with me if the next few hundred words sound rather familiar.
The Murana rides on Volkswagen’s Crafter 50 LWB cab-chassis, which seems to have become the Euro workhorse-of-choice amongst manufacturers looking for an appealing, lower-cost entry model: witness its popularity amongst rental fleets.
This is a smart move because Crafter is a twin-under-the-skin with the considerably more expensive Mercedes Benz Sprinter. In essence you get Mercedes’ design, engineering and quality at a VW price; because they all come down the same assembly line until they need their engine, gearbox and sundry bits fitted, at which point they are shipped off to VW for finishing. It’s a curious arrangement that obviously has commercial advantages for both companies, but savvy motorhome manufacturers and buyers are the real winners.
Under the bonnet is where Crafters and Sprinters diverge most noticeably, and VW’s workhorse engine is its 2.5-litre 5-cylinder turbo-diesel, producing a modest 100 kW and 300 Nm. In other guises this same engine produces significantly more power, meaning as a motorhome it should be suitably under-stressed. Mated to this is Volkswagen’s six-speed automated-manual transmission (AMT) – another major point of difference with the Sprinter, which uses a full automatic gearbox.
One curiosity of the Crafter/Sprinter’s Euro-heritage is its small 75-litre fuel tank. Larger tanks are optionally available, but 100-litres should be the minimum for Australian touring conditions – weight limits permitting!
Murana is 7.7 meters long, 2.33 metres wide and 3.23 meters tall, and is equipped with dual air bags, disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability control (ESP) and the usual array of powered features like windows, mirrors, locking and steering. Semi-automatic Climatic airconditioning is standard, too.
Typically Germanic, the Crafter is solid and capable if uninspiring to drive. You’d never call a Crafter fun (unlike a Fiat Ducato, for example), but where it shines is in its relentless ability to cover miles comfortably and with a minimum of fuss. Aiding this is Mercedes Benz’s terrific wand-operated combination cruise-control and speed limiter. This allows you to choose to let the Crafter maintain your speed automatically (great on open roads) or stop you exceeding a pre-set speed (great in traffic or on unfamiliar roads). Very useful...
You sit deep inside the Crafter’s cab, with excellent visibility forwards and to the sides. The seats seem unremarkable but are as comfortable at the end of the day as they are to begin with. The multi-adjustable steering wheel sits upright, like a car, rather than bus-like, as in many commercial vehicles and although the instruments are easy to read, you’ll need to spend time with the owner’s manual to fully decipher the workings of all the minor controls.
Perhaps the Crafter’s greatest on-road attribute is its absolute rock-solid front end. Never fazed by road irregularities, potholes, passing trucks or whatever, it causes neither steering kick-back nor wander and inspires great confidence in all situations. It also has a terrific turning circle – another benefit of its Mercedes’ heritage.
The Murana body does contribute to general body roll, as you’d expect, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Being rear-wheel-drive helps steering feel, while dual rear wheels enhances stability and towing ability, too. The bulbous Luton-peak above the cab provides great over-bed head room, but does look a little odd to some people.
On the down side, performance is leisurely at best, due to the shifting pattern of the AMT gearbox. Reluctant to up-shift at times (especially from first gear at low speeds) and with a considerable lag when it does, getting to know this gearbox takes time, but once familiar its foibles are quickly accommodated and forgotten. So don’t be put-off from what you might read, or from a brief, initial driving experience. And remember, you can always manually override when the terrain/situation/mood takes you.
The test Murana had about 55,000 km on the clock as an Albury Wodonga RV World (AWRV World) rental vehicle and to be honest, you’d have been hard placed to pick it from new. It looked and drove like new and exhibited no more shakes and rattles than expected. It was both a credit to the dealership and to the vehicle’s design and during the course of the test we only found a few minor-wear-and-tear items that were not noticeable at first glance.
Talvor covers all its new motorhomes with a 24-month limited warranty of the motorhome itself, plus (in this case) VW’s 3 year/Unlimited km warranty of the base vehicle. Individual motorhome components like appliances, the airconditioner, etc, all come with their own manufacturers’ warranties.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder – or beer holder – and who am I to disagree? I don’t mind the Murana’s bulbous nose and slab-sides, but during the test I did have a couple of comments suggesting otherwise.
Narrower than the Ceduna by 142 mm (there’s that rental DNA), the Murana seems conventionally constructed with fibreglass sides and roof and also uses the same Herr-brand entry door and louvered hopper-style windows. A decent-sized rear through-boot is provided, along with two small but handy side storage lockers. We found the one near the entry door ideal for muddy gumboots
A nice standard feature is the roll-out gas barbecue that hides behind the drop-down hatch door, directly above the gumboot storage bin. The hatch door reveals the tucked-away barbecue and also doubles as a handy table for plates, cooking implements and so on. It also reveals an outdoor radio/CD player and a pair of speakers, plus a double power point, a TV lead connector and a 12v power outlet. The barbecue’s gas line plugs into a bayonet connector just ahead of the rear wheel arch and there’s a small storage compartment between the radio/electrical switches and the barbecue. It’s a great set-up that’s a real boon to find as a standard inclusion.
Murana comes with a pair of 9 kg gas bottles, 150-litres of fresh and 100-litres of grey water storage, a pair of 100 amp house batteries, an external shower, Winegard TV aerial, electric entry step, colour reversing camera and a roof-top, reverse-cycle airconditioner. It’s a comprehensive package that covers most bases, while solar panels, a generator, and a towbar are all available options.
Entering the Murana you find yourself facing a four-seat cafe-style dinette, with seatbelts for the two forward-facing seats. Aft of that is the bathroom and at the rear is a generous u-shaped lounge that for some reason lacks a table. Opposite the dinette is the kitchen, which runs through to the rear lounge. Above the Crafter’s cab is a large queen-ish sized bed and above the rear lounge is a slightly smaller bed that stores up by the ceiling during the day and lowers, electrically, at night.
Although the Murana has older-style flat-faced cupboard, they have a modern high-gloss finish and the look and feel of the interior is quite contemporary. It’s also bright and quite airy, especially at the rear, with good window space and a mirror-finish bathroom door. Night time illumination is good, with LEDs the major type of lighting employed.
For a rental vehicle with 55,000-odd kilometres on the clock the interior was hard to pick from new. There were no scuff marks, nothing was chipped and there was no accumulated grit or grime to be seen, except around the fresh water tank beneath the rear lounge. That says good things about AWRV World’s maintenance and attention to detail when cleaning, but also the inherent strength and durability of the design.
Matt Sears, AWRV World’s General Manager told me he only keeps vehicles in the rental fleet for a short time, up to about 60,000 km, before selling them on. That means the test Murana was nearing the end of its rental life and depending on the asking price it would make an attractive used offering.
Because the dinette is directly opposite the entry door you can slip in and out without disturbing the chef, provided you don’t try and get to the fridge. The dining table has an odd leg arrangement that can get in the way of those sitting closest to the wall and it doesn’t provide a lot of support at the extremity. Consequently, the dining table in our vehicle had a slight-but-noticeable droop. I think I worked out how this had happened during the machine’s rental life, when Mrs iMotorhome (not her real name) went to climb the bed ladder and by instinct used the table corner as a hand support. The things you learn only by actually using a motorhome...
The table is also a little high for my liking, but the dinette seats are reasonably comfortable and would be much better with a little more back shaping and lumbar support. Above the fridge sits a good 19” HD TV/DVD on a swivel arm and it can be viewed from anywhere in the vehicle. The rear lounge is spacious, but the lack of somewhere to put your drink, computer or dine at is baffling. As it stands it would be a great place for kids to play on the floor and in a four-berth rental that’s probably the idea.
Mrs iMotorhome liked the kitchen and cooked for three of us as Malcolm Street (his real name) was travelling with us in an Avan Applause – but that’s another story. A flip-up bench extension would be a good idea as bench space is at a premium, although there is room above the generous 150-litre Dometic fridge-freezer. The F/F has automatic energy switching (AES), meaning it will choose between gas, vehicle 12-volt (while the ignition’s on) and mains power and it sits at floor level between the main kitchen area and rear lounge.
Other standard appliances include a Spinflo Triplex cooker with 2 x gas and a single electric element, plus a gas oven and grill. Above that is a Dometic rangehood (beneath the overhead cupboards) while an LG microwave is built into the cupboards, above the fridge-freezer. The sink is a single-bowl glass-lidded affair that lacks an integrated drainer, but comes with a removable plastic washing-up tub and drainer board. Whilst a good idea in practice, they tended to get in the way and would probably be left in the boot locker for outdoor washing up (for example).
The Murana’s standard Air Command reverse-cycle airconditioner worked hard during our middle-of-winter test nights and, of course, required 240-volt mains power. It was also very noisy and for a private vehicle a diesel-fired central heating system would be the only way to go. Not only quieter and more efficient, it would allow you to free camp in colder weather: something we would have liked to have done.
The mid-mounted bathroom is a tight fit and a few extra centimetres all-round wouldn’t go astray. Neither would a medicine cabinet. A swivel-headed Thetford cassette toilet greets you when you open the door (it’s very polite), but you need to find the right angle in order to close the door whilst seated. You turn right, past the loo, to enter the shower and between them is a small hand basin on the back wall. Drying-off thoroughly is difficult, so make sure the curtains are closed and step into the rear lounge area. Hot water is supplied by a 14-litre Truma gas-only system, so be sure to shower wisely...
Despite a too-narrow ladder, the over-cab bed proved the largest and most favoured. With excellent headroom there was no feeling of claustrophobia and it could easily be used as the main bed – especially with a wider ladder (is the message coming through?).
The rear electric bed is far more than a gimmick and can be left made-up when raised. Unlike the Ceduna, however, it does limit headroom slightly in the rear lounge for taller folk when it’s stowed. The bed itself is comfy enough, but does require a small degree of athleticism to access, so an inside step might be required by some.
Three days in the Talvor Murana was more than enough to get to know this handy vehicle. Pleasant to drive, manoeuvrable and quite economical (16L/100km average in mixed terrain with no regard for economy), it’s also comfortable, practical and enjoyable.
The bathroom could do with more space and the rear lounge is crying out for a table, but all-in-all this is a highly competent motorhome capable of long-term use that won’t break the bank – or your marriage/significant relationship/whatever. Most importantly, it proved itself a vehicle capable of enduing the rigours of the rental market and coming through with flying colours.
I’ll (hopefully) post an update on the tare weight situation next issue, but like all motorhomes you need to make careful and realistic weight calculations for your specific situation when planning any new vehicle purchase.
That said, there’s a lot to like about the Talvor Murana. But don’t just take my word for it, C for Yourself. There’s nothing like trying before you buy.
- VW Crafter cab-chassis
- Electric roof bed
- Modern interior
- Outdoor barbecue standard
- Well equipped
- Potential payload limitations
- No rear-lounge table
- Somewhat cramped bathroom
- Dining table leg needs redesign
Click HERE to visit the Talvor website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.