BON VACANCES

Feel like a holiday with French style?  reports on the latest Renault Motorhome

The Australian light commercial vehicle market is a tough nut to crack. The van segment has a committed handful of players, and if you add a cab/chassis to the model mix, you’re suddenly up against the dominance of the Japanese with their expansive ranges and strong market entrenchment.

A saturated marketplace hasn’t stopped manufacturers from trying to succeed, however. Renault extended its LCV range in 2012 with the front-wheel-drive, 3.5-tonne-GVM Master van, and followed this late last year with the launch of the 4.5-tonne-GVM Master rear-wheel-drive cab/chassis.

Joining the more compact Kangoo and mid-sized Trafic models and the Master van, the rear-wheel-drive cab/chassis derivative impressed us enough to award it Delivery’s 2014 Light Truck of the Year.

Judges particularly liked the vehicle’s high standard specification levels, driver comfort and ease-of-use. Renault Australia LCV Model Line Manager, Lyndon Healey, said that the model was gaining traction with buyers.

“It’s an ideal vehicle for tradespeople, garden nursery supply work and the like,” Mr. Healey said.Renault-Master_8

“Those wanting to put a tonne and a half in the back, or need a bigger space for volumetric loads are finding the Master cab/chassis a very good fit.”

While it’s all well and good to be keeping the tradies happy, Renault realised that the Master platform had far greater sales potential, especially given its long-standing position as Europe’s number-one LCV manufacturer, and as a successful supplier to the European motorhome market.

At a recent reveal event in Melbourne, Renault shared its ambitions, partnering with Melbourne-based motorhome builder, Sunliner, to provide a glimpse of what the Master platform could offer the RV market.

The motorhome-optimised cab/chassis is fully imported from France with an open back-of-cab, and the cab features standard door mirrors with extendable arms ready for the wider motorhome body.

The vehicle’s electronics have also been designed with motorhome builders in mind – there’s a six-way connector under the dashboard, a two-way 12 V (40 A) connector located in the right-hand B-pillar, as well as an engine running signal and additional earth cabling.

There are multiple locations on the dashboard to install switches for auxiliary equipment, a 110 A battery and a 185 A alternator, connectors for additional batteries and an extra-long wiring loom.

The Master’s chassis structure also comes, from the factory, strengthened against twisting, resulting in less local modifications leading to a more efficient and cost-effective build process.

For the end-user, there’s also plenty to like about the Master cab/chassis as a motorhome platform, particularly for those wanting a model that can be driven on a car driver’s licence.

As per the regular cab/chassis, power comes courtesy of a Euro-5-rated, 2.3-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel engine producing 150 hp (110 kW) and 350 Nm of torque at a low 1,500-2,750 rpm. The availability of maximum torque low in the rev range provides comfortable cruising, good fuel efficiency and ample grunt for a three-tonne towing capacity.

Renault-Master_4Further aiding fuel economy are standard Continental low rolling-resistance tyres and optimised gear ratios, and, to help the driver keep fuel use down, a gear change indicator light on the dash prompts early up-shifts.

Power is driven to the dual rear wheels via either a smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission or there’s also the option of a six-speed automated manual from renowned transmission builder, ZF.

Renault believes that the Master’s rear-wheel-drive configuration, dual wheels and optional mechanical Eaton differential lock, will provide owners with added stability and traction on unsealed roads and on wet grass in caravan parks.

On the safety front, standard features include anti-lock brakes with EBD (electronic brake force distribution) and ESP (electronic stability control) with rollover mitigation programming. Traction control is also fitted.

Dual front airbags are also standard and side airbags are available as an option (if swivelling front seats are not selected). The seatbelts feature pre-tensioners and load limiters.

Realising that drivers of motorhomes can spend many hours on the road, the Master’s cabin is not wanting for driver and passenger comfort and convenient features.

The seats are eight-way adjustable with arm rests; optional are swivelling bases allowing the seats to be rotated to face the living area. The audio system provides Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and audio streaming as well as a USB audio input.

Additional cost options include satellite navigation, automatic wipers and headlights, side airbags and fog lights.

The Master motorhome cab/chassis is available in a range of 10 standard or optional metallic colours directly from the factory, and is covered by Renault’s three-year/200,000 km factory warranty.

Parts coverage for the model will be broad, with replacement components available via the Australia-wide Renault-Nissan Alliance, with Renault providing greater than 95 percent first pick.

Mr. Healey said that Renault was extremely pleased to have launched the new model variant.

Renault is very excited to be able to supply Australian mobilehome builders with its latest Master cab/chassis,” he said.

“We have been keen to enter this market for some time and have taken a lot of care to ensure that we arrive with the correctly specified vehicle that will meet the needs of both the vehicle builders and the end-users.

“We have provided a cab that is exceptionally comfortable, ergonomically sound and that offers ease of driving. Our low maintenance powertrain, choice of manual or automated gear-change, as well as our long factory warranty and growing national dealer network promise end-users plenty of reassurance that their long-term investment in a motorhome built on a Renault chassis will be a sound one.”

Breakout box: Sunliner

Renault-Master_2Sunliner has partnered with Renault to build its showcase 40th anniversary motorhome on the Master cab/chassis, exhibiting many of the design and technology features that have made it a significant player on the Australia RV scene.

Rather than design the motorhome to be the biggest and shiniest, Sunliner sought to offer a package that would appeal and be accessible to a broader range of customers, particularly those with a car driver’s licence.

Sunliner managing director, Nick Hunter, said that Australian buyers were not impressed by size.

“Most of our customers love compact, easy-to-manoeuvre motorhomes, so we have chosen to make the 40th Anniversary model at just under 24 feet,” Mr. Hunter said.

According to Mr. Hunter, it had been a pleasure working with Renault to develop the 40th anniversary motorhome, which will be strictly limited to just 40 units.

“We have been dealing with vehicle manufacturers for the last 40 years, and this is the first time that we’ve been embraced with such interest and passion,” Mr. Hunter said.

Renault has gone above and beyond to make sure that there is going to be more for the customer and the end-user as a package deal.Renault-Master_3

In developing the body, Sunliner also worked closely with its other suppliers to equip the motorhome with the latest innovations and design styling.

Among its many features, the 40th Anniversary boasts a new Truma combi-gas/electric/hot water service and central heating system, an Avanti air conditioner and a one-touch power awning.

Other equipment includes a drop bed system combined with a slide-out wall, Bluetooth lighting, concealed TV with electric lift, upholstered seat boxes with pull-out storage, and side cabinet with electric lift-up storage.

Based in the Melbourne suburb of Bayswater, the company is wholly Australian-owned and operated and employs around 100 people, producing up to 250 motorhome and campervan units per year.

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