Fresh back from touring Scotland in a hired motorhome (and having owned a Jurgens Pioneer some years back), I find that I have developed a renewed interest in motorhomes. Maybe it was being in a strange land, but the freedom we enjoyed in having our own fully self-contained home took all the pressure off finding suitable overnight accommodation. Then the comfort of knowing that I had total independence, added to the ease of driving a superb touring vehicle, made a package that was simply unbeatable.
[REVIEW] DISCOVERER ID2 MOTORHOME
In Scotland they allow what is called “Wild Camping”, which means that you can overnight anywhere you like providing there isn’t a sign to say you may not.
There we were, with a wonderful valley in the Scottish highlands all to ourselves, enjoying a hot shower in our rented motorhome after a hike. While we were sitting at the dinner table, we came to the conclusion that we should look at importing a motorhome.
Europe’s caravans and motorhomes seem to be so well planned and put together with purposemade accessories, that there is no way that we in South Africa have the expertise to build a motorhome to European quality… or so I thought.
Back in South Africa, we paid a long-overdue visit to Dennis Bauer of Motorhome-World at the factory in Atlantis to collect this new Discoverer iD2. It is an updated model aimed at a couple who want a permanent island bed, and is based on the Iveco cab chassis with automatic transmission.
When we arrived at the factory, a young family was just taking delivery of their special 4×4 motorhome. Seeing at first-hand what Dennis and his team had built, re-ignited my passion for owning such a vehicle.
There is nothing that inspires me more than a purpose-made vehicle. This custom-built unit had big, fat, knobby tyres offering good groundclearance, a double cab for driver and passengers, and body styling that added life to the dream.
As we admired the motorhome, Dennis said: “There are two types of motorhomes: the owner has to decide whether he wants to go over the mountain, or around it. This is the vehicle for a family that has the urge to go into Africa and drive over the mountain.”
Before I could even ask my wife, the words came out of my mouth: “I want a motorhome like that!” My heart was out there on a plate, but my cheque book was unfortunately at home. (The iD2 is priced between R1 095 960 and R1 122 900, depending on chassis and transmission).
“Hold on; this is our newest motorhome, and one that I want you to try out,” said Dennis. “It has been built to sell at a show later this month, but I want you to see and try it first!”
Built on an Iveco 2.3-litre turbo diesel (130 hp) with 8-speed automatic transmission, the iD2 has an island bed and is a two-berth model, complete with a toilet/shower compartment, a four-seater dinette/ lounge, and a kitchen behind the front passenger seat.
Now, bearing in mind that I said Europe was ahead in terms of fittings, design and elegance, I now have to admit that I was wrong! This unit is equipped with the all the trimmings found on the latest and greatest in terms of handles, stoves, fridges, toilets, lights, drawer systems and style. Europe might beat us in terms of cabinetry, but even that is debatable.
Dennis says: “We have to go to Düsseldorf at least every second year to keep up with trends in Europe and find out what is new in terms of accessories.
“For example, we would not have been able to build this layout if we hadn’t found this new Thetfords fridge. It was the key to allowing us to build this layout in this space.”
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE
Sitting in the comfort of what felt like an air-sprung driver’s seat, I gazed out the big windscreen of the Discoverer’s Iveco cab with my mind racing as I considered what destinations we would like to see. I imagined parking off at a waterhole in Etosha, or watching the waves break on the rocks at Storms River Mouth, or perhaps travelling the KZN Coast, Pilansberg National Park, the Mountain Zebra Park…? Southern Africa would be my destination, that’s for sure!
It was spring, the flowers were out, and Motorhome-World is in Atlantis – there was no better excuse to visit Groote Post winery just off the Old Mamre road going towards Darling. The reason I have only one kidney today probably arises from the time we went to the Kgalagadi in our Jurgens Pioneer motorhome. The corrugations on this stretch of road were legendary for destroying vehicles, and the decision to take a brand-new motorhome on the gravel road leading to Groote Post was not taken lightly!
First surprise was that the steering on the Iveco chassis is very light. I believe it’s electrically controlled − the slightest turn is more effortless than in most cars I have driven.
The automatic gearbox is so smooth, it’s insane − especially in what is tantamount to a commercial vehicle. It changes gear so smoothly that you know it’s changing gear only by watching the rev counter. For me, the manual gearbox in a motorhome is dead and buried; this automatic is simply brilliant.
No taxi will out-accelerate this 2.3-litre from a green robot: it does 0 to 60km/h in 8.1 seconds and to 100km/h in 22.64 seconds.
The brakes are excellent, but it’s the ride comfort that seals the deal.
The driver and front-passenger seats each have their own suspension, unlike conventional car seats. When travelling the corrugated road to Groote Post, I considered the ride quality to be better than that of a 4×4 bakkie, and any harder bump is absorbed by the suspension of the seat. It’s rather uncanny; on the first few outings it gives one the feeling of newness, and after that it’s just the norm – a comfortable, easy-to-drive motorhome.
We drove it bumper-to-bumper in three-lane rush hour traffic, and we even took it to the local supermarket where we took up three parking bays sideways.
There are three engines available in the Iveco: a 2.3- litre automatic producing 130hp, a 150hp model with a manual transmission, and the top of the range 3-litre automatic producing 170 hp.
Up on the reef, the bigger engine might be a worthwhile consideration; at sea level, the 2.3 is perfect.
You can cruise at 120km/h, or you can cruise at 90km/h, simply because it is so easy and comfortable to drive that speed is not important.
The only optional extra that I would consider for this model is a reverse camera, since there is no rear window; and I would upgrade the radio for when I’m on the road, to give it a more upmarket sound as befits a luxury travelling motorhome. All of this is, of course, available on request from Motorhome-World.
Setting the pace for what’s to come in terms of visual appeal, styling and things of interest, let it be known that I am a gadget man. I like pushing a button and having a step quickly appear from under the motorhome’s side door.
The door opens smoothly and locks with a key, unlike the cab which is central-locking on the key fob. The doorway also has a concealed fly screen, vital for keeping out insects, and the floor is covered in a wooden plank design.
Another great gadget is the control panel that monitors the 12v batteries, water tank and lights. The overhead air conditioner can also be operated via remote control. On hot Kalahari nights, you don’t have to get off the bed in order to switch on the aircon!
On entering the Discoverer iD2, the “Wow!” factor is nine out of ten – you have to take off just one point simply because it’s impossible to build a motorhome in South Africa to the finish one finds in Europe, where they build thousands every year and competition is tough.
The layout includes a rear-end island bed that is 1 340 mm wide and 1 940 mm long, with rounded edges at the foot of the bed. A clever design is that of the bed’s folding section at the head, which can be tilted upwards to give greater comfort for reading while in bed, or for simply enjoying a cup of coffee while staring out of the window.
There is the usual storage under the double bed. Access is by lifting the mattress or a small exterior opening hatch; and the hot water geyser is also located here.
In the centre of this model’s layout on the driver’s side is a combination swivel-bowl Thetfords flush toilet and cassette, as well as a washhand basin, shower and a roof-level toiletries cupboard. Hot water is piped from a geyser that works off gas or 220 volts.
It’s a compact shower, but after a long day’s driving, it will be a welcome one. Water drains away through a vent moulded into the fibreglass floor.
Opposite the shower compartment is the specially imported new fridge from Thetfords. It is compressordriven, has a small icebox behind a flap door, and storage on three shelves, as well as bottles in the door. On this particular model, the fridge door opens into the bedroom area, but can be changed to open into the kitchen area by simply swopping hinges and door locks. This black-door fridge is topped off with a matching microwave, possibly set a bit high for nuking hot liquids such as bowls of soup – just be careful!
Behind the driver’s seat, which can swivel around to face into the body section, is the lounge/dinette; and on the passenger side there is the kitchen galley.
There is a two-burner stove set into a stainless-steel surface that includes a wash-up. When not in use, this is concealed below a glass top that improves the work-surface area, and also adds ambience when you invite friends for sundowners.
An added touch that I like is the cupboard and drawer catches, and in particular, the use of upmarket drawer slides on roller bearings.
I also liked the fact that the drawer system has moulded cutlery inserts which have been lined with a non-slide material in order to eliminate rattles.
There is nothing more annoying than a rattle, and Motorhome-World have paid particular attention to eliminating these.
Other features I liked were the airconditioner on the roof, the numerous LED lights, the evening ambient lighting, and the choice of fabric − including that of the knick-knack wall hangers and the pelmets.
There is one other point that needs mentioning, and that is the weight of the motorhome. Motorhome-World imports the latest panels being used in Europe, and these are ultra-light and strong.
The advantage of this is evident in the ride of the iD2: it is not top heavy, it handles almost like a car, and (as the acceleration figures show) it is quick.
The Janis Joplin song sums it all up (with apologies to Mercedes-Benz):
Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a motorhome
My friends all have Porsches, I must make amends
I’ve worked all my lifetime; it’s time to have fun
O Lord, won’t you buy me a motorhome.