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  Owner Review - McLouis 801


Mercedes Sprinter 313cdi, 2.2 TD engine, Sprintshift gearbox.

Background:  When looking for our ideal motorhome we had 5 priorities in mind.

  • It had to have a fixed bed for my partner, Liz, who due to disability has days when bed is the most beneficial place for her.
  • We needed access/storage for Liz’s mobility scooter.
  • Due to my height, it had to have a interior headroom not less than 6ft 6ins.
  • It had to be an A class or based on a Mercedes, for no other reason, than the fact that on the standard Peugeot/Fiat cabs, in the driving position my eye level is directly into the sun visor. The Merc windscreen is slightly higher, so I can see without adopting the quasimodo position.- Similarly, large A class windscreens are ok.
  • The main priority, from bitter experience, was the monthly repayment figure, rather than actual purchase price.

With such a vast choice we narrowed the field first by price, then scooter storage.
That soon narrowed it down and with only half a dozen or so left with fixed beds, it was just a case of which one can I stand up straight in, and does it come with a windscreen I can see out of. With the models available at the time, 2 in the Mclouis range met our criteria. The 700G and the 801. Never having been a fan of luton-bed ‘lumps’ over the cab we went for the 801. Merc based, lowline, 2 berth, (possibility for 3), fixed, rear bed over a garage.

Merc base:  It’s a Sprinter 313cdi with the 2.2 turbo’d and intercooled engine, coupled up to a sprintshift 6-speed gearbox. The sprintshift gearbox takes a little bit of getting used to, with its option of clutchless manual change, or automatic. Now I’ve experienced sprintshift I wouldn’t want to go back to a ‘normal’ manual box, or ‘normal’ automatic. Power wise, it is not a slouch from a standing start, nor is it a racing car unless driven hard. Once its moving, and in the 1600 – 2400 rev high torque range it has the power to glide up hills in 6th, passing all the Fiats and Peugeots, and getting around 26 –30 mpg depending on journey type; Mountains or motorways.

On the road:  From the day we took delivery of our previous, almost ‘double the price’ A class Pilote, it clunked, creaked and groaned. Our ‘Macci’ impressed us by its silence; No furniture creaking, no wind noise, no ‘thudding’ over manhole covers and other bumps. Compared to a similar style Peugeot based vehicle, cab noise levels from the engine are quieter, as is transmitted road noise. Whether this is due to Mercs soundproofing, or Mclouis’s, I don’t know. I don’t know whether it’s the Vanco made tyres, or the body shape/weight distribution, but the ‘Macci’ is very sure footed with a lot less body roll on cornering. Rear vision is restricted to the wing mirrors. There is no ‘thru’ vision due to the high fixed bed, and off-centre rear window.
The cab heater is adequate to warm the whole interior living space when driving.
Mercedes have kept to rear wheel drive, and we seem to be able to get out of situations that cause trouble for front wheel drives, such as pulling away on damp steep hills and muddy rally fields.

Exterior:  ‘Macci is very plain looking, very basic decals, nothing frilly. The Mercedes white paint on the cab is not the same shade of white as the fibreglass body, but some folks say that improves its looks rather than distracts. Tail lights are basic, standard commercial light units, so cheaper to replace than some of the more ‘upmarket’ marques. The high level brake light is high level – roof height! The plastic trim around the lower body is functional, but cheap and brittle, and screwed on with self-tapping screws that show. In my mind it’s the only thing that makes the vehicle look cheap. The front and rear sections of side trim on our vehicle are not even put on in line, but I can live with it. There is a large garage locker door and a loo cassette access door on one side, and a large garage locker door and gas locker door on the other. (Gas locker big enough for 2 x 15 kg bottles). Although there is no double floor, no heating ducts or water pipes, except to the waste tank are external, so we’ve had no trouble in cold weather. There are 2 continental style steady legs at the rear, but we’ve never used them.

Dimensions:  Length 6.4 mtrs; Width ; Height 2.92 mtrs.  Cavernous full width rear garage, 5ft long and 4ft high.

Services and access:  The fresh water tank (100 ltrs) is under the nearside dinette bench, in front of the rear axle. The tank drain down valve is hidden from eyesight, and a fiddly thing to get at by feel. The gas bottles are on the offside just in front/over the rear axle. The spare wheel is easy to get at, on the front wall of the garage, alongside the leisure battery, just behind the rear axle on the nearside. The truma combi boiler is located in the garage on the off side, just behind the rear axle. There was a blown air vent in the garage, but the heat from the boiler itself was enough to warm it, so we diverted the vent into the living area. The mains hook up point is at head height on the offside, easy for connecting too, but the dangling cable could be a temptation for youngsters to pull on. Fresh water filler is just above waist height on the nearside. The waste tank (120ltrs) is under the floor, behind the rear axle with a sluice valve operated by an extended handle jutting out under the offside garage door. The first time I loaded my wife’s mobility scooter I broke the plastic ‘T’ handle off the extended handle! – I redesigned and repositioned it out of harms way.

Interior - Cab:  Standard Merc cab with no added frills. The first aid box, torch, and warning triangle supplied by Merc were still in position. Our Pilote was Merc based, but these items had been removed by the body builder – and probably available as optional extras! Both cab seats swivel 180 degrees, but drivers chair catches on hand brake lever during swivelling. Cab was supplied with internal silver screens. We have now DIY fitted floor length insulated curtains.

Sitting/Lounging:  Lounge area made up of swivelled cab seats and forward facing ‘half dinette’ bench (fitted with 2x 3point seat belts for travelling passengers.)
With just the 4 seats it’s not the greatest layout for entertaining on rally’s, etc.
The manufactures had spent a lot of time designing a freestanding table, which was very heavy and wouldn’t fit through the door without risk of damage or injury to eat outside. We unscrewed the supplied leg contraption, and replaced it with the adjustable legs from our picnic table. Now we have a lighter, less bulky table to use inside or out. The dedicated TV locker is fine for storing the TV, but not in the best position to watch it. We tend to use the swivelled cab seats as armchairs, and have constructed a DIY shelf for TV viewing that clips onto the dinette seat headrest.
Lighting/ Electrics Only 12v., no mains lighting. Good, bright ceiling light. Reading light next to dinette, (we repositioned it!). Good Kitchen area illumination. No lights in rear of vehicle, (fixed bed area) except his and hers reading lights. There are two 240v mains sockets, one in kitchen area at head height, and one under the table at ankle height, next to zig unit and battery charger cupboard. Fuses/Trips are easily accessible. Omni-vent fan skylight over kitchen area.

Gas:  Truma combi boiler providing hot water and blown air heating by gas only – No mains electric facility. The blown air heating keeps the mid section of the vehicle warmer than the front or back. 3-ring hob and grill by Smev.  3-way fridge with very  small freezer compartment by Dometic.

Windows:  All living area windows have blinds, fly screens and curtains.

Flooring:  Imitation wood cushion floor/lino with removable fitted carpet.

Finish:  Furniture and fittings are fine and comparable in quality to more expensive makes. The people that actually made the walls and ceiling could have been a bit more careful with the glue gun and sealant gun.

Night time:  The double bed over the garage is 5ft wide and full width of vehicle, so plenty of room for a lanky so and so like me to stretch out – but they put a full size window at the foot of the bed, level with the mattress – ideal to get ripped blinds and broken windows from a restless sleeper. We swapped the supplied sponge mattress with a standard double bed size orthopaedic mattress – much more snug and comfy.
There is a window on the rear wall, next to your pillow, again at mattress level and liable to damage by a restless sleeper. Its position means it is no good for rear view vision by the driver, so why bother putting it there. There is just enough headroom to sit up in bed for that morning cup of tea, and a shelf for books, clock, spectacles, etc., and his and hers reading lights. There is a skylight above the bed for ventilation – so why the windows? If we must have one, just a small one would do, just to see what the weather is doing, and whether it is worth getting up or not! There is a possibility of extending the dinette seat into a short single bed, but personally I don’t think it would be very comfy.

Bathroom:  It is light and airy, fabricated totally in fibreglass and plastic in white and blue, with plenty of room to swing a cat – if you really wanted too! – Swivelling cassette loo with electric flush, supplied from fresh water tank. Large mirrors round the washbasin lend to the spaciousness, and there are various handy storage spaces. There is a window, but we had a ‘mushroom roof vent’ retro fitted. The shower area is part of the bathroom, with the fibreglass walls made in one piece, so there are no joins for water and steam to leak through. A plastic curtain prevents the whole bathroom getting soaked.

Our personal opinion:  Although there are 4 seats with seat belts, this is definitely only a 2 berth as far as sleeping is concerned, and the seating arrangements are not ideal for those who do a lot of entertaining. We are more than happy with our Mclouis, although like any vehicle, there is always that little something you would design differently to suit your own needs. If we knew then, what we know now, we would never have bought the Pilote. 1 per 1 on purchase price, the Mclouis is far better value. The Mclouis had less teething problems, showing that higher prices don’t always mean higher quality. The Mclouis dealer has been more helpful than the Pilote dealer. We still look at expensive RV’s and motorhomes when visiting shows, but all in all we are quite happy with our ‘Macci’.

Voxy  Laizin5@aol.com

The Reviews

These reviews are all presented as long pages but at least you can read or print the entire article without having to follow several links!


Coach-built; a 'caravan' style body added to a light commercial chassis with original cab. Often has an over-cab bed or store commonly known as a 'Luton' in the UK. The version without the Luton, as here, is called a 'low-profile'.

Sprintshift; a Mercedes proprietary auto-clutch gearchange. True automatic gearboxes are really quite rare on commercial vehicles - the basis of most motorhomes.

Permanent bed; traditionally motorcaravans had beds that were multi-purpose often doubling as seating groups. Many owners have found the daily conversion and bed making something of a chore so permanent beds are becoming more popular. They often have considerable storage underneath them too.

Oven as extras; few continental motorhomes come with ovens and grills as standard.

3-way fridge; one that works on 230v 'mains' when 'hooked up', on lpg gas when no mains is available and on 12v from the 'van while travelling.



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