22 Oct: M-B Marco Polo

… Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo 250d Sport Long …

The trip north to the Isle of Mull each October is always a bit special, and not just because of the rising anticipation ahead of the Mull motorsport weekend. As ever, the drive north through Callander and on up to Tyndrum before the rugged grandeur of Glencoe opens up ahead then closes in around and assaults all the senses, is always spectacular. And uplifting. Always, regardless of the weather.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMaking it even more special this year was the choice of transport. It was a sort of BoGoF (Buy one Get one Free) deal. The transportation was combined with the accommodation. In this case, the new V-Class Marco Polo. A campervan, but not just any campervan, this was a Mercedes-Benz campervan.

It’s about 5 years since I had a rival make campervan on the island and the first night was torrentially wet and tumultuously windy – and I slept like a log. Expectations were high this year, as the fixtures and fittings in the Marco Polo are quite luxurious and the two double beds promised a sumptuous blend of firmness and comfort.

As ever, the trip north up the west coast of Scotland was truly spectacular. Even in the rain, the majestic splendour of Argyll and Morvern has much to offer. The mountain tops capped with cotton wool, albeit rather damp and leaking furiously, the trees burnished with a riot of browns, reds and gold, and the silver streams rushing over the rocks and waterfalls pouring off the mountainsides foaming like Fairy Liquid fountains. Magic, pure magic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs for the trip itself aboard the Mercedes-Benz, it was like a magic carpet ride over Scotland’s undulations, dips and fierce bends. With no radio reception in this part of the world the choice of CDs ranged from Katherine Jones to Tina Turner and from Status Quo to the Rod Hot Chilli Pipers. Beat that for tastefully eclectic musical taste.

When it comes to motoring, the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo is a serious ‘wafter’, one of those vehicles that just wafts along the highways and by-ways in serene comfort. And therein lies one of its greatest attractions, the fact that it can go exploring down the sideroads and country roads that would defy those users of the larger motorhomes. They might be fine travelling from site to site but for true exploring something the size of the Vito based Marco Polo is ideal.

Of course there are drawbacks. It requires someone of a tidy mind and nature to get the best out of it. Belongings and clothes have to be moved back and forth to gain access to cookers and fridges, cupboards and beds, but that’s the only drawback to the compact size. Otherwise everything has been built-in including the kitchen sink, except a loo!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beds are supremely comfortable. On the first night in Ledaig car park, I retired to the upper sleeping quarters at 11.30 pm – and slept in. A straight 8 hours, waking up to the sound of flip-flops slapping on paving outside as other campers headed for the shower block in the Harbour Office.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the subject of beds, the upstairs double is particularly comfy, made from slats which have rubber pads (probably to stop you waking up with red stripes across your body!) to spread the weight and ensure that the foam mattress comforts and cossets. The only drawback is the undignified and inelegant sprachle to get up there and back down. There’s no wee ladder!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe final night was spent at Angus McWilliam’s Tobermory campsite and caravan park just outside the town where I was able to plug into electricity. Although the camper has a night heater, it wasn’t needed. It wasn’t cold enough. I also used the campsite’s wi-fi so the ‘Motorsport News’ report and hi-res pictures could be dispatched ahead of deadline.

The trip home was equally enjoyable despite the mist and the rain for the first half of the trip. As one of the last cars off the Oban ferry there was quite a bit of traffic ahead of me, but I latched on to the end of a small group at the head of which was a seriously mucky SWB Land Rover Defender with big wheels and an equally mucky old-shape Discovery. I had seen them get on the ferry, but these boys certainly knew the road home.

We were never over 60 all the way down to Lochearnhead, and rarely did I see any brake lights ahead, wet roads or dry, fast corners or slow. It was a treat sitting back watching that short wheelbase job on its chunky tyres. Nonetheless, a quick trip. Nice one boys.

Coming into Strathyre we picked up the tail end of a longer convoy at the head of which was a wee blue Fiesta driven by one of those Sunday ‘joy-riders’ who goes out looking for a twisty road just to see how many cars he/she can back up behind them. By this time it was a lovely night, cruising in the gloaming with light rain keeping the intermittent wiper in use, but what clear fresh air. Scotland at its best. Great slashes of late season almost phosphorescent sunlight, illuminating and highlighting the autumn streaked contours with dark, brooding rocky masses still cloaked in mist and cloud around them. Here and there a glimpse of blue sky through the grey turbulence above. Breathtaking. Simply breathtaking.

The Fiesta was still there through Callander as we approached Doune and since I knew there were roadworks traffic lights at the bridge I turned off through Doune village and over the back road past the Stirling Memorial (to Colonel Sir David Stirling, OBE, DSO, who founded the SAS) to pick up the Dunblane/Bridge of Allan roundabout on the A9 and headed south and homewards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd you know what, up until that point I hadn’t been too fussed about the Marco Polo. As I said to some of those on the island who asked, I liked it but wouldn’t have one. That trip home converted me. Sitting there for a couple of hours in sheer bliss following the guys in front. Enough power to keep up and road handling to match despite the weight of the two bedrooms, kitchen and lounge behind me. Even on the tighter bends, only the rattle of cups and cutlery in the background indicated that the 190PS 2.2 litre ‘big black beastie’ was experiencing some g-forces. A proper old-school ‘grand touring ‘ machine.

Just one thing to bear in mind though. The Marco Polo has no inbuilt shower or loo facilities so for those planning longer trips and ‘off-grid- overnighting a portaloo would have to be considered. It might also be wise to book an overnight in a proper camp site every now and again to use their on-site luxuries – which will be a damn sight warmer than soaping your oxters in a highland burn!

The other advantage is parking. It will even fit in a multi-story car park – ideal for nights out in the city centre, eh? Prices start from £55,055 but this one had a few extras to raise that beyond £60,000.

If Mercedes-Benz can fix the price, then I’ll have one.

  • Review Date: October 22, 2017
  • Price
    £60,285 (as tested)
  • Engine
    2143c, 4 cyl. turbo diesel with 187 bhp
  • Performance
    0-62 mph in 9.8 secs, flat out at 129 mph
  • Economy
    44.8 mpg (Combined)
  • CO2 emissions
    169 g/km

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