Spacious Automatic Mercedes (SAM)

By: Steve Vermeulen, Photography by: Steve Vermeulen

P1080916.jpg P1080916.jpg
P1080892.jpg P1080892.jpg
P1080885.jpg P1080885.jpg
P1080890.jpg P1080890.jpg
P1080893.jpg P1080893.jpg
P1080904.jpg P1080904.jpg
P1080945.jpg P1080945.jpg

The Spacious Automatic Mercedes, or SAM for short, is an innovative new rental motorhome, developed by Christchurch-based manufacturer, UCC Motorhomes, in conjunction with Pacific Horizon

Spacious Automatic Mercedes (SAM)
Spacious Automatic Mercedes (SAM)
  • Front seats convert to extra king bed
  • Plenty of space in kitchen
  • Two separate dining areas
  • Capacious storage options
  • Thermostatically controlled diesel heating

While this new model may have been engineered with rental applications in mind, it targets the premium end of the market, and beneath its well-insulated Mercedes Sprinter skin lies a party trick that makes it an ideal solution for the family. So, me, my wife Dee, and three-month-old son Oscar headed off to Christchurch to test it out.

Engineering and layout

In the SAM there are six massive berths at the family’s disposal. This is also a perfectly practical two-berth if that’s what you’re looking for, but with a refreshing versatility that makes travelling with children, grandchildren or both, minus the major discomfort, a pleasing reality.

Key to this versatility is the revolutionary cockpit seating inspired by Air New Zealand’s long-haul business class accommodation. The swivelling chairs also flip-out to meet a second row of seating, creating two generously proportioned single beds. These can convert into a king when the rear seat squabs are used.

Such a configuration suits our current situation brilliantly as Oscar needs an area he can’t accidently roll out of that is still handy for the mid-night feeds.

As the name suggests, the SAM is mated with a smooth six-speed automatic. It served the vehicle adequately as we started climbing the hills en route to Akaroa.

Performance and power

It was not great weather during our trip. It was mid-winter with the chance of snow across the hills, but we made good progress flipping down the ratios via the Merc’s sequential +/- shift option. You need to keep your foot in it to keep the engine in its torque band, but it dispatches corners surprisingly well.

You’re not missing anything coming to Akaroa off-peak other than crowds. The crisp air, good food, stunning scenery and quaint village atmosphere are attractions all year round and even underneath grey skies it is still one of the best views going.

The interior

A new baby restricts you a little in suitable sleeping arrangements with a surprising number of motorhomes. We ruled the large Luton area out for obvious reasons (despite the standard security net) but the SAM’s clever front bed arrangement was perfect. Some attractive curtains that wrap the front cabin also meant the little fella kept sleeping after the sun came up.

Converting the front seats into a king bed was a little fiddly, though something you’d get better at with experience.

Dee and I felt well and truly spoilt by the primary super-king rear bed, a simple conversion this one – whip away the rear dining table, extend the retractable slats from under the rear seat and lay the squabs down. There was also plenty of overhead stowage for the family’s bedding and such.

The kitchen area offered a usable amount of bench space and preparing dinner was easy with the generous fridge/freezer, four-burner cook top and grill. Hot water is both gas and electrically heated and there’s 100 litres of water capacity.

We weren’t staying long enough to require the capacious external storage, though it was obvious we could have easily stowed Oscar’s stroller and other bulky items simply enough. All the usual access points for grey water and toilet cassette were also all simple enough to use.

True to its claims of being a premium rental option, the SAM comes with standard thermostatically controlled diesel heating and we would have been lost without it. I got up around 3am to feed bubba and the motorhome was still a toasty 22 degrees.

The warmth was also testament to the quality of the build and insulation properties of the materials UCC has incorporated.


Ok, we know most of you travel in twos. But for those keen to share life on the road with the kids/grandkids or both, the Spacious Automatic Mercedes (SAM) affords you new versatility and showcases the innovative thinking from Christchurch’s UCC Motorhomes.


Base vehicle Mercedes Sprinter
Engine 2.2 litre diesel
Transmission Five speed auto
Hot water Gas/240-volt
Heating Diesel
Berths Six
Length/height/width 7.1m/3.2m/2.2m
Internal height 2.2m
Toilet Electric flush cassette
Cooker Four-burner/grill
Fresh water 100L
Grey water 100L


Keep up to date with news by signing up to's free newsletter or by liking us on Facebook