Review: Niesmann + Bischoff Arto 88E

By: Bill Savidan, Photography by: Bill Savidan


With its unmistakably appealing exterior and big, spacious interior, the Niesmann + Bischoff Arto 88E makes for a luxurious home on wheels

More than 30 years ago, Niesmann+Bischoff (N+B) launched their first motorhome. It was filled with unique ideas that were quickly imitated. Understandably, N+B won many fans in both the marketplace and the industry.

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They thrive on introducing ideas that no one has considered before; ideas that make a difference. It has become their point of difference.

There are 11 different models in N+B’s Arto range of fully integrated motorhomes, ranging from the seven-metre Arto 66L to the 8.763-metre-long Arto 88E reviewed here. This has a rear bedroom with easily accessed twin beds above a garage.

Up front is a dinette lounge that can, with the cab seats included, cater for six. The kitchen and bathroom are between the lounge and bedroom. Isolating the bathroom by closing the doors creates a sumptuously large en suite.

Exterior

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The Arto 88E is a good-looking motorhome. It has simple but striking front panels and a pleasing rake on the windscreen. The white side panels are super smooth with a contrasting black decal frame outlining the side windows. The rear panel’s subtle shaping produces a satisfying rear end perspective.

It is built on a Fiat Ducato 50 H with dual rear axles providing a GVW of 5500kg. Power is provided by Fiat’s 2.3-litre 180hp turbo diesel driving the front wheels through a six-speed AMT auto gearbox.

It has an AL-KO low frame chassis in place of the standard Fiat chassis and this has been further modified to sit lower than normal, lowering the vehicle’s centre of gravity and improving stability. Additional cross bracing to the chassis frame improves the chassis rigidity.

Safety features include driver and passenger airbags, four three-point safety belts, ABS brakes, and traction control.

It requires a six monthly COF and can be driven on a Class 1 (car) licence. For convenience, it is fitted with both central and remote locking.

Attention to detail is outstanding. The roof is a lightweight glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) panel with extra-high glass content and generous gelcoat surfacing to resist hail and scratches from overhanging trees.

The walls, roof, and floor panels are styrofoam insulation sandwiched between aluminium sheeting outside and wall panelling inside ensuring the panels conduct neither heat nor cold. 

The space between the double floor can be heated, which creates an ideal ‘frost-free’ environment for mounting electrical wiring and plumbing services, house batteries, and water tanks. The lower floor is of ‘sandwich’ construction and has aluminium cladding both sides.

Bodywork panels, front and rear, have received special attention. The seven most vulnerable panels are made from extremely wear- and scratch-resistant GRP and are designed to be easily removed (for servicing) and replaced (if damaged).

On the rear panel, an optional dual lens rear-view camera is mounted behind the round N+B badge. This keeps the lens clean, ready for work when reverse gear is selected and the camera pops out to perform.

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At 1255mm high, the rear garage is high enough to accommodate pushbikes, sports gear, outdoor furniture, and BBQ. Apart from the garage hatches, the Arto 88E has a service hatch kerbside that provides access to the valves for fresh and grey water, with an LPG locker (2x9kg bottles) and a drawer-style wet locker on the driver’s side.

By using a section of the skirting panel for their front panel, the lower lockers/drawers and the folding steps fit in unobtrusively when closed.

And there’s no need to slam this habitation door to close it. Even though it has both an upper and lower latch, with electrical assistance, just a firm push/pull closes it quickly and quietly. Almost unnoticed is a five-metre awning mounted above the habitation door.

Integrated motorhomes offer great views from the driver’s seat, and the Arto 88E is no exception. Forward view is 180-degree plus and floor to ceiling. Large side mirrors and the rear camera display keep track of activity beside and behind. Blinds on the cab-side windows and windscreen provide privacy when needed.

The review vehicle had the optional ‘roller shutter’ style windscreen blind fitted. When it is lowered and the central heating is running, warm air directed between the blind and the windscreen offers additional thermal protection.

The Arto 88E is also equipped with the new Seitz S7 opening windows. The handle on the bottom latch also activates the side latches allowing the windows to be opened with one hand. 

Underway, the Arto 88E is delightfully quiet without a lot of the rattles associated with motorhomes. It is a big RV so the corners of the vehicle are further away from the driver.

But once the driver becomes accustomed to the extra bulk and the fact it is a steady performer rather than a rocket ship, the Arto 88E is a nice drive.

Interior

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First impressions on stepping inside are that everything is bigger: the settees, the lockers, and the space between them. The cabinetry exuded a feeling of quality, like a new grand piano in a showroom. An unusual feature is the Black Slate wall panelling alongside the entry door.

The colour scheme, in this case, is Anthracite Shadow upholstered seats and backs, with bold check patterned Grand Cru #1 cushion covers, and Piano White overhead locker doors. Altogether, it is a striking combination. If it’s not to your taste, don’t fret. According to the brochure, there are 499 other combinations to choose from.

The L-shaped dinette will seat two in style, or more in a squeeze, plus two on the side settee and two on the cab seats. The seat cushions, with three layers of different density foam and cover fabric that has survived 50,000 abrasion cycles, are constructed for both comfort and longevity, and once seated, you certainly want to linger longer.

The permanently mounted table can be adjusted to almost any position and a 300mm extension leaf is available. For your entertainment, the Arto 88E has a 22-inch LED TV and a fully automatic satellite TV dish. The house batteries are easily accessed through a hatch in the floor under the table. Storage is available under all dinette seats.

Compact kitchen

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Because this kitchen is a compact 1.5m2 in floor area doesn’t mean it is missing any of the main components. Apart from a microwave, everything else is there: a tall fridge/freezer, an oven, a three-burner hob, and the proverbial kitchen sink.

It has a useful sized pantry below the bench. The drawers are wire baskets that make it easier to see what you are looking for when the pantry is full. And in the pantry, there’s a slot for stowing the sink cover.

Other nice touches are the switch that locks all the drawers below the bench-top and the second small sink set into the bench-top.

Bathroom

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Just as N+B don’t do big kitchens, they don’t do small bathrooms either. Driver’s side is the shower and vanity with the toilet kerbside.

The toilet door also closes off the front of the motorhome and a sliding door isolates it from the bedroom creating an en suite of around 3.5m2 floor area.

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An 11.4-litre per minute pressure pump ensures the shower receives constant water pressure. A heated towel rail heated by the central heating shares the compartment with a porcelain non-swivel bowl Thetford toilet.

Used as an en suite, it has all the comforts of home. Just as well it has a 200-litre water supply tank.

Bedroom

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When the infill cushions fill the gap between the twin singles, the resulting double bed is enormous (2390mm wide x 2000mm long). In normal mode, the gap between them is the perfect place for books, glasses, and tea cups. With reading lights on adjustable stalks above and soft wall racks each side of the bed for magazines and books, it is an ideal place for reading.

With plenty of overhead lockers, step lockers, and a wardrobe under the foot of each bed, there’s ample storage room for clothes and personal items. And should you have overnight guests, there is a readily accessible fold-down bed over the cab up front. Be careful, though, it is so comfortable, they may not want to leave.

Freedom camping

Understand that this Arto 88E is not a pretty show pony travelling from campsite to campsite. It has a 1034kg payload, comes fully self-contained with 200-litre fresh and 150-litre grey water tanks, has two 95amp/hr house batteries, a 400-watt solar panel and two 9kg LPG bottles and is quite comfortable spending time off-grid.

Verdict

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N+B is part of the Erwin Hymer Group and the Arto 88E, along with their other ranges and models, represent the very best motorhome products currently in production in Europe.

They have a simple creed: they aspire to make the best motorhomes currently available. On balance, I think they are getting pretty close to it. The Arto 88E, as reviewed, retails for $289,000, including GST, 2000km RUC, and on-road costs.

Niesmann + Bischoff Arto 88E Specifications

 Vehicle make/model Niesmann + Bischoff Arto 88 E
Engine 2.3L 180hp Automatic
Transmission 6-speed AMT auto gearbox 
Berths 4
Approx. overall length  8760mm 
Approx. overall height  2950mm 
Tanks 

220L fresh
150L grey

Gas 2 x 9 kg 
GVW 5500kg

Niesmann + Bischoff Arto 88E Price (as reviewed): $289,000

Pluses

  • Fabulous bathroom
  • The seven vulnerable bodywork panels designed to be easily repaired or replaced
  • The rear cameras that hide safely away when not in use
  • The bathroom in en suite mode
  • The big bed option out the back

Minuses

  • The generous size of the Arto 88E won’t be to everyone’s preference

For more information about the Arto 88E, contact Jonas Ng and his sales team at Zion Motorhomes, Pokeno on 0800 11 2828 or visit zionmotorhomes.co.nz.

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