Review: Auto-Trail 2019 Frontier Comanche HB

By: Ewan McDonald , Photography by: Ewan McDonald


Auto-Trail’s 2019 Frontier Comanche HB has been called a ‘hotel on wheels’. Ewan McDonald checks in.

This story begins and ends with motorbikes, which you might not expect in a magazine about motorhomes. But it will tell you everything about the style and scale of Auto-Trail’s new 2019 Frontier Comanche HB, so come along for the ride.

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The Comanche scores well on road handling and fuel economy

The two Frontier models, Delaware and Comanche, are the peak of the Grimsby, England manufacturer’s range, and the bigger brother – the Comanche – is designed to be "a significant expression of luxury".

For 2019, Auto-Trail has introduced the HB variant to the Comanche and Delaware, in addition to the Lo-Line and Hi-Line versions – the initials standing for ‘High Bed’. But it’s what’s underneath the sleeping quarters at the rear of the vehicle that will impress. 

It’s a 1.15-metre-high, full-width, easily accessible garage that can accommodate a full-size motorbike inside the vehicle. Or, if it’s more your scene, a couple of bikes or electric scooters. In other words, a motorhome garage that really is a garage.

As we’ll see later, it’s a feature that has won a thumbs-up from some people who know a lot about motorbikes.That’s not the only upgrade: the 2019 Comanche models feature enhancements from front to rear, many designed to enrich the driving experience.

Driving

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Auto-Trail favours the Fiat Ducato platform, and it’s been tweaked to accommodate the Comanche. The motorhome runs on a 5000kg heavy-duty AL-KO chassis with tag axle, and the 2.3-litre diesel is upgraded to a hefty 180bhp.

You can drive it on a car licence; it is a CoF vehicle.Drivers benefit from quite a few technological improvements over last year’s model. As Dan Monk of Auckland Motorhomes points out, the touch screen is bigger and has a clearer display and easier navigation.

Another bonus: the rear camera can be turned on while driving. "Essentially you can monitor what’s behind you. Following vehicles have to be close for you to see them, but it’s an additional safety factor."

In a cab configured for driving comfort with air-conditioning, carpets, pleated blinds and a very funky entertainment system, you’ll also find the 19-inch drop-down TV hiding in the ceiling.

The three variants of the Comanche can sleep two, four or six people, and each version has the equivalent number of fully belted seats.

Outside

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Perhaps it’s clever design, or a trick of the light, but the exterior view of the 8.77-metre-long, 3.10-metre-high Hi-Line version seems smaller and sleeker than those stats might suggest.

Thanks to the heavy-duty AL-KO chassis, the Comanche wins big ticks for road-handling and fuel economy. As Dan says, "It’s a very nice vehicle to drive on the open road, even if it’s the first time you’ve experienced a vehicle of this size.

After the first 10 minutes you won’t notice it." While earlier versions of the Comanche had one of the biggest garages in their class, as mentioned earlier, it’s nothing on this monster, and the design team has taken that into account, providing easy 

access with large doors on either side of the van. There are lashing points on the floor, several lockers and pockets on the back wall for smaller knick-knacks. An exterior locker opens for access to storage, the two leisure batteries, mains hook-up and wastewater dump valve.

There’s also a five-metre awning, outdoor shower and barbecue points. Of course, there’s no need to bolt on a bike rack, but you can have a tow bar fitted to accommodate the around-town vehicle.

Living/Dining

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The living area is stylish, with plenty of storage up top and beneath the sofas 

The Comanche is marketed as "a hotel on wheels" – and we’re not talking Bookabach or Airbnb here. Inside as well as out, they’re putting on the Ritz.

Auto-Trail aficionados, and there are so many around the country they’ve got their own fan club, know that the marque is devoted to a look good, feel great policy.

When it comes to floor plans, you’ve got three options for the living area – a lounge-dinette with longer sofas, half-dinette, or a full dinette. Whichever plan you choose, this is a generous space.

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From the outside, the Comanche seems smaller and sleeker than its measurements suggest

Using the two swivel-seats in the cab, there’s lots of room for seven people to stretch out. The windows are expansive and the creamy upholstery (you can upgrade to a leather look if preferred) and cherry plywood furniture are easy on the eye.

The free-standing table, cocktail cabinet, two-tone locker doors and removable carpets add touches of luxury. Even with six people aboard, you won’t lack storage: there are extensive overhead lockers and cupboards throughout, as well as space under the sofas. 

Cooking

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Kitchen benchtop and storage space are excellent 

Amidships is the L-shaped kitchen – there are no barriers, so the cook won’t feel left out of the conversation. Auto-Trail fits a 175-litre tropical fridge for AMH at the factory with a separate freezer.

It’s raised from the floor, with significant storage underneath. There’s a three-gas, one-electric hob, full-size oven and grill, roof fan and 800mw microwave. Lighting, benchtop and storage space are excellent.

Sleeping

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The island bed is raised high above the floor to accommodate the garage below 

As mentioned, the vehicle sleeps from two to six people. The Hi-Line has a slide-out Luton bed above the driving cab (narrower than a standard double). Depending on floor plan, the sofas can slide out to rest on solid legs, making up 

twin singles or a ge\erous king-size. It’s the master bedroom that will turn heads. Giving the van its name, the island bed is raised high above the floor to accommodate the garage below.

For the average Kiwi, it’s somewhere around navel-level; you climb between the sheets via slide-out steps at the side or foot. You’ll find twin wardrobes with power/ USB points and small shelves beside the bed; more storage above the padded headboard and under the bed.

Washing

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The bathroom is roomy with high-quality fittings

Auto-Trail’s bathroom arrangements are well-known and admired: the Comanche continues the tradition with a roomy walk-in shower and high-quality fittings.

Across the way, more space has been devoted to the toilet cubicle, which contains the handbasin, capacious vanity and large mirror. There’s a solid closing door between the master bedroom, ablutions block and main living area. 

Riding high

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The 1.5-metre high garage easily fits a full-size motorbike 

You have to go some distance to impress the world’s leading motorsport professionals: they’re known for their love of style as well as speed. For the past three years Auto-Trail has partnered with BMW’s champion British superbike team, providing a bespoke Comanche motorhome for their use.

While the vehicles provide a relaxing and comfortable space for management, riders and support crew to meet, give interviews or unwind after racing, there’s an added benefit, according to the team’s No 1 rider, Christian Iddon. So we’ll give him the last word.

"On race weekends I like to walk the track first thing in the morning and last thing at night, so having the motorhome on circuit gives me the ability to be at the track at those times I need to be.

"I was on the road so much last season that I practically lived in the motorhome. It was a home-from-home and the spacious design and garage are perfect for me."

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Specifications

Make Auto-trail
Model Frontier Comanche HB
Engine

Fiat Ducato 2.3-litre, 180bhp diesel

Gearbox

6-speed auto

Berths

2-6

Length

8.77m

Width

2.35m

Height

Hi-Line 3.10m, Lo-Line 3.03m

Water

Fresh 140L, Grey 140L

Power

200w solar panel, 2 x 100amp/hr batteries

GVW 5000kg

3500kg

Carrying weight

990kg

Price as reviewed: $196,000

For further information head to aucklandmotorhomes.co.nz

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