Paul Owen discovers all is not what it seems at first glance in Zion’s latest luxury motorhome. It’s better.
It’s easy to think a lot of essential equipment has gone AWOL on first encountering the Niesmann and Bischoff iSmove 6.9. The $305,000 designer motorhome appears to lack a fridge, shower, reversing camera, forward-facing travel seats, kitchen bench and a drop-down bed above the front lounge. However, don’t fret; these apparently missing features will reveal themselves upon more detailed examination of the fully integrated iSmove. Niesmann and Bischoff deserve a design award for the way they tease potential buyers into playing this clever game of hide-and-seek with the smallest A class iSmove model, and the surprise and delight that results probably increases their motivation to buy one along with the attractive post-modern furnishings of the interior. The clever packaging allows everything to be hidden away when not required, creating extra living room within a motorhome that is less than seven metres long.
Such is the clever integration of everything inside the iSmove that it’s a real game changer when it comes to motorhome interior design. The iSmove A class 6.9E is therefore fully deserving of the i-prefix added to the model nomenclature ahead of the more conventional semi-integrated Smove models from the same German manufacturer. It was BMW that first signaled that it had made a significant step forward in car interior design when it named a new mouse-like control interface for the 2001 7-series saloon the iDrive. This practice was then fully embraced by Apple, first in 2007 with the original iPhone, followed in 2010 with the first iPad. It is now obvious that anything with an ‘i’ at the head of the product name is intended to push out the design envelope. A marketing strategy that started with an American automotive designer, Chris Bangle, and was shamelessly copied by his Silicon Valley compatriot, Steve Jobs, now has finally reached the motorhome sector. Potentially, the iSmove will have as much influence on motorhome design as Bangle’s Beemer had on cars, and we all know how the iPhone became the harbinger of a new generation of touchscreen-enabled handheld devices.
Step into the future
So, let’s begin that game of hide-and-seek and go hunting for treasure, Niesmann and Bischoff style. First up, a hidden two-step ladder pops out from beneath the windowless right-side door of the iSmove as you unlock it, permitting an easy entry (be sure to be standing back far enough not to get whacked in the shins when activating the steps). If you move into the driving cockpit, there’s a host of other stuff hidden there, including a covered wireless recharging pad by the inside corner of the A-class windscreen, the powered blinds that pop up to screen the cab windows at night, and the pull-out storage cupboards to either outer side of the front seats. N&B have also replaced the central 7” touchscreen of the Series 7 Fiat Ducato dashboard with a much grander 10” display, adding extra features and software in the process.
Moving back into the cabin, touch screens abound, as every mechanical switch has been banished in favour of small electronic controls that illuminate with a swipe of your hand before operating them with a fingertip. Above your head is the hidden drop-down bed, so well integrated into the ceiling that you don’t see it at first. A hand latch unlocks it, and it drops down smoothly and easily on its tracks, presenting a slat-mounted pair of memory foam mattresses that combine to create a 1.87m x 1.3m double bed.
If there’s just two people traveling inside the iSmove, the six-seat lounge can be left as photographed here, with two facing bench seats flanked by the reversed front seats from the cab. All are sumptuously covered in a wide selection of either leather or cloth upholstery (three options for both). When carting more people on tour, the table slides on some tracks to the right so that the bench on the port side of the motorhome can be rotated 45-degrees to face forwards and be served by two certified seat belts. The rearrangement only takes around a minute to perform.
Further back, you’ll find the opposing kitchen and washroom areas; both being the best proponents of the iSmove’s space-saving design revolution. The former disguises the 130L fridge as the middle compartment of a set of drawers and sliding it out you instantly see everything that’s stored in there at a glance. N&B also supply lots of quality sealed plastic containers to stash food away in there.
At first, the only food preparation space is the rectangular wooden chopping board that covers the sink; however, this can be shifted over to be mounted inside a pullout metal frame alongside the entry door. Further bench space can be created by sliding out the glass bench covering the two gas hobs, although vigorous cooks may find it a little wobbly to do the full Jamie Oliver-style rapid carrot dissection on. If you need a microwave, the iSmove isn’t going to suit you. For those who can make do with just a couple of burners and small oven/grille, this kitchen is as funky and aesthetically pleasing as they come. Accompanied by a power-operated vertical set of shelves for condiments and glasses that rises and falls on cue, it all folds away like a well-oiled Swiss Army knife in seconds, leaving an unbroken line of sight through the starboard side of the iSmove cabin from bow to stern.
On the port side that unbroken line of sight is interrupted by the shape-shifting bathroom and toilet, which has a front facing outer wall that provides a mounting point for the flush-fit 32” TV. When a shower is required, a latch frees an inside wall of the area and both it and the wash basin mounted on it slide back over the toilet, revealing a well-sealed shower cubicle in their wake.
Few motorhomers are keen to show off their shower facilities, however I suspect those who own an iSmove will. It’s one of the best space saving tricks in the sector. The compression of the least-used areas of the iSmove cabin has a desired effect – the freeing up of more longitudinal space for the huge garage and the spacious bedroom located above it. The latter has two configurations, giving the choice of either two 1.9m x 0.73m single beds or a 2.0m x 1.4m queen double. With both layouts you get lots of storage space located either in the generous overhead lockers or the deep-sunk wardrobes accessed by sliding the access steps in and opening the adjacent sliding doors.
The interior decoration of the iSmove brought back memories of a quirky boutique country hotel on the outskirts of Inglostadt for me, with its black tapware, light oak veneered overhead lockers, white planked drawer fascia, and cedar plank-like floor coverings. The anthracite grey ceiling is an exotic and risky choice, as the accepted motorhome design wisdom is that lighter hues overhead raise the ambience. The iSmove gets away with it thanks to the amount of natural light pouring in through the multiple overhead skylights, the white drawers and the lighter floors.
Finest touch of many well-considered choices is the felt-lined interior walls. These are also patterned into planks giving a rustic look and texture. They also add extra insulation to an interior already well contained in terms of undesired heat losses and gains. The iSmove combines glass-reinforced-plastic roof-coating, front mask and rear panel with two-sided aluminum panel walls and floor, separated by a Styrofoam sandwich. It can easily retain the heat produced by the Truma 6E gas/electric heating system in winter and can keep unwanted solar heat at bay during summer.
The New Zealand version of the iSmove 6.9 sidesteps the payment of any clean car standard fee at first registration time through the fitting of heavier duty AlKo suspension and chassis, which raises the allowable payload to 1200kg and the maximum Gross Vehicle Mass (tare plus payload) to 4500kg. This means a Certificate of Fitness check every six months instead of Warrant of Fitness every year at one third of the price of a CoF compliance check. Compare this with the UK version which has a GVM of 3500kg, a payload of 640kg, and weighs just 2860kg unladen. Did the NZ version really need that payload and GVM upgrade? Could we have enjoyed the more convenient ownership experience and extra resale appeal of WoF checks? The NZ model lacks suspension compliance on bumpy surfaces in its present form. Perhaps that lighter, more fuel-efficient, and more softy-sprung version sold in the UK would improve this.
The iSmove has plenty of water capacity held between its double floors, with 200L of fresh water and a tank capable of storing 130L of greywater – reservoir sizes that hints at the vehicle’s ability to camp without supporting infrastructure for a week or more. The energy stored in the twin 95Ah batteries should also keep the 130L fridge and the TV operating over that period, and a 120L fixed toilet tank is available as an option along with twin 125w solar panels and an MPPT controller. The gas locker also has an extra mount and plumbing for a second 9kg gas bottle.
At such times, the second shower located just inside the right-side garage door will be a boon to surfers, fishermen, and mountain bikers alike, while the neatly mounted Thule Ormister awning will provide the shade. Then when the great outdoors has taken its toll, you’ll retire at night to one of the most civilized and urbane motorhome interiors on the market. The iSmove is the mobile gateway to a new experience: i-glamping. PS: the ‘missing’ reversing camera is located beneath the central brand badge on the rear panel…
|MAKE & MODEL:
|NIESMANN AND BISCHOFF ISMOVE 6.9E
|Fiat Ducato platform, Al-Ko suspension and
chassis, front wheel drive
|2.3 litre turbo-diesel, 140bhp
|Fresh 200L/Grey 130L
|UNLADEN MASS (TARE):
|$305,000 (stock available in 2024)
For more information, visit https://www.zionmotorhomes.co.nz/