MORELO Empire Liner 98MO

Review: MORELO Empire Liner 98MO

Sometimes you can come across a motorhome that stands out as being exceptional even at first glance. Jill Malcolm admits to feeling somewhat privileged to look through the newest MORELO arrival at Zion Motorhomes in Pokeno, on the outskirts of Auckland.

The MORELO Empire Liner 98MO is the latest MORELO motorhome to be imported into New Zealand and is distinguished from other Empire Liners by its large slide-out.

This prestigious RV is an impressive size (10.05 metres long, 2.55 metres wide, 3.86 metres high) but its unbroken profile and sleek exterior means its bulk, though imposing, is not overbearing. To anyone with an eye for good mechanical design, it’s a beautiful machine.

Even before I stepped inside, I knew I was looking at a top-of-the-line build and it was easy to understand why the Empire Liner was awarded the German Design Award in 2018.

“But I didn’t buy this model to show it off,” says Denzil Judd who owns this amazing vehicle with his wife Rosemarie. “I bought it to enjoy travelling around New Zealand.”

Denzil has a well-honed appreciation for larger vehicles as he has just retired from a long career as a truckie and mechanic.

“One of the staff reckoned we wouldn’t get the Empire around a particularly tight corner,” he grins. “But it was no problem. The MORELO has a great lock and I’ve driven much bigger vehicles with trailers attached around corners just as tight.”

Despite its size, Denzil says the Empire Liner is exceptionally easy to drive. The suspension adapts to the road surface conditions according to the vehicle’s load. The attached airlift can alter the height of the whole vehicle. Automatic hydraulic levelling jacks are activated at the touch panel. Surrounding external cameras include a bird’s-eye view and there’s a plethora of sensors, monitoring devices, and driver safety features.

“When I was driving up to Pokeno one day, for instance,” says Denzil, “a screen message came up ordering me to pull over and sleep.”

The motorhome is built on a Mercedes-Benz Actros 1840 chassis and has a six-cylinder, 400hp engine and a 12-speed automatic transmission. Each vehicle is produced individually at the MORELO factory in the small German town of Schlüsselfeld, Bavaria. The selection of customised options and available additions are too many to list here. Whatever their choices, owners can be sure they are procuring high-quality, up-to-date items.

Jonas Ng of Zion Motorhomes first came across the MORELO brand at the Düsseldorf show in 2016 and was impressed by the quality of the workmanship and the meticulous design and style.

“MORELO has a wide range of models,” he says, “and is now willing to build the Empire Liner on a right-hand drive vehicle and reposition the home entrance door to the curb side of the vehicle to suit our market. I am grateful to them for that.”

The slide-out

MORELO Empire Liner 98MO
Owner Denzil Judd demonstrates the ample legroom in the lounge when the slide-out is extended

To date, this is the only Empire Liner with a slide-out that has landed in New Zealand. This addition makes an already spacious lounge and kitchen even more expansive. With just a press of the button and hardly a purr, the slide-out glides smoothly into position to increase the floor of the lounge and kitchen width by 400mm.

Externally, the slide-out protrudes from the left-hand (kerbside) of the vehicle and is air-sealed around all edges in both closed and extended positions. No wind or moisture has a chance of penetrating. Because of the below-floor external storage, the slide-out’s lower edge floor is set high. When it’s extended, the lockers below it are still easily accessible.

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On the outside, I lost count of the number of lockers placed below floor level and account for the vehicle’s height; suffice to stay, storage won’t be an issue. The lockers all have keyless opening systems and are alarmed.

On the driver’s side, easy-lift doors glide up to reveal the 560-litre water tank, the 280-litre greywater tank, a 280-litre black water tank, a 60-litre AdBlue tank, and a fuel tank that holds 390 litres of diesel. The water tanks can be emptied electronically from controls in the cockpit and all tank levels are monitored at the master control panel. There’s also space for a large generator, which, in this case, Denzil decided was unnecessary, as the solar panels generate 1040W and there are four lithium batteries with a capacity of 840Ah. He says the water and power capacity is such that the couple can freedom camp for up to 10 days without worrying about it – a key feature of this motorhome that suits their lifestyle.

The garage is enormous, about the size of a teardrop caravan. A small person could live in there and wash under the external shower. Its obvious purpose is for toys, boats, cycles, and motorbikes but it’s big enough to accommodate a Smart Car or maybe a small horse. Among other stored paraphernalia, a large freezer box was powered by the electric socket fitted inside the garage. One of the exterior features that caught my eye were the boldly shining Alcoa Dura-Bright wheels that Denzel had replaced.

“I like the chrome look,’ he says. “I polished these this morning. It has always pleased me to look after my vehicles meticulously.”

Homing in

MORELO Empire Liner 98MO
Left: The domestic-sized fridge and freezer behind a woodgrain door
Right: A single-drawer dishwasher is set underneath the bench and the three gas hobs

There are three electrically controlled, well-lit steps leading up to the home. The two interior steps are heated and between each tread, a storage drawer pulls out from the rise. There’s a grab rail next to them. Above the entrance door is a neat, comprehensive control panel. On the left of the wide doorway is an illuminated art panel and behind this a full-length cupboard for coats, hats, and brooms.

From there, I stepped into the spacious free-flow interior, which was carefully detailed and stylishly appointed in sleek modern materials and fittings. On all sides of the large dining table, plush lounge seats were covered in leather the colour of rich cream. The space of this elegant area is further enhanced by the slide-out and the cab seats, in matching leather, which turn to face the lounge and provide more seating. If I forgot about the MORELO being on wheels, I could imagine myself in a state-of-the-art apartment. The large windows and high headspace further increase the sense of space and light.

The craftsmanship, innovation, and quality of the detail throughout this motorhome make it one of the most remarkable I have been in. There’s nothing gimmicky about any of it, just attention to décor, good design, and planning that function seamlessly. Everywhere I looked was another fascinating feature: above the TV screen was a cupboard of racks for storing wine glasses; the elegantly curved overhead lockers are edged with chrome; and LED mood lighting has been subtly placed to highlight interior features. There are so many electronic functions operating throughout that if all the internal cabling was spread out end to end it would measure three kilometres.

Let us entertain you

The culinary department

MORELO Empire Liner 98MO
The kitchen with dishwasher, coffee machine, and plenty of storage is included in the slide-out

The benchtop in any motorhome is my first go-to and although in the Empire Liner it’s not extensive, it’s well-designed. The single, high-arched mixer tap over the sink allows large cooking equipment to be easily washed. Below the bench, a sink macerator, a single-drawer dishwasher, and double pull-out rubbish bins are installed. Fitted on top of the bench, which is made of an attractive composite material, is a Nespresso coffee machine and a three-hob, gas cooker.

Across from this space is an oven/grill/microwave. A full-size fridge and freezer is hidden behind an attached panel matching the woodgrain veneer of the cupboard doors. The size of the soft-closing cupboards, drawers, and pull-out pantry means that storage will never run out. With the slide-out opened, foot traffic no longer gets in the way of activities in the kitchen.

Admirable ablutions

MORELO Empire Liner 98MO
The generously-sized bathroom

It’s not often a motorhome bathroom can be called chic but the word describes this large space with its subtle lighting, mirrors, and modern surfaces. A large washbasin is set into the vanity top. Below this are three curved drawers with gleaming lacquered surfaces. Above the vanity, large mirrors also serve as cupboard doors for copious amounts of shelving.

On the other side is the roomy toilet area and towel rail. Alongside these is the full-size, glassed-in shower space with an overhead rainfall shower head as well as a hand-held shower.

Dreams come true

The bedroom, which can be separated from the bathroom, is also generously sized with a super comfortable, gel-topped bed of chosen width. It has a second TV. There are two full-length wardrobes on either side and under-bed storage. Deep overhead lockers are set high enough to allow occupants to sit up and read or drink a cup of tea without any head damage. There are tubular-shaped down lights above the bedhead and elsewhere mellow lighting creates a soft ambience. The large skylight set into the ceiling means that sleeping under the stars can be a reality.

Back to front

MORELO Empire Liner 98MO
View from the front with the slide-out extended

The cockpit is imposing, spacious, and airy with luxury driving seats covered in cream leather, which have lumbar support and air suspension that cushions bumps or corrugations on the road. All the remarkable navigation systems and interactive media are leading edge.

The front windscreen screen is so large that even though it’s laminated with tinted glass, in full sun, the driver and passenger could fry like trapped flies if it weren’t for a comprehensive screening system.

To sum up

The Empire Liner is the crown of the elite MORELO Motorhome range and undoubtedly a King of the Road.

Make and modelMORELO Empire Liner 98MO
ChassisMercedes-Benz Actros 1840L 
Engine6-cylinder, 400hp, Euro VI d 12-speed auto
DimensionsTotal length 10.05m, width 2.55m, height 3.86m
Slide-outIncreases the width of living space by 45cm
Fuel tank390L
AdBlue tank60L
Toilet tank280L
ParkingUltrasonic sensors in rear bumper, hydraulic levelling jacks with touch panel
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