Building luxury motorhomes like the Element 27 is, well, elementary to Ben & Michael Maclean…
By Richard Robertson
Latitude Motorhomes is a small-volume builder of luxury motorhomes, located on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Founded by brothers Ben and Michael Maclean, the company came about following the demise of Paradise Motorhomes, which was their Father’s business. The brothers went out on their own in 2017, investing money and their considerable experience into Latitude’s launch model – the Titanium – a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based van-conversion motorhome.
It didn't take long for word to get around about Ben and Michael's quality workmanship and engineering, and in very short order people started approaching them to build ‘proper’ motorhomes. The result was the Element 27, built on the then-new Iveco Daily cab-chassis. A luxurious motorhome with a full-length slide-out, it launched in 2018 and has become the company’s (artisan) bread and (hand-churned) butter. It’s the subject of this review, but it's also worth noting Latitude now builds the larger Meridian 30 and welcomes bespoke builds from compact campervans to whatever your imagination – and finances – will stretch to.
In the current climate it's difficult to get our hands on motorhomes to review. Most manufacturers are booked out 12 to 18 months in advance and every vehicle rolling off the line is either a customer or dealer order they don’t want any miles on. The good thing about small manufacturers like Latitude is their designs are evolutionary. So whilst the bulk of this review was written several years ago, the vehicle has only improved, not changed. However, if any details have changed it’s because of owner feedback and/or product and technology improvements.
For good reasons (like load capacity), Latitude has opted for an Iveco Daily 72C210 cab-chassis for its 8.5 m (27’ 11”) Element. Quite a few manufacturers try to get under the 4500 kg gross vehicle mass (GVM) limit for driving on a car licence, but that often introduces design compromises. Latitude has been smart not doing that, instead taking full advantage of the Iveco Daily’s 7200 kg GVM and minimising the engineering compromises.
Power comes from a 150 kW/470 Nm 3.0-litre twin-turbo 4-cylinder diesel, driving the rear wheels via ZF’s impressive 8-speed automatic transmission. It is arguably the best drivetrain in the business and delivers a seamless driving experience.
The Daily also excels with its 3500 kg tow rating, making it ideal for travelling with a car on an A-frame or for towing a trailer/boat/whatever. The latest Iveco Daily now comes with an extensive array of safety and advanced electronic driving aids like adaptive cruise control, plus features like Apple CarPlay and much, much more. Inside, the cab is surprisingly car-like, whilst noise levels are low when cruising and visibility is excellent.
You might note the advertised and generous payload of 1550 kg does not agree with subtracting the tare weight (5150 kg) from the GVM (7200 kg). However, that’s because the payload is calculated with all the water tanks and gas cylinders filled – which is unusual for the RV industry but more realistic and should be mandatory.
Included in Latitude’s Iveco Daily specification is self-levelling rear air bag suspension. It’s a great idea in a vehicle this size, because while the conventional steel suspension is okay, ride quality isn’t a priority.
Like many motorhomes these days the Element 27 uses a composite body structure, with the roof measuring 80 mm thick and the walls 30 mm. A syncro-pulse welded aluminium frame gives the motorhome body the necessary strength, something essential since much of the driver’s-side wall area is taken up by a slide-out. Despite a length of 4.5 m (14’ 9”), the slide-out is a smoothly operating piece of machinery and although the extension of 0.6m (2’) might not sound much, it provides a considerable amount of interior space.
Given the length of the Element 27 it’s not surprising it has a considerable amount of exterior locker space. A great feature is that all the storage lockers have electronic locking, including the lockers built into the lower wall of the slide-out. The latter item is an interesting and welcome inclusion, because many motorhomes have lockers built into the motorhome body, below the extended slide-out. These are awkward to get to, but building them into the actual slide-out solves that problem nicely.
Another couple of items that are often difficult to lift in and out are the gas cylinders. In this case, their kerb-side locker has a slide-out tray on which both 4.5 kg cylinders are mounted, making access easy. Also easy are things in the adjoining locker, where an Enerdrive 200 amp-hour lithium battery and Redarc Redvision electrical control system are fitted. Ditto the fuse panel, which is actually labelled (rather a novel approach in the RV industry and certainly a welcome one!).
Built into the body work of the Element 27 are quite a few extras, like the satellite dish. There is also a mounting for the spare wheel. That might sound a slightly odd place, but it’s certainly easier to get at than some I’ve seen.
Stepping onto the Element 27 reveals a layout that looks familiar (from the Latitude team’s previous experience), but also has a few differences. Filling the slide-out is a traverse queen bed at the rear, a dinette in the middle and the fridge up front. Across the rear wall is a full width bathroom, while a kitchen bench fills the kerb-side side wall area.
Both cab seats swivel, but having the fridge behind the driver’s seat and a full height cabinet behind the passenger’s seat does seem to detract from the potential full lounge/dining area. However the reason for that is the alternative position for the fridge is beside the bed and apparently user feedback suggests the compressor is too noisy during the night.
All cabinetry is interlocked, bonded and screwed together. To ensure everything stays where it should when travelling, Blum Legrabox drawer and hinge systems, and minimal-but-strong stainless steel door handles are used. The matt finish high pressure laminate on all cupboards and drawers is the type that doesn’t leave finger prints, which is often a problem with some finishes.
There’s a bit of the conventional and unconventional in the kitchen. Certainly quite usual is the three-burner cooker with grill/oven alongside the stainless sink/drainer. The microwave, oft found in the overhead locker area, is fitted below bench level, between the main kitchen bench and the rear wardrobe. The has the double effect of reducing OH&S issues and increasing bench space. It’s not kitchen use, but where the microwave might be in the overhead locker space, there’s a flat screen TV instead that can easily be seen from the bed, and with a little bit of effort, from most of the seats at the front.
Overall there is a generous amount of overhead locker space and drawer capacity – something further enhanced by the half-width cabinet on the other side of the entry door, behind the passenger seat. Beside drawer and cupboard space there is also a slide-out shelf that comes with a coffee maker and all the necessary components for drinking it!
The Element 27 is available with two floor plans and the only difference relates to the dinette. Whilst the Lounge model has an L-shaped dinette that doubles as a lounge and allows you to stretch out, the Dinette model has a four-seat cafe-style dinette for those who like to dine with friends, carry passengers (it can be seatbelt equipped) or need space to work/read the paper.
A benefit of having an east-west bed in a slide-out is that there are less restriction on the length. In this case the bed measures 1.92 m (6’ 4”) by 1.52 m (5’). There is, of course, storage under the bed and it can be accessed when the slide-out is retracted. If requested, the bed can be made to lift to get to the bathroom in the rear, although a different kitchen shelf has to be fitted (I’d be ordering that - Ed). Occupying the wall space at the base of the bed is a good sized wardrobe with hanging space and decent sized drawers.
Most of kerb-side rear corner of the bathroom is taken up by the shower. It’s not square – the door being set at an angle – but it’s part space-saver and the door can also be used to close-off the bathroom from the bedroom. In the bathroom a vanity cabinet occupies the rear wall, leaving space in the driver’s-side corner for a Thetford cassette toilet, complete with an SOG fume extractor on the tank. Naturally, the bathroom is fully kitted out with towel rail, wall mirror and handy shelf space. A washing machine is standard, plus there is an option for a marine flushing toilet.
Deep-cycle lithium house battery capacity is an impressive 200 amp-hours, backed by a whopping 720 watts of solar panels, ensuring the ability to live sans-mains power for a considerable period of time. For mains power while off-grid, a 2000-watt inverter can power the essentials, like a hair dryer, laptop, coffee machine or toaster. And if 2000-watts of 240-volt power isn’t enough, the Dometic 2.6 kW pure sinewave generator can be fired up! The only real limitation to loooong-term off-grid living would be the water tank, but at 300-litres it’s way more capacity than most motorhomes have. And don't be put off by the 90-litre grey water capacity; it's far easier to dispose of grey water when travelling than find fresh water.
What I Think
The Element 27 is an impressive motorhome with an equally impressive list of standard equipment (much more than listed here). It seems to be very well put together and combines high-end materials and inclusions with Ben and Michael’s previous years of luxury motorhome manufacturing experience.
It’s a breath of fresh air at the premium end of the market and one that already has buyers queueing. It proves quality and innovation are elementary to motorhome design success, and assures Ben and Michael a bright and successful future…
13/14 Rothcote Court
Burleigh Heads, Qld. 4220.
T: (07) 5606-8000