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Mansion on wheels: Step inside the Elemment Palazzo Superior, a double-decker RV with a pop-up rooftop lounge


By Kate Springer, CNN

(CNN) — The term “luxury vehicle” usually brings to mind Rolls-Royce Phantoms, Lamborghinis or Ferraris.

But what about an ultra-extravagant recreational vehicle? Enter the Elemment Palazzo Superior.

We can’t blame you if you slow down to rubberneck – or stop in your tracks completely – when you see this spaceship-like RV coming down the highway.

Designed and engineered by Marchi Mobile – a subsidiary of Marchi Holding AG, a European automobile company specializing in promotional vehicles and healthcare trucks – the Elemment Palazzo Superior looks like nothing else on the road.

Billing itself as the “most luxurious mobile home in the world,” the innovative RV combines inspiration from sports cars, aviation and yachting to create its unique aesthetic.

Depending on custom configurations, each RV costs between $2-4 million and takes about two years to build.

“Honestly, I designed the Elemment for my own enjoyment in the beginning – it was a little bit selfish. I was tired of what was on offer in the automotive industry,” Mario Marchi, founder of the Marchi Group and creative force behind the RV, tells CNN Travel.

“Almost all RVs have almost exactly the same design and the same functionality – and I didn’t want to jump on that tired and boring wave. I wanted to create something outstanding and unique.”

Hitting the road

Originally from Vienna, Austria, Marchi feels like he was born to design automobiles.

“My first word in life – before mom and dad – was auto, so obviously, I was meant to do this,” he says. “I love all types of vehicles, and I feel fortunate to work on what I am most passionate about.”

His father owned a trucking transportation company, where he drove big rigs while dabbling in show truck design.

His passion for design led Marchi to establish the Marchi Group in 2002.

“That was really the beginning,” he recalls. “I continued designing vehicles and customizing big trucks, building semi-trailers with room extensions and extendable trailers – always trying to innovate.”

After coming across an avant-garde truck cab prototype by German automotive design maverick Luigi Colani, who envisioned futuristic vehicles for the likes of BMW and Volkswagen, Marchi set out to bring the idea to life.

“That early prototype was almost impossible to drive because not too much attention was paid to the functionality,” he says. “But we wanted to create a luxury vehicle that looks and drives beautifully.”

Marchi started drafting designs for the Elemment in 2005, built the first hand-crafted vehicle with a team of engineers in 2010, and introduced the first model in 2012.

Since then, the RV’s overall aesthetic has remained consistent, but everything from the grill to the materials to the production line has evolved.

“Piece by piece, unit by unit, we are improving the vehicle each time,” he says. “Every RV is made-to-order, so we can update and innovate.”

Over the past decade, Marchi started using robots to assemble the units, engineered after-sale spare parts to support customers, and replaced the original fiberglass with industrial carbon fiber, which is much lighter, stronger and more durable.

‘Like a 4D cinema’

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Elemment Palazzo Superior is its futuristic cab with a giant, bug-eyed windshield and extra-high driver’s seat.

Inspired by helicopters, the cockpit is set on the RV’s second level – so it’s almost like you’re flying over the road.

Inside, it resembles what you’d see on a commercial airline with its captain’s chairs and digital aviation dashboard.

“I have driven all kinds of vehicles in my life, and I have to say it’s the best and most impressive driving experience,” says Marchi.

“It’s like being inside a 4D cinema – you have a 180-degree view all around you, which is amazing.”

What’s more, the aerodynamic design was intended to reduce fuel consumption.

According to Marchi, the 28-ton RV has a drag coefficient (or wind resistance) of 0.36, or about 20% better fuel efficiency than a typical RV of the same size.

By comparison, the average sports car has a drag coefficient of 0.30.

Make yourself at home

Stretching about 40-45 feet in length and 8.5 feet wide (or 16 feet, when fully expanded), the RV features oval windows inspired by yacht portholes, chrome trim and what Marchi describes as “race car design lines.”

The interior is just as impressive, offering 732 square feet of living space.

Luxurious touches abound, from radiant floor heating to ambient lighting, adjustable temperature zones, a top-of-the-line kitchenette, fireplace and automatic sliding doors.

One of Marchi’s favorite features is the living room area, which is made for hosting with its wrap-around sofa, 42-inch LED screen TV, and adjacent bar cabinet and wine fridge.

“The floorplan we created is extremely comfortable and designed so you can invite friends over but still have your private space available,” he adds.

Fit for a king

On the far side of the kitchen, a discreet sliding door opens to a spacious primary bedroom.

In this private oasis, you’ll find a dressing area, large-screen TV, ample storage and a king-sized bed made by Hypnos.

Based in England, the fourth-generation family business supplies beds and mattresses to the British royal family.

“The interior itself is mainly based on my tastes and European standards,” says Marchi. “It’s inspired by Italian history in a Venetian style.”

The primary bedroom also has a separate “spa room” with a rain shower and light therapy, which would feel right at home in a luxury hotel.

Raise the roof

The cherry on top is the Sky Lounge. Similar to the flybridge of a yacht, this rooftop terrace emerges from the RV’s roof via an automatic lift system.

To make entertaining easy on the road, Marchi has thought of everything: built-in furniture, a Steinway & Lyngdorf sound system, radiant floor heating and a sun canopy.

And if something’s missing? Everything can be customized, he says.

Some clients want a meeting room and captain’s chairs for business purposes; others want to add a second bedroom or adjust the interior design choices.

“We’re very flexible – our customers have different purposes and tastes, so every vehicle we create is unique,” says Marchi.

Typically, their customers tend to be high-net-worth individuals or companies. Some spend a lot of time on the road for work or prefer driving to flying, he adds. Other times, they plan to use the vehicle for events and promotional purposes.

“Many of our customers just like the feeling of driving this space rocket on the road,” he says. “We also work with a lot of passionate collectors looking for something totally different.”

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