There are no new products from the German converter for the 2017 season. Instead, the focus is on a raft of updates to the brand’s three core ranges, introducing practical details that will bring meaningful improvements to users. MD of Westfalia, Mike Reuer, explained that he hopes this will increase the number of younger buyers (i.e. aged 35 to 40) interested in the brand’s products as it looks to futureproof itself in the growing panel van conversion market.
Let's start with the Amundsen range that receives updates which, Westfalia hopes, will make it the brand’s best selling line up. As the 540D is already the single biggest-selling Westfalia model, accounting for 20% of all the manufacturer’s sales, this could be an achievable goal.
The 540D and 600E get facelifts for 2017 and are being joined by two new models, the 600D and 640E. Truma Combi D4 diesel heating (located under the seat bench) will be standard, with a CP Plus control panel, Combi D 6E heating optional.
In the redesigned-for-2017 kitchen you'll see a new worktop extension flap, a revised sink/hob arrangement which has a one-piece glass cover and a new layout for the drawers. A high-mounted fridge is optional. New materials also refresh the interior. Overall, this gives a cleaner look and a decent amount of storage.
The rear-mounted beds use a new construction method featuring lightweight boards which can be removed individually or completely. This combined with the comfortable mattresses and the Froli springs should give greater sleeping comfort, and allow users to make better use of this now more flexible space.
The rear storage compartments have also been revised, with an integrated fresh water tank and gas bottle compartment, plus there’s a light for this area to aid loading/unloading after dark. This gas bottle compartment can now accommodate cylinders up to 6kg in size, so wherever you buy your cylinders across Europe, you’ll now be able to carry all sizes sold. Westfalia claims that the Amundsen now has class-leading storage.
In the dinette, the new 600D and 640E models get the bench seat from the 540D and 600E, which has headrests and ISOFIX points, providing a pair of travel seats. Above this the overhead locker layout has been tweaked to accommodate a new slide-out TV and satellite dish option, which sees the TV neatly hidden when not in use, but well-positioned against the washroom wall when you want to watch it; this can also be retrofitted.
Touch-operated LED spotlights in the living area that can be operated individually, an LED reading light on an arm that can be used to map-read on the road or to give illumination when dining or relaxing, plus a repositioned outdoor shower (now at the back on the right-hand side rather than in a cupboard) are further practical detail upgrades. There is also a new, domestic-style door handle for the washroom.
The entire Columbus range has been facelifted for 2017, with the intention of widening the range’s target audience. Some changes applied to the Amundsen are seen here, too, such as the new optional TV system, the use of Froli mattresses, the LED reading light, the individually operated LED spotlights, the new gas cylinder compartment and the changes to the outside shower. In addition, the lights have a dimmer function in Columbus models, plus a repositioned light at the rear helps when loading at night. The changes to the overhead lockers in Columbus ’vans also permit the addition of an extra hanging rail.
Externally, the new Dometic S7P windows are probably the range’s clearest visual differentiator. Bringing a more sleek, automotive look, these aluminium-framed windows with flat surfaces have no visible screws and come with new inner blind frames. A larger (was 40cm, now 55cm) Thule entrance step is now fitted across the range, too, which automatically retracts when the engine is turned on.
The main switch, water pump switch and fuses are now on the driver’s seat for easy access, batteries under the front passenger seat.
A new seat bench, developed in-house, debuts in the Columbus range. It still has two belted travel seats and ISOFIX as before, but gives larger seats and can be swiftly transformed to provide an additional berth, although it is quite heavy to move; this system can be retrofitted. Also, the previously grey seat bench is now black and white.
Interior trim with a darker wood and light, high-gloss surfaces mark out 2017 ’vans. There are now cast metal locks on all drawers and storage areas. The kitchen drawers are new, soft-close items, and a cupboard on top of the fridge is standard on the 600D.
A significant change is in the washroom. Like the Amundsen there’s a new door handle, but in the Columbus this is attached to a fully waterproofed door, so you don’t need to have a shower curtain in the washroom. A separate shower hose (with a new head) and sink tap also help make showering easier than before, plus the storage for the mirrored cabinet has been improved to prevent lotions and potions from falling out.
Out back, you’ve got the largest storage space of any panel van conversion on sale today – so much so that you might have to watch your weights. The cupboards here have been revised and the fresh water tank integrated.
Finally, the VW T6-based, Euro 6-compliant Club Jokers are now fitted with the driver cabin package plus as standard. But probably the most exciting innovation for this otherwise lightly-revised range is the new roof bed system for high top models. This Froli-sprung berth is stowed above the cabin/the front of the lounge and the aluminium frame simply pulls out on rails when required. Models with pop-up roofs now have a roof bed with gas struts, again to make set up easier. The innovative seat bench bed system from the Columbus also features here.
New dark wood/light high-gloss trim has been introduced inside, as well as the cast metal push locks rolled out across other models. Access to the wardrobe has also been improved.
In other news
The Amundsen and Columbus ranges have both been facelifted with no price increases, other than those passed onto Westfalia from Fiat (who supplies the base vehicles), due to the introduction of the Euro 6 powerplants. Prices of the VW T6-based Club Jokers are unchanged.
Like the sound of all this? You’ll be able to get inside the entire 2017 Westfalia range at the NEC show in October.