Peter Baber
Reviews Editor

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Innovative thinking across the market was in evidence at this year's Caravan Salon, meaning there are some exciting new ’vans in prospect, says Peter Baber

A four-wheel-drive gearbox isn’t always the obvious shoe-in to a van conversion you might think it should be.

Clearly four-wheel drive can greatly extend touring possibilities for those who want to use their ’van to enjoy the most freedom that motorcaravanning can give them – but the added expense and maintenance costs can put people off.

Such worries do not seem to have disturbed current motorhome designers, however, as this year’s Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf – the world’s biggest motorhome show – included three notable new 4x4 models.

2x4x4

Westfalia unveiled a 4x4 version of its Amundsen 540D. Based on a Fiat Ducato, this three-berth comes with practical leather-effect seating in the dinette, a central kitchen and washroom, and a transverse rear bed.

At Düsseldorf, the four-wheel-drive transmission was being offered as part of a pack that also included a roof rack and bike rack on the rear, a ‘roo’ bar on the front with headlights and four more headlights on the roof.

It also wore special off-road decals and tyres, all for an extra €18,990 (around £17,560) above the OTR price of a standard 540D – some €4160 (about £3850) less than it would cost normally.

La Strada, meanwhile, has chosen to go with a different base vehicle to offer its Avanti L van conversion in a 4x4 format after a couple of seasons where, due to supply issues, this wasn’t possible.

The new vehicle is on a Citroën Jumper (known as the Relay in the UK) with a powerful 163PS engine, at a price that’s only around €10,000 (about £9250) more than the standard Avanti L, and with the same rear transverse bed layout.

A VW camper van concept

The third four-wheel drive ’van unveiled at Düsseldorf isn’t going into production yet, but is how Volkswagen sees the future of camper vans.

The VW California XXL concept van includes a retractable washroom complete with a rain shower.

It also has a rear bed that extends above the door handles to provide a sleeping space that measures 2.0m x 1.70m, but can also be dismantled during the day to provide extra space near the kitchen.

The ’van, based on a Crafter, also includes two 50-litre fridges and a two-burner hob that can double up as extra workspace, as those gas burners can be retracted. It even has a built-in espresso machine.

In addition, the California XXL concept also features underfloor heating and a large panoramic roof with light strips that can come on to provide ambient light in the evening.

All controls can be managed via an app on a console which is stored behind the two travel seats.

Revealed: new Knaus Boxdrive

There was plenty to excite those not interested in four-wheel-drive touring, however.

Knaus launched its new Boxdrive model, also based on the new VW Crafter. It’s a first edition with only 150 models being made at its factory in Hungary.

The ’van comes with a Euro 6 engine, a rear view camera, traction control and a range of safety features including lane assist, light assist and a driver tiredness warning system. The cab includes a DAB radio and sat nav.

The Knaus Boxdrive 680ME on display has three beds, including two fixed beds in the back that lift up as one to provide easy access to an ample storage area underneath.

There is also a central washroom with a large and futuristic-looking shower cubicle, that juts out into the central aisle and can be shut off with two frosted plastic solid doors.

Above the 90-litre fridge at the end of the kitchen ‘peninsula’ there is also a clever, sideways-facing illuminated shelf.

More show stars

HymerCar also launched a new version of its Grand Canyon S model with a pop-up roof – its first Mercedes-based camper van with such a feature.

And, along with the 4x4 Avanti L, La Strada also displayed its new Fiat Ducato-based Avanti H.

This four-berth, end-washroom ’van includes a drop-down double bed, the first time La Strada has included such a feature in many seasons.

Even with an end washroom you still get an ample storage space at the back of the ’van, while most of the floor area includes cleverly designed cubbyhole lockers that store, among other things, the ladder for the bed. This model will also be coming to the NEC show in October.

A touch of luxury

Those looking for something altogether more luxurious were not to be disappointed either at the Caravan Salon Düsseldorf 2017.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from camper vans, Concorde’s new models include the Centurion 1200 GST.

The 12m-long liner is technically an island-bed model, although the bed in here is unlike many you will find elsewhere. It’s positioned diagonally, to start with, while underneath it is a garage large enough to hold a Fiat 500!

At the front you will find a cab with four seats in two rows, a fifth travel seat behind a clip-on table, then a large L-shaped sofa down the nearside that includes two reclinable chairs separated by a large armrest that includes a control panel.

Not surprisingly, this Mercedes Actros-based vehicle has an MTPLM of 22,000kg, so is probably only going to be for those with an HGV licence. They’ll need sizeable wallets, too: at Caravan Salon it had an OTR starting price of €604,000 (around £558,000).

New Hymer motorhome

For something a little bit more manageable, Hymer launched its new B-Class SupremeLine or BSL motorhomes, initially with just two layouts, the island-bed 704 and fixed-twin-single-bed 708.

The range, with a new unique chassis design and independent wheel suspension, has been designed to offer a light weight and a large payload.

So even if the 7.79m-long 704 has an MTPLM of 4500kg, it has a MiRO of 3390kg, thus providing a payload of 1100kg.

There should be plenty of space to store that extra payload as well, as each model has a double floor containing all the technical components, but also 998 litres of storage space.

In addition, these new motorhomes have been designed to have a low centre of gravity, to make driving them easier.

Laika, Carthago and Niesmann+Bischoff

Also appearing at the show in this class, although not having its debut, was Laika’s new flagship Kreos model, the 8.29m-long 8009.

Complete with self-levelling suspension, this A-class includes a shower cubicle that can double up as a wardrobe when not in use, while there’s great attention to detail, with features such as a light that comes on as soon as you open the large drawers beneath the rear beds.

Carthago was showing off its new C Compactline 144 QB and LE models, not previously available in the narrower 2.12m-wide Compactline format.

The fixed-single-bed 144 LE layout includes an innovative nearside single bed, with an end that moves in and out to make more room for the shower.

Also on display were the new Chic C-Line 4.9 and 5.0 L models that are 30cm longer than the standard 4.9 and 5.0 – space that is taken up with a full-height wardrobe on both sides of the ’van.

And Niesmann+Bischoff was showing off more of its Smove models, designed to make its high end A-class design just that little bit more affordable and to appeal to a younger buyer. This included the fixed-single-bed Smove 7.4B.

So if you're going – and the show runs until 3 September 2017 – there is plenty to see!

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