Niall HamptonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Motorhomes’ written by Niall Hampton
Taking place right at the start of the new model year, Düsseldorf’s Caravan Salon is the main event for anyone looking for an in-the-round view of the coming season’s motorhome ranges.
But the Caravan, Motor, Touristik (CMT) leisure vehicle and travel fair in Stuttgart is nevertheless an ideal opportunity for manufacturers to showcase their wares mid-season, launch new models or test public reaction to any new developments for release the following model year.
CMT takes place every January at the Messe Stuttgart, a large exhibition centre just a three-minute walk from Stuttgart airport – it opened on 13 January and it runs until 21 January.
What is CMT?
The origins of CMT can be traced back to 1968, when the Motor Sport Leisure show was established.
In 1971, it started running in parallel with the Caravan Camping Touristik show, and CMT was born when the two events merged in 1973.
Over the decades, the scope of CMT has expanded to cater for long-distance travel, as well as tourism related to golf, cycling, wellness and cruise ships.
To celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary, CMT 2018’s not inconsiderable footprint was expanded with the addition of a 10th hall.
Midwinter is a busy time for motorhome manufacturers, as having sold their ’vans for the current season, they now have to build them, as well as continuing the development of future ranges and models.
Brands large and small were still out in force at CMT, so there was a reasonable amount to detain the motorhome-curious in the odd-numbered halls of the Stuttgart Messe site.
New Hymer launched
Iconic German brand Hymer is almost on home turf at CMT, its factory being a 90-minute drive from Stuttgart.
The company regularly launches something new at CMT, so three new developments certainly didn’t disappoint.
At the top of the portfolio, a new strand for the B-Class line up was unveiled – the SupremeLine, riding on the new Fiat Ducato-based SLC chassis.
This features independent-wheel suspension, a spacious double floor and lightweight construction.
One model was available to view, the 674, which features fixed twin-single beds at the rear, with a midships kitchen and an L-shaped lounge up front.
Unsurprisingly, this new Hymer motorhome looked very sharp inside, a quick glance at the fixtures and fittings revealing use of some technical smarts from the brand’s groundbreaking B-Class DynamicLine.
Want to take more on tour?
In the camper vans segment, a new HymerCar range has been launched to cater for newcomers to the pastime.
It’s called Free and two models will be available, including the 600 on display at CMT – a 5.99m-long two-berth based on the Fiat Ducato with a rear transverse bed.
The USP of this new range is MiROs under 3000kg, leaving a generous user payload. Both models can have their sleeping provision expanded with an optional pop-top roof.
Hymer’s other launch at the show was its Smart Battery System, which is designed to extend the duration of off-grid motorhome trips.
And the good news is that all these new Hymer products will be coming to the UK.
Two more new A-classes
Another German brand, Eura Mobil, took the wraps off a new A-class at CMT 2018.
The Ducato/Al-Ko-based I 700 HBIntegra offers the typical L-shaped front lounge and midships kitchen floorplan, with a full-width central washroom and transverse rear bed.
But rather than routing you through a central passageway into the bedroom, one has to snake past the vanity unit and around the cassette toilet to emerge at the foot of the transverse rear bed.
It’s a clever use of space on a luxurious ’van that’s only 7.15m from ship to stern.
And if you like the cut of Eura Mobil's jib, then contact one of its two dealers in the UK – Geoff Cox Leisure in Derby and Premium Motorhomes in Doncaster.
Staying at the upmarket end of things, German luxury producer Carthago dropped the tarpaulin covering its new A-class – the liner-for-two 53.
Technically, this ’van is derived from the Chic E-Line and is 7.8m long, fully winterised, and with a large easy-to-access rear garage.
British buyers stepping inside will instantly feel at home, thanks to a spacious rear U-shaped lounge accessed via a midships kitchen – with the lounge at the end on this ‘flipped’ floorplan, the washroom is to the right as you step aboard.
Erwin Hymer Group’s Italian subsidiary Laika had a stand in Hall 1, close to another EHG brand, Etrusco. This is a recent addition to the EHG portfolio, and caters for the tastes of motorhome buyers in southern Mediterranean countries.
Etrusco’s A-class ’vans certainly showcased the brand’s impressive optics, but at the other end of the scale, the compact T 5900 FB low-profile really caught our eye.
It’s a 6m-long two-berth with a French bed immediately behind the nearside dinette, opposite a midships kitchen and end corner washroom.
The cream-coloured upholstery contrasts strongly with the dark cabinetwork and worktops, creating an interior vibe that’s quite distinct from the lighter tones favoured by buyers from north of the Alps and the Pyrenees.
VW camper vans out in force!
Given how strong German manufacturers are in this sector, camper vans have a big presence at CMT, with many packed into Hall 7.
A rake of VW Californias proudly wearing their ‘Bulli’ badges (a German nickname for early Transporters) took a prominent position near the entrance, with some more specialised fare elsewhere in the hall.
We were particularly impressed by the MultiCamper Adventure, based on a 4x4 version of the VW T6 and including some essential kit for off-road touring.
Matt grey bodywork, black alloy wheels and chunky tyres set the look, augmented by practical additions – an exterior jerry can and spare wheel on a rear-mounted rack.
This rugged but buff-looking pop-top would certainly turn heads during some off-road touring.
This eagerly awaited pick-up will be available later this year and emanates Mercedes-Benz quality from every angle. At CMT, it was exhibited with a demountable habitation by Tischer on top.
Enter through a rear door to find an offside kitchen and midships lounge, with just under 2m of standing height, plus a 1.5m-wide transverse double bed over the cab area. This is one seriously capable vehicle with good looks to match.
Next to the X-Class stood the latest version of the classy Mercedes-Benz camper van.
The Marco Polo Horizon slots between the Marco Polo and the Marco Polo Activity in the line-up, and can be configured to carry eight passengers, with sleeping spaces for up to five. It was presented at the show in eye-catching 250d 4MATIC AMG Line trim.
Innovation on show
A few stands away, it was unclear why the Pössl Summit 600 Plus had been adorned with a red ribbon, but this 5.99m-long two-berth van conversion on the Ducato sports a couple of interesting design features.
One of these was a swing-out shower compartment in the nearside washroom, and a hanging rail that rises automatically from the top of the wardrobe, located in a floor-mounted cabinet behind the offside rear wheel arch.
The Pössl brand doesn’t reach as far as Blighty, but this ’van is also available as the Globecar Summit 600 Plus. Impressive stuff.
Over on the Reimo stand, the German brand was exhibiting its Multistyle Edition 1980 (the year the company was founded), based on the VW T6, replete with subtle ‘Camper on Tour’ lettering. Well, quite.
Flying the flag
In Hall 5, sited close to its Trigano Group stablemates, several Auto-Sleeper models were on display, including a Warwick XL, ‘mirrored’ for Europe and based on the Citroën Relay rather than the Peugeot Boxer us Brits are used to.
In Hall 3, we spotted a selection of motorhomes from Lunar Caravans, including a Wellhouse Terrier, a couple of Landstars and a Nissan NV400-based Libra, which we’d never seen before. This latter ’van carries fixed twin single beds at the rear, ahead of a midships kitchen and half-dinette.
The roster of British manufacturers we saw at CMT was completed by Swift Group, with a Toscane 800 on display in Hall 1.
It was interesting to see a British ’van with a left-hand-drive cab and with the habitation switched for the Continent, when so many European imports to the UK arrive with right-hand-drive cabs but with living quarters that correspond to models in the country of manufacture.
Does this say more about the flexibility of British buyers, or the inflexibility of European ones, we wonder?
The rise and rise of the Crafter
Elsewhere in the halls and corridors, CMT 2018 offered a selection of things seldom seen on these shores, including a van conversion on an untypical base vehicle – the MAN TGE.
With zebra stripes, chunky tyres and a snorkel, this particular vehicle was making a pitch for some off-road action.
Inside, it featured a transverse rear bed with a washroom, kitchen and dinette further forward.
Look again, though, and this MAN TGE base isn’t that unfamiliar: this re-badged version of the VW Crafter is the truck manufacturer’s first foray into light commercial vehicles – and there’s certainly plenty of standing room, here courtesy of a rear-hinged pop-top.
VW’s California XXL concept has certainly made the headlines, as has the Knaus Saint & Sinner, and with Westfalia’s Sven Hedin in production, this niche in the motorhome market looks like it’s going to expand quickly.
More than an electric dream?
Coming to the end of our motorhome safari at CMT, we have to mention Dethleffs’ e.home, a concept ’van first unveiled at last year’s Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf.
Based on a Globetrotter XXL A, but here riding on an Iveco Daily Electric, the e.home is powered by a three-phase, 80kW AC motor, fed by sodium nickel chloride batteries with a capacity of 3 x 76Ah at 400V.
Fast charging up to 80% of battery capacity is possible within two hours, good for 1500 charging cycles – equivalent to approximately 250,000km (155,343 miles). The batteries are also 100% maintenance free and 100% recyclable.
Using a system like this, says Dethleffs, there could be no need for gas-powered habitation services in future.
To gather electricity for driving and for use when pitched, the e.home is covered with 31 sq m of high-spec photovoltaic cells, offering approximately 3000W of peak power.
Also of note at CMT was Carthago and Malibu’s Test & Rent scheme, under which ’vans can be hired for testing purposes, for one-off holidays or ‘acclimatisation’ trips.
The scheme looks like it’s currently limited to Germany, but as more and more manufacturers dip their toes into offering rentals via their dealer networks, this is a great way of getting the message out about how great motorcaravanning is.
If we really want anyone else to know, that is…