The introduction of Euro 6 engines meant big news from Fiat last season, so perhaps it’s not surprising that it was more low key at the Italian brand’s 2018 launch.

Yet despite the company’s commanding market position – three out of four motorhomes sold in Europe are Ducato-based – product development is ongoing.

This year’s event marked the launch of the new four-wheel-drive Ducato. And it’s not just ‘new’ because of its Euro 6 powerplant, the four-wheel-drive technology has been completely redesigned in the pursuit of greater reliability.

Expanding your touring horizons

With all SEVEL- and most Ford Transit-based ’vans being front-wheel drive, and rear-wheel drive being offered on Mercedes-Benz and some Renault Master platforms, the option of sending power to all four wheels, while not unique to Fiat, is not commonplace in the motorhome market.

Niche it may be, then, but the appeal to motorhome manufacturers of selling the dream of truly go-anywhere touring is easy to understand.

And, of course, there is the more everyday advantage of four-wheel drive, as it makes escaping muddy pitches far more easy.

This permanent four-wheel-drive system has two transfer boxes and an automatic central viscous coupling, which should ensure optimum torque distribution between the front and rear wheels, to keep you moving whatever the conditions.

Unlike previous 4×4 Ducatos, this iteration is fully integrated with the vehicle’s safety systems, including the stability control. It will also be available with a locking and/or limited-slip differential.

We were also assured that it has been designed to permit off-road excursions, even when the ’van is fully laden.

The devil is in the detail

However, as the 4×4 tech weighs a not-insubstantial 150kg, users will have to consider whether the drivetrain’s advantages are enough to warrant gobbling up a chunk of their motorhome’s payload – especially if they are ‘only’ B licence holders.

Another word of warning: when the Fiat Ducato 4×4 goes in sale in autumn 2017, it will not be available in right-hand drive vehicles.

Fiat celebrates the fact that this system sits on one side of the van, because, we’re told, it takes up less room beneath the chassis.

However, this means that although British buyers will be able to order a Ducato 4×4, it will be left-hand drive. But if you do most of your touring on the Continent, maybe that’s not a problem.

And for those who like the idea of a four-wheel-drive motorhome, they’ll be reassured to know that the Fiat dealer network is being trained to work on this system.

Behind the wheel

We were among the first to drive the new Fiat Ducato 4×4 at this month’s event, the pre-production van – the only 4×4 model to be built at that point – also showcasing a new colour option: grey, taken from sister brand Abarth.

From a user’s perspective, it is pleasing to report that driving this variant is no different to driving any other Ducato.

Sadly, the test route Fiat provided wasn’t challenging enough to let us conduct a meaningful evaluation of the new four-wheel-drive technology.

The other notable news from this event was the unveiling of Fiat Professional’s new global brand ambassador: step forward Chuck Norris!

Under the slogan “Made of tough”, Fiat hopes that this big-screen action hero’s international fame will help spread the word.