Winnebago may still be synonymous with large Class A and Class C motorhomes that tour via highway and camp in paved lots with full hookups, but the company is determined to push its way onto the dirt and rock. It has been trying to woo people like the outdoor-crazy crowd at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market with its the Era 4x4 and all-new Concept Adventure Vehicle, which was wnveiled at the 2016 Summer Market last week and shows the possibility of an off-grid-capable 4x4 Winnebago optimized for boundless adventure.
In developing the Concept Adventure Vehicle (CAV), Winnebago started with the capable, 144-in (3,658-mm) wheelbase Mercedes Sprinter 4x4, an obvious choice for a camper van designed to deliver mountain bikers, climbers and other outdoor athletes to their respective corners of the great outdoors. From that base, it worked around the goal of carrying two bicycles inside the Sprinter's dual rear doors while still offering plenty of space and comfort at camp. It accomplished that goal with a bed platform that manually rises to accommodate the two bikes below and lowers when it's time to sleep.
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With its cabin design, Winnebago stresses the idea that playing hard doesn't have to mean sleeping rough. When your muscles are screaming from a day in the dirt or water, a warm, comfy bed is sure to beat a breezy, lumpy tent. The rear mattress lays atop a built-in suspension system, and a Truma Combi heating system keeps the temperature right. Easy-clean flooring helps keep the dirty, gritty outdoors out of the cabin.
The CAV's layout is quite similar to that of the Era 4x4 we looked at last year, albeit squeezed inside the shorter Sprinter (the Era is built on the 170-in wheelbase model). The kitchen area is shortened, and in place of countertop space for a TV, the CAV has mounting hardware for smartphones and tablets, providing a lighter, more flexible form of in-cabin entertainment. The upper kitchen cabinet includes extendable shelves for added storage and versatility.
Across from the sink, cooktop and refrigerator of the kitchen area, a narrow bathroom houses a cassette toilet and full-height shower. Between that bathroom and the driver's cab, a small dinette sofa converts to a cross-coach single bed with help from a folding support that drops off the end of the kitchen unit.
The CAV also includes a fully functional exterior work/living area. The power awning provides shade and weather protection and includes an auto-retract feature for when the wind threatens to thrash it. Below that awning, a folding worktop drops down off the outside of the interior kitchen unit and a hose serves to clean off gear, limbs and furry friends.
The Concept Adventure Vehicle brings power off-grid with roof-mounted solar panels, a 2,000-watt inverter and a lithium-ion storage battery. A 30-gal (114-L) fresh water tank keeps hydration bladders topped off and post-adventure mud rinsing away into the shower drain. The plumbing and electrical hardware are enclosed, with an eye toward multi-season use.
All-terrain tires, burly running boards and tread graphics give the CAV a rugged look. Those tires are set in motion by the up to 188 hp (140 kW) and 325 lb-ft (441 Nm) originating in Mercedes' 3.0-liter Bluetec turbo-diesel V6.
Winnebago plans to use the feedback it received at Outdoor Retailer toward a decision on whether to pursue a CAV-based production model. It estimates that base pricing would fall around US$100,000 to $110,000.
Another interesting product on display at Winnebago's booth was the new Winnie Drop, the company's answer to the ever-popular, retro-styled teardrop trailer. Much larger than other teardrops, the 18-footer (5.5 m) we looked over at the show sleeps three adults or a family of four on a queen bed and convertible dinette set. It also has a wet bath and kitchen with dual-burner cooktop, sink and fridge/freezer. The optional TV can be mounted just inside the doorway and on the external wall. Other options include an awning, microwave oven and air conditioning.
Introduced last September, the Winnie Drop is a road-centric trailer for now, but Winnebago does have plans for an off-road package with increased clearance and more rugged rubber. Pricing starts at $17,103.
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