Airstream 4x4 camper van fuses silver bullet style with pure adventure
Before today, Airstream's lineup of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter "touring coaches" seemed best-suited to the likes of well-heeled travelers looking to vineyard-hop across Napa Valley and maybe catch a weekend polo match. With the all-new Interstate 24X, Airstream moves in a new direction, offering a camper van for surf bums and climbing dirtbags, albeit bums and 'bags with a taste and budget for high-level design. The off-grid 4x4 van maintains a careful balance between adventure-driven multifunction and comfort-driven luxury. For US$214,000, buyers will have to appreciate both.
When we initially saw the Interstate 24X photo above, our first thought was that Airstream was going straight after other 4x4 camper vans like the Winnebago Revel and all-new Pleasure-Way Recon 4x4. But after looking over the spec sheet and $200K-topping price tag, it seems the Interstate 24X is more about pulling the adventure van lifestyle upmarket, meeting demand for a vehicle that has Airstream's established level of style and luxury but isn't afraid to get filthy seeking out deep-forest trailheads and powdery first descents. The 24X actually becomes the flagship of the Interstate line, price-wise, not an entry-level model to draw in new, young buyers.
The Interstate 24X may be Airstream's first entry in the red-hot 4x4 adventure van market, but the company isn't diving in without some related experience. In 2016, it revived the Basecamp trailer, an adventurous reshaped silver bullet that had proved ahead of its time a decade prior. The Basecamp was built to sate the growing appetite for rugged, stylish and comfortable campers versatile enough to support any type of multi-day road or off-road adventure. Despite a price several times higher than many other small adventure trailers, Airstream has had much success with the model, growing it into a family that includes a more rugged "X" off-road variant and a larger family trailer.
Airstream's choice of Sprinter 4x4 van reflects the mission to do off-road adventure a little differently. Instead of the shorter 144-wheelbase Sprinter that's become the standard for American 4x4 camper vans from industry players like Winnebago, Pleasure-Way and Storyteller Overland, Airstream upsizes to the 170 to create a camper that measures a full 24.5 feet (7.5 m) long and offers a huge cabin to work with.
Instead of the Ultraleather sofas and glossy furniture of other Interstate models, the 24X uses its vast van interior to house a highly flexible space that serves to support bikers, skiers, climbers, surfers and other outdoor go-getters, during the day and night. The space comes anchored by a rear flex lounge that seats up to six people around two side benches. A flexible multi-position table mounts on either side.
At night, the rear benches convert over to a stretched 80 x 68-in (203 x 173-cm) super-queen longitudinal bed. The lounge can also split into a combo of smaller transverse bed with shorter benches or stay in place as two individual twin beds.
People don't tend to buy a van like this and not load it with all forms of sports and camping gear. The Interstate 24X's 16-foot-long (4.9-m) center aisle makes that easy, accommodating paddleboards, kayaks, bikes, skis, loose camping gear, and all other forms of gear that eats up loads of space. Airstream bolts aircraft-style L-track to the floor to keep that gear in place and then adds it all over the walls and ceiling to ensure that travelers have plenty of options for mounting and hanging things, from fishing rods on the walls to bikes dangling from the ceiling.
The L-track also serves to support the soft-sided storage bins that stand in for the fancier overhead cabinets you'd usually find in a "touring coach." These bins should prove more versatile than hard cabinets and better positioned for quickly stashing bike helmets, sleeping bags, climbing rope and other kit. Down low, under-bench storage compartments offer yet more space for stashing and organizing gear.
The Interstate 24X houses its kitchen and bathroom amidships. The kitchen brings a dual-burner stove, long countertop, and deep sink on its main block, a microwave overhead, and a 142-L fridge/freezer across the aisle. The wet bathroom houses a toilet, shower and sink and also has a retractable clothesline that zips out for hanging wet gear and apparel.
I-24X dwellers will probably find themselves spending most of their time in the spacious rear lounge, but the Ultraleather-wrapped cab seats swivel around to provide an alternative place to relax at base camp. The rear table can detach and mount behind the driver's seat to create a mini workstation, and it can also secure to the outside of the kitchen block for outdoor work or cooking.
The most "Airstream" parts of the Interstate 24X build are the metallic wall and ceiling trim, which looks as effortlessly stylish on an adventure van as it does on a dual-axle luxury trailer. The robust standard features package doesn't disappoint, bringing a 13,500-BTU Quiet Series air conditioner, hydronic heat/hot water with touchscreen control, hi-fi speaker system with Bluetooth connectivity, onboard 2.5-kW Cummins Oman generator, and internet/Wi-Fi prewiring with 5G cellular antenna.
I-24X power comes from a dual 100-Ah lithium battery system wired up to 300 watts of solar and a 2,000-W inverter. A separate 100-W solar panel keeps the Sprinter battery firing.
Beyond Mercedes' all-wheel-drive system, the 24X tackles rough routes with the help of rear air-ride suspension, six all-terrain tires (four tires on the rear axle), and a 42-in (107-cm) off-road LED bar up front. Back on the highway, drivers will find help from various standard technologies, including adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic assist, lane-keeping assist and driver attention assist. Mercedes' 188-hp 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel runs the show.
Ordinarily, we'd wonder if Airstream might have some trouble finding buyers for the $213,850 Interstate 24X, given that it's a bit simplified and stripped down for an Airstream "touring coach" but a bit expensive, large and limited (sleeps only two) for an adventure van. But not three full days ago, Airstream parent company Thor Industries reported record Q3 sales as well as historic dealer inventory lows in spite of increased production levels. It basically can't build RVs fast enough to meet demand, so we'd say the Interstate 24X is rolling out at the best possible time. Airstream dealers are taking orders now and preparing to take delivery of vans in the coming weeks.
The minute-long video shows the Interstate 24X in action.