Benchmark's crazy-loaded AWD camper van expands the scope of adventure
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter all-terrain camper vans have become a dime a dozen around US campgrounds and trail heads, so it takes something extra to make one that stands out. Oregon-based Benchmark Vehicles doesn't just add something, it adds about as much extra as we can imagine fitting on the long, spacious Sprinter 170 platform. The new Deso camper van wears a SEMA concept's worth of aftermarket off-road components, a slide-out tray good for 4 bicycles, high-capacity rooftop and rear door cargo carry, a Starlink satellite dish mount ready to connect van with globe, and loads more.
We'll just go ahead and blurt out the leaden price tag right away – the Deso registers in at double the price of some other off-road camper vans we consider pretty well-equipped, coming in at $395,000 as pictured. So to buy it, you'll want to be either extremely wealthy or willing to give up your home, entire collection of worldly possessions and maybe a child or two.
Those who do ultimately get a hold of the Deso steering wheel will enjoy a fearless adventure machine ready to make a luxurious, modern homestead out of terra firma hours away from even the vaguest hint of civilization. Some experienced off-roaders might balk at the use of a 2023 Mercedes Sprinter AWD 170, preferring the shorter dimensions of a 144 wheelbase, but the larger choice helps to set the Deso apart as a particularly comfy, well-equipped Sprinter off-roader.
"Our main purpose at Benchmark Vehicles is to ultimately allow our clients the possibility of creating their own adventure and charting their own course no matter how long the road or remote the destination can be," Benchmark owner and founder Leland Gilmore said in introducing the Deso this month.
To start, Benchmark goes with the popular rear raised bed/under-garage split, centering a large bike tray on the van load floor. This slide-out system carries up to four individual bikes, ensuring that the Deso is as prepared for two-wheel dirt and gravel adventure as four-wheel. The garage keeps the bikes more secure than an exterior rack and can be accessed from inside via an under-bed door.
The bike tray is far from the only carrier the Deso brings along. Benchmark decks the rear doors out with a spare tire carrier/ladder and expedition box cargo carrier, all supplied by Owl Vans. It finishes that spread out with a DMOS shovel for quick-access digging. Up top, a Roambuilt safari rack covers the square footage of the roof, and Benchmark tacks on a Starlink satellite dish mount, Roam Adventure Company 83-L cargo boxes, and plenty of auxiliary lighting.
On the other side of the rear doors, Benchmark carves out a semi-private master bedroom with the addition of a full-height driver-side bathroom and passenger-side cabinet just in front of the lifted bed. Flarespace flares on the Sprinter sidewalls increase space around the bed.
A full-cabin Havelock wool insulation package ensures the bedroom and rest of the interior don't get too chilly in winter or hot in summer. A Nomadic Cooling X3 12V air conditioner helps further tame the summer heat, and mosquito mesh side and rear screens keeps things breezy in less extreme temperatures.
Benchmark focuses on high-end electric appliances in the kitchen, starting with a Breville Grind Control coffeemaker that slides out from the pantry. An induction cooktop and convection microwave provide two ways of cooking and heating meals, and a large 138-L Vitrifrigo fridge provides plenty of cold storage. The sink features a dedicated faucet for clean-tasting filtered water supplied by the Guzzle H2O two-stage filtration system plumbed to the 132-L stainless steel fresh water tank.
To keep all those appliances powered, Benchmark wires in an off-grid-ready electrical system with 640-Ah lithium battery, 245 watts of Zamp solar panels, a Xantrex 3,000-W inverter/charger and a 280-A auxiliary van alternator. Should the Deso owner ever feel inclined to return to civilization, a 30-A hookup taps into shore power.
A single rear jump seat with seatbelt teams with the front swivel seats for driving and daytime lounging, and a fully adjustable Lagun table provides for versatile dining and laptop work. The rear seat folds flat to create what looks like a third sleeping berth ... so maybe those well-heeled owners can give less fortunate souls a taste of the off-grid high life, one guest at a time.
The Deso comes powered by Mercedes' twin-turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel and includes its latest all-wheel drive system. Benchmark adds extra off-road traction by way of BFG K02 285/70/17 tires cushioned by an Agile Off Road suspension upgrade with Fox 2.0 shocks, plus a set of Bilstein HD struts. To avoid writing a separate article's worth of words on the rest of the base van upgrades above and between those tires, we'll just drop the list down at the bottom.
If spending close to $400,000 on a camper van sounds unfathomable to you, you may or may not be happy to note that Benchmark offers less fully loaded Deso campers starting at $250,000. We were not made any happier by that notation.
Additional Benchmark Deso upgrades on 2023 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter base vehicle:
- AMP Power Step for driver & passenger side doors
- Van Compass front skid plates & rear tug step bumper
- Backwoods Scout front bumper with Warn shackles
- Warn Zeon Platinum 12-S winch
- PIAA Horn kit
- Girard power operated awning with LED light
- Air intake snorkel
- Ceramic window tint on cab glass and windshield
- Full vehicle wrap in Xpel stealth
- XBull fender flares
- CAtuned hood struts
- Agile Off Road wheel speed sensor guards
- Line-X on lower rocker panels with Ultra Line-X on grill
- Pedalbox throttle positioning tune
- Speedometer recalibration module for accurate readout
- Benchmark Stage 3 Audio system with 3D-printed A-pillar speaker pods
Source: Benchmark Vehicles