Embassy Sport camper van pushes the party outside with tailgate deck
An accelerating RV trend this year has been the inside-out camper with flexible indoor/outdoor layout that encourages occupants to spend all their cooking, eating and living time outdoors, retiring inside only at night or to escape inclement weather. The Scout Olympic and Yoho truck campers and Hartmann Work & Weekend camper van kit are a few recent examples. Embassy RV has been among the biggest proponents of the indoor/outdoor motorhome, and its new Traveler Sport features much more outdoor living space than the average camper van, combining an available fold-down deck and screen room in back with a separate side tailgating and entertainment area.
Initially presented as the Sportsman, and now marketed as the Traveler Sport, Embassy's latest van carries over the feature the Elkhart, Indiana, Class B specialist continues to build its reputation on: the optional rear deck. Decks are an amenity typically reserved for larger motorhomes, fifth-wheel trailers, expedition vehicles and concept camper vans, but Embassy makes them work in production-van-sized campers.
A nice alternative to the bumpy, muddy, uneven ground that often greets campers outside the RV door, Embassy's deck packs neatly away in the van load area and folds out the rear doors at camp. We'd be pretty happy with a flat, raised deck platform for sitting and maybe grilling on, but Embassy also includes a deployable tent, creating a sheltered screen room as an extension of the camper cabin. It's similar to the tailgate annex tents other companies offer, but with the benefit of being off the ground on a solid platform.
That deck alone doesn't earn the new Embassy its "Sport" moniker, although it certainly doesn't hurt. The real pivot point between the new Ford Transit-based Sport and Embassy's older, more conservative camper van floor plans is the refrigerator. Instead of a door fridge built into the kitchen block, Embassy drops a naked Dometic CFX 65W top-loader chest on the floor.
During normal use, the 106-can-capable CFX fridge opens from inside the van, making it easy to lean forward off the couch and grab a drink. It can also swing around 180 degrees on the swivel mount below for easy access from outside the sliding door. It also removes easily from the van for use on a boat, at home and anywhere else there's a power source to keep it humming.
At first we questioned why it wouldn't mount the fridge at the rear, for access from the deck, but Embassy complements the Dometic with a swiveling 32-in smart HDTV. The TV faces the sofa/bed for indoor viewing, but it also swivels out into the doorway, finishing off a nice, little tailgate (sidegate?) area perfect for game day, twilight outdoor movie viewings and more. The TV is hooked up to a Sony Blu-ray player as part of the standard equipment package, and an optional awning protects viewers from bad weather and cuts down on screen glare.
Adding the side tailgate area and rear deck together, the Traveler Sport might just have more square footage of outdoor living space than it does indoor. That's not to say that it's cramped or under-equipped inside, though, where its unique front-sleeper layout packs in a rear wet bathroom with Laveo dry-flush toilet and shower.
Moving forward on the driver's side, the compact kitchen has a small countertop, a sink, and a microwave overhead. Embassy offers a portable induction cooktop for those who need to sauté and sear inside, but the outdoor-centric van also encourages owners to pack a larger propane stove or grill and cook under the open sky. Those looking for more food prep space can spin around to the bar-top storage cabinet next to the fridge, which could also make the perfect cocktail-mixing component of the indoor/outdoor side tailgate area.
Across from the fridge, the sofa power-folds out into a double bed. There's no formal dining area, but Embassy can install a Lagun table or other dining solution for those who want something.
Embassy prides itself on wood-free design and builds out its interior with materials like marine-grade composite, vinyl and fiberglass.
Despite its emphasis on outdoor living, the Traveler Sport packs an impressive standard amenities list that starts with a robust 420-Ah AGM battery bank, battery management system with Bluetooth connectivity, and 3,000-W inverter. Also standard are a hydronic air/water heating system, 20,000-BTU air conditioner, LED lighting and 89-L fresh and waste water tanks. Instead of the common roof-mounted A/C, Embassy splits its system into components mounted in the storage cabinets and on the van underbody, exhausting circulated air through four side vents just below the roof. This frees up the roof for carrying kayaks, camping boxes and other gear.
The 22-foot (6.7-m) Sport is designed around Ford's Transit XL High Roof 9500 with 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and buyers can select from options including all-wheel drive. Pricing starts around US$100,000 but will vary according to options added or deleted.
Six figures still bring a little sticker shock when it comes to any vehicle, but American full-size camper vans rarely dip below $100K, and the Sport is an interesting alternative to the now-$175,000 Winnebago Revel or custom camper van builds that often rise well above $100,000. It certainly has some unique features.