Mercedes adds tech and air (but no e-drive) to entry-level camper van
Instead of announcing updates to its entry-level Marco Polo Activity camper van at the same time it announced updates to the Vito van, Mercedes-Benz realized it could squeeze a little extra press out by announcing them a couple of days apart. The Activity enjoys most of the same updates as the van that serves as its base, but misses out on the most significant add: the 260-mile (420-km) all-electric powertrain option. It does get new infotainment and driver-assistance options and an air suspension, though.
When Mercedes introduced the refreshed V-Class last year, it announced updates to the V-Class-based Marco Polo and Marco Polo Horizon camper vans at the same time. But, perhaps spurred on by the media hype it enjoyed around the US-based Metris Weekender, Mercedes split the Vito announcement into separate van and camper van parts.
Unfortunately for those hoping for an all-electric, emissions-free camping experience, Mercedes doesn't extend the Vito's biggest update to the Marco Polo Activity, leaving the new 201-hp electric powertrain option open to Vito Tourer passenger van variants only. That's a shame, because 260 miles was starting to feel like a range that would be sufficient for at least some camping and road trip enthusiasts, particularly as compared to past electric camper vans with well under 150 miles of range. So for now, campers are still limited to those grid-tethered e-vans and plug-in hybrids like the all-new Wellhouse Misano 2 PHEV.
The Activity does benefit from the availability of the 236-hp 2.0-liter OM 654 diesel four-cylinder now offered on the Vito. Other engine options include the base-level 101-hp OM 622 diesel four with six-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. The OM 654 is available in several tunes between 134 hp and 236 hp and comes standard with a 9G-Tronic automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive available optionally.
Perhaps the most useful new addition will join the Marco Polo Activity lineup in October when Mercedes makes its Airmatic air suspension system with adjustable damping available on the camper. Designed to improve ride comfort on both highways and bumpy roads, the Airmatic suspension should prove particularly valuable in a camper van sure to see plenty of extended trips and varying surfaces. With different driving modes, the system can also raise ride height by 1.4 in (35 mm) and lower it by 10 mm.
Also helping to ease the ride for the driver, newly-available active brake assist and Distronic active distance assist kick in automated driving help. Active brake assist delivers visual and acoustic warnings of an impending collision, then auto-brakes and maneuvers should the driver fail to react. The Distronic system maintains proper following distance, automatically adjusting speed and braking when needed.
Other substantive additions include digital radio, 7-in touchscreen infotainment options with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a digital rear-view mirror to be made available in October.
Based on the more work-oriented Vito, the Marco Polo Activity is the entry-level sleeper van in the Marco Polo lineup. It includes a pop-up sleeper roof and convertible three-seat rear bench/bed. Floor rails increase adjustability, hold an adjustable folding dining table module in place, and allow buyers to select from five- and seven-seat configurations. The Marco Polo Horizon features a similar sleeper-style layout inside a more luxurious V-Class, while the V-Class-based Marco Polo packs a complete camper van layout with kitchen.