Recon 4x4 off-grid camper van bursts onto US overland scene
Pleasure-Way steers off the beaten path and grows its camper van lineup with the all-new Recon 4x4 adventure van. The Recon aims squarely at competitors like the Winnebago Revel and Storyteller Mode 4x4, borrowing a little bit here and there to serve as a rock-solid adventure-launching platform with solarized off-grid power, multifunctional interior with gear-hauling space, and indoor/outdoor cooking flexibility.
Pleasure-Way shows up a little late to the North American overland camper van party, seeing that Winnebago followed dozens of small, independent off-road camper van shops and startups to the market nearly four years ago. The market has continued to flourish since then, and Pleasure-Way wants a piece.
The good thing about arriving late is that Pleasure-Way clearly spent some time watching the competition (or doing some Recon, if you prefer) and incorporated some of their best ideas into its own build. The Recon 4x4 combines some key features from both the Revel and the Mode 4x4 into a unique single floor plan optimized for all types of overlanders and off-road adventurers.
Working with the classic American adventure van, the 234-in (593-cm) Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 144 4x4, Pleasure-Way begins its conversion with the ubiquitous European-style center-split rear bed that easily folds against the sidewalls to clear room for cargo. It's a simpler solution than the power-lift bed Winnebago uses in the Revel, and in this case, supports what Pleasure-Way calls the largest bed in a Sprinter 4x4-based adventure van of this size.
At 70 x 72 inches (179 x 183 cm), the Recon's longitudinal bed offers more sleeping area than a residential queen and is well larger than both nearest competitors: the Winnebago Revel's 49 x 79-in lift-away bed and the Storyteller Mode 4x4's 56 x 79-in split-folding bed. Pleasure-Way further optimizes bedroom space by relying on cargo nets over the bed rather than hard cabinets, increasing headroom and free volume.
When folded up during the day, the bed clears out a spacious 124-cu ft (3.5-cu m) storage garage for carrying bikes, surfboards, skis, camping gear-loaded boxes or whatever else needs to make the trip. L-track around the floor, bed frames and walls helps to secure everything in place. Solo travelers can also remove one side of the bed and just use the single fold-down mattress.
Given the vast number of camper vans around the world that have a split-folding rear bed, we can't pinpoint the bed area as a feature Pleasure-Way borrowed from a specific competitor, but one aspect of that bed design ties very neatly back to the Storyteller Mode 4x4. Rather than a slatted frame, common in other camper vans, Pleasure-Way tops its driver-side bed frame with a solid panel designed to work as the kitchen counter, a general table or even a work bench — a strand of camper DNA that traces directly back to the Mode 4x4. It's definitely a handy feature for Recon owners, giving them 72 inches of usable worktop instead of just a short kitchen counter.
The bed panel countertop serves as a starting point for the flexible, part-time kitchen space. Instead of the usual inset stove, Pleasure-Way follows Winnebago's lead in relying on a portable induction cooktop that sets up on the bed panel when in use and stores away afterward. It can also be pulled out and used outside the van, as can the portable 60-L Truma fridge/freezer box, creating the type of indoor/outdoor cooking flexibility central to other recent camper designs, including the updated 2021 Winnebago Revel and the Scout pickup camper series.
The only fixed piece of the Recon kitchen is the sink cabinet tucked up against the outer rear wall of the bathroom. That sink is as much a part of the bathroom as it is the kitchen, as Pleasure-Way chooses to save bathroom space by eliminating the usual tiny or fold-away sink basin. The wet bath has a cassette toilet that rotates around for more legroom, rotating back to clear the shower floor.
As on the Winnebago Revel, the Recon 4x4 bathroom space doesn't go to waste when no one's using the toilet or shower. With two removable shelves and a removable clothing rod, it can serve as a storage closet and a drying room for wet gear. Hang up your sopping bathing suit or snowboarding jacket, drop your wet shoes or boots on the shower floor, and let everything dry out for the next day's activities ... at least until those après beers kick in and you have to clear a path to the toilet. A ducted heating vent near the floor helps with the drying process.
Pleasure-Way certainly borrows liberally from other camper van designs, but its result is rather unique. We can't think of another camper van from North America, Europe or Australia that has quite the same layout with decentralized kitchen, large longitudinal rear bed and lack of a two-seat rear passenger bench.
Given the lack of rear bench, usually a part of the four-person dinette, Pleasure-Way makes its dining area out of the swivel driver-area seats and a removable Lagun table between them. So the Recon 4x4 becomes a dedicated two-person adventure camper with two automotive/dining seats and two sleeping berths. A flip-down desk on the outside front bathroom wall creates a workstation at the driver's seat.
Pleasure-Way positions the Recon as both four-season- and off-grid-capable, installing a ducted Truma furnace, separate Truma water heater, 3M Thinsulate insulation package, and capable electrical system with 400-Ah battery, 400 watts of roof-mounted solar and 2,000-W inverter. Water is carried in a large 151-L tank — nearly double the size of the 79-L tanks on the Revel and Mode 4x4 — that's located under the camper floor between the rear wheel wells. Heating ducts routed around the tank prevent the water from freezing.
The Recon 4x4 weighs in under 7,400 lb (3,350 kg), leaving 1,650 lb (748 kg) for carrying its two occupants and their gear. It rides on Black Rhino wheels shod in Toyo all-terrain tires and comes with 11 in (28 cm) of ground clearance uninterrupted by the likes of water tanks, valves or pipes.
We think Pleasure-Way has created an intriguing layout that should certainly lure some buyers away from the competition, but one place where the Recon 4x4 falls flat is in its trim and finish. The cold white and light gray walls and furniture, cargo nets, and bare rear doors feel more "garage" than "home," especially when we remember that vans like this one (and this one) exist. Even the Winnebago Revel, not the prettiest interior out there, looks downright comfy in comparison. But maybe Pleasure-Way will spruce it up with some better color and material options.
Pleasure-Way announced the Recon 4x4 this week and plans to launch a limited production run in Summer 2021. While some Canadian camper vans don't make it over the border to the US, Pleasure-Way has a strong US presence with a nationwide dealership network. Unfortunately, though, the Recon 4x4's $171,600 base price is in US dollars, not Canadian dollars awaiting conversion. That gives it a home between the $149,748 base Storyteller Mode 4x4 and $185,838 Winnebago Revel, as listed on the manufacturers' respective websites.
For an even closer look, you can join Pleasure-Way's CEO Dean Rumpel in the seven-minute walkthrough below.