Westfalia's newest Volkswagen camper van is a full-grown MAN
The all-new James Cook wasn't the only new camper van that Westfalia debuted at the 2019 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, nor was it even the only new expanding camper van. Westfalia also showed its latest Sven Hedin, which makes the switch from Volkswagen Crafter to MAN TGE. Since the MAN TGE launched back in 2017, we've seen a few TGE camper van concepts, one killer off-road expedition van, one modular pegboard-based camper van kit, and a straggler here and there from smaller shops around Europe. Westfalia adds a more established option from the world's most famous conversion company, loading the TGE with clever solutions like a sidewall expansion, forward-folding bed/storage garage and split fridge. And it even drops a couple thousand off the price tag.
Much like the James Cook, the Sven Hedin dates back to the 1970s and was originally built on a Volkswagen LT28. The current incarnation was introduced in 2017 atop the 2nd-generation VW Crafter and now leaps over to the Crafter's VW Group sibling, the MAN TGE. We've always thought that the TGE brings a more stout look than the Crafter itself, or virtually any other full-size van out there. VW may have the history, but the MAN-badged face with extra chrome gives the Sven Hedin a stronger look than the Crafter that came before it.
There's a new van underneath, but Westfalia doesn't mess with a successful interior formula, carrying over the innovations that have defined the current-gen Sven Hedin since its introduction two years ago. While many a camper van pops up to increase headroom, the Sven Hedin pops out to add foot room. The fiberglass pop-out on the rear driver side makes it possible to fit in a comfortable 79 x 51-in (200 x 130-cm) transverse double bed in back. Competitor vans like the new Mercedes Sprinter work around the issue of limited rear width with permanent expansion panels that stick out of the sides, a solution Westfalia worked to avoid so as to maintain the base Crafter/TGE's flush side profile and driving aerodynamics. Pop the Sven Hedin expansion open at camp; slide it away when it's time to drive.
By expanding the van to accommodate a transverse bed, rather than installing a longitudinal bed, Westfalia is able to fit a full floor plan with bathroom in the 19.7-inch-long (6-m) TGE. The driver-side central wet cell sandwiched between the rear bed and four-seat front dinette includes a sink, toilet and shower.
Westfalia also carries over the dual-drawer fridge designed specially for the Sven Hedin. The stacked drawers help slim down the kitchen block compared to a transverse fridge, opening up a more spacious living area while still providing 70 L of cold storage. Bonus: food and drink is readily accessible from inside and out.
Additional standard equipment like the dual-burner stove, 4.8-kW diesel heater/water boiler, 92-Ah battery and 100/84-L fresh/waste water system also carry over from Crafter to TGE Sven Hedin.
The base-level 2020 Sven Hedin gains extra power with the TGE running the show. Gone from the options list is the base 101-hp 2.0-liter TDI, replaced by a base-level 138-hp 2.0-liter TDI that's paired with a six-speed manual and front-wheel drive. Engine options up to 174 hp continue to be offered, as does an eight-speed automatic transmission. The TGE also brings a raft of the latest driver-assistance technologies, including standard emergency brake assist. Still, the new TGE Sven Hedin is actually €2,000 cheaper than the outgoing Crafter model, with a starting price of €57,990 (approx. US$63,750).