Automotive

Westfalia goes high-rise and off-road with expanding Mercedes camper van

Westfalia goes high-rise and o...
Westfalia James Cook Classic off-road edition on show at the 2019 Caravan Salon
Westfalia James Cook Classic off-road edition on show at the 2019 Caravan Salon
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Westfalia makes sure that the entrylevel James Cook "Classic" doesn't look plain, adding the full off-road kit
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Westfalia makes sure that the entry-level James Cook "Classic" doesn't look plain, adding the full off-road kit
The handy swing-away bike rack doesn't interfere with the expansion module
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The handy swing-away bike rack doesn't interfere with the expansion module
We peek inside the James Cook Classic's rear window
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We peek inside the James Cook Classic's rear window
Utilizing the expansion module, Westfalia is able to give a sub-6-m Sprinter a longitudinal double bed and bathroom compartment
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Utilizing the expansion module, Westfalia is able to give a sub-6-m Sprinter a longitudinal double bed and bathroom compartment
One thing we find silly about the Classic design, and two-sleeper European camper vans in general, is the standard rear bench, space that could be put to better use for those that truly plan to use their vans as two-person campers
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One thing we find silly about the Classic design, and two-sleeper European camper vans in general, is the standard rear bench, space that could be put to better use for those that truly plan to use their vans as two-person campers
The 10.3-in MBUX infotainment system is optional
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The 10.3-in MBUX infotainment system is optional
The kitchen and bedroom are split by the tall 90-L fridge
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The kitchen and bedroom are split by the tall 90-L fridge
The rear expansion module includes cabinets
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The rear expansion module includes cabinets
The wet bathroom appears comfortable enough
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The wet bathroom appears comfortable enough
Wet bath floor
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Wet bath floor
The High Roof is the flagship of the James Cook series, offering space for four
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The High Roof is the flagship of the James Cook series, offering space for four
The James Cook High Roof is the same length as the Classic and Pop Up but is the tallest of the three at 133 in (3,375 mm) high
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The James Cook High Roof is the same length as the Classic and Pop Up but is the tallest of the three at 133 in (3,375 mm) high
The compartment below the slide-out offers some storage space but is largely filled by camper equipment
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The compartment below the slide-out offers some storage space but is largely filled by camper equipment
The folding bed in the front roof area of the High Roof sleeps two people
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The folding bed in the front roof area of the High Roof sleeps two people
Westfalia James Cook High Roof
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Westfalia James Cook High Roof
The rear bed in all the James Cook variants measures just over 2 m long
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The rear bed in all the James Cook variants measures just over 2 m long
Monitoring the available solar system with the James Cook's Mercedes MBAC-based smart control system
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Monitoring the available solar system with the James Cook's Mercedes MBAC-based smart control system
The MBAC system in the James Cook easily controls various lights around the inside and outside of the camper
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The MBAC system in the James Cook easily controls various lights around the inside and outside of the camper
The heating control screen shows options for different rooms/areas, as well as the hot water s
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The heating control screen shows options for different rooms/areas, as well as the hot water system
Cranking up the sound system with the James Cook control system
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Cranking up the sound system with the James Cook control system
Westfalia found a down time to grab a good shot of the James Cook High Roof because it was much more crowded when we were there
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Westfalia found a down time to grab a good shot of the James Cook High Roof because it was much more crowded when we were there
The expansion module packs away to leave a fairly compact 593-cm camper van
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The expansion module packs away to leave a fairly compact 593-cm camper van
Westfalia showed the off-road treatment for the Classic model, but the all-wheel-drive, all-terrain tires and other upgrades are available for the Pop Up and High Roof, too
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Westfalia showed the off-road treatment for the Classic model, but the all-wheel-drive, all-terrain tires and other upgrades are available for the Pop Up and High Roof, too
Westfalia James Cook Classic off-road edition on show at the 2019 Caravan Salon
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Westfalia James Cook Classic off-road edition on show at the 2019 Caravan Salon
Westfalia James Cook Classic off-road edition on show at the 2019 Caravan Salon
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Westfalia James Cook Classic off-road edition on show at the 2019 Caravan Salon
A look over the James Cook interior
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A look over the James Cook interior
Dual-burner stove and kitchen sink
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Dual-burner stove and kitchen sink
Rear bed all made up
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Rear bed all made up
Better look at the full wet bath
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Better look at the full wet bath

Westfalia may continue to be synonymous with Volkswagen camper vans, but if its new James Cook sells as good as it looks, the German conversion house may become even more famous for Mercedes vans. At the 2019 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, Westfalia completed the three-model James Cook lineup that started with the pop-up Sprinter. Joining the pop-top are a four-sleeper high-roof model and a two-sleeper base van all decked out for off-road adventure. All three vans expand in size in 40 seconds using a rear slide-out that makes for a roomy interior atop a compact wheelbase. Throw in the latest smart camper technology, and the James Cook is a no-brainer ... for those that can afford it.

We remain suckers for off-road camper vans, so we'll start off with the James Cook Classic. The Classic is the base model of the James Cook series, featuring a Mercedes factory high roof. To ward off any potential size envy, Westfalia added available 4x4 and off-road accessories to the Düsseldorf show model. The rugged, expedition-ready Classic definitely held its own against the greater Westfalia lineup at the show.

The Classic show van included a Mercedes all-wheel drive and Westfalia's Offroad package, which includes 18-in off-road rims, BFGoodrich 265/60R18 all-terrain tires and a bull bar with dual auxiliary lights. On back, Westfalia dropped on the available Sawiko swiveling bike carrier loaded with a pair of mountain bikes for continuing the journey on trails too narrow for a Sprinter to handle. This carrier works well with the expanding James Cook because it swings out of the way, allowing the rear slide-out to operate even when the bikes are still loaded. All of these options are available on all three James Cook vans, making Westfalia's latest van as adventurous and boundless as virtually any camper van out there.

Westfalia showed the off-road treatment for the Classic model, but the all-wheel-drive, all-terrain tires and other upgrades are available for the Pop Up and High Roof, too
Westfalia showed the off-road treatment for the Classic model, but the all-wheel-drive, all-terrain tires and other upgrades are available for the Pop Up and High Roof, too

As the base variant of the James Cook series, the Classic's stock roof limits sleeping space to the 56 x 81-in (142 x 207-cm) longitudinal double bed in the slide-out area, making the van a dedicated two-sleeper. The cabin layout remains the same as the pop-up variant, positioning a central kitchen block across from a wet bath just ahead of the rear bed. The kitchen includes a dual-burner gas stove, sink and 90-L refrigerator. A four-seat front dining area completes the layout, though we think the two-sleeper Classic would benefit from making the dual-seat dining bench optional, offering van life twosomes the opportunity to have extra floor space or storage rather than an unneeded bench. Other recent European camper vans have gone that route, and we think the Classic should follow suit.

The James Cook pop-top we covered in June is the mid-level option, leaving the High Roof as the flagship. The High Roof sleeps four on a combination of slide-out rear bed and 45 x 79-in (115 x 200-cm) longitudinal upper bed in the front of the bulging, Westfalia-built roof. The rest of the van layout remains the same.

The High Roof is the flagship of the James Cook series, offering space for four
The High Roof is the flagship of the James Cook series, offering space for four

All three James Cook models are among the first camper vans in the world to feature the option of an MBAC smart home control system developed in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz. Using the system, campers can control everything from lighting, to audio, to heat through three individual sources: the touchscreen in the camper living area, the infotainment touchscreen in the driver's cab or a connected mobile device.

The MBAC system in the James Cook easily controls various lights around the inside and outside of the camper
The MBAC system in the James Cook easily controls various lights around the inside and outside of the camper

We played around with Westfalia's system in Düsseldorf, and it felt very much like the initial version Mercedes showed on its concept van last year, a smooth, centralized control system with various menus for operating components and checking in on key metrics. It definitely feels like the future of van living, and we suspect more and more Sprinter-based camper vans will be including it as they debut this year and beyond, with other van manufacturers catching up with their own systems over time. With smartphone in hand, one could lie in the James Cook bed, whether in the rear or roof, and turn on the sound system, adjust the heating or switch the lights on/off, without ever having to get up.

All three James Cook vans are based on the 233-in (593-cm) Sprinter with 7,700-lb (3,500-kg) gross vehicle weight rating and 141-hp 2.2-liter CDI engine. Save for the particulars of their varying roof designs, the vans also share the same standard equipment package, including a heater/water boiler combo, 100-L fresh water tank, 78-L waste water tank and 95-Ah AGM battery.

The James Cook High Roof is the same length as the Classic and Pop Up but is the tallest of the three at 133 in (3,375 mm) high
The James Cook High Roof is the same length as the Classic and Pop Up but is the tallest of the three at 133 in (3,375 mm) high

The James Cook Classic starts at €74,900 (approx. US$82,650), the Pop Top at €79,900 (US$88,175) and the High Roof at €81,900 (US$90,375). Those prices sound reasonable enough for an expandable two- or four-sleeper camper van loaded with some of the latest available technologies, but options can quickly send them soaring. The ruggedized off-road Classic jumped up to €121,547 (US$134,150), after factoring in the €11,185 all-wheel drive, €4,850 Offroad package, €2,290 bike carrier and myriad other options.

Source: Westfalia (German)

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