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