Winnebago's new off-grid camper van serves up adaptable adventure
This year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon reinforced yet again that Europe is #1 when it comes to pushing camper van design forward ... and the competition's not really close. Still, the North American camper van market has been showing some signs of life. Winnebago has taken a lead among major brands, innovating new vans like the rugged Revel 4x4 and lithium-powered Boldt. Now it launches a versatile, feature-packed all-season adventure-chaser for everyone from weekend warriors, to full-time van lifers, to active families. The pop-up Solis packs in a load of features, including a folding bed/workstation, standard solar charging, multipurpose rear annex, and all-season "surf-to-slope" livability.
As with the Revel, Winnebago does some following and some leading with the all-new 234-in (594-cm) Solis. The overall floor plan and foldaway rear bed/garage are already a well-established market category in Europe, where you'll find many near-identical floor plans in vans like the Hymer Free series and La Strada Regent S. While Winnebago merely borrows this well-known floor plan, it adds some innovations you don't see on other vans.
The rear load area is the most versatile part of the van, optimized for gear-dependent activities like surfing and biking. Rather than a fancy power-lift bed like the Revel, Winnebago keeps things simple and functional with the foldaway rear bed. Owners can stow the bed against the sidewall during the drive, pack in bikes, skis, surfboards or even just a towering pile of luggage, and unload or reshuffle cargo at camp to drop the transverse 59 x 77-in (150 x 196-cm) double bed into place at night. For extra storage, the false floor below the bed is actually a built-in storage compartment covered in a non-slip surface.
Winnebago may copy the bed style from major European brands, but it also adds a nice, little feature perfect for all-American #vanlife. Secured to the bed's underside, a fold-down work desk/table gives campers an Instagram-worthy seat looking directly out the double doors. Reverse up to water's or clifftop's edge, pull up a folding camp chair and enjoy big, scenic inspiration while tapping away at the keyboard. The movable table can attach up and down the length of the folded bed frame and can even work as an extra kitchen counter.
A final handy feature at the back of the Solis van is the quick-set-up annex. A pair of poles flip up off the doors and lock together to simultaneously hold the doors open so they don't smash a leg or finger and hang the multipurpose curtain. The curtain hooks to the pole and sticks to the sides of the van magnetically, working as an outdoor changing room or shower room in conjunction with the water hookup. Thanks to its integrated magnets, it can also quickly secure to the top of the van to create a simple sun awning. Pull the curtain off and the pole can be used to hang clothes out to dry.
When the weather isn't a cooperative partner for outdoor clothes drying, there's another option. The Solis borrows the Revel's dual-purpose heated wet bathroom/drying room design, complete with a closet rod. With the addition of available Winnebago shelves or DIY versions, integrated shelf supports turn the bathroom into a storage closet when it's not actively being used as a bathroom.
Another design loan from modern European camper vans, the dinette positions a removable table between a dual-seat bench with seatbelts and swivel driver cab seats. The round, swiveling dining table is a separate unit from the bed frame-mounted rear table, providing plenty of tabletop for work and play space.
The kitchen is a straightforward design with dual-burner stove, indoor/outdoor-access compressor fridge, sink and slide-out worktop/cutting board. One standout feature is the water meter, an illuminated tube standing the height of the kitchen block, marked off for a precise reading of how much fresh water is in the 79.5-L tank.
Winnebago's first camper van with pop-up roof, the Solis sleeps and seats a total of four people. Families of six can opt for the rear convertible sofa-bed in place of the fold-away bed, adding two extra seats with seatbelts. Those two extra people will have to camp in a tent, though, or things will get really cozy inside.
Designed as an all-season adventure van, the Solis is insulated and plumbed with winter use in mind, and the water hookups are located on a panel inside the rear doors, rather than on the outside of the van. A Truma Combi Eco heater/water boiler keeps things at a comfortable temperature. Off-grid power comes from a 220-W solar panel mounted on the pop-top (upgradeable to 520 watts) and dual deep-cycle AGM batteries.
Other nice touches around the Solis include magnetic upper cabinet doors that swing up and stick to the roof so as to avoid accidental head clunks, integrated tie-off points on the outdoor entry step that can be used to secure a dog leash, a secondary outdoor wash station on the passenger side, and newly designed zippered window blackouts. The rear annex curtain can also be used inside, splitting driver cab from living area.
Like Winnebago's Travato, the new Solis is based on the Ram Promaster, the American version of the European motorhome-market-leading Fiat Ducato. The Solis slides well under the price of the US$117,500 Travato to become Winnebago's most affordable camper van with a starting MSRP of $100,667 before tax, title, license or delivery charges.
We're a bit disappointed that the Solis, a van that seems perfect for young, adventurous campers and travelers, many of whom are of modest means, still costs six figures, double the price of similar European camper vans and more than 40 percent more than the 2020 Pleasure-Way Tofino, another entry-level, American-market off-grid Promaster pop-top (that admittedly lacks a bathroom and some of the Solis' nicer features). Hopefully Winnebago has a simpler, five-figure Solis in its product plans, perhaps a two-sleeper with fixed roof.
And speaking of disheartening pricing, the Revel has jumped from $135,000 to $163,300 in two years' time.
Winnebago introduced the Solis at last week's annual Elkhart RV Dealer Open House. It hasn't released many photos yet, but the 28-minute video below provides a very thorough walkthrough. We've grabbed what screenshots we could for the photo gallery, showing some of the highlights of the van design.
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