The 2017 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon wrapped up last weekend, the lights going dark on a highly intriguing collection of world premieres, high-tech concept campers, massive off-road expedition vehicles, equally massive car-hauling road tourers, multi-purpose trailers, and other campers and glampers of all shapes and sizes. There were many highlights, and we've done our best to trim the list down to the very best of the best.
Concepts lay a path toward the campground of the future
Some of the technologies currently influencing the design direction of automobiles have just as much potential to influence the motorhome of the future. Imagine a motorhome that seats you behind large panoramic glass while autonomously driving you down the highway. And at camp, it expands into a roomier, more functional space and relies on a large lithium-ion battery fed by high-efficiency solar panels to power the comforts of home. Okay, maybe that's not really "roughing it," but it will certainly appeal to many glampers, sightseers and vacationers.
We didn't see anything quite as advanced as a self-driving, expandable, solar-powered camper in Düsseldorf this year, but some concepts did bring us a step or two closer. The Dethleffs e.home concept showed what an all-electric Type C motorhome with a full-body solar charging array could look like, and the Volkswagen California XXL showed how clever design innovations could open up living space at the campground.
Our favorite concept of the show brought together expandable design and sustainable energy. Clever on several levels, the sCarabane caravan from Green Cat Technologies packs up into a large but manageable caravan for towing, then essentially triples in floor size at camp while opening up several systems built to efficiently harvest natural energy. A 360-degree rotational system tracks the sun for more efficient solar charging and hot water management, and a retractable wind turbine turns breezy afternoons into usable power. Beyond being smart and virtually self-sustaining, the sCarabane looks like a super-comfy place to spend time, featuring a large deck, indoor/outdoor bar, two separate bedrooms, and residential-style conveniences like a dishwasher and washing machine.
The sCarabane is just a concept for now, and there's no guarantee it will ever become a reality, but hopefully at the very least we'll see some of its smarter solutions make their way into the greater industry.
Luxuries of the present
Concepts painted a picture of a luxurious and comfortable RVing future, but there are plenty of ultra-luxe motorhomes and caravans at dealerships now. If you read our coverage of the Variomobil Signature 1200, got to the base price of €773,500 (approx. US$930K), and thought, I like that but I'd like to see what kind of car-carrying luxury bus twice that money can buy, you're in luck - the Volkner Mobil Performance S gives you a very good idea.
For starters, €1,465,000 of Volkner price tag gets you a mid-mounted car garage in place of the rear garage on the Variomobil, so the weight from the BMW i8 or Porsche you're bringing along is concentrated low and center. The Performance S also has a much larger electrical system with 1700 amp-hours of battery storage and 1,200 watts of solar, interior comfort guaranteed by five heaters and three air conditioners, and driver cab seats that look as comfortable as TV room recliners. All those amenities will definitely make you forget that you're on the road, but the most expensive motorhome of Düsseldorf 2017 will cost you several times the price of a pretty nice house.
Truth be told, the Variomobil Signature 1200 from Düsseldorf is actually much closer in price to the Performance S than its base price would have you believe, coming in around €1.1 million as displayed, according to a press release put out by the Caravan Salon folks. The Performance S price is quoted for the model on show.
Over the river and through the woods
Unlike the off-road machines of mayhem at US's Overland Expo, Germany's Abenteuer & Allrad or Australia's Melbourne 4x4 Show, Düsseldorf's focus is overwhelmingly on road-touring motorhomes and caravans. However, there are generally some all-terrain vans and stretched expedition motorhomes mixed in, and they tend to be among the most impressive vehicles in attendance. Fiat revealed some good news for conversion shops looking to bring to life more rugged Ducato-based camper vans, and expedition vehicle badges like Bimobil and Action Mobil displayed some of the roughest, toughest members of their fleets.
Action Mobil showed the latest in its long line of oversized expedition trucks, the Atacama 5800. Named for its 5,800-mm camper body length, the Atacama 5800 is not quite as dramatic as the six-wheeled Global XRS 7200, the 5800 driving on but four wheels powered by a 440-hp engine. That doesn't mean it skimps on comfort, though, with equipment like an induction cooktop, Bose sound system, 960-watt solar charging, electric oven, floor heating, and air conditioning making the jungle, desert or savanna nearly as hospitable as a city luxury apartment. At night, the bed all scrunched up against the rear wall extends electrically over top the dinette to provide room to stretch out. The Atacama 5800 prices in around €170,000.
Like other Action Mobils we've seen, the Atacama 5800 can carry a motorbike on a lift on its back. But if you want an Action Mobil that carries a four-wheeled vehicle around sand and mud the way a Volkner or Variomobil carries one on pavement, you'll need to step up to a larger Atacama, like the 7900 pictured right above. The forest-green Suzuki Jimny looks good emerging from that rear cave, but we can't help but imagine something more like a kitted-out Suzuki Samurai or Polaris RZR in its place, creating a gorgeous picture of unfettered 4x4 fun. Not quite as fun but still cool, the video clip below shows the car lift in action.
Camping all blown up
While not a new phenomenon, inflatable construction has been gaining more visibility in the tent and RV markets in recent years, with brands like Crua creating impressive inflatable tents and others like Opus adding auto-inflation to camping trailers. In Düsseldorf, Austria's Gentletent, known for its inflatable ground and vehicle annex tents, lifted inflatable design up to the car roof.
Gentletent has prepared several inflatable roof-top tent models, and we're particularly fond of the pickup truck version that extends tent walls on the sides of the bed to create an above-ground annex room just below the roof-mounted sleeping area. We don't have all the details on that model (picture just below the paragraph), but the more basic, less vehicle type-specific GT Roof tent shown in blue above pairs an inflatable body with an inflatable floor and weighs just 44 lb (20 kg), well less than hard-framed roof-top tent weights we've seen. Set-up takes about five minutes. The tent retails for €2,299 euro and Gentletent plans to start deliveries in October.
Since it's visible in that same first Gentletent photo, we'll also mention that the all-new B Turtle inflatable bike camping trailer debuted at the show. We're hoping to get a little more information about this one and run a full article, but what we do know is that it hauls cargo behind a bike or e-bike and inflates into a two-sleeper complete with annex.
Tiny and towable living
Knaus Tabbert always seems to have something special in store for Düsseldorf, as evidenced by past concepts like the Caravisio and Travelino. This year it focused on its latest production models, and its Deseo 400 TR caravan was a definite eye catcher.
Part toy hauler, part camper, the Deseo loads two motorcycles (or a few bicycles, boards, whatever) through its full-width lift-gate, unloads them at camp, then folds and pulls into a cozy little backwoods apartment. Knaus describes previous Deseo models as transporters with living accommodations but frames the latest redesign as more a well-equipped camper with transporting capabilities. The new model seats up to five people, sleeps up to four on a combination of convertible sofa and lifting bed, and includes a kitchen and bathroom. At camp, that large lift-gate becomes a very effective way of inviting fresh air and scenic views into the living room and can also serve as the roof of a tented annex. The new Deseo 400 TR starts at €20,900.
The highlights definitely don't end there. This year's show was packed with new and intriguing motorhome and caravan designs, along with interesting hardware and accessories. You'll find all that, along with more angles of the models featured above, in our full photo gallery.