Bimobil transforms the Mercedes Sprinter into compact, rugged expedition vehicle
The Sprinter isn't necessarily the Mercedes-Benz platform that immediately comes to mind when we think rugged, AWD expedition vehicle. Those types of vehicles usually find a home atop Unimog, Zetros or maybe G-Wagen underpinnings, leaving the Sprinter for pavement-centric camper van designs. In fact, Mercedes has said that the Sprinter is the number one base vehicle for luxury camper vans, not exactly a description that makes one think of muddy tracks and rocky hill climbs. That said, German camper manufacturer Bimobil has managed to create a convincingly tough expedition vehicle by planting its own living module on top of an AWD Sprinter chassis. This is one Sprinter that can travel and camp virtually anywhere in the world.
Based on the models we've seen up close in the past – like the EX 345 – Bimobil doesn't mess around when it designs an expedition vehicle. The Sprinter-based EX 366 is the newest member of its expedition lineup, having launched for the 2014/2015 season.
Bimobil secures its rugged "habitation cabin" directly to the Sprinter 4x4's chassis, a configuration that it says cuts chassis torsion during bumpy, off-road driving. This helps the EX 366 explore paths that could leave a more traditional camper van crippled and crying. The separate habitation module also helps to improve insulation over that of a standard-spec van, cutting out the interior connection with the driver cab, minus a lockable pass-through door, and putting 45-mm (1.8-in) thick walls and 60-mm (2.4-in) flooring between the cozy cabin and the howling cold outside.
The 78.9-sq ft (7.33-sq m), two-person living cabin is snug but fully functional for long travels. It includes an innovative Froli-spring bed that can be used as a single or doubled in capacity by way of a slide-out mechanism that extends it across one side of the dinette. Interestingly, Bimobil says that the slide-out mechanism is designed to be quiet and simple enough that it can be deployed without waking someone sleeping on the rear-most single bed. So the second occupant can enjoy full use of the dinette set for eating, working, reading, etc, then pull out his or her side of the bed when ready to retire, all without disturbing a mate sleeping on the other half of the double bed. Alternatively, the second occupant can keep the bed pulled out and still use the front-most dinette seat.
Across from the two-person dining platform with slide-adjustable table, the kitchen area includes a two-burner stove, stainless steel sink, 110L (29 US gal) compressor fridge, cutlery drawer and storage trays. At the front of the cabin, a bathroom compartment provides a shower basin, enameled steel sink, swiveling Thetford cassette toilet and shelf space. The corner opposite the bathroom is occupied by a wardrobe closet.
The EX 366 comes standard with a 6-kW Truma diesel heater, 80L fresh water tank, 10L hot water heater, 100L waste water tank and 20L LPG gas tank. A 120Ah AGM battery powers the interior lighting, and the vehicle offers three 12V sockets and two 220V outlets. In addition to the aforementioned storage, the design includes under-seat storage, roof lockers and a rear trunk compartment. Five windows and two skylights connect occupants with the great outdoors, and the entryway makes for easy entry and exit with two integrated step and an electrically retractable stair.
Bimobil presented the EX 366 at last year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon and showed it again at last month's CMT camper show. The camper is based on the Sprinter 316 with 161-hp (120-kW) TDI engine but can also be equipped to the Sprinter 319 with 188-hp (140-kW) TDI. Bimobil offers two interior package options: solid spruce framing with fir wood ply panels or "Luminum 2000," which combines aluminum door panels with maple frames and maple-veneered furniture. Prices start at €99,800 (US$113,000).