Compact, Euro-inspired American camper van supports one- and two-person adventure
With all the European-market camper vans we've been looking at since the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, we know at least a few of our American readers have been hoping to see more vans closer to home. While the landscape is quite different in North America, a few major European brands do in fact have an American presence. One of the most recent market entries, Carado launched the compact Axion camper van last year. This one/two-sleeper van packs in an impressive suite of amenities, including a full bathroom, kitchen with microwave, and sofa lounge/mobile workstation.
Back in 2016, Germany's Erwin Hymer Group, a 24-brand leisure vehicle company whose marques include Hymercar, Bürstner and Dethleffs, entered the North American market with the purchase of Canadian camper van company Roadtrek. The company bulged even larger this past September when American recreational vehicle giant Thor Industries, whose brands include Airstream and Jayco, announced it was acquiring Erwin Hymer to create the world's largest RV manufacturer.
Erwin Hymer intends to operate under Thor as it had previously, which of late has included expanding its North American footprint by bringing over German/European brands like Hymer and Carado. In 2017, it launched the Carado Axion and Banff camper vans, both designed specifically for the North American market atop the Ram Promaster. These vans are quite different in layout and specification from Carado's European-market Vlow camper vans, also launched in 2017, but seem plenty functional for American couples and solo adventurers bitten by the #vanlife bug.
The Axion is the smaller of the two American-market Carado vans, measuring in at 17.75 ft (541 cm) long. That's right around the same size as the 17.7-ft (540-cm) Karmann Danny 530, which is notable because, like the Danny, the Axion includes a compact wet bath in the rear. The Axion's bathroom is a little more enclosed than the pop-top Danny bath thanks to a solid roof above, but it still falls short of a four-walled compartment. It's contained by a privacy sheet on the inside and the van double doors on the outside.
The lack of hard front and rear walls creates a pass-through bathroom space that lets campers slide in large items like surfboards. The bathroom itself includes a fold-down sink with pull-out faucet/shower head, toilet and shower basin floor.
What initially caught our attention about the Axion floor plan was its central convertible lounge, quite different from the transverse dining benches and rear sofa lounges we've been looking at on Euro-market vans. The Axion's lounge is centered around a longitudinal sofa on the driver's side, which converts at night into either a twin bed for a single camper or a double bed for a couple. So if your partner-in-crime is taking a break this trip and you're flying solo, you can just go with the simpler twin-bed conversion.
During the day, the lounge area is equally versatile. Mount a table at the front sofa corner for work and play, or mount it between the two swivel cab seats for a more conventional, face-to-face dining experience. An available pop-up computer desk attached to the kitchen block across from the other end of the sofa creates a workstation purpose-designed around punching keys on a laptop.
The kitchen area located just inside the sliding side door includes an indoor/outdoor 88-L fridge/freezer, dual-burner gas stove, sink and 700-W microwave. An extension panel increases work space.
The Axion comes with a standard Alde furnace/hot water heater hooked up to the 22-L propane tank. An 11,000-BTU roof-mounted air conditioner is also standard, as is a 105-Ah battery. Lithium batteries and a 200-watt solar system are available optionally.
The Axion is based on a 136-in (345-cm) wheelbase Ram Promaster 1500 with 280-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic. It offers 6.3 ft (1.9 m) of headroom and comes standard with an infotainment-nav system with Sirius XM and Bluetooth. Towing capacity is over 4,500 lb (2,040 kg), and the standard package includes a Class 5 hitch receiver. Water is held in a 67-L fresh and 83-L gray/black water tanks. Other notable features include an external propane hookup for a gas grill and an 11.5-ft (3.5-m) manual awning.
The Axion prices in at US$71,833 before options, and Carado is now offering a $3,000 incentive through the end of the year in hopes of clearing out its 2018 inventory. That price is comparable to the same-length Promaster-based Pleasure-Way Tofino we looked at a few weeks ago, but for a very different layout and package.
The five-minute video below walks you around and through the Carado Axion and highlights some of the more technical features we didn't get into above (e.g. hookup locations).