Fiat gives camper vans more grip with the all-new Ducato 4x4
Three out of every four camper vans sold in Europe stands on Fiat Ducato underpinnings, making the Ducato the camper king of European roadways. Now Fiat aims to make it equally at home on the swaths and ribbons of off-road that stretch through the Swiss Alps, Dolomites and beyond. The Fiat Ducato 4x4 on show now at the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon gives van lifers better all-weather, all-terrain footing for exploring farther, year-round. It's a van so tough, they got Chuck Norris to advertise it.
Fiat Professional first played with the idea of a new Ducato 4x4 at the 2015 Düsseldorf show, where it showed the Ducato 4x4 Expedition Show Van. Now, it's readying the new 4WD Ducato for production. It started showing a Ducato 4x4 concept earlier this year at motocross and media events and is giving the van a more official debut at this week's Düsseldorf show.
Since developing the fifth-generation Ducato that launched in 2006, Fiat has made motorhome conversion an integral piece of the Ducato's design. The new 4x4 system follows suit, its hardware mounted to the side of the underbody so as not to present unnecessary challenges to converters.
The permanent 4WD features two transfer cases and an automatic viscous coupling designed to transfer torque between the front and rear axles, maintaining traction through wet pavement, shifty sand and gloppy mud. The 4WD system also works with safety aids like the electronic stability control, helping to maintain traction through different conditions and challenges. Fiat says this cooperation will improve handling when the camper cabin is fully loaded.
While the Ducato has been known best as a front-wheel drive van since its debut in 1981, the new Ducato 4x4 is not the first of its kind. Fiat previously developed a 4x4 option around the time it introduced the second-generation Ducato in 1990. That system was created with the help of Steyr-Daimler-Puch, the same Austrian company that worked on the more well-known Volkswagen Syncro 4WD.
To provide some visual evidence of how big a Ducato 4x4 can be for the motorhome market, Fiat has revamped the 2015 Expedition show van into the Ducato 4x4 Expedition 2017 Show Vehicle. We would have expected the company to spend at least a few minutes of those two years coming up with a punchier name, but we guess the flashy van makes a lasting enough impression on its own, name be damned.
Much like a concept car moving to a production model, the Ducato 4x4 Expedition 2017 has been toned down from the previous version, showing a more road-oriented spec. The off-road tires have been replaced with a more road-friendly set that will undoubtedly have less rumble on the highway. Also gone are the front skid plate and winch.
The changes result in a van that looks more like a road tourer than an off-road expedition van, but not completely. The new paint job announces "4x4 Expedition" loudly on the sides, and the roof rack with its dirt bike tire holder and front auxiliary lights hints at 4x4-backed off-road adventure – still not quite as much as the 2015 van, but enough to let you know it's a new breed of Ducato camper van.
The photos of dirt bikers flying high over top the van make us conclude it's more of an adventure-support van designed to navigate dusty washboard roads to the trail head or competition, whereas the 2015 van felt more like a camper engineered for aimless off-road expeditions and silent, starry nights miles from neighbors without hooves or fur.
Fiat's photo gallery does not include a tour of the interior, but from the one photo that shows a glimpse inside the rear load doors, it appears the cabin is purposed more for carrying and working on bikes than for living in, though there could be a modular folding bed or kitchen block hiding in there somewhere.
The 2017 Expedition van is merely an advertising vehicle to get motorhome shoppers and converters thinking about the type of "utmost freedom" and "extreme adventure" a Ducato 4x4 will bring, so we're not going to concern ourselves too much with further specifications. The big story is the Ducato 4x4, which will come with the full spectrum of Ducato MultiJet2 engine options, from the 115-hp 2.0-liter to the 180-hp 2.3-liter. And though Fiat has debuted the 4x4 option in a very motorhome-focused way, it will make it available on the full spectrum of Ducato van and truck offerings.
Oh yeah, about Chuck Norris ... while Fiat was gearing up for Ducato 4x4 launch a few months back, it was also putting out its new ad campaign. You can get a taste right now.
Source: Fiat Professional