Hymer builds the ultimate Mercedes camper van for adventurous van life couples
Follow camping or travel at all and it's almost impossible to wander Instagram or YouTube without stumbling on them – the mid/late-20s, attractive #vanlife couple exploring the world in a garage-made conversion, often flashing a little man bun or some strategically positioned cleavage. Scarily enough, future generations of these instafamous nomads will be able to skip the build and get out road-tripping and exposing flesh and follicles that much more quickly. Set to move from concept to reality this year, Hymer's DuoCar S has been thoroughly optimized for adventurous twosomes, roaming the world with a spacious floor plan, convertible rear bathroom and smart off-grid power system.
Like other RV manufacturers, Hymer took notice years ago of the now well-established trend of more and more young couples and singles camping and shacking up in vans for extended periods of time. So the German RV giant set about designing the ideal two-sleeper camper van. The stuffy suits in corporate certainly didn't have the hubris to believe they had the perfect formula, so they started the process by surveying the type of young and adventurous motorhome enthusiast they were gunning for. Not surprisingly, the theme that came up again and again: more space!
Hymer got to work moving furniture and optimizing space the best it could inside a Mercedes Sprinter, presenting the DuoCar concept van at the 2017 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon. The van boasted a clever dry bathroom with quick-convert fixtures, plenty of sleeping legroom on a convertible longitudinal bed, and an all-around more open, spacious interior without the clutter you find in other vans. In short, a camper van for nomadic millennial domestic partners suffering from the pulsating burn of a travel bug bite.
The original 2017 DuoCar concept was based on a second-generation Sprinter, quickly distinguishable by its tall, large headlights
Why build a brand-new camper on an aging van? There's no reason to when Mercedes-Benz is about to drop its latest and greatest. Hymer built the concept on a generation-2 Sprinter, but last year's gen-3 Sprinter got to market just in time for the production DuoCar S. Hymer is now able to complement its all-new, couple-optimized camper floor plan with the latest in Mercedes van technology, making for a much better product plan than new camper, old van.
The 593-cm-long (233-in) DuoCar S' general floor plan remains largely the same as the concept's, but there have been a few notable changes and a whole lot of polishing between rough design study and dealership-ready production motorhome.
The element of the DuoCar design that strays farthest from the typical European Class B, including Hymer's own Sprinter-based Grand Canyon S, is the central bed that replaces the more common rear bed. The reasoning is twofold: repurpose the rear into a full-width bathroom and still have enough room left over for a full 200-cm-long (79-in) longitudinal mattress that doesn't threaten to bend knees or scrunch toes all night. On the downside, it does appear the bed might scrunch elbows and shoulders because it stretches well short of the 203-cm (80-in) width of the van due to the kitchen block across the aisle.
The DuoCar S' mid-bed design also eliminates the flared boxes in the exterior window line necessary to accommodate a transverse rear bed (as can be seen on the Grand Canyon S). This means an overall sleeker, stealthier profile, which Hymer complements with tinted, glazed windows all around and flanks unmarred by numerous or oversized hook-up hatches.
The bed is able to occupy the heart of the van without interrupting daily flow by compacting into a sofa during the day. Hymer promises conversion is a quick, easy process, and it even adds a dedicated storage space for bed linens and pillows so they can be easily removed, stored away and accessed again at night. The adjustable table up front turns the sofa into a dining bench and also appears positioned to work with the swivel driver cab seats.
In back, the rear bathroom design has changed from the one on the original DuoCar concept. Instead of splitting the van-width space neatly into shower and toilet rooms, Hymer creates a roomy single shower/toilet/dressing room with integrated wardrobe. With a recessed shower floor and slide-out hardware, the toilet pulls in and out of a compartment below the wardrobe, freeing up more space in the shower. The sink basin folds away for the same reason. Campers can also shower outdoors.
We think the original DuoCar bathroom layout with split shower and toilet cells would be more of a boost to longterm relationship health, but we guess Hymer preferred to open things up a little more. Either way, the DuoCar S bathroom certainly looks more functional than the average cramped wet cell.
Back in the belly of the van, Hymer adds a 2-m-long (6.5-ft) kitchen worktop that it calls the longest in the entire camper van segment. To accommodate that extra countertop, it drops the 70-L compressor fridge/freezer down under the counter, rather than stand it next to the kitchen block, a move that also eliminates a wall with the effect of opening up the greater living area for a more spacious feel. The kitchen also packs a dual-burner gas stove, sink and flip-up counter extension.
The DuoCar S is equipped to unplug completely from the grid, carrying a self-sufficient power concept for journeys that entail farther, more remote destinations. The interior heater taps into the same 93-L diesel tank running the 143-hp CDI engine. The available Smart Battery System supplements the standard lead-acid battery with a 135-Ah lithium battery, combining the charging and storage advantages of lithium with the lower price of lead-acid. The batteries store energy in parallel, relying on an intelligent control system to manage energy in a way that increases self sufficiency and system lifespan. Hymer estimates that campers can remain off grid for roughly 9.5 days when using the system.
In terms of polishing the DuoCar into production form, Hymer replaces the clinical-white furniture and joinery with warmer "Chiavenna walnut," rounds off some corners, adds some extra storage and generally turns it into a more inviting, livable space. It also deletes the unnecessary driver-side sliding door that was behind the concept's sofa-bed. You can compare concept to production van more closely in our photo gallery.
Other standard DuoCar S features include a 100-L fresh water tank, 85-L waste water tank, 3-kg gas canister, and driver-assistance features such as active brake assist and crosswind assist. Buyers can add a pop-up roof to sleep four or create a separate bedroom and eliminate the need to convert the sofa every morning and night. Other options include engines up to 190 hp, all-wheel drive, Distronic active distance assist, a 10.3-in MBUX infotainment system with voice control, and a 32-in TV.
Hymer revealed the DuoCar S at its annual press conference last week and will hold a greater world premiere at this year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon in August/September, where it will announce additional information, including pricing. The van will be available starting in late 2019. New Atlas will be attending Düsseldorf again this year and will be stopping by Hymer's booth for more details and a closer look at the van.
Unfortunately for our North American readers and camper van enthusiasts, while Hymer did appear to be establishing a foothold in the American market, helping to grow the availability of European-inspired camper vans like the Carado Axion Studio and Hymer Aktiv 2.0 Loft, it turned out to be something of smoke and mirrors. The North American branch was carved out of Thor Industry's acquisition of Hymer Group earlier this year, after the discovery of financial irregularities, and it went into receivership shortly thereafter. France's Rapido Group (which owns the iconic Westfalia brand) swooped in to save longstanding Canadian brand Roadtrek from the fiasco, but the window for sweet, new American camper vans inspired by Hymer's European models seems nailed firmly shut.