Karmann's Ford Transit 4x4 camper van opens the gate to adventure
The 2018 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon was packed with camper vans of all lengths and heights. The vast majority were aimed primarily at summer highway driving, and those that had any off-road ambitions greater than rolling down a gravel campground driveway tended to be based on the Mercedes Sprinter 4x4. But we spotted an exception here and there, and the Karmann Dexter 560 4x4 was one of them. Based on an all-wheel-drive Ford Transit, this rugged three-sleeper adds extra traction and versatility for chasing big adventure.
The focus at Karmann's booth leaned more toward models like the new Danny 530, but the Dexter 560 4x4 and its shiny bull bar beckoned from the edges of the exhibit. The 560 stood out partly for its rugged look and partly because it's the single Ford Transit camper van in a Karmann lineup dominated by Fiat vans. Even other Dexter models are Fiats underneath.
Ford doesn't currently offer a 4x4 Transit option in its home market, leaving the Mercedes Sprinter as the only available factory 4x4 van in the US. Over in Europe, though, it offers an intelligent all-wheel drive system with AWD auto and AWD lock modes.
Throw that AWD system in a 235-in (598-cm) Transit with 129-hp 2.0-liter engine and you have the base of the Dexter 560 4x4, which also packs standard ABS, electronic stability program with Traction+ and Hill Descend, and cruise control. A 168-hp engine, premium audio system, touchscreen navigation, front and rear parking assistant, and other features are available as upgrades.
Inside its insulated van cabin, the Dexter 560 4x4 offers a fully equipped layout with rear transverse 74 x 53-in (187 x 135-cm) double bed. There's no pop-top on this Karmann, but a transverse single bed can be fitted together like a puzzle from the convertible dining area, providing 68 x 43 in (172 x 108 cm) of sleeping space.
Between the rear bed and dining area, the 560 4x4 packs in a wet bath with cassette toilet, shower and sink. Just across the hall, the kitchen keeps food stocked and sizzling with an under-counter 80-L compressor fridge and dual-burner stove. The kitchen block also includes storage drawers and a sink with fold-down faucet. Flush tops over the sink and stove provide additional work space.
The 560 4x4's faucets are hooked to a 100-L fresh water tank, and there's also a 100-L waste water tank on the other end of the insulated plumbing system. The 75-Ah battery powers onboard electrical equipment and can be tapped into via 12V, 230V and USB outlets. A Truma Combi 6EH heater warms both the cabin and the water.
The Dexter 560 4x4 seats four during the drive and has an added non-belted seat across from the dining bench that can be used when stationary. That seat also serves as an end support for the convertible bed. As in so many other European market camper vans, the middle of the rear bed folds away, providing pass-through storage for longer gear.
We're not seeing the bull bar in any of the official photos or on the full options list in Karmann's brochure, so we're left to believe that it was an aftermarket add for the show model – a pretty effective one, if our experience is any indication.
The Dexter 560 4x4 starts at €51,980 (approx. US$58,875), roughly €8,000 ($9,060) above the 2WD Transit-based, four-sleeper Dexter 560.