While Volkswagen was exploring the Crafter camper van concept of the future, Knaus was busy moving its own Crafter-based camper van from concept to reality. After showing one of the first camper van conversions based on the new Crafter, the Saint & Sinner concept, Knaus has proceeded with the production Boxdrive camper, and it's no longer calling it a camper van but a CUV - that is, caravanning utility vehicle. We're not sure it breaks the mold into its own vehicle category, but the Boxdrive is a roomy, versatile VW camper van with tech in all the right places.
The Boxdrive First Edition lacks the extended size and conceptual flash of Volkswagen's own California XXL, but it does share a rather similar layout, with a front dinette, central kitchen and bathroom, and rear bed. It adds some practicality over the XXL in back, where the usual double doors are left intact, instead of replaced by the more limiting rear window/lower lift-gate on the extended upper bodywork of Volkswagen's concept. The Boxdrive's multi-position rear double bed can be raised to open up the storage space below, a feature similar to the rear bed system on the new Winnebago Revel van.
Knaus' bathroom is simpler than the California XXL's pull-out washroom compartment but is also an interesting space-saver with a similar footprint. In place of a full-time bathroom, Knaus has the kitchen/hall floor serve double duty as the shower floor. A circular door system closes off the entire bathroom for full, private access to the shower, toilet and sink, in effect dividing the front of the camper from the rear and incorporating a big chunk of kitchen/hall floor into the bathroom floor. A multi-color light provides a unique ambient experience inside the shower room.
There's also a straight sliding door to separate the shower room from the toilet room, and the cassette toilet swivels for better fit. The sink has two different modes, pulling out and flipping over from a compact hand sink to a longer wash basin that extends over the toilet. Much like the VW California XXL, the Boxdrive bathroom has a side cabinet door that swivels out to work as an out-facing vanity mirror.
The kitchen located across from the bathroom includes a dual-burner stove, sink and 90-liter refrigerator with freezer. The refrigerator's night mode keeps it quieter and saves energy during the wee hours. LED lighting integrated directly into the cabinetry adds soft ambient light, and sink and stove covers and a flip-up extension increase worktop space.
The dinette set includes a two-seat front-facing bench and swivel front cab seats set around a rotating table with extension leaf. The two-seat bench extends in width for more personal space, and the dinette can be equipped optionally to convert into a single bed, completing the total interior sleeping capacity of three.
The interior maintains a comfortable temperature with help from a Truma Combi diesel heater/boiler. A 95Ah AGM battery powers onboard electrical equipment like the LED lights and trios of 230V and 12V outlets. A 4.3-in touchscreen provides battery monitoring and control of certain onboard functions.
Basing your camper around the latest van model creates an advantage from the moment it pulls out of the garage. The base 22.3-foot (6.8-m) VW Crafter below the Boxdrive First Edition comes standard with a suite of driver-assistance features, such as cross wind assist, lane departure warning, park assist, traffic monitoring with emergency city braking, rear-view camera, hill climb assist and more. It also has a standard 8-in touchscreen "Discover Media" sat-nav infotainment system, fatigue recognition system and digital radio. A 138-hp 2.0-liter TDI engine and six-speed manual drive the front wheels, and a 174-hp TDI and eight-speed automatic are available as options.
Knaus debuted the new Boxdrive at the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon a few weeks ago. It will launch as a 150-model First Edition that slides in at a base price of €79,990 (approx. US$94,500). The First Edition will presumably give way to a standard production model with similar design.
If you don't get turned off by the cheesy parts (valeting your camper van at your favorite downtown nightclub, anyone?), you can get a better feel for the Boxdrive's layout and features from the video presentation below, though to be honest, you'll learn more by watching a third-party video from the show floor, like this one, which really helped us verify how the bathroom actually works.