Mercedes empowers smart-home-like camper vans and 4x4 adventure rigs
At last year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, Mercedes debuted the Sprinter Connected Home concept to highlight its new MBAC touchscreen and app control system built to turn Sprinter-based motorhomes into smart homes on wheels. A year later, some of the first production motorhomes with MBAC will make their world premieres, showing how Mercedes' latest vehicle tech can streamline #vanlife, both at crowded campgrounds and off the beaten path in the backcountry. Future campers will be able to control everything from temperatures, to lighting, to audio, to pop-up roofs from a touch display or smartphone.
With its sights on the motorhome conversion market-dominating Fiat Ducato, Mercedes designed layouts and features of the third-generation Sprinter specifically for motorhomes. A standout among those features is the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Control (MBAC) system, which gives motorhome converters the technological tools to create a smart home-style environment inside a camper van or larger motorhome.
Smart-home-style touchscreens, including Eriba's Smart Home system and VW's new California touchscreen, have been emerging in motorhome and caravan construction, and the Mercedes MBAC goes a step further than others by tying together the driver cab and living area. The system allows campers to control and monitor virtually every critical camping feature via the MBUX infotainment display, a dedicated camper touchscreen behind the B-pillars and an accompanying mobile app.
Occupants can use the touchscreens or connected mobile device to deploy and retract the power awning outside, raise and close the pop-up roof, control the audio system, adjust the lighting, regulate the refrigerator temperature, adjust the interior temperature, and deploy and retract the exterior step. They can also shut off key components like the drainage and gas valves. The system also offers a one-stop monitoring solution for gas level, temperatures, battery level, water levels and solar charging status.
As part of the infotainment package, Mercedes also launches the "Me Connect" suite for the first time in a Sprinter. This opens up standard, cost-free connected automotive services including maintenance management, remote vehicle diagnostics, and accident and breakdown management. Owners can also opt in on add-ons like in-vehicle Wi-Fi, vehicle monitoring and internet radio.
Mercedes didn't have the MBAC system finalized for the initial launch of the new Sprinter, so the first round of production gen-3 Sprinter camper vans that popped up at last year's Caravan Salon were lacking the tech, leaving only Mercedes' own concept vans to showcase it. It's since made the system available to select converters, and it announced this week that three of them will debut MBAC-equipped Sprinter motorhomes at the 2019 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon this month. We already previewed one of them, the expandable Westfalia James Cook, and the others will be the simply named Concept Van from Vmax Construction and the LBX 365 from Bimobil.
Interestingly, Bimobil specializes not in the type of stylish, city friendly camper vans in which you might expect to find a cutting-edge smart home system, but more in ruggedized expedition vehicles. But as we saw with Bliss Mobil's comprehensive domotics system, a connected control and monitoring system can be even more valuable when off-grid. It'll be interesting to see how Bimobil puts Mercedes' tech to use on something that looks like this:
That photo is the current Bimobil LBX 365 built atop a second-generation Sprinter. Classified an expedition vehicle designed for overland adventures, the LBX 365 rides on a Sprinter 4x4 chassis and features an alcove cabin built for long-term two-person journeys. It includes off-grid features like dual fresh water tanks (200L and 40L), a large 220Ah battery and a 100L compressor fridge.
Each converter will be able to implement the MBAC in its own way, so features and layout are likely to vary by brand. We look forward to learning more about the Vmax concept and seeing the differences and similarities between how different companies implement MBAC into different styles of vehicle.
Mercedes will make MBAC more widely available to Sprinter motorhome conversion customers by the end of the year.
While individual manufacturers will be showing the latest Sprinter camper vans and motorhomes, Mercedes' booth will host a new camper van of its own. The updated Marco Polo and Marco Polo Horizon debuted with the updated V-Class earlier this year, and to highlight its latest pop-tops, Mercedes will premiere the new Marco Polo ArtVenture special editions.
The ArtVenture package brings more color to road and camp with aquamarine roof fabric and three sporty graphics options with aquamarine accents. The special models also include matching interior decor and standard add-ons like a power lift-gate and ambient kitchen lighting. The ArtVenture package will be available on all three Marco Polo variants in October, at prices starting at €44,590 (approx. US$50,000) in Germany.
New Atlas will be attending this year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon and will spend time looking at these Mercedes-based campers, as well as the MBAC hardware. We'll bring back more details as soon as we have them.