One of the largest, most expensive new motorhomes to make its debut at the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon that wrapped up over the weekend, the bus-sized Variomobil Signature 1200 drives to camp under 523 hp of Mercedes engine power. But it can also carry an additional 450 hp or so of Mercedes V8 might, housing the likes of a Mercedes SL roadster, Porsche 911 or Mini Cooper in its rear garage. So you can park the big motorhome at camp and get around with a much more agile vehicle for the remainder of the trip.
Though most of the motorhomes we cover are much too small to carry additional vehicles on board, we are quite aware that these behemoths exist. We were fascinated by Volkner's roadster trays back in 2008, and sports car- and ATV-swallowing motorhome designs were among the more memorable highlights of our Caravan Salon 2013 visit.
Variomobil is another German designer of large and larger car carrier motorhomes, and its Signature 1200 adds an all-new option to its line-up. The 39-ft (12-m), three-axle, 6x2 Mercedes Actros-based motorhome is impressive the minute you see it and only more so when you learn of the 523-hp six-cylinder turbo diesel motivating road trips of all lengths and styles. It also features a steerable trailing axle for improved maneuverability, air suspension, and driver-assistance technologies like lane departure alert, active braking assist and available 360-degree camera system.
The most impressive part of the new 1200 comes at the rear, where you can pop open the tailgate and slide a sports car in and out on the hydraulic ramp. Variomobil offers three optional garage sizes, from the base version built to accommodate a Smart fortwo, up to an "XXL" fit to house a Porsche 911, Mercedes SL or Mini Cooper. While an onboard garage might seem a like an excessive novelty, we have to imagine it's quite nice to have a transportation option beyond "huge, cumbersome tour bus" on a road trip or camping holiday, especially if there are some winding, scenic roads nearby.
Inside the Signature 1200's insulated fiberglass cabin, the living quarters are guaranteed to be luxurious, but their specific layout and spec will be guided heavily by each individual customer. Available furnishings and equipment include a touchscreen-controlled induction cooktop, 190-L refrigerator, dishwasher, full bathroom with mineral stone sink, LED TV with satellite, Bose audio system, washer/dryer, leather upholstery, real wood veneers, and microprocessor-controlled ambient lighting. The cabin sleeps four to six people and includes the option of a pull-down bed that stores above the two or four captain's chairs in the driver cab.
Variomobil's sample floor plan includes an open living area just behind the driver cab, a kitchen across from a small dinette, a bathroom and a rear bedroom, moving front to back. The standard side pneumatic slide-out opens up the living area, and additional slide-outs are available to further increase interior space.
Standard and available systems and capacities include a dual 170-Ah battery-based electrical system, up to 420 watts of solar panels, a diesel generator or fuel cell and a 500-L fresh water tank. Gas heating and hot water are standard, and air conditioning, floor heating systems and diesel hot water heaters are available optionally.
The new Signature 1200 is quite obviously not the RV for every buyer, but for those that can look at the €773,500 (approx. US$922K) base price without twitching, the Signature 1200 is sure to be one of the more comfortable, well-equipped ways to glamp around the fjords of Scandinavia, peaks of the Alps or blue waters of the Mediterranean Coast. The options list includes items as expensive as €40K, so the price can climb quite quickly from the base – according to a Caravan Salon press release, the model on show was optioned up to around €1.1 million (US$1.3 million).