Volkswagen drops the van and chases adventure with a different breed of camper
The Volkswagen badge is inextricably linked to #vanlife and the very concept of open road freedom and adventure. That'll only keep rolling with all-new camper vans that are every bit as compelling as the classics. In a slight departure, VW is parking the van in the garage and journeying out in a very different style of adventure rig. A combination of ruggedized VW Atlas and mountain bike-topped off-road expedition trailer, the all-new Atlas Basecamp Concept pulls the road trip off-road, unearthing tracks and trailheads less traveled.
As popular as the concept of camper van travel is right now, there's definitely something to be said about ditching the van for an SUV + trailer. You can start off with a utility vehicle more capable than any van and gain some towable storage rather than sacrificing passenger/cargo capacity to camper equipment. Upon arrival, you can quickly decouple car from home, leaving the trailer behind for lighter, nimbler day trips.
The Basecamp capitalizes on those advantages to chase adventure wherever it's lurking. The brainchild of Alex Earle, the exterior design manager at VW's California design center and an avid cyclist himself, the Basecamp design was specifically driven by the world of endurance mountain biking. It's optimized for reaching distant trailheads, where it serves as a comfy shelter to loop back to after leaving tens or hundreds of miles of mountain bike tire track in the dirt.
"The Basecamp Concept brings a go-anywhere attitude to the brand that is already synonymous with road-trip culture," Earle says.
Volkswagen of America started off with an Atlas SEL Premium with 276-hp 3.6-liter V6 engine and 4Motion all-wheel drive, optimizing the large SUV for off-pavement bike-shuttling duties. An H&R lift kit with coil-over springs increases ride height by 1.5 in (3.8 cm) to help clear obstacles, while 265/70R17 all-terrain tires provide stabilizing bite on shifty ground. Fifteen52 Traverse MX concept wheels make their debut on the Basecamp, previewing a design expected to hit the market later this year. The concept rig also wears a custom body kit, Front Runner roof rack with bike holders, and front and rear LED off-road light bars.
The real highlight of the Basecamp build rides behind the Atlas' rear bumper – an EX off-road expedition trailer built by Salt Lake City's Hive Campers. The burly, little squaredrop keeps a legit 60 x 80-in (152 x 203-cm) queen-size bed on hand wherever the road and dirt take you, also bringing along a slide-out kitchen, portable toilet, retractable awning and hot shower. The trailer's wheels and tires are matched to the Atlas.
The Atlas Basecamp will start life like a fish out of water when it debuts at this week's New York International Auto Show, given that the traffic-choked thoroughfares of Manhattan are hardly its natural habitat. It'll eventually find its way to more fitting environs at SEMA 2019 in November.