Westfalia's latest Volkswagen camper van literally grows to add foot room
The new VW Crafter has been finding its place in the camper van market, in production campers like the Knaus Boxdrive to wild concepts like Volkswagen's own California XXL. But there's no better indication that Volkswagen's latest full-size van has officially arrived on the camper van scene than a new package from Westfalia, the shop whose name will be forever intertwined with VW camper vans and buses. Westfalia turns the new Crafter into a smart, versatile camper with extendable bed, flexible storage and all the amenities you need to spend some time in nature.
While the second-generation Crafter that underpins the 2018 Sven Hedin is one of the latest vans on the market, the Sven Hedin itself isn't a new model. In fact, Westfalia has been building it since the 1970s, first on the VW LT, the Crafter's predecessor, and later on other vans like the Mercedes Sprinter. The new Sven Hedin capitalizes on the Crafter's impressive suite of driver-assistance technologies while fitting a bedroom, kitchen, indoor bathroom, dining area and plenty of storage inside.
The Crafter is large enough to inspire converters to add a full bathroom, unlike smaller campers in which the closest thing to a bathroom is a storage compartment for a portable toilet. However, it's not quite large enough to accommodate the bathroom and all the other fixins without a little extra strategy on laying out the interior.
In their respective Crafter campers, Volkswagen and Knaus address bathroom spacing with expandable bathroom compartments that extend out over the kitchen/hall floor space. Each uses a different system, but the idea is the same: grow the bathroom interior while in use, retract it back to free up space when not in use.
While Westfalia places its bathroom in the same place, amidships across from the kitchen, it uses a simpler, smaller fixed layout. A swivel toilet and corner sink help to save space inside the small wet bath, and wall-integrated cubbies hold soap, shampoo and other hygiene staples. A door provides privacy. The Sven Hedin's bath compartment definitely looks more claustrophobic than the aforementioned expandable baths, but it does beat the other alternative – no indoor bathroom at all.
Westfalia also has its own ideas on how to best provide a comfortable sleeping experience without eating up too much interior floor space. Volkswagen actually extends out the bodywork on its California XXL concept, and Knaus cuts out a central chunk of its bed to add floor space. Both beds are longitudinally mounted, but Westfalia opts to swing the bed into transverse position. In order to provide the full 6.6 feet (2 m) of length that it wants for sleepers, an optional electrically extendable foot panel is added that pushes out the side of the van inside a fiberglass pop-out. This module is insulated, so it presumably keeps all 10 piggies nice and warm (or cool). When the bed's not in use, the pop-out retracts flush with the van side, maintaining the standard van width and aerodynamics on the road.
The bed is also raised up, creating an empty cargo space below that can be used to load gear or luggage. The rear half of the bed can fold out of the way, too, making room for taller cargo. On the other side of the bed, the step that helps campers climb up doubles as a storage compartment for shoes or slippers.
The kitchen area plays host to the familiar camper van mix of dual-burner stove, sink, countertop and storage drawers. An innovative feature here is a specially designed dual-drawer refrigerator system that offers 70 liters of cold storage, replacing the more common stand-up refrigerator to save space. A high-mounted cabinet over the top of the dinette stores dishes and other serving ware.
The dining/lounge area features a two-seat bench, swivel driver cab seats and a retractable table top in between. This particular dinette does not convert into a bed, meaning that the Sven Hedin sleeps only two people (unless, we suppose, someone doesn't mind sleeping sitting up in a seat or on the floor).
The Sven Hedin includes a 100 L fresh water tank, 84 L waste water tank and a 4.8-kW hot water heater that heats the interior and also delivers hot water at the tap. A 92 Ah AGM battery powers onboard equipment like the touch-operated LED lighting.
The base Sven Hedin relies on Volkswagen's 101-hp 2.0-liter TDI engine and six-speed manual to power the front wheels. Westfalia does not list a 4Motion option, but it does offer the eight-speed automatic transmission and larger engine options up to a 174-hp TDI.
Standard vehicle equipment includes a radio with TFT display and Bluetooth, a remote-controlled locking system, an engine start-stop system with brake recuperation, and various assistive technologies like crosswind assistance and brake assist. Available options include heated front seats, added driver-assistance features like lane keeping and ParkPilot, and an infotainment/nav system with 8-in touchscreen.
Westfalia presented the Sven Hedin at the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon and gave it a UK premiere at last week's Motorhome & Caravan Show. The camper van starts at €59,990/£59,100 (approx. US$70K based on euro conversion) when equipped with the 101-hp engine and six-speed manual. Options like the extendable bed with pop-out, second AGM battery and outdoor shower are available at extra cost. For more pricing details, you can check out the price lists on Westfalia's downloads page.