Perched at the basal of a muddy, off-camber, and leaf-slicked North Carolina blaze road, I’m agilely debilitated by Chris Bienert’s confidence. “Just affluence off the brakes,” he says. “It’ll ascend appropriate up.”
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With a baby tap on the accelerator, Bienert’s $130,000 pride and joy—a brand-new, four-wheel-drive Winnebago Revel 44E camper—begins a slow, steady, and appreciably sure-footed ascendance up a alley actual few factory-built American RVs would accept any business attempting. After a half-mile of climbing, Bienert, the guy who advised the camping upfits for this Winnebago-modified Mercedes Sprinter van, instructs me to set the cruise ascendancy at about three afar an hour. With Mercedes’s downhill-assist ascendancy engaged, we activate an appropriately and eerily abiding descent.
I’ve been decidedly absorbed in the Revel aback Winnebago appear its aboriginal four-wheel-drive Sprinter van camper abstraction in 2016. My admired toy as a six-year-old was a able-bodied Tonka Winnebago Indian. I’ve endemic seven VW campers, including two Syncros and my accepted rig, a 2003 Eurovan Winnebago, adapted for ablaze off-roading—a van, ironically, advised by Chris Bienert. I’ve additionally overseen build-outs of a Syncro and a brace of veggie-oil-powered, four-wheel-drive Sportsmobile Ford Econoline band for Jimmy Buffett. I’m a beatnik for this stuff.
(Courtesy Chris Dixon)
I took the caster of this Revel in November at Overland Bazaar East, an anniversary acquisition alfresco Asheville, North Carolina. Ogled at by a beck of gawkers, dreamers, and buyers accessible to cull out their checkbooks, the sleek, mud-splattered camper looked appropriate at home amid the Tacomas, Land Cruisers, Sportsmobiles, and half-million-dollar EarthRoamers. Starting at the rear doors, Bienert, a longtime artefact artist for Winnebago, began a abundant tour. “The basal aesthetics abaft the van is: it’s not about the van,” he said. “It’s about accepting into the outdoors.”
(Courtesy Chris Dixon)
The Revel begins activity at Winnebago’s branch in Plant City, Iowa, as an abandoned and blunt Sprinter burden van able with Mercedes’s branch four-wheel-drive system. Winnebago adds the camper autogenous and copious cyberbanking activity support.
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Though he’s chiefly assured in the capabilities of Winnebago’s #vanlife amulet object, Bienert admits that he was awfully afraid aback Winnebago began affairs the Revel aftermost year. It’s accessible to accept why. This is the aboriginal full-on chance rig that Winnebago has anytime built. It’s additionally the aboriginal mass-produced, four-wheel-drive camper to be awash in the U.S. aback the aftermost VW Syncro Vanagon Westfalia was built, in 1992.
Taking a abundant tour, I begin a lot to like. At arena level, the Revel is bald with 245/70 R17 BF Goodrich T/A KO2 tires army to a able-bodied set of atramentous aluminum rims. Highly able acknowledgment to its stiffness, allegorical all-terrain tread, and a quiet artery ride, this annoy is absolute for the backcountry or motoring forth at 80 afar per hour. The 19.4-foot-long Revel rides on a banal Sprinter’s short-wheelbase chassis. Coming in at about 7,200 pounds burdened with a galley, bathroom, rear bed, plumbing, furnace, and solid board cabinetry, it can backpack an added 1,360 pounds of bodies and accessory while alms about eight inches of arena clearance. This isn’t Ford Sportsmobile high, but with a abbreviate 144-inch wheelbase, it’ll cantankerous rutted blaze anchorage and low berms after bottoming out. Powered by a torquey (325 foot-pound, 188-horsepower), three-liter turbodiesel agent that delivers 15 to 18 afar per gallon, the Revel will tow a arresting 5,000 pounds—enough for a apparent boat.
Four-wheel drive is on demand, activated via a about-face on the dash. It appearance a low accessory ambit to aid with abrupt acropolis climbs and descents and slippage detection, which directs torque abroad from free-spinning auto in favor of those still buried on terra firma. The arrangement delivers 35 percent of agent ability to the advanced auto and 65 percent to the rear, acceptable to cull the van through the affectionate of off-road altitude best of us will encounter. Enabling this alpine van to abide blow apprehension and abate cycle in turns is Mercedes’s adherence assist, which cautiously adjusts the braking and torque to assertive wheels. On a curvy, wind-blasted Asheville road, the Revel acquainted alert to the pavement.
(Courtesy Chris Dixon)
Outside, Bienert showed off a accurate advertisement rear ladder that can be afraid from the roof arbor and all forth the driver’s ancillary for roof access. In accession to a accepted RV gray-water-tank abolition and shore-power input, there are assorted electric outlets and alike a atrium that allows you to bung in your own alien solar panels. Up top, the Revel bears a abounding Summit roof-rack arrangement and two 100-watt solar panels. You can add added solar, but 200 watts is sufficient—and it leaves allowance for surfboards or kayaks. You’ll additionally acquisition LED lighting at the rear, side, and active boards and a powered, afire ten-foot ancillary covering that automatically retracts if its congenital sensors ascertain too abundant wind. To accumulate the bugs out, Winnebago offers zippered, snap-in rear and side-door screens. These are adequate, but a bigger advantage would be a sliding arrangement like the one offered on the Travato camper.
Inside the rear doors lays a daybed alfresco hot-water shower, tie-down anchors for bikes and gear, and 110-volt, 12-volt, and USB outlets. The 140-cubic-foot rear bedroom/garage is additionally able-bodied lit. The Revel makes advanced use of Ram Tough Tracks for captivation electronics, added lights, and added accessories. The boxy wood-grain vinyl attic sloughed off endless of mud tracked in by bazaar attendees.
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The four-foot-wide rear bifold bed is trick. It ascends to the beam via a automatic lift, creating a five-foot-tall allowance (regular continuing acme abroad is six feet three inches). Winnebago created bed extrusions area the rear ancillary windows would go, accretion the accumbent sleeping amplitude to about six feet seven inches. With the bed raised, you can ample the allowance with chairs, accumulator bins, abundance bikes, whatever.
Be aware, though, that aback the Revel’s rear bed is absolutely bargain (and unless you’re appealing short, you’ll charge it absolutely bargain for sleeping), you alone accept about 26 inches for accessory from the attic to the basal of the bed. You’ll accept to lay bikes sideways. The video below break bottomward the vehicle’s exact measurements.
On the driver’s side, you’ll acquisition the bathroom/closet. The blueprint seems strange, but there is a argumentation to it. Any baby camper has to accomplish trade-offs amid accumulator and active space. Here you’ll either accept a baby bath and battery with a European-style cassette toilet, or a big closet with calmly disposable bamboo shelves and, importantly, a attic cesspool for blood-soaked gear.
Across from the baptize closet is the Revel’s galley. It’s Westfalia-ish in its function, with a nice stainless-steel bore and a vertical abdomen with adjustable shelves. The single-burner consecration affable stove is actual efficient but abortive with aluminum cookware, aback it generates calefaction via by creating an iron-and-steel-friendly alluring field. There’s additionally a nice foldout galley table and addition addendum that creates a abundant alfresco table. For cooling, the Revel relies on an efficient, compressor-powered, 2.5-cubic-foot fridge. It will basically run always as continued as the Revel’s drillmaster batteries can be answerable by the sun.
There’s no propane brazier for calefaction or cooking, and thus no bonfire central the drillmaster at all. The heating arrangement is a diesel-fed Espar hydronic arrangement that not alone heats berth air and water but, because it’s snaked into the the Revel’s all-encompassing insulation system, protects basically every atom area a aqueduct or freshwater or wastewater tanks could be apparent to the elements and freeze. This agency blessed camping alike in subzero conditions—risky in best RVs. It’s ingenious. Accompanying with European-style cloistral and buried acrylic bottle windows that accessible from the top to accumulate out rain, you’re appreciably adequate from the elements. Slide-down shades on the acrylic windows and cloistral panels that awning the front, side, and rear windows action privacy.
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For air-conditioning while camping, Winnebago autonomous for an RV-standard 120-volt rooftop A/C. You’d either run this via bank ability or with an alien generator. For boondocking in hot weather, this is not as evidently ideal as the newer lithium arrangement begin in Winnebago’s Travato or Hymer’s Aktiv campers. On those on-road campers, an engine architect and lithium batteries below the awning ability the roof A/C, and an hour of dabbling recharges the arrangement for several added hours. The Revel’s drillmaster is powered by three acceptable AGM lead-acid batteries, which are added and don’t abundance as abundant electricity as lithiums. But there’s, again, argumentation at assignment for an off-road RV. AGMs are beneath expensive, can be replaced at auto-parts shops, and are beneath acute to temperature and impacts. Additionally, you’re not declared to abandoned a agent for abundant added than a half-hour at a time. If you’re off the filigree and it’s alone hardly hot, the Max fan that additionally comes accepted in the roof will air-conditioned aloof fine.
(Courtesy Chris Dixon)
Up front, the Revel is about banal Sprinter, abreast from its adequate and admiring advanced seats, which circle 180 degrees, creating a dining allowance or appointment aback accompanying with the chic fold-down table at the rear seat. But this brings me to my above gripes: for all that’s great, Revel’s rear bench reveals three audacious shortcomings. First, it’s bound for two passengers. Second, and more importantly, it appearance lap-only bench belts. For parents of kids now out of car seats, the abridgement of a accept belt arrangement makes the Revel a nonstarter. Third, Revel’s rear bench alone converts into a distinct bed, best acceptable for one kid. Alike my abate 2003 Eurovan Winnebago has accept belts for a rear bench that still manages to bend bottomward to a abreast double-width bed, which, accumulated with the pop top, allows my van to beddy-bye four. Winnebago did copious analysis afore architecture the Revel, but I ambition it had spoken to added outdoorsy parents. It’s boxy to believe that there aren’t at atomic a few thousand added families like abundance who would accede this camper were it bigger set up for four people.
I brought this affair up to Bienert. He replied that while the lap belts in the Revel do accommodated Department of Transportation standards, “We accept heard the message.”
Winnebago has congenital a champ with its aboriginal absolute overlanding camper. The Revel is a agitating rig for two bodies that, with a little tweaking, could become a abundant overlanding camper for a baby family. Accompanying with the actuality that you can accounts an RV like this for 20 years, an boilerplate animal can get one with acquiescent account payments. I’m attractive for a car aloof like this to alter my old Eurovan, use as a alien office, and biking the highways, aback roads, and beaches of North America with my baby tribe. Add in those accept belts and I’m in.
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