THE Mercedes-Benz of campervans has arrived in Australia to transport Baby Boomers to a comfortable retirement.
Most grey nomads embrace caravans and four-wheel drives for their getaways but Mercedes reckons the market is ready for luxury mobile accommodation, in particular its pop-top Marco Polo.
The modern take on the Volkswagen Kombi camper has two large double beds, one on the roof and one in the main cabin. Releasing two sturdy yet simple clips turns this eight-seat family van into a motorhome.
The top bunk comes with a thin yet comfortable, high quality mattress. The canvas roof has two LED reading lights on a flexible arm and there are zippers in the water resistant fabric "walls” to let in cool air.
The lower seating converts to a double bed by removing the pop-up table and lowering the second row seats - but it's BYO mattress.
Curtains provide privacy on the lower level and the rear windows pop open for fresh air.
The front seats swivel 180 degrees to face the table.
There are sliding doors on each side of the Marco Polo and there's an easy to unfurl pullout awning fitted to the driver's side.
The Marco Polo is the only factory-built camper van of its type sold locally, and prices start from $63,627 plus on-roads (about $68,000 drive-away).
Mercedes says it took nearly 100 orders in the first month on sale and it expects demand to grow as examples are spotted in campsites across Australia.
Power comes from a 2.2-litre diesel, which drives the rear wheels, and the seven-speed auto assists with the claimed 6.3L/100km. On our 200km test loop, mixing city, suburban and freeway driving, we returned nearer 10L unladen.
The turning circle is good (for a van) at 11.8 metres, and better than most large four-wheel drives, while front and rear sensors and a rear camera help negotiate tight spots. Service intervals are on par with a commercial van, at 12 months/25,000km.
There is plenty of storage under the second row seats, and in the dash and doors. Two batteries will make campers happy. The second battery can run a fridge or other appliances.
Downsides? The audio and built-in navigation unit is not a touchscreen and uses a fiddly toggle, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available, the digital speed display is tiny and recirculating aircon can't be locked on (it resets to "fresh” air every 30 minutes).
The driver and front passenger seat bases have short under-thigh support, a consequence of the need to swivel when you're parked. I got used to them after a while but I would prefer a more comfortable driver's seat for longer journeys.
Safety aids include forward crash alert. Our test vehicle was equipped with optional extras such as LED headlights (awesome), powered side doors (convenient), blind spot sensors and lane wander warning (although not lane keeping, that's another extra).
All up, the example we tested was $74,218 before on-roads, or about $80,000 drive-away.
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