MAN Van Concepts | 29 Jan 2018
MAN trucks tests the waters with a tough 4X4 van conversion concept…
There's a new breed of Volkswagen Group camper van roaming around, and it's the MAN-liest one yet. Volkswagen's big truck, bus and engine brand entered the light-vehicle market last year in Europe with a new-VW-Crafter twin called the TGE. While the new van is aimed at the same business-and-industry folks that drive MAN's heavy truck business, the company is exploring the leisure vehicle market possibilities with a pair of rugged 4x4 camper van concepts. Are we seeing the birth of the next great European camper conversion platform, complete with baked-in 4x4 option
MAN certainly isn't a complete foreigner to the world of motorhomes. The company points out that it showed its first ‘weekend car’ nearly a century ago. Its trucks have also been used for some of the biggest, baddest motorhomes on the planet, including the Unicat Md77h 6x6.
The van conversion market is a different ballgame, however. While MAN has plenty of experience with heavy-duty truck, the van market was new territory when it began producing the TGE last April. It's stuck largely to what it knows, marketing the “Truck among vans” to courier services, professional trades, construction outfits, logistics businesses and the like.
It was actually this type of work that convinced MAN to let its in-house Bus Modification Centre (BMC) loose on two camper concepts, which were revealed at the CMT Show in Stuttgart last month. It began within the framework of a dual-use van that could haul loads while also housing the crew overnight, eventually recognising and exploring the potential for the recreational van market. The concepts seem more a showcase of the BMC's ability to build specialised vehicles to customer specification than serious proposals for production camper vans, however. Still, each of the two models looks pretty good in its own right. They're both built with off-roading in mind, featuring 4X4, increased ground clearance and wide off-road tires. Each is driven by a 127 kW 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and based on a standard-wheelbase TGE with high roof.
The white model with zebra window wraps features the more traditional camper layout of the two, with a pop-up roof, kitchen, rail-mounted rear seat, bathroom and rear bed. This one is a full-time globetrotter with permanent furniture installation; the model for folks (or companies) that have space in their driveways for a permanent motorhome.
The blue van shows a more flexible conversion, reworking the idea of a modular daily driver/holiday camper split that's becoming increasingly popular. This concept could be thought of as a daily worker-come-weekend getaway van. Its fit-out is removable, clearing the cargo area for nine-to-five work duties or weekend trips that entail large equipment, like bikes or hot air balloons.
For adventure trips that run more than a single day, the owner can drop-in the camping furniture and load bikes, boards and other equipment between the side benches, using the integrated ramp. At camp, a middle mattress panel combines with the two side benches to create a longitudinal bed. There's also a kitchen unit and plenty of cabinetry for storage.
It doesn't look like either van is heading to local MAN dealerships anytime soon. But hopefully an aftermarket conversion shop like Westfalia will try its hand at transforming a TGE 4X4 (or 2WD) into a proper camper. Meanwhile, Australians are still awaiting the launch of the all-new VW Crafter, which is a collaboration with MAN and closely resembles the TGE. It’s due to appear in 2018 and we’re sure local conversion specialists are already busy working on their new models.