For years now the Volkswagen California XXL has been garnering all the hype; a modern remake of the classic camper, super-sized to fit a family of four. Now Volkswagen has got some serious competition, in the form of Mercedes Benz’ new creation, the Marco Polo.
The old Marco Polo has been revamped and modernized to include Mercedes Benz Automated Control, an app-controlled smart home system that can control everything from the lighting to the temperature to the pop top roof from the comfort of your camp chair.
Mercedes revealed the new Marco Polo at the connectivity-themed CMT exhibition, boasting their brand new MBAC technology and a sleek, updated design. From a 10.25” touchscreen control in the cockpit, the user can control everything from the brightness and temperature of the lighting to the temperature and timing of the heating. It can also be used to keep an eye on the fresh and grey water tank fill levels and the charge level of the camper’s auxiliary battery.
Extending the electric pop-top roof is a breeze, setting the temperature of the coolbox to ice down your beers is a snap, and even opening the sunroof can be performed remotely via a dedicated smartphone app. You’ll never need to leave your camp chair as you sit outdoors and crank up the music volume or turn up the bass; Mercedes makes everyday tasks in their camper effortless.
They’ll also be offering this technology to other camper van builders such as Westfalia and Bimobil for use in Mercedes Sprinter-based conversions.
The Marco Polo also includes Mercedes’ flagship technology, the MBUX multimedia system featuring Mercedes Me. This includes basic services management, accident and breakdown recovery, tel diagnostics and remote vehicle diagnostics.
Vehicle setup services are available on request such as tire pressure and fuel fill level, and further options include vehicle monitoring with geofencing and tracking, navigation with live traffic and weather and multimedia which includes in-car internet services. This means Mercedes Benz might just be offering one of the most technologically advanced camper vans on the market… ever. They’re calling it a smart home on wheels and we have to agree; the Marco Polo has all of the comforts of an automated house, blended with the freedom of a camper van.
Pulling back from the electrical side of things we turn to the mechanical; the base for the Marco Polo is a Mercedes Benz V-Class van packing a 2.1L engine under the hood. There’s a choice between the V220d which delivers 161bhp, or the more powerful V250d which offers 187bhp. It’s available in either a Sport or AMG line trim, although the latter costs an additional £2,140. A Premium Sport Exterior Package is also an option, which adds a touch of style to the V-Class with chrome insert bumpers, 5-spoke 18” alloy wheels, sports suspension and brake calipers with that all-important Mercedes Benz lettering.
Arguably the most important portion of the Marco Polo is the interior, which features a similar layout to the VW California. It sleeps four in total, two in the pop top roof and two on the rear seats which pull out into a bed. If four’s not enough then Mercedes offers an Activity option which increases the sleeping space up to five and the seating up to seven.
There’s plenty of overhead storage inside, wardrobes and drawers, as well as swivel seats and high-quality yacht flooring to add a classy finish to the interior. In the small kitchenette you’ll find a gas burner, sink and refrigerator, fed by the van’s on-board water and gas supplies.
At the heart of it the Marco Polo and the California are essentially the same camper, but where Mercedes strides ahead is in style, design and technology. Volkswagen originally included a touchscreen control panel in their concept design but later dropped it when the van went into production, a move they’re most likely regretting in the face of their competition. But where the California is a little more rough and ready for family adventures, the Marco Polo’s elegant finish might make the user a bit reluctant to let muddy-shoed kids inside.
“Connectivity is an important component of our product strategy which we have been intensively pursuing over the course of the past two years in the motorhome segment. 2020 will now see MBAC added as a standard component to our own Marco Polo camper vans. With this, we can offer camping fans a completely new level of comfort and live up to our aspiration of being the innovative leader in the segment”, explains Klaus Maier, Head of Marketing and Sales at Mercedes-Benz Vans.
The Marco Polo will be available to purchase in Spring 2020, with the V220d retailing for £53,180 and the V250d for £55,055.