The Class B motorhome, or camper van, is unique among recreational vehicles. That fact impressed me over 20 years ago when I took my then 10-year-old son, Stephen, and me on a Class B motorhome test. I was making notes inside, and Stephen was wandering through the van when he said, “Dad, this is a go-somewhere RV, not a stay-somewhere RV…right?”
Even at that age, Steve got it. Class B’s have always been about travel, moving, exploring, and seeing what’s over the next rise. Today, there are more options than ever before to scratch that itch in this segment.
The Class B motorhome market has been around for many decades; however, it was originally based on the ancient low-roof vans that Detroit produced. These required a ton of re-construction by the RV manufacturers, and in the end, they were just not that great. That all changed when Mercedes Benz brought the Sprinter to North America from Europe. This commercial van was unlike anything built in Michigan, and the RV industry quickly adopted it as a platform for its new generation of Class B’s (plus, it came with a small diesel engine). Its single greatest advantage was a hi-roof right from the factory. This alone cut down the amount of upfitting needed to make it a good Class B motorhome. That shift in van design more than 15 years ago was the beginning of European vans taking over what Detroit was offering.
A few years have passed now, and the Sprinter, as it turns out, was just the tip of the iceberg. Today, only GM still offers an “old” style American-designed van, and I suspect it too will be gone soon. Ford now has the Transit, MB the Sprinter, and Ram the ProMaster – a repurposed Fiat with a Chrysler Pentastar V6 engine. It’s unique because it’s a front-wheel-drive design with a low step-in height.
This group of vans has not only increased the number of available platforms but has also spread the price point. At first, the MB chassis with its diesel engines typically cost well north of 100K as a built-out Class B motorhome.
Now, with the Ford and Ram in the mix with their gas engines, that price can drop into the $80s.
We have Mercedes to thank for this market transformation, but now we have the Ram and Ford and in the case of Ford they are now also built in America. So, are they better than the old vans? Yes, in every possible way. And with an all-electric Ford Transit van arriving just this year, I expect to see some Class B offerings on that chassis shortly.
One of the best things about Camper Vans is that they are simply nice to travel in. You have everything you need without the driving anxiety that larger, more cumbersome motorhomes can produce in many drivers. Remember this when you look at the new RV prices, particularly between Class B’s and larger Class C’s. They can be very close in cost, but they don’t drive the same.
The key to a good Class B motorhome is an interior design that is an exercise in efficient space management. Everything has a secure place, and all the space is used – often in very clever ways.
Here is a current roundup of just some of the models being offered today. This is just a sampling, but it should get you thinking about all the great trips that can come from driving a small RV.
Winnebago Solis 59P
This Class B motorhome is built on the Ram ProMaster chassis and powered by the Pentastar V6. What sets the Winnebago Solis 59P apart is the pop-top which adds to the van’s height and features another sleeping space.
Roadtrek Zion Slumber
Also using the Ram Pro Mast chassis, the Roadtrek Zion Slumber Class B motorhome has a pop-top, and the interior can be reconfigured easily into sleeping and living spaces.
Coachmen Nova 20RB
In the Coachmen Nova 20RB, dual solar panels provide 220 watts of solar power to charge the Lithium battery system when off-grid. This Class B motorhome features the Lagun convertible tabletop system to change up the work/living space. Built on the Ram ProMaster.
Airstream Interstate 24X
A high-end Class B motorhome, this Interstate is designed for off-road adventures. Based on the MB Sprinter it features 4WD, convertible seating, shaded outdoor workspace and is prewired for a 5G antenna.
This MB based Class B motorhome by Pleasure-Way has several convertible spaces for flexible living and sleeping space. The driver’s seat swivels to face a built-in desk featuring smart TV, USB ports and two 110V outlets.
Storyteller Overland Mode LT
Built on the Ford Transit chassis, this Class B motorhome by Storyteller is aimed at the Overlander – someone who wants to go out there and get lost. It features Ford’s all-wheel-drive system and a host of off-grid power options.