Like a walk down the aisle

Road­trek’s Zion has no fur­ni­ture in the the rear, al­low­ing ac­cess via the dou­ble rear doors

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - CC WEISS

CANADIAN camper van spe­cial­ist Road­trek has launched the all-new Zion, a com­pact camper built atop the Ram ProMaster. The Zion’s open in­te­rior lay­out ac­com­mo­dates gear like bi­cy­cles and kayaks in a wide cen­tre aisle, then serves as a roomy home away from home at camp. The camper van seam­lessly com­bines fea­ture-packed shel­ter with toy-haul­ing util­ity, no racks or trail­ers nec­es­sary.

How to get you, your spouse or best friend, and all your favourite sports gear into the great out­doors for a long week­end or week-long va­ca­tion?

It’s a ques­tion that gets an­swered with a lot of in­no­va­tive camper de­signs, from small, light-weight trail­ers like the Mogo Free­dom, to truck mod­ules like the XPCube, right on up to bus-sized RVs with sports car-en­gulf­ing draw­ers, like those from Volkner and triple-axled ex­pe­di­tion ve­hi­cles with hy­draulic bike lifts ala the Global XRS 7200.

Road­trek pro­poses some­thing sit­ting smack in the mid­dle of those small and XXL ex­tremes: a camper van with an ex­tended cen­tre aisle de­signed for gear-car­ry­ing util­ity. Un­like Road­trek’s other Class B mo­torhomes, based on vans like the Mercedes Sprinter, the ProMaster-based Zion does away with the rear fur­ni­ture, al­low­ing the cen­tre aisle to ex­tend right to the dou­ble rear doors.

This pro­vides easy load­ing for your camp­ing gear. The ex­tended cen­tre aisle isn’t a brand-new fea­ture, but Road­trek tells us that it’s been a long time since it’s of­fered a camper van with such a lay­out, so it’s es­sen­tially re­vived the fea­ture for the Zion.

It’s easy to see how the full-length cen­tre aisle adds util­ity and ver­sa­til­ity when com­pared to more crowded, cosy camper van in­te­ri­ors, like those seen on the other mem­bers of Road­trek’s lineup. Sim­i­lar to the ad­justable rear seat on the Volk­sleisure or re­mov­able camper mod­ules of the Bett Mo­bil, the Zion’s ac­ces­si­ble load floor strikes a bal­ance be­tween com­fort­able, fully equipped camper and prac­ti­cal, stuff-haulin’ van.

Based on Road­trek’s de­scrip­tion of early sales, it ap­pears to be a popular bal­ance.

“We had or­ders from our deal­ers al­most in­stan­ta­neously,” VP of sales Paul Cas­sidy said of in­tro­duc­ing the Zion in De­cem­ber. “The Zion hit the mar­ket with so much in­ten­sity that deal­ers are writ­ing deals with re­tail cus­tomers with­out hav­ing seen one.”

Be­yond its full-length cen­tre aisle, the Zion is a fully equipped camper van with a per­ma­nent bath­room with shower; kitchen with stan­dard 5 cu ft (141,5-lire) re­frig­er­a­tor, propane stove and mi­crowave; and up to 1 189 litre of stor­age ca­pac­ity. It sleeps three on a com­bi­na­tion of op­tional sin­gle front bed and king-size bed con­verted from the dual so­fas in back.

The rear king bed stretches over the cen­ter aisle, mean­ing you’ll have to keep bi­cy­cles or other gear out­side or oth­er­wise stored at night. The Zion’s stan­dard equip­ment list shows that the van is de­signed for keep­ing comfy on the road. The list in­cludes an 11 000-BTU roof-mounted air con­di­tioner, a 36 000-BTU in­stant hot wa­ter sys­tem and a(3,7 m) power ex­te­rior awning. Also stan­dard is a 25-litre propane tank, 400 A AGM bat­tery and 2 000 W in­verter, 138-litre wa­ter tank, and over 114litre of gray/black wa­ter hold­ing.

Op­tions in­clude a gen­er­a­tor, 200 W so­lar charg­ing sys­tem and 22-inch HD TV. The base Ram ProMaster fea­tures a 280-hp 3,6-litre V6, Ucon­nect 5.0 in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, stan­dard back-up cam­era and sta­bil­ity con­trol suite.

Road­trek in­tro­duced the Zion at the Na­tional RV Trade Show last De­cem­ber and be­gan pro­duc­tion ear­lier this year. The camper starts at $86 931 (R1 030 000).

The ProMaster should prove a nat­u­ral for Amer­i­can camper van con­ver­sions. In­tro­duced at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, the van is based on the Fiat Du­cato, the much-awarded un­de­feated cham­pion of Euro­pean camper van con­ver­sions. Ac­cord­ing to Fiat Pro­fes­sional, two out of ev­ery three Euro­pean camper van con­ver­sions is a Du­cato.

The ProMaster may not have the same level of suc­cess as the Du­cato, given that U.S. Type B motorhome (camper van) sales lag far be­hind larger Type A and Type C mod­els, but it should prove a vi­able com­peti­tor to campers based on Mercedes Sprint­ers, Ford Tran­sits and other more es­tab­lished vans. Man­u­fac­tur­ers in­clud­ing Win­nebago have also launched ProMaster­based campers. — Giz­mag.com.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Canadian camper builders Road­trek has re­vived the full-length aisle for campers to pre­serve the easy ac­cess of a van’s dou­ble rear doors.

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