Upmarket Marco Polo from Mercedes offers a decent drive, but it’s the beautifully built interior that makes this £53,000 camper surprisingly good value.
It’s been around for a while in Continental Europe, but Mercedes-Benz has now brought its Marco Polo camper to the UK. Think of it as Stuttgart’s answer to Wolfsburg’s California.
It’s based on the long-wheelbase V-class van/minibus range, so it’s a sizeable beast and lends itself well to this conversion. Being a Merc, it’s pitched towards the luxury end of the market. Prices start from around £53,000, a touch above VW’s, but this is a vehicle that actually feels as if it cost as much to make. I’m mainly talking in terms of the fittings added to make this a live-anywhere experience, but it’s also surprisingly, well, Mercedes-like in terms of the driving environment.
The standard van’s boxy dash is displaced here by something much curvier, on speaking terms with the C- and E-class saloons in style and cohesion, with a central Comand controller and large nav/info screen. Material quality is high, too, the colours match the upmarket mood, and the leathery seats (with electrical adjustment and heating) are supportive and comfortable. Fiddle with the driver’s perch and the steering column and you’ll soon find yourself comfortable and ready for the off.
There’s a slightly gruff 2.1-litre turbodiesel pulling you along, though it soon becomes a calm aural backdrop to proceedings, especially when you let the seven-speed auto do its own thing in Sport mode: it’s fairly effortless. Official figures of 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds and a top speed of 129mph suggest that 187bhp is plenty to haul 2.4 tonnes, though you won’t go chasing stats down the nearest B-road. Instead, best to sit back and enjoy the comfortable, remarkably lurch-free ride.
Of course, it’s what happens when you arrive that’s more important than the journey, in this case. The electrically sliding side door and tailgate make pitching camp very easy: pull your deckchairs and table out of the rear compartment, wind out the awning, and it’s time to set the kettle on the gas hob or pull a stubby from the fridge.
With the rear bench slid back, raising the electric roof gives you plenty of room to stand and cook. You’ll notice the beautifully integrated ‘kitchen’ and ‘wardrobes’, all superbly finished, with bright, wipe-clean surfaces, and a faux-wood vinyl floor that looks more luxurious than the usual dimpled rubber. There’s a sink with running water, even an optional shower that uses the opened tailgate with an awning-like curtain for modesty.
When supper’s ready, if you don’t fancy eating outside, you can turn the front seats to face in and slide out the folding table. Very refined dining for four. Come bedtime, the rear bench reclines (electrically) into a flat, padded bed, but the more comfortable quarters are upstairs: an ingenious sprung platform drops down to ceiling height, and you access it by clambering up the front seats.
Remember, this is a camper, not a motor home, so it’s about versatility and ingenious use of space, rather than massive volume. And that means it’s easy to park, too. A towbar is available, so you can drag along a small racing car – expect to see Marco Polos populating paddocks around the Historic racing scene.
Words: Glen Waddington