Yes, it’s pricey, but the specification is hugely impressive and what’s been incorporated into a standard Sprinter bodyshell is truly remarkable. The combination of the comfy rear lounge with opening tailgate and the huge garage below is simply genius.
Base vehicle: Mercedes Sprinter 4x4 Price from: £139,995 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 6.97m Width: 2.02m Height: 3.10m Gross weight: 4,050kg Payload: 620kg
Words: Peter Vaughan
Images courtesy of RP Motorhomes
You won’t mistake RP Motorhomes’ latest model for a run-of-the-mill Mercedes van conversion. Of course, the 4x4 Sprinter always has a lofty stance that makes clambering into the cab feel like you’re missing out an intermediate step, but its off-road credentials are clear. Now, with this latest conversion, the Merc takes on a hint of the Mad Max, with those state-of-the- art spotlights and a rooftop light bar that turns the gloom of shady woodland into the brightness of midday sun. This is no mere campervan; the Rebellion is a serious off-road expedition vehicle.
Based on the seven-metre Sprinter van, technically an L3H3, in 319 spec, our test vehicle was the last of the 3-litre V6 models boasting 190bhp and a smoothness that would strike a chord with the copywriters of Galaxy chocolate ads. It will be replaced next year by a new 2-litre, four-cylinder unit that claims improved refinement and economy. The latter was never a forte of this unit.
RP doesn’t just take a van – one that costs more than most fully fitted campervans – and kit it out, though. To the Selenite Grey panelwork it adds its own bodykit, Black Rhino alloy wheels and chunky BF Goodrich All-Terrain tyres. If the look suggests Morocco more than Minehead, that’s not only the intention but also the remit of most RP customers. As we’ll see, it’s not just about driving where the Tarmac ends, but also camping where there are no campsites.
RP designs and builds almost everything in-house, in order to maintain quality and avoid delays in production. That ranges from upholstery to roof racks (and much in between), but it’s also the less obvious aspects that impress. I can’t think of another van conversion that offers 200 litres of fresh water, but it’s not just the size of the tanks and the fact that they’re inboard for all-weather protection; RP actually fits twin 100-litre tanks, one on either side to provide balanced weight distribution.
Then, in a vehicle where heating comes from diesel or 230V (Truma Combi) and the fridge is a compressor model, you might expect gas to be a minor consideration. It only serves the hob and oven, but RP realises that you don’t want to run out when you’re hundreds of miles from the nearest LPG outlet, so there’s a 30-litre underslung tank.
It’s when we come to the electrics, though, that the Rebellion shouts its independence from campsites loud and clear. Two 200Ah lithium batteries are fitted here and there’s a 115W solar panel, too, with room to fit another if required.
Even more importantly, perhaps, this motorhome has a Victron MultiPlus 3000VA inverter/charger, so that you can use mains appliances even when you’re wild camping. That includes the Truma Saphir habitation air-conditioning with outlets in both the front and rear living areas. In typical RP attention to detail, the air-con also cools the inverter and can act as a secondary on-board heater, should there be a problem with the Combi.
The inverter also comes with a crystal-clear LCD display, so you are constantly aware of how much power you’re using and where from. Should you decide to stay on a French campsite where hook-ups provide infamously little amperage, you can simply dial up the inverter to boost your supply – and avoid incurring the wrath of the locals by tripping out the site supply.
Wherever you park up, the Rebellion’s Ma-Ve levelling system should ensure that you won’t roll out of bed. It has two-stage rams (developed jointly between the maker and RP) to cope with the huge clearance under the 4x4 Sprinter, while RP will be adding removable feet so that no damage is done to the system when you’re off-roading. To use, it’s simply a matter of switching on and pressing a button and the system levels the campervan automatically.
Next step, if you’re staying put for a while, may be to extend the awning and add the safari room. Naturally, the Thule awning is an electric one, but adding the front and side panels does need a bit of manual labour. It could be worth it when you’ve achieved a 4.5m by 3.2m extension to your living space, like an XXL conservatory for this home from home.
Because of the lofty nature of the Merc base vehicle, the Thule telescopic extending ladder comes in handy when completing this addition, but it’s also there to reach the roof rack. It has magnetic pads that stick to the side of the vehicle for safety and folds away neatly in the garage. If you’re acrophobic, though, you might prefer to reach the rooftop through the rear rooflight – RP fits this the reverse way around for this purpose.
The Rebellion also comes with an external TV point (either to connect a dish to the internal telly or for viewing under the awning), and an outside barbecue socket, as well as a 12V outlet so that a submersible pump can be used to fill the water tanks when you can’t get close to a tap.
But the key feature of the exterior, above all else, is at the back. Here, the usual barn doors of a van are gone, replaced by RP’s own top-hinged door. It looks like an original Mercedes-Benz design, rises high enough to shelter under and opens to reveal storage capacity comparable with many large coachbuilts.
Inside, the garage is a full 2m long at either side (less in the centre, where the air-conditioning unit is mounted at floor level). There’s headroom here of 900mm and tracking in the floor to secure bikes, etc. Of course, 12V and 230V sockets are fitted at the nearside and there’s an external shower hose opposite, as well as a couple of security locks outside to keep your gear safe.
More remarkable, though, is the ARB air compressor that can be used to pump up tyres, inflatable kayaks, etc, while the curtain that hangs off the tailgate to provide complete privacy for outdoor showering is another plus. The ultimate surprise, though, is the washing machine fitted in the garage and, yes, you read that right! It’s an optional extra but, surely, a first for any van conversion.
Another first must be the second opening at the rear. If the garage door is impressive, the second top-hinged hatch above is the walnut on the top of the coffee sponge. Why? Because it lets a lot of light and fresh air into the rear lounge. It’s also the favourite feature of RP’s MD, Steve Young.
The fact that he has managed to incorporate both a garage and a rear lounge in the confines of a Merc van is impressive, to say the least. It isn’t quite your typical motorhome lounge, because you’re quite high up in the vehicle, the seating is accessed via a couple of steps, and the windows are at roof level. However, the small side glazing is compensated by the larger rear window – and that is bettered when you open the top hatch, giving a real feeling of fresh air and enjoying the outdoors.
You can sit sideways on the sofas (just check headroom, as the shelves could be an issue if you’re tall) and add the small coffee table, but this lounge really comes into its own when you put your feet up and stretch out lengthways. Now there’s loads of space (each sofa is well over 6ft long) and the 21.5in TV is in prime position.
It’s not the only seating area, though. The cab seats swivel to join a half-dinette bench in a more conventional front dinette, where the island leg coffee table can also be sited. Or there’s a larger wall-mounted table for dining. Both tables store in the small wardrobe that’s immediately behind the bench seat. The half-leather upholstery is superbly finished (in-house, of course) and the cab seats are extremely supportive. They are original Mercedes items but given their own high-backed look by RP.
At first glance, the galley might look conventional but then you spot the fact that there are two fridges. Towards the rear, below the oven, is an 85-litre compressor model that serves for fresh food. Then, at the forward end, facing front, is a smaller cooler (35 litres) that can act as a freezer (down to minus 20 degrees) or be used as a second fridge, maybe for wine and beer – and close to the outside via the sliding door.
That’s just one detail in a kitchen that continues to impress, especially for a van conversion. The worktops are Corian and the sink is as deep as you’d expect at home, with an outlet of equally domestic size. The cooker has both induction and gas rings and there’s a Duplex oven/grill, too.
Now, the position of the oven might cause consternation for some, as it appears to rob you of countertop, but Steve is at pains to point out that it’s at a practical height and has a useful work surface above, before demonstrating the neat slide-out worktop that appears from under the oven. Game, set and match to the Rebellion.
It’s even got storage covered – largely in three XL-sized drawers (which would have been a casualty if the oven had been more conventionally sited). Then there are more examples of RP’s attention to the minutiae – a cut-out in the sink lid so drips from the tap don’t run on the counter and a control panel that can be seen through the sliding door (to check levels when filling up with water).
Then there’s a Krups coffee machine and a MaxxAir roof vent that blows air in, sucks air out and can even be set to come on at a pre-set internal temperature. That vent is positioned to take steam away from the shower, too, and while the washroom looks pretty standard, it still has RP touches like the second (waterproof) blind to cover the main window blind when showering, as well as a basin with plenty of Corian worktop. There are two medicine/toiletries cabinets, too, and a hanging rail for wet garments. By now you’ll not be surprised to learn that the bathroom door has a lightweight honeycomb construction to increase payload.
All this has been incorporated into a Sprinter panel van that not only has four seatbelts but four berths, too. Obviously, the rear lounge becomes the main sleeping space (1.87m long on the offside, 1.96m on the nearside), either as singles or a double. The latter is made by simply sliding out a slatted infill and adding the rear backrests to create a 1.67m-wide lengthways bed.
Up front is a drop-down bed that appears from above the cab seats. It’s a truly genius bit of design that pivots into position and is secured using seatbelt-style straps clipped into the original Mercedes front seats’ clasps. It’s not an adult bed but, at 1.53m by 0.76m, it’s a good berth for any pre-teen youngster.
We weren’t so impressed with the lounge bed below, which needs a bit of refinement and probably a mattress topper but this one is longer and wider and could even serve an adult, or tall teenager, sleeping diagonally. You’ll want to sleep well, because this is a campervan designed for serious adventures.
Engaging 4x4 and heading off through the woods of Bramham Park, we were soon on muddy tracks more used to seeing Land Rovers. The off-road rubber squirmed slightly in the gloopy conditions but we just kept going. Only the size of this Sprinter compared with more modest off-roaders will impede where you go.
But that’s what the Rebellion is all about. You don’t need campsites, or even roads. It’s a true expedition vehicle and the limitations are more down to your bravery than the vehicle’s capability.
Motorhome supplied by
Tel: 01332 509826
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