A 4×4 camper van for taking roads less traveled.
By Bruce W. Smith
One of the good things the pandemic has done is to remind us that it’s not always necessary to fly to some faraway place or take a cruise to mentally recharge and enjoy life away from the hustle and bustle.
What millions of vacationers suddenly realized is that hitting the road in an RV has its own special rewards: You can go wherever you want, at your own pace, distance yourselves from others as desired, and be quite comfortable all at the same time. RVs — including camper vans such as the 2023 Winnebago Revel 44E — have become very attractive to a whole new generation of road warriors.
Winnebago has been a leading manufacturer of camper vans (Type B motorhomes) for more than a decade, currently offering eight gas and diesel models. The Revel is built on the back of the popular diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz Sprinter electronic-shift four-wheel-drive chassis, which supplies its off-pavement agility and fuel efficiency. This all-in-one RV can do double duty as a commuter vehicle between getaways to those less-traveled places, which further adds to its appeal.
The Revel I walked through at a Bish’s RV dealership in Junction City, Oregon, sported the Pebble Grey exterior. It sleeps two within its 19-foot-7-inch footprint. It’s equipped specifically for those who love to explore those more remote, off-the-grid places that other RVers with motorhomes and travel trailers would never dare to tread. It’s minimalistic when compared to larger RVs, yet its design seems perfectly suited for the hiking, backpacking, kayaking, and mountain biking crowd.
ON THE INSIDE
From the outside, Winnebago’s 4×4 camper van looks pretty plain. But when you slide open the side door and step inside, there’s a lot to take in.
Designers found a way to blend high-end electronics and innovative storage solutions with creature comforts and smart interior treatments. It all works really well in handling the typical wear and tear you’d expect from embracing all types of year-round outdoor adventures.
Molded plastic surfaces from the cab to the rear cargo doors are easy to maintain, the flooring is heavy-duty vinyl, the latches are strong, and lighting is abundant. From beach walks to mountain hikes, ski trips to river rafting, the Revel’s interior looks like it can handle whatever shoes, sandals, and bare feet leave behind.
A UNIQUE CARGO AREA
One interior area I really liked, once I figured it out, was the spacious rear cargo area. At first glance, you’d think there’s a lot of wasted garage space; there are no cabinets, just these hip-high bulges that extend halfway up the walls and are topped with plaid cushions. Then you turn the Euroloft key mounted on the central control panel and push the “down” arrow.
Voila! The Power Lift bed smoothly descends from its hiding spot tight against the ceiling to nestle between those two padded sections, creating a comfortable 49-inch-by-79-inch bed with a nice street-side window at the head for a cooling breeze.
Underneath the bed is open storage that can accommodate duffel bags, backpacks, and various plastic totes. When the bed is raised, that garage space is plenty tall enough to keep mountain bikes and other bulky items stored during transit. Tie-downs in the floor are conveniently located for such use.
EASY ELECTRICAL ACCESS
One of those street-side bump outs under the bed houses components that keep this van powered up off the grid: a 320-amp-hour Lithionics Li3 lithium-ion battery system, a 2,000-watt Xantrex inverter/charger, a solar panel/battery charger, and a dual-battery charge system. Pop off the plastic cover, and everything is right at your fingertips.
The bump out on the other side of the cargo area houses the hydronic heating system, the fresh-water tank, and related equipment. Hydronic heating for this adventure van produces hot water that circulates throughout the interior to provide an energy-efficient system.
Stepping forward from the bedroom/cargo area, you pass a tall, narrow pantry with enough shelves and storage space to keep a week’s worth of provisions. Across from it is the driver’s-side bathroom: a multiuse wet bath that measures 31 inches wide and 26 inches deep. That’s bigger than you’ll find in most Type B motorhomes. Still, showering space is a bit limited, but having instant hot water helps.
Winnebago incorporates a Thetford C220 cassette toilet with push-button electric flush — and a seat that swivels 90 degrees to accommodate taller RVers who might need extra knee room. Dumping waste is clean and simple: A door opens from the bath to the exterior for removal of the cassette tank.
Outdoor gear can get wet, so the bathroom easily converts into a nifty air dryer when the removable shelves are set in place on the stall walls. Close the bifold doors, turn on the ceiling fan, and air flowing upward from the floor dries gear in no time. The space can also be used for storage, including hanging clothes.
Midship, across the aisle from the bathroom, is the Revel’s galley. Here, the coach has received big improvements over earlier models, in my opinion. This simply designed area has been reconfigured to provide more work space and flexibility. It now contains a removable counter extension; a larger fridge (accessible from inside or outside the RV); and more drawers, including the wider top one that now stores the True portable single-burner induction cooktop. Utilizing a portable cook-top frees up a lot of counter space in this 3-foot-long kitchen area and also makes it possible to do the cooking outdoors.
The Revel’s drawers and cabinets now have plastic twist-lock openers instead of push-button locks. I also noted the drawers incorporate dovetail joints where the wood fronts attach, along with sturdy slides and hinges.
EFFICIENT LIVING AREA
Lounging space in a camper van is always at a premium. The bed, small dinette, or front seats are usually the only options. The Revel is no different. It’s a space for two, maybe four in a crunch.
The forward-facing dinette doubles as a passenger seat, equipped with the appropriate seatbelts, of course. The swiveling pedestal table is removable, freeing up additional lounging space when needed. The seats in the cab also swivel to the rear. If you need space to relax, entertain, work, dine, or connect, the Revel’s living area provides a respectable space in which to do so.
However, there’s no TV — and no connections for one. Winnebago has targeted adventure seekers as the primary Revel buyers, some of whom might not necessarily want a TV when they go off the grid. The van incorporates a Wi-Fi hotspot to accommodate smart devices; this handles the connectivity and entertainment aspect of the outdoor adventurer’s lifestyle. A roof access wiring port also gives owners the capability to add their own tech devices.
Walking through this unit, I found clever RAM Tough-Track mounts, placed in just the right locations, to accept the RAM mounts’ array of brackets for such electronics. USB, 12-volt-DC, and 120-volt-AC receptacles were positioned close by the mounting points.
ON THE ROAD
Speaking of power, just about everything in the Revel cab is powered, from the tilt steering wheel to the windows and mirrors. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter platform incorporates high-end electronics and safety features. The Mercedes-Benz MBUX cockpit array includes voice control; a rear camera; and a touchscreen multimedia infotainment system with navigation, blind-spot assist, active brake assist, and even traffic-sign assist.
Other important aspects for adventure camping trips are good fuel economy and dependable four-wheel drive. The Sprinter-based Revel has both. The 188-horsepower Mercedes-Benz six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine delivers fuel economy of 15 to 18 miles per gallon. In addition, the on-demand four-wheel-drive system provides reliable traction when the road less traveled becomes more challenging.
The 4WD’s electronic system lets you select HI or LO range, which comes in handy when the terrain is steep or off-pavement conditions require slow-speed travel. The four-wheel-drive Sprinter chassis also incorporates traction and stability control. Need to tow a boat or ATV trailer? The van comes with a hitch rated to handle up to 5,000 pounds and a maximum vertical tongue weight of 500 pounds.
One of the options this particular coach had — which I’d recommend for anyone undertaking adventure RVing — is BFGoodrich T/A KO2 all-terrain tires. The KO2 T/As are highly regarded in the off-road world for off-pavement travel, and they are severe-snow rated.
ONE FOR THE BACK ROADS
With a specific target audience, I think Winnebago hit that mark solidly by incorporating minor changes to the 2023 Revel that were suggested by owners of previous models. The unit is built on stout, well-performing, and reliable Sprinter 4×4 underpinnings. It also has the features and basic amenities that millennials and others require.
At $210,292 (MSRP), the Revel is the second most expensive of Winnebago’s Type B motorhome offerings, behind the extended-wheelbase versions. Still, the price reflects innovation and quality. When it comes to an RV that you’ll probably be using a long way from towns and RV service centers, quality should be a critical factor.
SPECIFICATIONS | WINNEBAGO REVEL
Winnebago, 605 W. Crystal Lake Road, Forest City, IA 50436;
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter; on-demand 4WD
3.0-liter Mercedes-Benz turbo-diesel; 188 horsepower at 3,800 rpm; 325 pound-feet torque at 1,200-2,400 rpm
7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic
hydraulic with ABS
front — independent with transverse mono-leaf spring and stabilizer;
rear — leaf spring with stabilizer bar
chassis — 100AH;
house — (1) 320-amp-hour lithium-ion
19 feet 7 inches
7 feet 1 inch
6 feet 3 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 4,409 pounds;
rear — 5,359 pounds
fresh water — 21 gallons;
gray water — 21 gallons;
black water — N/A
24.5 gallons, diesel
hydronic with LED touch-screen panel
(1) Coleman Mach 10 NDQ, optional; 13,500-Btu
3-cubic-foot, 12-volt compressor-driven
chassis — 3 years/36,000 miles;
powertrain — 5 years/100,000 miles, limited;
outer body — 5 years/100,000 miles, limited;
coach — 12 months/24,000 miles
MANUFACTURER’S BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE