Mecedes-Benz Marco Polo

The Mercedes Benz Marco Polo is more of a glampervan than a campervan. The four-berth camper is in the same mould as the popular VW California but which is better?

Taking the long-wheelbase Mercedes V-Class MPV as its base, this Marco Polo is a four-berth camper very much aimed at the premium market. Prices begin at £53,180 and our test model is built upon the V250 D Sport, with a starting price of £55,055.

Comparisons with VW’s California are inevitable, especially as Westfalia, the converter of this Marco Polo, once made campers for Volkswagen. This vehicle has plenty in common with its rival, but there are lots of differences, too.

Review taken from the September 2017 edition of the Club Magazine

Build quality – 89%

At 5.14m, it’s longer than the California, but the conversion work stays ‘left-handed’, with the sliding door on our offside. With a kerbweight of 2,440kg, it’s a potentially decent towcar, too. It’s also rear-wheel drive.

Standard Sport models come with electric elevating roof, side door and tailgate – and that’s just for starters. Also on-board are automatic three-zone climate control, tinted rear windows, Active Parking Assist with rear-view camera, Garmin sat-nav, leather upholstery and plenty more.

There is more than £7,000-worth of options on this example. The Comand Online infotainment system tops the list at £1,795. Then come the Driving Assistance package (£1,645), diesel-powered heater (£1,345), awning (£695) and 19in alloy wheels upgrade (£595), plus a few other bits and pieces that form a long list. There’s also the silver paintwork  – one of six metallics – which is another £645. Pebble Grey and Jupiter Red are the standard colours.

Driving – 92%

This vehicle is a joy to drive, offering relaxed and comfortable cruising. The quality of the conversion work is outstanding and there is potential for the most rattle-free of rides, as long as you pack everything away securely.

There was a bit of turbo whistle on this example but it was only noticeable because everything else was so hush-quiet. There’s also a suitably-smooth seven-speed automatic gearbox, and performance is as rapid as you’d want, especially with the more powerful engine option.

Fuel consumption is good, too. The extra urban figure is 49.6mpg, although the 44.8 official combined is a more likely – but still impressive – outcome.

There’s one downside – because officially it’s based on a car, rather than a commercial vehicle, your Road Fund Licence is going to be higher.

Daytime – 85%

Although it’s a standard side furniture/rear seat-cum-bed arrangement, it’s very upmarket – and I don’t just mean in terms of looks. The stylish furniture unit includes thick alloy edging and easy-to-operate positive catches. There are also five interior trims, including two ‘woods’ (if you prefer to keep things traditional).

There are some minor grumbles here, though. Leather upholstery is standard which is not always the most practical in a campervan. Mercedes is particularly proud of its ‘yacht wood’ flooring (in a choice of two finishes). It’s vinyl and it seemed rather slippery; not ideal, although I guess it makes it easier to clean, and it does lift what would otherwise be a rather dark interior.

The Marco Polo fails to match the California’s clever outside table-in-the-sliding door/ chairs-in-the-tailgate arrangement. It offers said accessories, but they’re tucked into a deep canvas tray, accessed by lifting the bed extension. It means a lot of the valuable boot space is taken over (you certainly won’t get a drive-away awning in there now) and, unfortunately, that bed section is on ratchets and has to be opened fully before you can close it again; tricky when you have stuff stored on top of the mattress.

Night-time – 77%

It’s all electric here once you’ve manually pulled forward the seat unit and transferred the head restraints to their night-time slots. Just hold the switches and the backrests recline; then, cleverly, the whole flat section rises ever so slightly to overcome the Isofix seat belt fittings. A mattress topper folds out to optimise comfort. The result is a commendably long bed (6ft 8in) but it’s a tad narrow at 3ft 8in.

Arguably, it’s the upper double that’s the best bed, especially as it features Froli springing and a one-piece cold foam mattress. Its 3ft 7in width is definitely a compromise, but it’s 6ft 7in long and the roof raises enough for foot space right to the very end. Plus, there are two reading lights and a USB socket.

There are ventilation flaps in the roof canvas but their zips didn’t seem to be of the highest quality. I’m afraid the one-piece fabric blind for the cab windows was disappointing, too – it’s surprisingly low-tech, given the Marco Polo’s other features.

Kitchen – 74%

This is a modern take on the usual camper-style kitchen, with the two gas rings set on (and the stainless steel sink set in) a black worktop. There’s a top-loading, 40-litre compressor fridge and all main appliances have their own sturdy hinged lids with positive locking. There’s a good enough array of storage, too, ranging from a cutlery drawer to lower-level cupboards – all with solid alloy edging.

Washroom – N/A

This is a campervan, so don’t expect a washroom. The largest of the kitchen lockers has a removable shelf and could conceivably house a portable toilet – but that’s a choice you’ll have to make for yourself.

Lighting – 76%

There’s a decent mix of lighting, from two ‘paddle’ lamps for the upper bed to floor-level ambient illumination. Plenty of other individually-switched units along both sides of the main living area, a light over the central cab area and two downstairs spotlights for reading in bed complete the picture.

If you want more, there are USB sockets (cab, upper bed, end of the kitchen unit) as well as a single mains outlet.

Verdict – 82%

This is a genuine car-camper. In terms of overall specification, as well as build quality, VW’s California finally has a worthy opponent. Is it better? In some areas, yes; in others, no. I’d argue that while the California represents camping, the Marco Polo is for glamping.

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