Does it Exist? Newer AWD Tall-Wagon Van Thing You can Sleep In

PHeller

Adventurer
The new tradesman panel-wagons like the Ram ProMaster City, Transit Connect, NV200 and Mercedes Metris are great utilitarian vehicles that offer great fuel economy but still offer enough space for the occasional mini-RV use. Unfortunately, as good as they may be for a road trip, they aren't great offroad.

From what I can tell, the Fiat Doblo based Ram ProMaster City offers independent front and rear suspension, so it could be lifted but its only offered as a FWD, and the Metris while available in AWD overseas hasn't even hit our shores yet in FWD. The full-size Transit is fuel efficienct and offers plenty of space, but wrenching on one looks to be a challenge. Oh, and pricing is a whole other ballgame.

The Element is pretty close to what I'm looking for, just a bit too short. The AstroSafari is pretty much spot on, but working on one is not like working on a Subaru Outback. Subaru should build an van based on the Outback, then I'd be sold.

Is there anything I'm missing, either used, current or future vehicle that combines the utility of a van, the driving dynamics and fuel efficiency of a wagon, the ease of maintenance as a truck or car, but is still AWD and can be lifted?
 

Detslider

Adventurer
Is there a used, current or future vehicle that combines the utility of a van, the driving dynamics and fuel efficiency of a wagon, the ease of maintenance as a truck or car, but is still AWD and can be lifted?
That's a tall order.

A Volkswagen Vanagon or Doka with a Subaru motor swap might check all those boxes but are demanding a crazy high resale value right now.

New: MB Sprinter is available in 4x4 but the price is steep ($50K+) http://www.mbvans.com/sprinter/home

Used: Chevy Express was available in AWD at least up until MY '14 http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5504
 

CurtStyler

Observer
Yeah, I went through this same thing a few months ago.

I wanted the space of an E-350 the offroad ability of a jeep and the fuel economy of a Honda Civic. Sadly there's not much out there. I looked at the Transit Connect but I didn't trust it's driveline getting off road.

You will have to compromise on something. I ended up with the 2016 Subaru Outback. It offered the best economy I could find in something with a 4 wheel drive system that was designed for more than wet roads. My initial plan was to remove part of the rear seats and build a sleeping platform, but as I designed it I realized I needed more storage room. Now the plan is a RTT and storage inside. The deeper I get into this the more I wish I had more space. I'm using a Subaru Outback for a trip that should really be done in a camper with the amount of time I will be living out of this thing.

I think the 4x4 Sprinter is the closet thing that you are looking for, they are just really pricey as this is the first year they are being sold here in the states.

If fuel and money is less of a concern, a Sportsmobile might fit the bill. They are pretty capable offroad and have plenty of room inside.

It also comes down to what your plans are, where will you be going, what types of trails will you encounter?
 

EMrider

Explorer
Is there anything I'm missing, either used, current or future vehicle that combines the utility of a van, the driving dynamics and fuel efficiency of a wagon, the ease of maintenance as a truck or car, but is still AWD and can be lifted?
I don't think that unicorn exists.

If you want to maximize utility and value, I'd suggest getting a used E150 with the Triton 5.4 with a Quigley 4x4 conversion.

Those motors are very solid and if you buy right, your total cost of ownership will be far less than anything you buy new.

Good luck.

R
 

Hondaslayer

Adventurer
Doesn't exist and you are absolutely right that Subaru should do a proper van using the Astro / Safari as the template but with Subaru safety built in. But noooooooo, the new 7pax is going to be chasing the Honda Pilot instead.
 

Stroverlander

Adventurer
The Element is pretty close to what I'm looking for, just a bit too short. The AstroSafari is pretty much spot on, but working on one is not like working on a Subaru Outback. Subaru should build an van based on the Outback, then I'd be sold.

Is there anything I'm missing, either used, current or future vehicle that combines the utility of a van, the driving dynamics and fuel efficiency of a wagon, the ease of maintenance as a truck or car, but is still AWD and can be lifted?
Think the Astro AWD nails it except for fuel efficiency but the purchase price and parts cost helps with that. Rather work on Astro than Subaru since for most maintenance I don't need to jack it up and my back doesn't hurt from leaning over to work on a car. :Mechanic:
 

Haf-E

Expedition Leader
I've often thought about having a trap door that you can open up to allow full height standing up room in the back of a lower roof van when parked - especially with a front wheel drive van like the promaster where there isn't much going on under it in the back... perhaps in the area right next to the rear doors? Seems like it would work...
 

Herbie

Rendezvous Conspirator
How tall do you really need it to be? Tall is for standing, not sleeping.

I've slept very comfortably in the back of my old Bugeye WRX Wagon. I made a curtain set and have used both an air mattress and a foam mattress. (Foam was better all around: headroom, warmth, etc.)

That said, for overlanding/camping, I bought an Astro, because we're a family of 3. We could have slept in something smaller, like a large suv, but I wanted room to live in inclement weather. Sitting up to play games, standing up to put on your pants, etc.

The tradeoff for that was driveability/size/economy. Really can't have it both ways.
 

PHeller

Adventurer
Kinda what I'm thinking. I've got access to a 02 E350 with the 5.4 and under 100k for $4,000. Full insulated with heater in the back. My uncle is practically forcing me to buy it but I'm not sure its the best deal available.

Quigley Conversion would be pricey. MPG would suffer. For the same $4,000 I could get a really nice AstroSafari AWD.

Subaru would be a great road trip vehicle with the ability to sleep in the back and bring our friends along (they can sleep outside, suckers.)

Currently sleeping in a Tacoma with a topper, can't imagine a Subaru would be too terribly different. Maybe not quite as capable offroad. I'd have to choose my trail wisely. That's just it. Nothing we have here in the states aside from a 4x4 Sprinter diesel or Syncro with swap will get 22mpg highway and still go just about anywhere.
 
Kinda what I'm thinking. I've got access to a 02 E350 with the 5.4 and under 100k for $4,000. Full insulated with heater in the back. My uncle is practically forcing me to buy it but I'm not sure its the best deal available.

Quigley Conversion would be pricey. MPG would suffer. For the same $4,000 I could get a really nice AstroSafari AWD.

Subaru would be a great road trip vehicle with the ability to sleep in the back and bring our friends along (they can sleep outside, suckers.)

Currently sleeping in a Tacoma with a topper, can't imagine a Subaru would be too terribly different. Maybe not quite as capable offroad. I'd have to choose my trail wisely. That's just it. Nothing we have here in the states aside from a 4x4 Sprinter diesel or Syncro with swap will get 22mpg highway and still go just about anywhere.
I originally had an ext cab Tacoma with topper and sleep platform when it was just me. It worked well for sleeping solo and stealth. Got married and moved to a double cab Tacoma and RTT. It has more room but zero stealth. After taking several trips where I barely used 4WD I decided on an E350 van. Plenty of room and great stealth. Figure I will sacrifice a good bit off road but I will carry a mountain bike and hiking boots for those rare times I can't get to where I want. I just bought an 03 E350 5.4 with 88k miles for more than double that $4k you have offered and love it. Go with the van!
 

Haf-E

Expedition Leader
I don't think a 4x4 sprinter would be much of a match to a syncro vanagon - the weight distribution and wheelbase length is very different and the lack of lockers is another issue.

The new shortest ford transit with the available 4x4 conversions (Quigley, Quadvan) would probably out perform the sprinter 4x4 off road also.

Hard to beat the low cost of the Astro/Safari though...
 

Dake21

Adventurer
Since you considered smaller vehicle (element and outback) how about a 1st gen (1998-2006) XL-7? Good offroad, good economy and it's long like a wagon.
 
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