Life on the road

One Marco Polo had a very hard time in 2017. Blame Motor Sport

A number of air-cooled fans may disagree with this, but the ubiquitous early VW camper van does a disservice to the genre. Indeed, if you have ever had the misfortune to drive one regularly – as I have – you find yourself battling poor performance, heavy controls, terrible reliability and catastrophic rust. Sure, the front of a VW camper – especially the split-screen – resembles a smiley face, but look beyond cheery anthropomorphism and VW campers are a bit, well, rubbish. 

For seven months Motor Sport had use of a Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo – a vehicle that completely rewrites the camper van rules. We slept in it, transported people across Europe in it, towed race cars with it and generally gave it a very hard time – which it took in its stride. 

It attracted attention, too. From race paddocks to petrol stations, people were wowed by the idea of a Mercedes camper – and we were happy to report that the reality matches the idea. It’s quick enough to cruise at 90mph (in Germany, of course), warm and quiet enough to sleep at a chilly Oulton Park and ours had all the mod-cons – heated seats, sat-nav and leather. Plus, being a camper, a built-in awning, a shower attachment, a sink, cooker, fridge and neatly stowed camping chairs. 

It was a remarkable vehicle, and the more we used it the more we loved it. And here’s the killer – unlike a motorhome it’s compact enough to use every day.

We will miss it. Nick Trott