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We went back and forth between buying a Weekender or a Camper for a long time. We finally opted for the Camper for several reasons.
Power: As of the '97 model VW put in a V6 engine strong enough to haul the Camper's extra 900 lbs. comfortably. In fact, we've found that our Camper can keep accelerating on any highway in California, even the steep one that swoops up the eastern face of the Sierras to Tioga Pass at over 10,000 ft. altitude. And it has a top speed of a true 106 mph (115 indicated).
Winter camping: the Camper model's 12,000 btu propane furnace let us go camping in Yosemite in February with over 2 ft. of snow on the ground. We were toasty inside.
Summer camping: the Camper's Winnebago poptop is vastly superior to the Weekender's Westphalia one. Our Camper's poptop has three big rectangular screen windows and a rooftop vent. The camper has two small semicircular ones. Inside on a hot day our Camper is airy and comfortable where a Weekender would be sweltering (and a normal minivan unbearable).
Camping while it's raining: we can cook, eat, talk and sleep inside the Camper. Our first trip it poured cats & dogs. We enjoyed the patter of rain on the roof. We didn't have to venture out except to use the restroom. The extra 15.8" length of the Camper made up for the narrower space left by the cabinetry along one wall.
Commuting: despite being longer and heavier, my wife finds the Camper is a great commute vehicle and uses it every day, leaving our Jetta in the garage. Both the Camper and Weekender handle better than other minivans (due in part to the stiff truck suspension) and the high seating position and huge windshield let you see farther down the road--even over the roofs of Jeep Cherokees. Parallel parking in the 17 ft. long Camper takes getting used to, but you learn to swing wide. The Camper will fit in a normal parallel parking space.
We did have give up one thing in choosing a Camper: the Weekender's beds are wider, since you don't have the interior cabinets. But the space is shorter and the front seats don't swivel.
Once we drove a Camper and found the power satisfactory it was a no-brainer for us. Especially since when we bought ours in July '98 the Camper actually cost less than the Weekender, despite its additional length, propane furnace, three way refrigerator, sink with running water, second camper battery, rear spritzer faucet thingie, ability to run everything on AC from a shoreline while camping, storage space over the cab (accessible by unzipping the front screen window) and more. Ya gotta pay for Westphalia workers' six week summer vacations I guess.
All Eurovans do have one defect relative to other minivans: they're noisier inside. It's not unbearable, but I hope VW does something about this as some point. A hearing-impaired friend wound up with a Grand Caravan solely because of this factor.
For more information from owners like us, join the EV_update email forum. Go to http://groups.yahoo.com/ and search on EV_Update. It has nearly 1,200 members and covers all models/years of Eurovan (but not earlier VW Vanagons/busses).
You could also put a self contained camping module in a weekender, if your the type that doesn't camp enough to justify the kitchenette fulltime:
Select "Van camper kit" and "kitchenette"
Moderator - Buying questions? Please include selling price (not OTD), zip code and trim you are shopping.
Most of the EVC types wouldn't buy a van based on an American van. The ride is just different, as is the image. YMMV
You'll have to cut and paste as the word was too long for the program.
All point to the obvious. This vehicle is for utility. Look for dual electronic power leather comfy gizmos elsewhere.
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