Last month, Autopian publisher and lover of all things Renault Twingo, Matt Hardigree, wrote about how Airstream’s new Rangeline Class B camper van is nearly perfect and almost affordable. Thanks to the massive RV Open House, I got to tour it and its competition and found myself impressed. It’s not the cheapest camper van out there, but you actually seem to get a neat bit of kit for what you pay. Let’s look into it.
At the Open House I spoke with Airstream representatives and asked a few questions about the new Rangeline. This is a camper van that’s based on a Ram ProMaster and starts at $131,882. Airstream is a company that normally sells luxury camper vans based on Mercedes-Benz Sprinters for $200,681 and well above. So, my first question is why is Airstream moving downmarket?
Airstream’s representative said the Rangeline is meant to be the more family-friendly option. Sure, families can travel in Airstream’s more expensive coaches, but you’ll try to be careful in one of those because everything looks so pretty. You might think twice about letting the family dog loose in an Interstate, for example.
So that’s what the Rangeline is for. The representative told me the Rangeline is for an active family with pets and kids. It’s something that you wouldn’t be afraid to let the dog walk around in or have the kids eat candy in. To demonstrate this, the representative pointed to a piece of metal on the running boards with a paw print cut out of it. They say this is for you to leash the dog up to while you’re camping; the spiffy Interstate models don’t have that!
You also might be wondering: What’s up with the name? The representative says Airstream coaches are named after roads. Interstate is obvious, but Rangeline? Apparently, Rangeline is inspired by two things. One is a road near where these vans are built. The other inspiration comes from the imaginary boundary lines running north and south, marking the relative east and west locations of ranges in a public-land survey.
One thing potential buyers will definitely be wondering is if this is worth $131,882. This van is going up to bat against the likes other 21-foot camper vans like the Thor Sequence, Winnebago Solis, Coachmen Nova, and Roadtrek Play. These are all priced close to each other, so what do you get here that you don’t get elsewhere?
I was not able to step into a Roadtrek Play or a Coachmen at the show, however, I was able to step inside of a Thor, Winnebago, and the Airstream. (And I should note that Thor owns Airstream).
Let’s Look At The Competition And Then Circle Back To The Airstream
Let’s start with the competition. A Thor Sequence has a higher starting price than the Airstream at $139,020.
Inside, you get a very similar floorplan where there’s a bathroom and kitchen in the middle, a dinette behind the front seats, and a larger bed in back. This van is similarly based on the Ram ProMaster 3500, and thus comes in at the same 21-foot length as a Rangeline.
The interior goes for the typical RV look. There’s nothing that stands out in there, and that’s fine. It does the job of a van to sleep in that looks pleasing to the eye.
Next, let’s look at the Winnebago Solis 59PX. This one is also 21-feet-long and also a Ram ProMaster 3500 underneath. Currently, the Winnebago site says that the MSRP is $148,900, which is more expensive than the Airstream, but this comes standard with a pop-top roof, a $11,694 option on the Airstream.
The interior here actually looks and feels like it was made from inexpensive materials, which sort of betrays the six-figure price. I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the Solis 59PX thanks to a constant flow of dealership people getting in the way, but I was able to feel up this interior.
I’m told that the kitchen has a laminate countertop, and it feels like it belongs in a vehicle with half of the price. That said, the van isn’t missing any features (more on these later) and it feels pretty roomy.
Forest River did not give us credentials to visit its brands during the Open House, so I did not come close to the Coachmen units. And bizarrely, Coachmen is the only RV manufacturer on this list that doesn’t publicly list pricing. But from dealership listings, the Coachmen Nova 20RB is also around the same price as the others.
Likewise, it’s also based on the Ram ProMaster 3500, measuring in at 21-feet-long.
This one has a different layout than the others. The kitchen unit is where the dinette would be in the other vans, and this doesn’t have a dinette at all. Instead, you get removable tables next to the seating areas. You get twin beds in the middle and a bathroom in the back.
Now for the Roadtrek Play, which starts at $134,610. By now, you shouldn’t be surprised when I say that this is based on a Ram ProMaster 3500 coming in at 21-feet-long.
At least based on looks, this one has my favorite interior yet. This one is also a different kind of layout which does away with the dinette seat. Instead, you get a removable table to use with the swivel front seat. The space where a dinette would be is a wet bath, and the rear of the van features two beds. I really dig the wood here.
Finally, we arrive at the Airstream Rangeline. As I said before, this van, as well as all of the others, are based on the Ram ProMaster 3500. They all have the same 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 making 276 horsepower and driving the front wheels. They all have the same 3,500-pound tow rating.
The Airstream Rangeline
Heck, they all even get around 20 mpg on the highway. That’s to say that at their core, these camper vans are basically the same.
Opting for the Airstream Rangeline does net you some neat tricks. Step inside of the Rangeline and you’ll notice that Airstream gave the Rangeline some nods to the company’s aluminum campers.
The ceiling consists of aluminum panels, and the shower unit is identifiably Airstream as well. I loved these little touches as they made this van a little different than the other camper vans.
Unfortunately, you do notice some evidence of cost-cutting, and it’s largely in the kitchen. The surfaces feel better than most of the campers I walked into during the show, but they weren’t on the level of the Airstream Interstate vans.
That’s not surprising, as this does shed over $50,000 from the price of the smaller 19-foot Interstate van. I think these countertops should last a long time, just temper your expectations for what you’re getting.
That said, everything felt pretty good to the touch and the seating surfaces felt comfortable.
The Airstream has a solid spec sheet, too. Looking deeper at the specs, the Airstream has a 28-gallon fresh tank, a 19-gallon grey tank (sink and shower drains), and a 12-gallon black tank (human waste drains). That’s the second-biggest fresh tank (the Roadtrek has a 37-gallon tank) and the biggest black tank. The Winnebago doesn’t have a black tank, forcing you to empty the toilet’s tank by dumping it manually. And the Thor has a black tank, but it’s smaller than the tank in the Winnebago’s cassette toilet. A smaller black tank means having to dump your crap more often.
And one thing that the Airstream does that none of the others do is power everything from two sources. In a typical Class B, you’ll find gasoline to power the engine, propane for heat and cooking, and batteries for electrical when parked. For the Rangeline, Airstream eliminated propane. The camper’s furnace is fueled by the van’s tank of gasoline, as is the generator. And everything else, including the cooktop, is powered by electricity. Airstream’s rep tells me that this is good for first-time RV owners as they don’t have to worry about keeping multiple fuels topped up. So long as you have a tank of gas you’re good to go.
That said, the Rangeline isn’t perfect. The house battery is a 270 Ah deep cycle lithium. That’s smaller than the Thor’s 460Ah lithium battery and a lot smaller than the Coachmen’s 630 Ah lithium battery. So if staying off-grid without the engine or generator running is a must for you, then it might not be the best pick.
Still, considering what features it does come with, I think that the Rangeline is a decent deal. It’s about the same price as the competition while having features that some of the competition doesn’t have. And while I’m perfectly fine with refilling propane tanks, I like Airstream’s idea of streamlining the fueling process. This feels like a van that I could drive across the country with a smile. Heck, I would love to take this down Route 66, exploring America from one of these vans.
So they took away propane, powered everything with electric, and then gave you the smallest battery of the bunch? In other words, this is another modern RV that’s basically incapable of camping off-grid. You’re either hooked up to electricity in an RV park or running your generator constantly to keep the fridge going.
This is very disturbing trend in the RV industry and I’m emphatically not here for it. Forest River is doing the same stupid stuff with their trailers, putting 12V-only fridges in them that require electric hookups, a generator, or a giant solar/battery array just to make it through the night. That’s fine for people who just park these in a big RV park 5 feet away from their neighbors, but they don’t even provide the option of a propane refrigerator for people who want one.
Well, it does have an onboard generator with a rather large fuel capacity, so maybe not that useless. You’ll have to run the generator almost every day, but not all day.
I rarely camp any more, but I appreciate a camper van. I can’t understand why so many manufacturers use these FWD dodge vans. Gimme a transit or get out.
I don’t get these at all. I thought the point of the motorhome van thing was mushing a bed in to an over-landing vehicle.
This is just a Chrysler city work truck with a bed in the back for the price of a house.
The manufacturers must be rubbing their hands in glee at the markup on these. The base vehicle is about $46,000.
The buyers for this are wealthy retired couples that want to do a North American Grand Tour. These vans are the RV Easy Button. Go to national parks and cities, stop and enjoy, move on. Not everyone is an Extreme Overlanding Off-grid Instagrammer. Most people with the money for this rig are well-off, comfortable, and less physically capable.
The only thing extreme is the price.
For me, these high-end RV reviews are like when you do a google search for something weird at work, and then ads for that thing start showing up all over your facebook and instagram feeds. Yes, please show me more ads for nylon netting.
I looked into underwater welding as a curiosity once, and my ads for months after were awesome!
Low cargo carrying capacity (remember people and water in the tanks count towards this), cramped insides, and sh*tcase toilet? I never understood the appeal but for those who do, rock on.
I will look at Motorhomes with higher carrying capacity, a “real” toilet, and better shower.
Plus in a unit that size, if the two of you are not fighting, you will be by the end of day 1.
Front wheel drive? Nope. Dodge? Nope again and it’s not even a real Dodge, It’s a stinking Fiat!
While the fit and finish looks good I have concerns, its mainly due to the fiat developed van. was there any added structure to the rear of the vehicle? The Promasters are not really strong in the back. A previous boss of mine parked one on the hill twisted the van so much that the door wouldnt close. Later on I had to total a similar van because the rear of the van was buckled so much from a front end impact. You notice there is no passenger promasters unlike the transit. Now you added a bunch of stuff in the back so will that help or hurt the rigidity of the vehicle?
You make a good point. I was watching a car show today. They were working on a VW van with a sagging roof. Apparently to repair it they attached a metal brace to the roof that didn’t attach to the body for just this reason. I don’t really understand it but have we lost common knowledge of why we used to do things?
Okay I am totally confused on what affordable means on this site. I bought my 3 bedroom house on the river with a 1 car garage with room for a shop in good shape for $43k. That means I could buy 4 houses for the economic family model and a fifth for regular price model. Frankly comparing prices to a New York apartment is ridiculous. They are very pricey. If you want a get away spot just to enjoy nature you can buy a camp in PA for $3k for an acre or hit a non KOA place, ask a local where they rent a year round spot, figure $100 a month. Man city folk just don’t get it and the influencer is just trying to sell you what his supporter is selling. Wake up people!
Anyone who pays 100K+ for a van with shoddily built everything gets exactly what’s coming to them.
Take this money and put it towards an actual home.
Where in the blazes are you that you can get a house on a river for $43G?!?!
That’d be $300G MINIMUM around here…
“[…] Ram ProMaster 3500. They all have the same 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 […]”
If only Stellantis carried over the diesel units in the European versions of this van (Fiat Ducato, Peugeot Boxer, Citroën Jumper etc).
Fuel use would be nearly 50% less, same size, same weight.
As a French man, I was thinking the same.
On a different note, I imagine you could probably get a Citroen Jumper type H body kit to give it a retro look. https://en.typeh.eu/m/1-panelvan.html
For the first couple years of Promaster sales, a 3.0-liter IVENCO F1C straight 4, marketed as an EcoDiesel, was on offer with a 6-speed automated manual.
It wasn’t a big seller.
Few dealers had techs trained to work on the diesel. Too few parts were stocked in North America.
A buddy (plumber) had one and every repair had his van off the road for weeks.
“A smaller black tank means having to dump your crap more often.”
This is the main factor that prevents me from understanding the appeal of these self contained RV’s. Don’t get me wrong, these things look really, really cool but having to pump the shitter? I’m happy my caravan has no toilet. I’m more than happy to shit in the caravan park’s communal toilet, flush it away and never see it again. But to each their own.
We had a trailer for many years without a toilet, but now that I have a trailer with a toilet, I would never go back. It’s just easier in the morning (or middle of the night) to get up and go in the trailer. I’ve also had a few times where I’m in towing in the middle of nowhere (Like the UP of Michigan), where my choice is a pit toilet in a roadside park, or just pulling over in that same park and going in the trailer. Emptying the tanks isn’t glamorous, but it’s also not a big deal. I throw on some disposable gloves and get it done in about 5 minutes. If you do it right, it’s not messy or stinky. We have an 18 gallon black tank, and it never fills up, even after a week of camping with 4 people. It’s always the 21 gallon grey tank that fills up fast if the family doesn’t take army showers.
That is a huge price difference compared to the EU. We have a lot of buscampers based on the Citroën / Fiat / Peugeot variant of this bus. No V6 petrol here, only diesel engines. But prices start at ~ €65.000 (~$63.500) for the simple, smaller versions with the smallest engine and manuel transmission and go up to ~ €100.000 (~$97.500) for longer versions with higher output engines and automatic transmission. Which is still considerably cheaper than the prices mentioned here.
I’m also confused by the price difference. Cars are a lot cheaper in the US and than a camper is much more expensive than here?
Well then there’s the Rangelines main competition, the Winnebago Travato that you didn’t even include. The Solis is a couple of steps down and not comparable.
At $132,000 for a Ram van with a few color-coordinated fripperies and a quasi-famous brand … I’m expected to “temper my expectations”?
Heh heh heh heh…. Ho ho ho….
well we’re told it’s on the cheaper end for these Ram campervan things, so I guess it must be a pretty good value in comparison? I’m still curious how VW can manage to market the Crafter-based Grand California as a showroom-ready Class B in Europe for just about $100k. Does it markedly lack something that these American ones come with? Or is VW just able to do it cheaper as an automotive OEM?
Hmm… studio “apodments” in my city start out at about $1500 a month for one about the same square footage of a 1980s parking space.
It doesn’t seam like a terrible idea to nab one of these and a KOA membership instead.
$1500 a month payment and you’ll own it in 6 years.
Keep up on maintenance and you could be living rent/mortgage free somewhat comfortably and adventurously.
If I was in my twenties today that seems like a rad opportunity.
This prompted me to watch the ~30min video from airstream walking through this thing. It’s totally great, and well done – no doubt about it. If money was no object, there’d be one in my driveway.
But it is, so it isn’t.
What I wonder is, what is the real benefit of a setup like this? Gas mileage @ 20mpg seems pretty good, easier to drive vs a trailer / nice to have it all under the same roof (not sure this is actually a benefit), slightly stealthy so you could maybe use it to sleep in places you might not otherwise be able to (don’t think this is actually the case). ???
Drawbacks being: price, it’s all one thing – so if the mechanicals start failing, the body rusts out, etc it’s useless, and you’re not doing any “overlanding” with this having FWD and no real off road capability. More or less, you’re parking this in modern campgrounds.
For the same price you could get a brand new 22′ airstream, and still have $60k leftover for a pretty sick truck to pull it – that could be disconnected and driven offroad, driven in cities, roll coal and tailgate every vehicle on the road like all full size trucks are (seemingly) meant to do. I’d guess that option would hold your value a lot better too.
Or you could always rent one of these or get a nice hotel room for the same cost. Would I still love one, sure? It still makes no sense to me.
I prefer a trailer too. I bought a 2007 23′ Airstream (looks nearly identical to a new 23′ but was well under half the price of new) and a new RAM 1500 Limited for way less than this. I’ve had 0 issues with the trailer and have pulled it over 2000 miles so far on about 6-7 trips. I daily the truck, get about 12-13mpg towing , but have more space than this van and can unhook and take the truck to all the sites. I think the advantage of the Rangeline is for people who are doing mostly 1-2 nights at a single location. It fits in a standard parking spot (for the most part) and setup is really minimal. It also is less intimidating to drive. I doubt there’s many families using these though. I’d guess 90% or more of the users are a couple or single person.
“More or less, you’re parking this in modern campgrounds.”
That is all that lots of people seem to do with campers these days. Most of the campgrounds around here look like a big Wal-Mart parking lot, without the Wal-Mart. And not really a lot to do in the immediate vicinity. And they are just full, I don’t really get it.
Interesting pet tie down. Made me think of National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Motorcycle Cop : Poor little guy. Probably kept up with you for a mile or so.
Looks like an afterthought some designer really wanted to add last minute, it’s bolted on and the paw is upside down.
(“Hey can we add this paw print bottle opener?” Nope. “What if we attach it, upside down, to the running board and call it a pet tie down” Yup!)
Yeah, I’d be more than a little annoyed if that wasn’t a paid optional extra.
First, I don’t have a pet.
Second, it’s upside-down!
Third, the exposed fasteners make it look especially cheap.
Fourth, I’d much rather have a simple rugged D-Hook. So much cheaper, more durable, multipurpose, and easier to clip onto and release from.
It’s a tiny little feature that actually turns me away from the camper far more than the cutesy appeal.
As a retired delivery truck driver the D hooks are sad. Give me the track tie down with tie down areas every inch at a good height. They don’t put those on pickups I don’t know why.
Yuck, I’ll take a Scout camper and…*checks notes* whatever truck and camp shit I want to go with it.
If I need ~all of this~ to camp I should probably just stay my ass at home.