Back in November 2022, Ford unleashed the Transit Trail into the world. The manufacturer is capitalizing on the #vanlife movement by offering camper van builders a blank slate with much of the hard work already completed. The off-road van is also designed for OEMs, too, and we’re beginning to see what camper manufacturers are doing with the platform. The Thor Motor Coach Talavera promises off-road camping adventures “for those who want to experience travel without limitations.” Even better, it’s cheaper than its Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based rival. But, you will want to do a few upgrades before going too far off of the beaten path.
The RV industry is witnessing a cooldown in sales numbers. During the pandemic, Americans changed the way they vacation. As resorts closed and cruise ships were floating petri dishes, people went out and bought RVs in record numbers. Demand was so high that RV manufacturers struggled to crank out campers fast enough. Of course, some of the units that came out of the other side weren’t shining beacons of quality, either.
Now, the party appears to be coming to an end as demand is reeling back to fewer units than were sold before the pandemic. Still, some segments of the industry are currently showing more strength than others. The RVIA’s data suggests that customers are still opting for Class C and Class B motorhomes and camper vans. More people have purchased camper vans than truck campers and tent campers combined. So, it makes sense for Ford and Thor to offer a platform like this.
The Transit Trail
Before we get to the camper itself, let’s talk about the platform it’s riding on. The Ford Transit Trail has been on sale in the United Kingdom since 2020. Out there, the Transit Trail is a rugged, more off-road capable variant of the famed Transit van. Ford brought the same concept over to America and through its Ford Pro division, turned the Transit Trail into a good starting point for an RV conversion.
On the exterior, the Transit Trail stands out from a regular Transit with bulky, butch fender flares, an aggressive grille, and a bumper that at first glance, looks like it’s ready to tackle difficult terrain.
The Transit Trail comes equipped with exclusive 16-inch alloy wheels painted black. These wheels are wider with a different offset, resulting in a 2.75-inch-wider track over a base Transit. The wheels are then wrapped in 30.5-inch Goodyear Wrangler Workhorse all-terrain tires. Ford says that these tires have a 2.5-inch larger diameter than standard Transit tires. The tire package is complemented with a 2.25-inch suspension lift with a reinforced unibody and a new steering column.
Add it all up and you get 6.7 inches of ground clearance at the Transit Trail’s lowest point. Approach angle is 19.5 degrees, Departure is 25.3 degrees, and Breakover is 19.3 degrees. Power comes from a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 making 310 HP and 400 lb-ft torque, which puts those ponies down to all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission. Sadly, there are no lockers here, but you do get a limited-slip differential in the rear.
Inside, Ford Pro did most of the hard work in converting a van. The Transit Trail comes standard with two 12V batteries. One battery is your starting battery while the other is your camper conversion’s house battery. It also comes with a 400W inverter, 4G LTE connectivity, and a 12-inch infotainment screen on the dashboard. Ford Pro also wires up an electrical system for you which routes through a panel under the passenger seat. That’s where you’ll find a 110V outlet and fuses for the electrical components you build into the camper space. Ford Pro then tosses an auxiliary switch panel for accessories and upfits as well as an option for a 250-Amp alternator.
The factory camper bits continue with front seats that swivel and an option to have a roof fan installed at the factory. That way, the van’s builder or upfitter doesn’t have to hold their breath and cut a hole in the van’s roof.
All of this was designed around the idea of making DIY conversions easier. Ford Pro installed an electrical box for you and you don’t have to worry about cutting a hole for a fan or an air-conditioner. At the Transit Trail press event, Ford showed off an upfit by Vandoit, a builder of modular camper van conversions. Ford says there are literally hundreds of upfitters who can take your Transit Trail and build it into whatever you want it to be.
But, if you aren’t interested in something like that, large camper builders like Thor Motor Coach are also taking the Transit Trail and turning it into camper vans. Thor took me for a tour of its Talavera, the Transit Trail-based Class B camper van intended for adventure.
The Thor Talavera
Camper manufacturers have been getting into the OEM off-road camper game recently. Winnebago has the Sprinter-based 4×4 Revel and the Winnebago + Adventure Wagon, Thor has the Mercedes-based Tranquility and the Sanctuary while Pleasure-Way has its Mercedes-based Rekon 4×4. One name that’s been doing off-road camper van conversions for a while, Sportsmobile, will be happy to make you a Ford or Mercedes-based 4×4 camper van. You can find plenty of smaller brands getting in on the action as well.
The Thor Talavera is a fresh face in the Thor Motor Coach lineup, joining the Palladium as one of two Ford Transit Trail-based Thor Class B vans. Both were introduced on September 25 during the Indiana RV Open House. When I asked Thor to show me its latest and greatest coach, its representative took me for a tour of the Talavera. It’s an example of what a large company with a lot of resources could do with Ford’s Transit Trail platform. The Talavera is 19 feet, 8 inches long, 10 feet, 2 inches tall, and has a GVWR of 9,500 pounds.
The floorplan Thor Motor Coach had on hand was the Talavera 1910, which features a bathroom nestled up on the rear doors, an expanding sleeper sofa in the middle, and a kitchen situated across from the sofa. The other floorplan is the 1920, which is a more typical camper van configuration with a bed in the back, a small bathroom in the middle, and a tiny dinette behind the front seats. Sadly, 1920 model was not available for me to view.
Personally, I love the 1910’s floorplan of having the bathroom in the back. You can park yourself up next to a lake, pop those rear doors open, and enjoy reading the Morning Dump while you do your morning dump taking in that fresh air. Just, make sure you aren’t revealing yourself to other campers.
I also like the arrangement of having a big sofa rather than a tiny dinette. I’m not a small person, so I often have to squeeze into the dinettes of other camper vans. That is not a problem here.
I like to feel up camper interiors and the touchpoints in this one felt better quality than the more expensive Winnebago 4×4 Revel. It also seems like a designer actually thought about how things would look before plopping them down into the interior. To see what I mean, check out the inside of the Winnebago. It sort of seems like the bench was just placed there:
Thor offers up a few variations on interior colors, but they all largely look the same with white and a dash of wood here and there.
In terms of equipment, Thor substitutes the 12V house battery for a Re(Li)able Power Pack Electrical System, which consists of a 400Ah lithium battery, a 3,000W pure sine inverter, a 170-amp alternator, and a system that automatically starts the engine when the battery runs low. Other camping equipment includes a Truma Combi Eco LP-based furnace and water heater, an 11,000 BTU air-conditioner, a 200W solar panel, a plug for more solar power, and a Winegard Connect cellular/Wi-Fi/TV antenna.
Additional equipment comes in the form of a microwave, a portable Bluetooth speaker, a single-burner induction cooktop, a power awning, and a 3,500-pound tow hitch. Sadly, the toilet is of the 5-gallon “shitcase” variety but there are heated tanks for the 22-gallon fresh water tank and the 20-gallon gray water tank.
Taking It For An Off-Road Adventure
Thor’s advertising markets the Talavera as the sort of camper van you take when you want to go where there are no roads. To help the Talavera at its off-road mission, Thor’s designers made sure that the camper’s equipment didn’t hang super low under the chassis. For example, the sewer hose sits on the running boards. Only the sewer connection hangs low.
Most of the buyers of the Talavera probably won’t be taking this van on terrain much harder than a fire road. But if you do decide to do something a bit more hardcore, there are two things you should be aware of.
Thor left the off-roading bits of the Transit Trail untouched. That means your running boards look like rock sliders, but they aren’t real sliders. And the skid plate? Well, if you thought Subaru was bad for a metal skid plate riveted to plastic, the Transit Trail doesn’t even try doing that. The van’s skid plate is a piece of plastic that Ford’s engineers have told me is mounted to more plastic. So, don’t try digging that front end in too deep. The van also lacks recovery points. So, again, definitely have fun, but don’t have too much fun.
Thor has priced the Talavera competitively with its Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based rivals. The Talavera’s $178,500 base price is slightly cheaper than Thor’s own $180,460 Sprinter-based off-road vans, slightly cheaper than the $182,000 Pleasure-Way Rekon 4×4, and a whole heaping cheaper than the $210,293 Winnebago Revel. I also like that the interior of this van is better than the more expensive Winnebago.
Of course, $178,500 is still very expensive; I bet you could buy multiple Detroit homes for that. But if you have the kind of cash for a van like this, I think you’ll probably like it as much as I did. Just, be sure to toss out that plastic skid plate for something a bit more beefy.
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