Of all the categories of RVing, Class B RVs are the hottest with a rise in sales of more than 150% year over year. That’s a lot of folks doing a lot of buying. But what if even a Class B van is too large for your garage? Fortunately, there’s 5 Mars in Quebec, Canada, who converts Chrysler Pacifica Minivans into pretty well-outfitted campers.
The Chrysler Pacifica still remains a popular choice in minivans for good reason. Despite minivans no longer being the hot commodity that they once were, they still return enough sales numbers. And, let’s be honest, this is the kind of vehicle that really makes a lot of sense for a lot of people. You get all that cargo space or people space in a very drivable package. (Floor plan not available.)
The minivan as a camper
5 Mars actually makes several models of camper vans based on both the Chrysler Pacifica and the Ram ProMaster. Of course, the ProMaster models are more typical of what you’d expect in a Class B RV and we will look at those in the future. But let’s start with the 5 Mars Illusion, which is based on the Pacifica.
Like the Pacifica on which it’s based, the Illusion is available in three major drive train configurations: two-wheel drive, all-wheel drive and hybrid.
One of the cool things about these vans is that they are almost identical in profile to the Pacifica when the pop top is down. This offers the same appeal as it did when Volkswagen did this with their camper vans. Essentially, you retain all the drivability of a smaller platform but then have the ability to stand up when using this as a camper.
You don’t really lose a lot of what makes the Pacifica a good daily driver, including the ability to transport people. The two captain’s chairs up front are retained, of course. And there’s a two-person bench seat all the way at the back of the vehicle.
The front passenger chair is different from what comes stock in the van in that it rotates 180°. That way you can face the rear seat, making for a nice space to hang out if the weather’s lousy.
That rear tri-fold seat is also the primary bed. When it’s sleepy time, it unfolds into a flat padded surface measuring 42” wide by 72” long.
Large cargo wells in the 5 Mars Illusion
Underneath, 5 Mars has taken the space that Chrysler uses to put the folding seats and created a large cargo well. This would be a great place to put your bedding, camp chairs, or that sort of thing. The center row shoulder belt serves as a device to hold the bed up while you’re loading/unloading to avoid conking one’s noggin.
There is also a large cargo well on the camp side under the floor. In a normal Pacifica, that is where the Stow-N-Go seating would fold into.
There is a small cabinet back here but that’s intended for a propane bottle. That is a bit odd to me, having that bottle inside the vehicle. Though, honestly, I’m not sure where else they would put it. If you read this column regularly, you’ll know I’m a big fan of induction cooktops. I also appreciate the benefits of having a lithium battery or two charged by either the vehicle’s alternator or solar panels and using an induction cooktop. But then that eliminates this van’s being as stealthy as it is when not in camping mode.
Second battery for household functions
Also beneath the seat is a small water tank which is for the sink and which is pressurized electrically. 5 Mars features a second battery specifically for the household functions, including the water pump and lights in the camper. This is so you don’t find yourself in a remote spot with a dead engine battery.
You can opt this with a solar panel and 2,000-watt inverter if you choose. That would energize the plugs without having to connect to shore power.
Along the road side is a counter that houses the aforementioned sink as well as a two-burner flush-mount propane cooktop. Below that is a bar-sized 12-volt refrigerator.
A tabletop mounts on a pole in the center of the floor. It can be had in the same color scheme as the rest of the counters. You’ll see one option is a very bright yellow. This is very, very European to me – along with the pattern on the pillows in the pictures. I’m sure there are more conservative colors available, as well.
Those of you who aren’t enthusiasts of the van life movement might not appreciate the porta-potty that resides between the two front seats as much as enthusiasts of the genre. While you’re not getting a shower, at least you’re not going through bear country when nature calls. At least the roof, when popped up, is tall enough so that you can stand and deliver, assuming you have the appropriate plumbing to do so. But with the carpeted interior you had better be sure that your aim is true.
I know that, compared to some Class B vans, this might seem lacking in features or space. But it’s really a well-thought-through package with some interesting adaptations. Furthermore, it retains the drivability of the Chrysler Pacifica, which is actually quite good.
Furthermore, it might be difficult for many to tell that this isn’t anything more than a standard Pacifica. That is, until the top is popped and the coffee is brewing. I would say that this is one of the closest things I’ve seen to a VW camper van today. It might really be worth considering as a weekend camper that could also do minivan duty.
Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a life long RV enthusiast. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife.
These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.
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