Recently I wrote about Thor’s new Sanctuary 4X4 Class B van based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4X4 platform. One of the most telling things I could say about that vehicle is that Thor seriously needs to get some van aficionados and let them have free reign. Or, instead, you could just get a Storyteller Overland van and already have that.
There are a number of offerings in Birmingham, Alabama-based Storyteller Overland’s lineup. All of their vans are 4X4 offerings on either the Mercedes-Benz or Ford Transit platform. But you know I immediately got intrigued by a model called the Beast MODE 4X4.
So exactly what is Beast MODE and does it live up to the name and the almost $200,000 price? Let’s cut to the chase. Heck yeah.
Why? For starters, how about a 12kWh M-Power Energy Storage System with high output alternator and 3600W inverter. This is some serious power aboard in the form of battery – something I dream of in a travel trailer.
If you run this battery down, there is a setting where it will start the engine on high idle and recharge the battery. Once it gets back up to a good place, the engine shuts itself back down. That means you can run the AC unit on battery power for a while and not have to worry that it’ll be dead.
On the exterior of the back door is an accessory rack. That allows you to attach whatever you like rather than offering just one choice.
The company has gone through the suspension to give it more height and better off-road prowess. There’s an on-board air compressor so you can inflate/deflate the tires. For nighttime beast mode’ing there are KC lights that completely encircle the vehicle. You can literally light up all around it.
Innovation in the Beast MODE
One of the things I really didn’t like about the aforementioned Thor was that it just took convention and shrunk it down to fit into a van. This is exactly the opposite.
Starting at the back, there is a unique bed arrangement where left and right side have a platform that flips up against the wall. This isn’t too unusual. But where you can see Storyteller Overland thinking outside the box is in the fact that you can flip one side down and use it as a desk.
The bed is made wider with a wall extension on each side of the van where the windows would normally be. This makes it possible to sleep “east to west” and have a larger sleeping surface.
Below the bed along each side of the wall is a hanging set of pouches for storage. To facilitate bringing your adventure gear along, there are L tracks along the floor to tie it down.
On the camp side is a rather unique shower/bathroom arrangement. There’s a low “box” along the floor where you can put the porta potty. Up above is a folding track system where you can hang a curtain for privacy. Well, visual privacy. There isn’t much sound isolation.
There’s also a shower overhead with the water heated by the diesel fuel aboard. Smart. There is literally no propane in this rig.
On the road side in the center of this rig is a two-place seat that can accommodate two passengers in belted positions. This is called the Groove Lounge and the company has a patent on it. Essentially it can also be folded flat and they claim it can accommodate two individuals sleeping, as well.
Behind the front captains’ chairs are more pocketed storage compartments. The seats rotate 180° so you create a lounge with the Groove Lounge and these chairs. Groovy.
Galley in the Beast MODE
On the camp side is a counter/cabinet that has a solid surface and just a single round sink where the faucet folds flat. Since this vehicle has a beast of a battery (see what I did there?) there is an induction cooktop. That cabinet is also accessible from the outside via the sliding door. Also, there’s a flip-down table and a 120vac outlet, so you could use the induction cook top outside as well.
At the front cap of the cabinet is a 12-volt refrigerator that can be accessed easily from outside or in.
All around the interior along the ceiling are cabinets with positive latches. To reduce rattling or damaging the contents there is carpeting in the cabinets.
There are advantages inherent in the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. The company has seen so many more sales to individuals looking to create van life rather than just fleets looking to deliver your packages.
So they’ve upped their interior game, finishing the newer models of these vans in an aesthetic more pleasing to individuals. Then they added in some of the safety technology the company is known for. This includes lane assist, adaptive cruise control, preemptive braking and more.
This might be why so many folks are looking at this category of vehicle. You get much of the safety technology along with camper credibility in a vehicle that’s not any bigger than the average pickup or large SUV in terms of footprint.
Combining real off-road prowess, very innovative storage, a huge battery and smart way to recharge that, and a flexible interior, this is one of the better Class B vans I’ve seen. But, more to the point, it’s absolutely clear that the folks at Storyteller Overland actually use these vans and build them as a result of actual off-road back-country use. They’re not just looking at what some focus group tells them they want and then shrinking down ideas from larger motorhomes.
Tony comes to RVtravel.com having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping, where he also has a podcast with his wife about the RV life.
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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