We picked up our new Ford Transit based Sportsmobile in Austin in last March and took it on shake down trip through New Mexico, Arizona, up and down California and then back to Massachusetts via Colorado and the middle of the country. This might be a somewhat lengthy post to give an overview of the design choices we made and how itís worked out.
Overall, LOVE the van, the Sportsmobile people were great (even when our pickup was delayed due to their terrible ice storms) and the van features are exactly what we expected.
After a lot of research we decided our top priorities were:
- Gas engine
- LiOn All-electric
- No generator
- High build quality with solid warranty
- Four season usage (Good insulation and only interior water lines)
We originally decide on a Sprinter Gas engine and ordered it in 2019 through Sportsmobile. Mercedes never produced any for the US and were totally backlogged. I donít know if they have yet produced any Gas engines? Anyway, during Covid we realized it was a great time to move the van forward and looked again at the Transit and liked it. The Sprinter has a nicer dash, but otherwise, the vans are pretty comparable. The Ford has a more powerful (and possibly more gas hungry) engine and the biggest benefit: Pretty easy to find service. We were concerned about all the issues with Sprinters and being in the middle of the desert and 300 miles from a dealer.
Specs and Features:
- 19.8 foot length, with high roof and EcoBoost engine. Milage is not great. About 15-16 on level roads. I had expected a few MPG better
- Comes with standard Apple CarPlay (and I think Android Auto) which is great for navigating and music. Windows are huge and clear (and attract too many dead bugs!)
- Factory speakers are terrible, upgraded myself them with speakers from Crutchfield
- The radio whip antenna is annoying and very visible as it moves while driving. Replaced it with a 4-inch stubby (just unscrews)
- Would have liked a more advanced HVAC dash system. i.e. a set and forget temperature control. Probably doesnít work well in open vans. Dash heat and AC are very good.
- Driving is pretty quiet if we remember to lock down the ceiling fan!
- Layout has front facing sofa in the rear with a galley with induction stove, sink and builtin water filter.
- 33 inch shower with porta-potti on the driverís side with one column filled with the furnace, fridge and microwave
- Fridge is IsoTherm Cruise 130 and itís been great. Tons of space, looks good and keeps fold nice and cold. Power seems to be 30-50 Amp/hrs on a sunny warm-ish day. (Kept Ice cream frozen in Death Valley at 109 degrees outdoors)
- We havenít used the convection features of the microwave, so no comments yet
- Porta-potti has worked great. Very convenient, esp. in Covid times and easy to dump and mostly easy to rinse. (If you get to a dump station with running water.)
- Manual Fantastic fan which works great
- Roof top (Dometic) A/C which was possibly a mistake. Not sure weíll ever use it much since we tend to be boon docking. Even in Death Valley, it was 109 during the day, and 72 at night, but with the doors open, the temp was fine without A/C
- Furnace is Espar/Rixon D5 and itís worked great. Kept the cabin nice and cozy on low fan speed down to about 10 degrees one night. Provides hot water and works off electric if you are plugged in. Itís expensive, but been invaluable!
- Two solar panels on the roof with a Zamp controller. Used them more than Iíd have expected. We spent a few days parked and they provided somewhat more power than the fridge took, so it really moderated our battery drain.
- Fiama awning. Itís very nice and we enjoyed it a few times. Had a run in with a very low road-side tree in Carmel, CA and bent it off the bracket. Got it back now, but the frame is still a little bent. Still opens ok, so fingers crossed itís ok!
- Zipper and Velco removable bug screens for read and side doors
- Nice removable window covers which provide insulation for the Ďautoí windows (rear and sliding door, front doors and windscreens) are all included with the unit.
- No TV, using portable Sonos speakers
- 16 Gal water tank which has been fine. (Itís interior which is great for avoiding freezing)
For internet I purchased and Sportsmobile installed a PepLink Puma 221 roof mount antenna with two leads for LTE and two for WiFi. We used up using LTE almost exclusively and the external antenna clearly added 1 or 2 bars to the Verizon MiFi and made the difference in a few places for no signal or solid signal.
On this trip I was working during the week and needed to be able to make video calls. The challenge was always finding a great place to camp that also had LTE. I had MiFiís for Verizon ($70 for 30GB) and T-Mobile ($50 for 100GB!). TMob was our go-to and worked almost everywhere. The only problem is that the T-Mobile MiFi doesnít support external antennas! While many great parks and campground surprisingly have LTE/5G services these days, there were a day mornings where we had to drive a bit nearer to a town to get adequate service. If I could avoid the video calls, Iíd probably have been a lot more tolerant.
Inside the van we used a PepLink SOHO router which connects to the external antenna and the MiFiís and lets you chose the source. That was super convenient and it can be powered directly off the 12V. (I had SM put power in the over-the-cab storage where the antenna leads came in for this purpose.
Iím very much looking forward and hoping that Starlink has a solid mobile offering soon!
The folks at Sportsmobile were great throughout the whole process. Grant even sent us photos weekly during the build which were fun to see and gave us confidence in the build quality since we could see what they were doing underneath.
Pickup was easy. We got a 1/2 day guided tour of the van, a nice Ďmanualí and an offer that we could call with questions (Which we did!). We stayed in Austin for a few days to test everything out and then go back for questions and adjustments. SM Pays for 1 night camping to encourage you to stay locally!
After reviewing the van we asked for and they added a few shelves (carpeted etc) which were installed quickly.
After driving almost 10,000 miles, the build quality has held up. There are a few small issues that weíll work through with them, and a few Ďlumpsí in the wall coverings. But nothing serious and totally worth it to get exactly the layout, materials and colors that we wanted.