Beast MODE 4x4 Is a Mercedes–Based Overlanding Van With Attitude
As if the name doesn't give it all away, this Sprinter camper has four-wheel drive and is kickass.
If you're looking for a go-anywhere van to transform into a mobile cabin, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4x4 is a great choice. It's one of the most popular #vanlife choices around, with factory four-wheel drive and a number of body and wheelbase configurations. It's basically a blank slate—something we have highlighted over and over. Some upfitters build relatively affordable Sprinter-based overland rigs and RVs, others pull out all the stops. The overall variety of Sprinter options is overwhelming. Add Storyteller to your list of Sprinter upfitters, near the top, preferably—because their MODE 4x4 series looks the business.
The company has been in the upfitting business for a long time, its founder Jeffrey Hunter tells us, but only recently have they gotten into the overlanding/vanlife niche with the Storyteller Overland brand. And rather than buy a Sprinter and ship it to an upfitter for a totally custom conversion, all the Storyteller MODE vans are built more like a series production vehicle. There's only one interior layout, and there are three "trim levels"—the regular MODE, Stealth MODE, and Beast MODE. Each adds features and amenities, but the underlying similarity streamlines production, distribution, and keeps prices lower.
That also means the Storytellers are available through traditional retail outlets: RV dealers. You can finance them and insure them more easily than you could a completely custom job. Reducing the wait time, and the hassles involved, is smart business. Hunter is loathe to talk numbers, but he admits the company is on track to deliver 400 vans this year, outstripping demand from stocking dealers. That's impressive for a newcomer to the overlanding business.
What's more impressive is inside each of these vans, because this is an existing company that studied this move into overlanding very carefully before hopping in. The layout is thoughtful, with a flexible interior space that's not too cluttered. A bed platform folds down over 103 cubic feet of flexible cargo area with tie-downs—room for bikes, luggage, containers, you name it. That space isn't impeded on by the bed platform. Two comfy looking jump seats further forward—next to the induction range, sink, and refrigerator—can also fold down into a bed. The front captain's seats swivel 180 degrees to form a lounge atmosphere. It looks inviting, clean, but not opulent—just the right tone for a van built for adventure.
Stealth MODE is mainly an appearance upgrade over the basic van, with a dark look built around Mercedes' Selenite Grey Metallic exterior color. It's classy but understated. But the much more extroverted Beast MODE adds even bolder dress-up options, like the retro-fantastic graphics and KC Highlights lighting package, with some functional improvements.
The upgraded suspension, which allows for 275/70R17 tires, improves ground clearance slightly and provides a smoother ride. There's onboard air from ARB for airing down the tires if things get hairy. And there's a 12-kWh battery system with 90 watts of solar power for boondocking.
Hunter also hopes that Storyteller will differentiate itself from other upfitters with questionable records on customer satisfaction when something goes wrong. An app with resources on the equipment on board—which, remember, is mostly the same in all of the company's vans—and a service appointment scheduling tool aim to help on those fronts. It's not the reason anyone would buy one, but taking some of the headache out of the ownership experience is admirable.
Storyteller's MODE to come in at $149,748, and the Beast MODE to come in at $189,743. Compared to offerings from the big companies, like Winnebago and Airstream, the Storyteller's pricing seems like a win—plus, these are built from the ground up to fit the overlanding lifestyle.