The Mercedes-Airstream Hybrid

Credit: Courtesy Airstream

The promise that began with Volkswagen's iconic Westfalia — a daily driver that easily converted to a self-sufficient roadside home — has been gloriously renewed in a luxe collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Airstream. The fully loaded $155,000 Airstream Interstate, a converted Sprinter 3500 dually, could pass as a reasonably upscale hotel room, with galley kitchen, bathroom, and queen-size bed, all tastefully lit and air-conditioned, thanks to an onboard generator. With its oversize refrigerator/freezer and 22-inch LED screen with satellite capability, the Interstate leaves little room for roughing it.

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It made our road trip to the coast last summer more like a walk to the living room. Powerful cameras showing exactly what's behind you and plausible chassis dynamics make piloting one of these leviathans a good deal easier than was the case with any of their ponderous predecessors, especially the giant campers built on the classic American van chassis; stretched then overloaded, they demanded physical strength and mental acuity that few can bring to the task of driving.

Now, the laws of physics tell us you'll never escape the fact that you are driving a small home around. But while piloting an Airstream Interstate away for a weekend at the beach, we were struck by the thought that the snowbirds who tend to find themselves behind the wheels of these things — well-heeled, superannuated, and fundamentally out of control — will no longer scare us quite as much as they once did. Simply put, their vans are better. [airstream.com]