• He says, she says – Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo.

    He says, she says – Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo.

    One car, two points of view. She’s an engineer specializing in solar and wind power. He’s a surf shop owner. Both love water sports. Austrians Julia and Mike traveled to Spain to try out the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo for size.

“The surroundings were breathtaking.”

Julia Flath and Mike Mayer live in Vienna, but – as semi-professional kitesurfers – are often on the road together. In winter, for example, their passion leads them as far afield as Kenya and Brazil, but their most frequent ports of call are Lake Neusiedl and Lake Constance. The two water sports enthusiasts take part in competitions on a national and international level, and they normally travel there in Mike’s minibus; it has enough space for their gear and contains a bed, so they can set up camp close to the best beaches. Mike also owns a surf shop in his native Voralberg and sells water sports equipment all over Austria. We invited the couple to Spain and asked them to take the Marco Polo on a tour south of Barcelona. “The surroundings were breathtaking,” recalls Julia about the drive to the Ebro delta, home to some popular water sports hot spots. “The locals were very charming as well, but their overtaking habits took a bit of getting used to. People were overtaking us at 200 km/h (120 mph)! They disappeared into the distance in a flash, leaving a cloud of dust behind them – it was like something out of one of those Road Runner cartoons.”

Julia Flath and Mike Mayer.
Julia Flath in the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo.


When I heard we’d be testing a Mercedes Camper van, I was sure it was going to be something elegant and classy. However, what actually struck me first about the Marco Polo was how sporty it looked. From the front it seems pretty compact, more like a regular sedan than something to sleep and live in. But when we slid back the door, I was absolutely speechless. The van doesn’t strike you as particularly large from the outside, but inside it’s like a luxury hotel room – bright, spacious and with all the mod cons. The drawers open with that smoothness you get with designer furniture, the kitchen is really neat and very practical. The rear seat bench slides back by more than a meter (over 3 ft.), and the front seats are easy to rotate if four of you want to sit around the fold-out table. However, these weren’t the only tricks the van had up its sleeve. As soon as I got behind the wheel, I felt like I was back in a regular-size car – it was so easy to guide through the traffic.

It was thoughtful details like that one that really impressed us.

We headed straight for the coast, so we could get out the paddle-boarding gear we’d brought with us. As we were preparing to go into the water, we noticed that the van’s electronic key with remote-control central locking was no ordinary key: you can pull out a manual key from the handy transmitter unit in the blink of an eye and fix it to your wetsuit on a strap. This means you can leave the sensitive electronics somewhere dry without having to stash or hide the key somewhere so you can get back into the car when you’re out of the water. It was thoughtful details like that one that really impressed us.

Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo.
Mike Mayer and the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo.


The first thing I noticed about the Marco Polo was the peace and quiet. When I’m at home, I often find myself travelling back and forth between Vienna and Voralberg, and I’ve gotten used to the uninterrupted clattering noise coming from my van’s kitchen. But here, everything was quiet – even through corners, because the crockery is all stowed away so neatly. From the cockpit you have a great view of what’s going on around you as well as out over the road. The rearview camera is a very nice extra, but you don’t need it much when you’re maneuvering because the car is just so easy to see out of. I love camper vans, and not just because I need room to carry around surfboards, wakeboards, and kitesurfing gear.

The feeling of being able to pull over anywhere.

The feeling of being able to pull over anywhere and set up home sums up quality of life for me. Especially when the car – like the Marco Polo – is under two meters (approx. 6 ft. 6 in.) in height. That means you can get it into any garage or height-restricted parking lot. People who enjoy water sports like to be close to the ocean, of course. Most of the time in Spain we parked the van so that we could check out the wind and waves from the comfort of our bed in the ingeniously simple pop-up roof. The Marco Polo attracted a fair bit of attention from other surfers, and one couple even asked if they could have a snoop around inside. The paddle-boarding was a lot of fun, too, by the way. The Ebro Delta Natural Park is a wonderful place for getting straight out there. There was torrential rain on our final day, but that didn’t stop us going out onto the water. It was wonderful to come back dripping wet and be able to get back into the car to warm up. There’s enough room on board to get changed and the floor is really easy to clean. Plus, there was even space for us to hang our wetsuits up to dry inside.

Mike Mayer.