The longstanding nature of on-road recreational vehicles (or RVs) has been challenged in recent years by the explosive growth in “overlanding”. Unlike the pavement-based travel in full comfort provided by RVs, overloading involves off-pavement travel for extended periods, usually with minimal comfort and a focus on “adventure” to destinations only vaguely known. And while these two approaches to travel might seem diametrically opposed, the folks at Airstream have done a remarkable job of bringing them together in the Airstream Interstate 24X.
While the popularity of overlanding has blossomed over the past 10 years, inspiring one-off concept vehicles like the Lexus J201 Concept, the Interstate 24X isn’t Airstream dipping its toe in the overlanding waters. This is a full-featured off-grid travel van based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500. At 24.5 feet long and 6.5 feet wide the Interstate 24X is about 7 feet longer, and about an inch wider, than a Honda Odyssey. But unlike the Honda, the Airstream features dual rear wheels, four-wheel drive, and a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine with 188 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.
While the Interstate 24X is longer than an Odyssey (and taller, at nearly 10 feet versus the Honda’s 6 feet), its overall driving demeanor is on par with a modern minivan. There’s an undeniable learning curve, requiring wider turns, earlier braking, and careful lane-change planning when maneuvering a vehicle of this size and weight (10,000 pounds — before adding people and cargo). But that learning curve took only a few days, after which the Interstate 24x proved easy and predictable to navigate on the freeways and city streets of LA and Orange County. And compared to the full-size RV behemoths commonly seen roaming the streets of Southern California, the Interstate 24X felt like a sports car.
Embrace those “long minivan” driving dynamics and you’re rewarded with an impressive combination of luxury amenities and off-grid technology. Inside the Interstate 24X you’ll find a full kitchen (sink, stovetop, refrigerator, and microwave), a full bathroom (sink, toilet and shower), dual bench seats that quickly convert to a full-size bed, and extensive storage space featuring a modular Aluminum Aircraft L-Track system to secure larger items like bicycles or kayaks. The Interstate 24X’s exterior features include a power-operated awning, outdoor shower nozzle, an extensive LED lighting system, running boards, protective lower body trim, and a 300-watt roof-mounted solar panel system.
That last feature helps charge the Interstate 24x’s on-board 50 amp power system, featuring dual 100-amp-hour lithium ion batteries and a 2000-watt power inverter. A 9.8-gallon LPG tank, fueling an on-board generator, supplements electric power. Given the van’s breadth of features, including an air conditioner, furnace, hot water heater, 23-gallon fresh water tank, 5G-ready antenna, and TV pre-wiring, that’s probably a good thing. And if that sounds like a lot to keep track of during your overlanding adventures, well, it kinda is. But Airstream also devised a mini-Norad-like control panel right behind the driver’s seat, which makes monitoring these systems quite easy.
We experienced all of these features during a week with the Interstate 24X. And to ensure it lived up to the “adventure” label Airstream attaches to this van we explored the metal sculptures and dirt roads crisscrossing Borrego Springs. After camping at South Carlsbad State Beach, with exceptional ocean and sunset views followed by overnight temperatures in the low 40s, we retracted the power awning and wound our way through a combination of multi-lane freeways and twisting two-lanes into California’s desert valley. At this point we’d already spent a few days driving the Interstate 24X through South Orange County and were quite comfortable with its driving dynamics.
But local errands aren’t the point of this Airstream. You’re supposed to live in it for multiple days (actually, multiple weeks, if you’re living up to the overlanding code), and in that time we utilized everything from the stovetop to the heater to the toilet, multiple times. Each of them lived up to billing, though accommodations for interior space must be made. The bathroom does indeed feature a sink, toilet and shower, but you’re not going to be changing clothes in its tight dimensions. The seating/bed area can serve multiple people, but adding bikes or other large outdoor gear will require substantial conversion efforts when switching between people and cargo priority.
But as a middle ground between massive, luxurious on-road-only RVs and small, extremely capable off-road SUVs, the Airstream Interstate 24X arguably offers the best of both worlds. It’s air suspension and smart cruise control help it drive like a long minivan, while its rugged exterior panels and capable 4×4 system makes for surprisingly confident off-road travels. It accomplishes both while bringing a vast array of the “comforts of home” to remote locations not normally associated with running water, air conditioning, and multiple USB ports.
As one might expect, this diversity of capability doesn’t come cheap. The Airstream Interstate 24X starts at $234,620, though that price does include every feature mentioned in this story and several we didn’t. Travelers looking for either the ultimate “glamping” experience or seeking the most capable off-road adventure vehicle won’t be satisfied with this van. But adventurers seeking a wide spectrum of luxury amenities, plus easy on-road driving and competent off-road excursions, will love the Interstate 24X’s multi-talented nature.