This year’s Düsseldorf Caravan Salon will take place against a backdrop of soaring RVing and camping popularity. The growth of pandemic camping has seen first-timers flock to the RV lifestyle, and Renault looks to appeal directly to the subset of jet-setters-turned-RVers who want a compact camper with five-star luxury. As its juxtaposed name implies, the new Hippie Caviar Hotel arrives as part hippie bus and part high-end glamping service, stepping outside the midsize Trafic van to become a full couple’s retreat.
With the Hippie Caviar Hotel, the Renault Design team looks blend four essential elements into one experience. The van offers the type of post-lockdown escape currently driving the wild interest in RVing – higher, socially-distanced sanitary standards in light of continuing pandemic, space and flexibility to truly roam and get comfortable, and a small footprint as comfortable in city centers and tight event parking lots as on the open road. In effect, the concept combines the conveniences of a compact camper van with the space and luxury of a five-star indoor/outdoor glamping resort shrunk down to personal, social-distancing size.
Like the typical midsize van camper conversion, the Hippie Caviar has both driving and camping modes, relying on a folding rear bench to transform into the 57 x 77-in (145 x 195-cm) near-queen double bed. Unlike the typical midsize camper van (although not completely unprecedented), that bed can also slide out the tailgate to function as an outdoor lounge. The seat back folds up into day bed-form, and campers enjoy shade from the open lift-gate and integrated side drapes.
Those who prefer direct sun and sideways views can take in a tanning session up on the roof. Here, Renault adds in drinks tables and a set of removable backrests to create lounge chairs. This terrace remains open to the clear sky above while swiveling the vantage point 90 degrees as compared to the the sofa-lounger below. The roof set-up brings to mind the Caddy Topos Sail concept Volkswagen showed way back at the 2008 Caravan Salon.
All those amenities fulfill the small camper van promise (the Hippie) of the concept, and Renault goes the service route to offer a more complete glamping (Caviar) experience. Operating similarly to the futuristic self-driving camping service Hymer explored in 2019, Hippie Caviar customers order their campsite ahead of time and arrive to it delivered, set up and ready to use.
Renault’s idea takes the form of a shipping container with rear deck, furniture, fully integrated private bathroom pod and available options like bicycles or EV chargers (presumably paddleboards and BBQ grills, too). The resulting camp space looks quite similar to the deck-top indoor/outdoor lounge layouts of tents and dwellings found at various glamping rentals and resorts, particularly well-suited to dry desert or coastal retreats. And should the campers need something during their stay – say a food or liquor run – it can be handled via drone delivery.
Renault tries to elevate the journey as high as the arrival, enhancing the driver’s cab with a wicker-effect dashboard with contrast leather, exotic wood trim, and natural fibers like linen and wool. Japanese paper-effect “washi” plants embellish the ride with a little pre-arrival nature.
It’s not yet clear if the Hippie Caviar Hotel concept has an onboard galley (or maybe kitchen or meal service by order). It’s also unclear if the tailgate lounger can be set up in halfway position, supporting itself while hovering over the ground, or must be fully removed and planted on the deck or level ground. We’ll look to answer those questions when the Hippie Caviar show car makes its world debut at this year’s Caravan Salon, which opens to the press on August 27. Renault will display it next to something much more classic – a 1977 Estafette camper van that serves as the inspiration behind the two-tone paintwork.