Creative floorplans and continuing advances in technology lead the charge for new motorhomes introduced to dealers; Class B’s are the fastest-growing segment
There’s a good reason why toy haulers number among the most popular RVs going into 2015 – and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with a garage.
Well, almost nothing. Sure, a garage-on-wheels is about the handiest thing to hit the RV industry since a 5,000-pound hitch receiver, but beyond the ability to haul toys is the fact that the ramp door of such units provides a whole new dimension to camping. Simply attach the provided support jacks and rails, and owners can enjoy outdoor vistas from the comfort of their own patio.
That’s no small feat. Neither is the fact that a 10-by-8-foot ramp door, converted to patio use, can add 80 square feet of living area – an increase of 20 percent or more to the average motorhome floorplan. That’s something that even outdoor enthusiasts who don’t ride ATVs or motorcycles or even golf carts – the typical toy hauler audience – can appreciate.
Oddly enough, though, the ability to give coach enthusiasts an exterior living zone separate from the main cabin wasn’t the impetus behind the new 38RE Outlaw from Thor Motor Coach (TMC) that – like most of the other new-for-2015 motorhomes showcased on these pages – debuted in September at the Elkhart County RV Open House. It actually came about after the Elkhart, Indiana, builder began hearing from an increasing number of retail customers and even dealers who were looking for something different – specifically, the type of almost cavernous interior that’s become a signature design stroke exclusive to high-end fifth-wheels.
“We realized that because of the way we drop the floor in the rear of our Outlaw to accommodate a garage, that area could be transformed into a unique living space,” noted Jon Krider, TMC’s vice president of product development. By incorporating the bedroom into the rear of the Outlaw, TMC was able to build the space with a ceiling height of nearly 9½ feet – more than 2 feet higher than a typical coach – and added to the residential ambiance by designing a coffered ceiling with a full-size fan.
Adding to the unique 39-foot floorplan, the subsidiary of Thor Industries Inc. also swapped the usual positions of bath-and-a-half configurations, placing the full bath forward in the motorhome while giving the rear bedroom a half-bath that’s accessible both from inside and outside the $169,000 coach (MSRP) – “outside,” in this case, meaning the rear patio. And, since the 38RE was no longer a toy hauler in the traditional sense, TMC added an exterior kitchenette to the rear wall, making the newest Outlaw perhaps the ultimate “tailgate” touring vehicle for sporting events.
Built on a Ford gas chassis with a gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) of 26,000 pounds, the coach also boasts all the amenities expected of a higher-end gas Class A, including a large galley and home entertainment area, plus the sort of pass-though basement storage you’d expect of a toy hauler – which, in a way, it isn’t.
Here are some other notable new motorhomes that were on display:
It looks like Class B exterior design just got swept into the 21st century.
Don’t get us wrong – there’s nothing wrong with the appearance of these diminutive motorhomes. Most builders simply focus their efforts on creating an optimum – and oftentimes opulent – camping atmosphere inside and leave the factory profile alone. All of which meant that when Middlebury, Indiana-based EverGreen RV, a longtime towables manufacturer, announced that it was getting into the crowded Class B motorized sector, the company realized it needed to make an impact.
It has. The EverGreen Imperial, a ground-up design in concert with Andy Mauck of Mauck Specialty Vehicles, a well-known custom builder, is based upon a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter cutaway chassis with a gvwr of 11,030 pounds – although the body is 10 inches wider than most Sprinter-based B’s on the market. The body itself incorporates a one-piece, almost monocoque, design according to EverGreen president Mark Boessler.
That extra width makes itself known in several ways, not the least of which is the addition of slide-out storage trays running nearly the length of the wheelbase on either side of the coach. EverGreen put the extra 10 inches of body width to good use inside as well, offering a queen-size bed along with solid-cherry-wood cabinets, Corian countertops, Dometic marine-type appliances, a microwave, cooktop, 16,000-Btu furnace, 2.5-kW generator, an inverter with 50-amp charger and 3-cubic-foot refrigerator that operates via 120-volt AC or 12-volt DC power. Plus, an energy-management system will shed loads when available amperage is too low.
Forest River FR3
“Doing more with less” is a mantra in the motorhome industry today – but it’s probably just the opposite of how it sounds. “Less,” in this case, is all about feet, not amenities. In fact, builders are pumping coaches with more appliances and accessories than ever; they are just stuffing them in smaller profiles. In fact, Michael Hums, product manager for Forest River’s FR3 motorhome line, goes so far as to refer to the company’s 26- to 31-foot coaches as “crossovers” – shorter Class A motorhomes that compete directly with Class C’s.
“For example, the FR3 has a power bunk in the front that drops down over the cockpit,” Hums pointed out. “In Class C’s, they’re sleeping over the cab, which is the same concept. So, you take a Class C and load it up with paint, jacks and everything else and you’re in the same price point as a Class A. So, a customer who doesn’t think they can get into a Class A really can get into a Class A and still have Class C features.”
The newest FR3, the 28DS, offers all this plus a rear-wall 36-inch-deep slideout in the bedroom that’s home to a king-size bed. “We wanted to give customers a coach less than 30 feet long that has a walkaround bed,” Hums noted. The FR3 uses extra-deep slides all the way around; there’s also a 32-inch-deep extension room in the streetside wall in the main cabin that houses a wraparound booth dinette, cooktop and residential microwave. Together with the forward captain’s chairs and a sofa (with footrests) curbside, it forms what Hums calls “the conversation pit.” The coach has an MSRP of $113,000.
Riding on a Ford chassis with a gvwr of 18,000 pounds, the 29-foot-10-inch 28DS is equipped with most everything needed, from a 16-foot patio awning and flip-up 32-inch LED TV to cherry cabinetry and a 4-kW Onan genset. Good thing, too, since as Hums points out, “Everything is standard – there are no options.”
Fleetwood RV Flair
Fleetwood is credited with creating the “crossover” type of Class A motorhomes – less expensive, shorter Class A’s with Class C features – when it debuted its $90,000 Storm at the National RV Trade Show in 2009. However, as Steven Hileman, Fleetwood’s marketing director, noted during Open House, “Through the years, with normal price creep and product upgrades, now the Storm is closer to $115,000-$120,000.” At Open House, the Decauter, Indiana, builder, a division of Allied Recreation Group (ARG), introduced an all-new crossover, the Flair.
“While we may be offering this at an entry-level price – we’re working on a consumer campaign so that we can advertise to buyers that the dealers can offer it at $69,995 – we don’t view it as an entry-level coach,” said Hileman.
According to Hileman, the new Flair is built to the same standards as ARG’s other Class A gas and diesel coaches – lines that include the Monaco, Holiday Rambler and American Coach nameplates.
“You get the thicker fiberglass walls and vacuum-bond construction and interlocking aluminum construction techniques. You also get features people are looking for right now, like large awnings with LED lights, diesel-style baggage doors and a blind spot or ‘doggie’ window – and lots of storage, including large pass-through storage in the back. Plus it’s got full-body paint. Everybody else in this segment is either using graphics or colored fiberglass. Full-body paint is a huge premium and it will hold up a lot better in the long term and it has a heck of a lot better look to it,” Hileman explained.
Built on a Ford chassis with a gvwr of 16,000 pounds, the Flair also sports an aggressive-looking front cap with LED accent lights and high-intensity headlights and ARG’s hide-a-loft drop-down bunk system. “The cabover bunk sleeps two with a capacity of 650 pounds,” Hileman noted, “unlike some other beds in the class, which are rated for a 200- to 300-pound maximum capacity.”
Forest River Dynamax Rev
Known for its lines of “Super C” coaches built on nearly bulletproof Class 8 truck chassis, Dynamax Corp. certainly turned some heads at the Open House when it unveiled its relatively diminutive Rev, the latest OEM to build on the Ram ProMaster chassis. “It’s a whole new class, a whole new ballgame for Dynamax,” said Jim Jacobs, the company’s new general manager.
Featuring a Dynamax-built “house” with aluminum-framed side walls, the Rev “B-plus” came out of the chute with two 24-foot floorplans: the 24RB (rear bath) and 24TB with a rear bedroom. The gvwr is 9,350 pounds.
Standard features on the Rev, part of a new wave of diminutive motorhomes being introduced into the U.S. market as adaptations of a European, Fiat-based van, include a 32-inch outside entertainment center (with 32-inch TV), armless electric Carefree awning with built-in wind sensor and LED lights, frameless windows and an exterior “service station” that includes a shower, drain valves and a tank-monitor panel. Inside, expect to see solid-surface countertops, a 7-cubic-foot refrigerator, electric drop-down bed and a second 32-inch LCD TV.
Fully loaded – Jacobs said there are virtually no options on the product other than color choice – the Rev retails for about $85,000.
Thor Motor Coach released a number of new models at the Open House, including a new A.C.E. 293, which is one of the few floorplans in the entry-level market with dinette seating on the passenger side of the coach. But there was even more attention being generated by the company’s high-end Tuscany single-axle diesel pushers, where the XTE line’s revamped interior featuring Amish-built, high-gloss cabinetry wowed visitors and the new 40DX found its way on a lot of order sheets.
With a floorplan built for entertaining, the 40DX 40-footer with a gvwr of 37,600 pounds is a bath-and-a-half unit with opposing seating in the main cabin. “We designed it so there are theater seats in it,” noted Adam Gudger, national sales manager for TMC’s diesel division. “That’s one thing that hasn’t been done in motorized until now – full-recline theater seating.” Above the opposing sofa is a 60-inch retractable TV and, at the back of the coach is the full bath, which, with the bedroom, creates more of a master suite feel. “Even with a king bed you still have this huge rear bathroom,” Gudger pointed out.
Powered by a 450-hp Cummins, the coach ($375,000 MSRP) also features a new 10-kW generator and three 15,000-Btu air conditioners with heat pumps.
Coachmen Sportscoach Cross Country 404RB
Designing a motorhome is always a compromise between weight and space. That’s especially true when it comes time for lights out, and is one reason why small Class A crossovers with their cab bunks are so popular – but they look woefully out of place in a luxury diesel pusher. Coachmen RV found a way to add two more sleeping positions in its upscale Sportscoach Cross Country 404RB – and most people would be hard-pressed to find them.
The Middlebury, Indiana, builder is the first motorhome OEM to offer what regional sales manager Joe Kellogg calls a “salon bunk.” Using an Italian-sourced mechanism, the nearly 12-foot-long bunk is crafted into the top of the Sportscoach’s forward streetside slideout. When not in use, it’s concealed by a slightly deeper slideout fascia. At night, the belt-driven bunk lowers and can support 500 pounds.
That adds two extra sleeping spots in a coach that already boasts a rear king-size bed and a sofa bed in the main cabin that can accommodate two – an impressive arrangement in a high-end diesel. And that’s not counting a possible swap of the freestanding dinette for an optional booth that can welcome two more.
The bath-and-a-half 404RB does all this without sacrificing the kind of luxury commanded by its $280,000 MSRP. Built on a Freightliner chassis and powered by a 340-hp Cummins, the 41-foot-9-inch coach also features a polished porcelain snap-tile floating floor, an induction cooktop, quartz countertops and a 21-cubic-foot residential refrigerator.
The term “entry-level” sometimes has a negative connotation – but as Coachmen demonstrates with its Pursuit gas Class A line, cutting costs doesn’t have to mean cutting corners. The line was on the receiving end of a major facelift while still keeping a lid on the MSRP; depending on floorplan options and length, the 27- to 33-foot motorhome with its 18,000-pound gvwr, prices out at $98,000 to $115,000.
Of the four coaches in the lineup, all are two-slideout models – except for the model 27KB on display at the Open House. The smallest member of the family at 29 feet, the 27KB boasts the biggest slideout, a full-wall number that incorporates the entire curbside galley – including the stovetop, microwave, sink, refrigerator and food pantry – as well as the rear king-size bed. It’s also the most open of the four floorplans, and the use of warm tones creates an inviting atmosphere and highlights many of the Pursuit’s upgrades. They run the gamut from new wood options to new flooring, fabrics, backsplashes and wainscoting. Outside, the Pursuit has a new dyed-fiberglass exterior with new graphics, along with a “more automotive-style” front cap.
Class B’s Climb the Charts
Quick quiz: We all appreciate that motorhomes have rebounded dramatically in popularity during the last year or two, but do you know which coach class has seen the largest upswing – percentage-wise – in shipments to dealers this year?
If you said “Class B,” you win the salted caramels. Granted, the actual number shipped through July 2014 – 2,073 units – pales in comparison to those of its larger Class A and Class C brethren, the maneuverable little B’s are building a powerful niche market. Among the newest entries:
- Airstream: In comparison to previous Airstream Interstates, the company’s new Sprinter-based Interstate Grand Tour has a larger galley, additional counter and multifunctional storage space, a flexible workspace desk, expanded bathroom area, oversize refrigerator and freezer, standard power awning and optional dual-screen doors. MSRP is in the mid-$150,000 range.
- Leisure Travel Vans: To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Winkler, Manitoba, Canada-based Triple E RV’s Leisure Travel Vans division has rolled out a 25-foot Unity Anniversary Edition luxury Class B on a Sprinter 3500 chassis. Featuring a full exterior makeover, four floorplans and an available 50th anniversary interior package, the Unity features integrated running boards, LED taillights and three paint schemes plus fiberglass curved baggage doors, espresso-brown cabinets and white Corian countertops. Pricing starts at $118,495 USD.
Pleasure-Way: This Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, firm previously built its Lexor on a Chevy chassis, but Pleasure-Way recently introduced its first Ram ProMaster-based Class B. The Lexor TS (Twin Sofa) is similar to the floorplan of the Chevy-based Lexor, but with a larger bathroom. The TS comes with standard multiplex wiring, a 13-foot power awning, Onan 2.8-kW generator, 11,500-Btu rooftop A/C, solid maple cabinetry, 24-inch interior LED LCD TV and Blu-ray player, in-dash navigation, king bed and five-year limited coach warranty for $98,787 (MSRP fully loaded).
- Roadtrek: Augmenting its popular “Adventurous” line of Sprinter-based RVs, which includes the CS-Adventurous and RS-Adventurous, the Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, Class B builder has released the TS (Touring Series) Adventurous. Featuring an onyx interior and interactive Coach-Connect monitoring system utilizing a tablet to perform an array of tasks such as turning on lights or extending awnings, the TS retails beginning at $121,901.
“It is innovative as far as electronics are concerned,” said Joe Morales, director of sales administration and events management for Roadtrek. “With a phone or iPad, you are able to control the components in the vehicle when you are away from the coach. You can check on the temperature inside the motorhome if, for example, you have a pet inside and you want to turn on the A/C. You can also check battery levels. The coach has the ingenuity to tell you whether your tanks are starting to get too high and it will send you a text telling you it’s time to dump, or tell you when batteries are getting low.”
SVO Group: An altogether new entrant, SVO Group Inc. of Elkhart, Indiana, threw its hat into the Ram ProMaster Class B ring with the debut of an $86,000 Embassy B van at the Open House. The Embassy differs in that it features a rear-bath floorplan (with composting toilet), which opens up the living area. The motorhome also features a hydronic heating system and a 6-foot patio that extends off the rear.