Run with the big dogs in Coachmen’s well-equipped Class C that offers more bang for less bucks.
“I want to pay more for motorhome travel,” said no one … ever.
Coachmen, a classic brand in the RV industry, was founded in 1964 by the Corson brothers in Middlebury, Indiana, and is now a division of Forest River. Coachmen continues to provide RVs to price-conscious consumers and the fully featured Freelander Class C is a good example of the company’s commitment to producing value-added motorhomes. The company’s Orion model is another Class C that offers good amenities at a relatively low price point.
The company has recently turned up the heat on the competition by not only endeavoring to meet the most competitive price with the most features, but has also made its units much more resistant to water damage by replacing traditional lauan in side wall construction with Azdel.
Class C’s are very popular with owners who like to travel with their families because of the sleeping accommodations, plus the fact that they’re easy to drive, park and get serviced. Also, Class C’s tend to be on the lower end of the price spectrum, though there are more luxurious models available with more expensive amenities for those who prefer to travel in upgraded comfort. The Freelander series is aimed at folks who want a comfortable, reasonably well-equipped rig at a modest price.
The Inside Scoop
The Freelander has remarkably good bones and nice features for the price. The 26RS is a single (bedroom) slide, rear corner-bath model, built on a Chevrolet 4500 or a Ford E-450 cutaway, gas-powered chassis. The test coach was built on the Chevy. See the full specs at the bottom of this page.
Entering the side door, the interior is tastefully appointed in the Bronzite dÃ©cor, with chestnut cabinetry, one-piece vinyl flooring and brown vinyl seating. The front L-shape lounge is comfortable and has a solid, single-post table that can be used safely by passengers during a road trip since the seats are fitted with three integrated seat belts and a child safety seat tether – features rarely found in a motorhome. Across from the dinette, a basic but comfortable vinyl-clad jackknife sofa complements the interior seating. There’s no armrest on this type of sofa, as is normally the case, but along with the lounge and the cabover bunk, it increases the sleeping accommodations to a total of up to eight.
While the cab is basic Chevrolet-issue with two non-rotating van seats, an optional swiveling passenger-side seat is available in the 26RS floorplan. Coachmen replaces the standard GM radio with a Jensen JRV9000R touch screen AM/FM/navigation/Bluetooth touch-screen stereo, which is connected only to two front door speakers.The sound was reminiscent of a 1970s Chevrolet Blazer and could have benefited from better speakers, which could be added later.
The stereo includes CD, USB and Bluetooth capabilities; however, we were unable to test the Bluetooth functionality as the radio wouldn’t connect to our iPhone 7 Plus, and plugging it into the USB made the stereo freeze – hopefully an isolated incident. Power ports and a 120-volt AC inverter outlet on the dash are standard.
The 95-by-57-inch cabover bunk is the largest in the industry, according to Coachmen, with ample headroom and an LED bed light by the window for settling in or nighttime reading. The foam bed cushions were comfortable, and a child safety net and ladder that attach to the ceiling and bed to keep youngsters from rolling out of the loft are included. Unfortunately, no curtain is provided to separate the cabover bed from the living space and, for that matter, there’s not one for the cockpit or the master bed. A windshield curtain does come with the swivel seat option, and a plain curtain will be provided to customers upon request, free of charge, from the factory.
An optional 32-inch Furrion LED TV ($1,013) is mounted to a large swing-away bracket in the cabover. It secures nicely with two thumbscrews for travel, and is easily viewed from the couch and the forward-facing dinette seat. The optional DVD player (included with the TV) is mounted on a metal shelf, which hangs from the forward door-side cabinet. Again, basic and workable.
The galley is nicely sized for a small motorhome and is outfitted with a 16-inch Dometic range, microwave and double-bowl stainless sink. The cabinet layout is well done, and most drawers are contained inside the cabinets. Across from the kitchen, the 6-cubic-foot refrigerator/freezer is primed to take all the vittles along needed for most trips.
Interior and exterior storage is abundant in the 26RS and, with a 3,180-pound realistic occupant and cargo carrying capacity (ROCCC), you can bring along quite a bit of gear. Closet space is also ample, located between the refrigerator and the corner bathroom.
The corner bathroom is a bit of a misstep for this floorplan. To maximize floor space in the bedroom, the bathroom door and wall angle in to connect with the closet face. Since the toilet is directly behind the bathroom door, sitting on the throne isn’t easy for any but the smallest of adults, which is reminiscent of a Class B motorhome. In fact, the toilet paper must be removed from the holder before a 6-footer, with legs pressed tightly together, can sit, and even then the door will barely close. The bathroom features a step-in shower on the back wall, which is, again, small in comparison with other Class C’s; the stall, with its glass sliding doors, doesn’t allow enough shoulder room for standing in front of the shower head. Floor space to dry off and to use the sink is tight as well. This might be a good size for those smaller in stature, but we always remind folks to simulate using all the RV’s facilities before buying an RV.
The master bed is part of a small driver’s-side slideout, which is comfortable and made more so by the window, overhead Fan-Tastic Vent fan and ample lighting. In travel mode, with the slideout stowed, the lower half of the mattress folds up over the top half due to limited clearance with the bathroom wall. After deploying the slideout the mattress is laid flat for use. A USB and 12-volt DC receptacle along with a 120-volt AC outlet are on the right side of the bed just below a small bedside table. There’s no table on the left side of the bed, but there is a convenient corner cabinet at the end of the bed near the TV connections where a device could be plugged in.
The Outer Limits
The Freelander exterior is simple but attractive, with tan fiberglass sides adorned with brown swooshes and stripes. The Chevy cab is standard white with matching vinyl appliques. Like most RVs, Class C’s have been known to be subject to leaks, especially on the cabover section, and the use of Azdel – along with the aluminum framing – should help keep this motorhome together for many years. If a leak does occur, it can be caught and fixed with minimal or no long-lasting damage. Azdel won’t stop the leaks from happening, but it should help reduce the effects of those leaks.
Exterior compartments have adequate space, especially the one in the rear driver’s-side corner. This cavernous double-door compartment has two ABS bins with drains, plus space for items at floor level around the side and back.
All the exterior lighting on the body is LED, including a light strip mounted under the awning in place of a standard porch lamp. A 19-foot Dometic electric awning is a nice touch and is easily controlled from the door. Outside awning coverage is always a big plus, and this motorhome has plenty. Under the awning, the forward-most compartment is set up for an owner-installed small flat-screen TV, with a little storage cubby beneath for convenient access to lounging necessities.
Our driving experience with the Freelander 26RS on the Chevy 4500 chassis was unremarkable, although enough to build confidence while on the road. The 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 rated for 341 hp @ 5,400 rpm isn’t going to light the road on fire, but those ponies will get this wagon where it needs to go and, after all, it’s a motorhome, not a Camaro. Handling is fairly responsive considering the high profile. Heavy crosswinds could be felt during the test drive, but not enough to take us off the road.
The ride was smooth and the cockpit comfortable enough for hours of driving.
Exterior connections were generally handy, with a portable solar receptacle by the entry door, and water, sewer, black-tank flush and cable TV in the usual places. The optional holding tank heating pads ($216) are not an ideal add-on as configured because the tanks are uninsulated, and the drain pipes are unheated and completely exposed. That said, pipe heaters and a tank wrap would work wonders, and can easily be added using aftermarket products. The black tank is on the passenger side, and the discharge pipe extends down under the motorhome to a valve on the passenger side; a 3-inch pipe crosses to another standard termination valve on the driver’s side. Various manufacturers are playing with different ways of accommodating a passenger-side bath in a lower-profile motorhome, and this setup is functional.
The Final Word
The Freelander 26RS is an entry-level, family-friendly motorhome for buyers on a budget, and overall, we liked it. The bones are good, it has a bunch of neat features you might not expect at this price point, and its design makes it easy to customize down the road. As noted, the bathroom’s small footprint allows for maximized bedroom floor space, but is better suited for smaller folks, or for RVers who prefer to use campground facilities and rely on the onboard bathroom when there are no other choices.
Diamond RV Centre
Model Express 4500 Cutaway
Engine GM Vortec 6.0L V-8
SAE Hp 341 @ 5,400 rpm
Torque 373 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm
Transmission HD 6-speed automatic
Axle Ratio 4.10:1
Suspension Front coil spring/rear leaf spring
Fuel Capacity 57 gal
Fuel Economy 7.5 mpg
Warranty 36 months/36,000 miles
Exterior Length 27′ 6″
Exterior Width 8′ 4″
Exterior Height with A/C 10′ 11″
Interior Width 8′ 1″
Interior Height 6′ 10.5″
Construction Aluminum framed, vacuum bonded, Azdel backed Lamilux fiberglass; laminated steel floor; crowned and laminated TPO roof
Freshwater Capacity 50 gal
Black-water Capacity 31 gal
Gray-water Capacity 31 gal
Water-heater Capacity 6 gal
LP-gas Capacity 16 gal
Air Conditioner 13,500 Btu
Furnace 30,000 Btu
Refrigerator 6 cubic-foot
Converter 55 amp
Batteries (1) 12-volt chassis, (1) 12-volt house
AC Generator 4 kW
MSRP as Tested $86,801
Warranty 12 months/12,000 miles
(Water and water heater, fuel, LP-gas tanks full; no supplies or passengers)
Front Axle 3,800 lbs
Rear Axle 7,220 lbs
Total 11,020 lbs
GAWR, F/R 4,600/9,600 lbs
GVWR/GCWR 14,200/20,000 lbs
ROCCC 3,180 lbs (deduct weight of passengers for net cargo capacity)