Fleetwood introduces an innovative bunkhouse that raises the bar for family-friendly diesel pushers
Bunk beds in a diesel pusher? I know what you’re thinking: Kids or guests just a curtain away from the master bed? Not interested. But, what if an RV manufacturer came up with a genuinely different solution? A solution so different that we were asked to sign confidentiality agreements to keep it secret before publishing this evaluation. Now are you interested?
The 2020 Pace Arrow 35RB, built by REV Recreation Group’s Fleetwood division, has taken the concept of completely separate multi-zone living and laid it down in a 37½-foot diesel pusher.
For years, Pace Arrow was Fleetwood’s premier gasser, known for luxurious appointments and a quality build, mostly for extended travelers. Traditionally, Class A motorhomes have only been set up for comfortable family living by using convertible dinettes and couches, and maybe pulling a bed down over the cockpit. If bunks were desired, a Class C was the motorhome of choice.
A few years back, motorhome manufacturers started testing bunks in Class A’s and found a strong market, not just for families but owners who took the grandkids along and needed space that could convert when extra sleeping was not needed. To accomplish this, the top bunks often folded up so the space could be used as a closet, which was a win-win.
The downside, for some, is that the separation of these bunks from the master bed was typically a curtain. While not necessarily a game ender for most RVers, those who prefer a Class A would appreciate alternatives, and the 35RB is one that really shines.
The Inside Scoop
The 35RB is a mid-coach side-entry model, which many find preferable to having the bus-style door up front. In lieu of the visibility usually afforded by the front door, a low-mount “doggy window” offers an excellent view of the curb.
Stepping up into the motorhome, occupants will be greeted with a charming, luxurious interior. For 2020, the Pace Arrow has three interior and cabinet package choices. The test motorhome was fitted with the Oxford cabinets and Mystic décor package. Looking straight ahead into the galley, the deep dark Oxford cabinets were topped with a white-marble-like solid-surface material. A long fixed window is recessed behind the glass tile backsplash with an integrated manual MCD window shade. The farmer’s style, two-bowl stainless-steel sink is deep and ready to handle the spaghetti pot with ease, and the pull-down gooseneck kitchen faucet further aids in easy cleanup chores, which can be completed while looking outside through the tinted window.
Drawer and cabinet space is decent, although not over the moon. The cabinets and drawers are well made, and the aforementioned counter has a double-round-over edge for an elegant touch. AC receptacles and USB charge ports pull up from the counter.
Appliances in the kitchen include a dual-burner induction cooktop, which works nicely. An over-the-range High Pointe convection microwave handles oven duties, although we didn’t exactly cook a turkey in it, and being from the old school, we lamented the lack of a gas range. The Whirlpool 18.7-cubic-foot bottom-drawer residential refrigerator/freezer with icemaker is an excellent unit and can run on the inverter, generator or shorepower.
Innovative multi-zone living design, interior appointments, technology package, drivability and handling, awning coverage, exterior appearance, child safety seat tether, CPAP/charging cabinet
Solar charger display placement, shorepower cord storage, theater seating option
The living room has family-friendly touches, like the comfortable dinette with child safety-seat tether, which is a rare feature in a Class A motorhome. Above the convertible dinette is the LG 43-inch LED TV, which can be seen most comfortably from the opposing theater seating.
The theater seating option ($2,217) is a solid disappointment in this unit and is ripe for replacement consideration. Its flimsy build, short stature and necessary positioning well away from the wall to recline make this seating a pass for anyone but the shortest of people. Not to mention, it’s almost impossible to recline in comfort, at least for this 6-footer.
Turning aft is where the rubber meets the road with this floorplan. In a rather thoughtful use of slideouts and floor space, much of which is enabled by the flat-floor capabilities of the Freightliner XCS straight-rail chassis, Fleetwood has managed to make three separate, accessible, rooms in the rear. The master bedroom, side-aisle bathroom, and rear-wall bunkroom and closets are all separated by solid-wood sliding doors, keeping each space private (or all open, if desired).
A look straight back from the galley reveals the master bedroom with foldable 72-by-75-inch RV king bed (optional queen) and 32-inch LED TV. The folding requirement of the bed to make room when retracting the slideout precludes using a standard mattress; however, we found this one to be quite comfortable. Airflow across the bed was exceptional thanks to the two side windows.
A great feature in the bedroom is a CPAP compartment, centered directly over the bed. This powered cabinet has a cutout in its floor that allows a CPAP hose to pass through, so noise from the unit is reduced. The compartment can alternatively be used to charge devices or store items. When it’s closed, the cabinet is seamless. Bedside tables are minimal, but a storage area is provided. Lighting and controls are easily accessed.
Looking toward the curb side of the rig you’ll see the two-room bathroom. The toilet, shower and a small sink are in the first room by the galley, reminiscent of a mid-coach half-bath that can be closed off for privacy. Open the second door, and you’re in the dressing room/hallway, which includes a larger countertop, porcelain-bowl sink and vanity.
There are also two wardrobe closets, one of which houses an optional combination or stackable washer and dryer ($2,054 for the stackable on the test rig). Follow it straight back and right, and you enter the bunk bedroom, where there is another closet and sizable individual cubbies with charging ports. If you don’t have kids along, the top bunk folds up, and a clothing rod pulls out to convert the space to a larger closet. More importantly, a series of solid-wood doors isolate each area from the other, and when it’s showering and dressing time, there’s ample room and closet access.
The bathroom is accessible with the slides retracted, but otherwise, the rear half of the motorhome is inaccessible. This is a reasonable trade-off, as bedroom access is seldom needed, and overnight Flying J stops will either require parking where the bed slide can be extended or the dinette can be used for sleeping. The galley is completely accessible with the slides retracted.
Control of the motorhome’s primary functions is via a Precision Circuits Illuma-Plex multiplexing system, with the main control panel near the entry door; remote panels are placed throughout the interior. A mobile smart-device app is available to allow portable control of the system.
Behind the Wheel
Chassis manufacturers have committed to continual refinements, and Daimler’s Freightliner Custom Chassis division has been busy doing just that, integrating a Mercedes-like experience for motorhomes.
The Pace Arrow is built on a 252-inch wheelbase XC straight-rail chassis, with a 340-hp Cummins diesel engine tied to an Allison 2500MH six-speed automatic transmission. All these features are outstanding in their own right and provide an excellent platform for the Pace Arrow.
For 2019, Mercedes-Benz raised the bar for driver technology and handling across its lines and brands, and the motorhome XC chassis was not left out. Through collaboration between Freightliner and Mercedes-Benz, the Pace Arrow features a new Mercedes-Benz designed OptiView all-digital LCD instrument cluster and information center, with a smart steering wheel and TRW adjustable steering column. A bright touchscreen display integrates everything a motorhome driver would need, from all the engine and chassis parameters to a pre-trip checklist. The system can link to a smart device for connectivity and proprietary apps, and the system also has an integrated diagnostic feature that aids technicians who have access to the company’s 24/7, 365 technical service center.
The four-spoke sport style smart steering wheel has a great feel and look, with a big Freightliner badge for continual name recognition. In fact, this wheel is the same one they use in big-rigs. The infinitely adjustable steering column, along with the power driver’s seat virtually guarantees a good fit for the driver.
One thing experienced diesel coach owners will notice is that the dashboard and sideboard are far less cluttered, and there’s no Allison shifter touchpad. Instead, the transmission controls have been moved to a multifunction control stalk on the right side of the steering-wheel column. This takes some adjustment for us old-timers, but it’s a great feature — German simplicity and engineering. The only controls on the sideboard are the headlight, auxiliary start, ICC switch and electric mirror controls.
The center portion of the dash is similarly simple, with just three rocker switches, a monitor for the side and rearview cameras, and the Kenwood touchscreen DVD stereo with SiriusXM.
A nondescript pod sticks up from the top-left side of the dashboard, reminiscent of performance engine tuners and monitors, but it’s actually a Mobileye 630 collision avoidance system. This advanced system, part of the optional technology package, features a camera mounted to the dashboard that watches the road ahead and provides drivers with five real-time alerts; forward collision warning, lane departure, following time, pedestrian and cyclist warning, and a speed-limit indicator.
The Outside Story
The Pace Arrow’s exterior full-body paint is attractive, and goes beyond the typical graphic swirls and stripes using a larger, abstract design. Frameless, tinted dual-pane windows and a large panoramic windshield allow plenty of viewing to the outdoor surroundings.
Basement storage is ample with one pass-through compartment and several smaller box compartments, all lighted and fitted with slam-latch doors. The motorhome is equipped with a central-vacuum system, solar panels, a built-in Southwire Surge Guard power protection and transfer switch, and an outside entertainment system under the rear of two fully automatic, wireless remote-controlled patio awnings. Coverage provides shade to around 90% of the body length.
From a systems standpoint, the Pace Arrow has plenty to make travel more comfortable and convenient. The foundation of the 12-volt DC system is provided by four 6-volt deep-cycle batteries, connected to a Magnum 2,000-watt inverter/charger. There’s also a Cummins Onan Quiet Diesel 6kW generator for mobile power. Hot water is delivered by an optional Girard tankless water heater ($1,263).
The optional technology package ($4,642) is pricey but worthwhile, especially for extended travelers. Componentry includes the aforementioned Mobileye collision avoidance system, WiFiRanger SkyPro Pack with LTE, weBoost cellular booster and a 265-watt solar charging system. The solar system controller is located in the shorepower cord bay, and was getting beat up by the stowed cable. The display ideally should be installed near the aforementioned control panel for the coach so users can easily see the status of the solar charging system, or at the very least, keep the display out of danger.
The Final Word
The Class A motorhome market has become more competitive in recent years, especially as manufacturers try to make their products more appealing to a broader variety of users, including families. Bunk beds, child safety seat tethers and advanced technology, as well as exceptional chassis handling and attractive interiors, are driving Fleetwood’s vision to make the Pace Arrow appealing to a new generation of clients. The effort is paying off nicely.
Model Freightliner XCS
Engine Cummins ISB 6.7L
SAE Hp 340 @ 2,600 rpm
Torque 700 lb-ft @1,600 rpm
Transmission Allison 6-speed
Axle Ratio 5.13:1
Tires 255/70R22.5 LRH
Brakes Front/Rear Air disc
Suspension Front/Rear Standard 4-air bag with V-Ride
Fuel Capacity 90 gal
Fuel Economy 9 mpg
Warranty 3 years/50,000 miles
Exterior Length 37′ 7″
Exterior Width 8′ 6″
Exterior Height 12′ 2″
Interior Width 8′
Interior Height 7′
Construction Laminated fiberglass/
aluminum frame, laminated roof
with TPO membrane
Freshwater Capacity 100 gal
Black-water Capacity 40 gal
Gray-water Capacity 52 gal
Water-heater Capacity On-demand
Propane Capacity 28.2 gal
Air Conditioner (2) 15,000-Btu
Furnace (1) 30,000-Btu, (1) 20,000-Btu
Refrigerator 18.7-cu-ft residential
Inverter/Charger 2,000-watt, 100-amp charger
Batteries (4) 6-volt FLA
AC Generator 6-kW diesel
Seat Belts 8 seat belts; (1) child seat tether
MSRP As Tested $284,515
Warranty 1 year, 15,000 miles,
3 years, 45,000 miles structural
(Water and water heater, fuel, propane tanks full; no supplies or passengers)
Total 26,856 lbs
Maximum trailer weight 10,000 lbs
GAWR, F/R 10,500 lbs/19,000 lbs
GVWR/GCWR 29,500 lbs/33,000 lbs
ROCCC 2,644 lbs
GAWR Gross Axle Weight Rating
GVWR Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
GCWR Gross Combination Weight Rating
ROCCC Realistic Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity (full water, no passengers)
Fleetwood RV | 800-854-1344