New motorhomes introduced at the last two RV industry trade events are destined to be exciting entries to the marketplace
Summer has always been the “busy season” for RVs – for a lot of reasons. It’s the prime camping time for enthusiasts who already own an RV, and prime buying time for folks finally finding their way to local RV dealerships. Behind the scenes, it can be just as hectic.
There, in design studios stuffed with wood and fabric samples, and in engineering offices filled with wallboards and sometimes even sections of full-size mockups of proposed models, RV manufacturers finalize designs for the coming year. Unlike the automotive industry, which can take years to bring a new design to market, RV builders are a relatively nimble bunch capable of tapping into trends as they develop or working overtime to capitalize on a new chassis design.
Fleetwood RV’s resurrected Pace Arrow is a perfect example. One of the brands acquired when Allied Recreation Group (ARG) purchased certain assets of Fleetwood Enterprises a half-dozen years ago, the high-end gas coach hadn’t been in production since 2010. When Jim Jacobs assumed the presidency of Decatur, Indiana-based ARG (now REV Recreation Group) last year, however, it quickly became a focus.
“When I got here, the Pace Arrow brand wasn’t even on the table – and to me, growing up in the industry, Pace Arrow was an iconic brand,” Jacobs told editors of the trade journal RV Business. “So the first thing we did out of the chute was put a product development team together that focused on developing the new Pace Arrow.”
The now-diesel-powered 2016 Pace Arrow LXE had its coming-out party at last September’s Elkhart County RV Open House in Indiana.
In fact, between the Elkhart County program and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, last December – two extraordinary trade events that are, unfortunately, closed to the public – an argument can be made that in late 2015, motorized RV manufacturers unveiled perhaps their most impressive lineups of new and updated models since the recession.
In Elkhart, for example, not only did ARG/REV Group unveil the Pace Arrow, but also a 30th Anniversary Edition Fleetwood Bounder gas Class A and an Admiral XE gas Class A that, said Mike Snell, president of Monaco and Holiday Rambler, would be “our lowest-price-point Holiday Rambler, with an MSRP under $100,000.” The company followed that up by reintroducing the upscale American Dream diesel pusher at the Louisville show.
Impressive? Absolutely, but consider, too, the performance of Thor Industries’ motorized division, Thor Motor Coach (TMC). The Elkhart, Indiana-based builder unveiled five completely new brands at Open House. Not five floorplans. Not even five new models. Five new brands!
Among TMC’s new offerings are the Class C Quantum, a line of Ford E-450-based motorhomes that come in at a price point just above the company’s Four Winds and Chateau lines, as well as the Synergy SD24, a downsized Class C based upon the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis with one or two slides. At the other end of the spectrum, physically speaking, TMC debuted the Venetian, a 40-foot, triple-slide Class A diesel built on Freightliner’s raised XCR chassis. At Louisville, the line was increased to three floorplans.
For TMC, however, the star of the Elkhart event was its new Gemini/Compass sister ships. Expanding upon TMC’s lineup of Recreational Utility Vehicle (RUV) motorhomes initiated by the Ford-based Vegas and Axis Class A’s introduced in 2014, the two new motorhomes are built on Ford’s Transit 350HD diesel chassis.For the dealers in attendance, it was the first time anyone had seen a builder utilize Ford’s replacement chassis for the venerable Econoline series – unless, or course, they started their day at Forest River’s mammoth display at its Dynamax facility, where Coachmen RV revealed its Transit-based Orion. Then, too, Winnebago executives were seen around town driving the company’s own version of a Transit-based Class C. Available in two floorplans, Winnebago’s new Fuse officially debuted at Louisville – as did the Forest River TS.
There was a lot more, to be sure, including the American debut of the Hymercar Grand Canyon Class B from the Erwin Hymer Group, Coachmen RV’s new Sprinter-based Galleria, Tiffin’s new Allegro Breeze Class A, the significantly redesigned Entegra Coach luxury diesel lineup and Gulf Stream Coach’s re-entry into the motorized market. Many are profiled on these pages, while others will be presented in coming months. All are virtually guaranteed to cause a stir as they begin showing up on dealer lots.
Diesel Berkshire XLT
With an MSRP of $380,000, Forest River’s Berkshire XLT 43B Class A motorhome hits a sweet spot in the market, according to Michael Peterson, sales manager with the Forest River diesel division. “It’s the best equipped side-radiator, 43-foot 450 ISL diesel on the market,” he noted.
Built on a Freightliner XCR raised-rail chassis equipped with a Cummins ISL9 diesel, Allison 3000 series six-speed automatic transmission, V-Ride suspension and UltraSteer tag axle, the newest member of the Berkshire family also features a two-stage Jacobs braking system and adjustable pedals for driver comfort. In development for a year and positioned just below the division’s flagship Charleston, the XLT is available in two four-slideout floorplans, the 43A and 43B; the biggest difference is the addition of bunks in the 43B. Both units are 42 feet, 10 inches with a 44,320-pound gvwr, 150-gallon fuel tank, 8-kW Onan generator and 15,000-pound towing capacity. Other features include full-body paint, electric induction cooktop, Corian countertops, Quiet A/C system, side-by-side residential-style refrigerator and ceramic-tile floors.
Forest River | 574-389-4600 | www.forestriverinc.com
BT Cruiser and Conquest
Gulf Stream Coach debuted two Class C’s bearing familiar brand names that the manufacturer hadn’t utilized since stepping away from the motorized arena in 2012. Gulf Stream’s entries (each with five floorplans) consist of two moderately priced lines, including a lower profile 21- to 28-foot BT Cruiser Class C built on E-350 or E-450 Ford Super Duty commercial cutaway chassis and retailing for a base MSRP of $67,200. The 24- to 32-foot Conquest, also available on the E-350 or E-450, is a conventional, high-storage C-body with MSRPs in the $64,400 range.
Gulf Stream | 800-289-8787 | www.gulfstreamcoach.com
Germany-based Erwin Hymer Group AG & Co. continued its push into the U.S. market by displaying two models at the Louisville show. The manufacturer also announced that it had signed a cooperation agreement with Roadtrek Motorhomes in which Kitchener, Ontario-based Roadtrek would build Class B motorhomes under the Hymer brand for the North American market. According to Jacqueline Casini, who heads up corporate communications for Erwin Hymer Group, the company will enlist its own sales, distribution and service force in North America, adding that response for the Hymercar Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Class B’s has been excellent.
Built on the ProMaster chassis, the premium-priced models (MSRP is TBD) feature a unique modular component construction. Basically, the interior components, such as the kitchen, can be removed, shifting its purpose from an RV for the weekends to a family transport vehicle during the week. Additionally, the motorhomes can be outfitted with accessories for outdoor recreational pursuits, such as kayaking.
Hymercar | www.hymer.com/en/models/motorhomes/
Leisure Travel Vans
Unity U24FX Flex
The nice thing about a Class B is its maneuverability. The downside is that coachbuilders sometimes have to compromise on space when fitting everything inside a smaller profile. Leisure Travel Vans, a division of Winkler, Manitoba-based Triple E Recreational Vehicles, has taken downsizing to an art form. Its 2016 Unity U24FX Flex – technically a B-Plus because of its overhead compartment full of drawers and componentry – features plenty of out-of-the-box creative design elements.
The crux of the Unity FX’s design is a midway Leisure Lounge System that converts for daytime use to a couch, lounge, chaise and dinette. At night, the $126,750 (starting price) FX transforms into a 68-by-76-inch Murphy bed with an adjustable headrest for reading or watching a movie on the optional 28-inch LED TV. In back is a second living space offering more options for relaxing and entertaining with a residential-style sectional sofa and an integrated ottoman that functions as a footrest, coffee table or work desk. A three-stop door around the bathroom (equipped with a standup shower) provides more floor space when needed.
Built on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 cutaway chassis powered by a 188-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 BlueTEC turbodiesel engine, the new 25-footer also features an optional German-built, Truma AquaGo Comfort Plus on-demand 60,000-Btu hot-water system, and Italian-designed, matte-finish upper cabinet doors with soft-close technology. The galley comes with Corian countertops, a pullout pantry, built-in trash can and three solid-wood cabinet options.
Leisure Travel Vans | 877-992-9906 | www.leisurevans.com
Verona LE 40LTS
Riding the coattails of its Verona Super C, Renegade RV introduced an upscale version called the Verona LE. The Bristol, Indiana-based manufacturer showcased the 40LTS model in Louisville, and officials said a second floorplan, the 40LRB, was in production.
The 40-foot, triple-slide 40LTS ($319,000-$335,000 MSRP) is built on the same Freightliner M2 chassis as the Verona, but offers a variety of upgrades including an Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system, a roof-mounted lateral-arm awning, porcelain-tile floor, multiplex electrical and lighting system, remote-lock outside compartment doors, docking lights on the sides and rear of the coach, Ultraleather furniture and dual-pane windows.
Renegade RV | 574-848-1126 | www.renegaderv.com
Thor Motor Coach
Thor Motor Coach introduced an array of new brands at Open House, but the real buzz surrounded the Gemini and Compass, Class C sister ships built on the Ford Transit 350HD chassis.
“We chose the Transit over the ProMaster because you get almost 1,000 pounds more capacity – it has a 10,360-pound gvwr,” noted Jon Krider, TMC director of marketing. “Plus, we went with the Ford diesel engine, which has 185 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.”
The Gemini/Compass, which Krider said will retail for “around $90,000,” also features an automotive-style windshield with power shade in the front cap, European-style cabinetry and a rotating front passenger seat. Developed in conjunction with a European design firm known for its upscale yacht interiors, the motorhome also features a unique rear bed that pivots to reveal a seating area.
While TMC’s Venetian debuted at Elkhart’s Open House, TMC was already adding floorplans by the time the luxury motorcoach went on display at Louisville – and the new T42 configuration, the first Venetian on a Freightliner XCR chassis with tag axle, also is TMC’s first diesel pusher to offer an optional drop-down overhead bunk in the cockpit. The Italian-made “Project 2000” bunk, actuated by the push of a button, affords an extra 54-by-80-inch sleeping area.
“There’s lots of storage, one of the biggest master bathrooms in the industry,” said David Jones, district manager for the company’s diesel division. “The stackable washer and dryer’s going to be standard, along with the whisper-quiet A/C system.”
There’s also a half-bath forward of the bedroom in the T42, the third floorplan in the Venetian line, following September’s introduction of the M37 and A40. MSRP on the Venetian T42 is just shy of $380,000.
Thor Motor Coach | 800-860-5658 | www.thormotorcoach.com
The updated and comparatively narrow Tiffin Allegro Breeze is the first motorhome equipped with the relatively small ISV5.0 V-8 developed by global engine builder Cummins as a fuel-efficient alternative to gas engines.
“It has 275 horsepower and 520 to 560 lb-ft of torque,” said Bob Tiffin, president of Tiffin Motorhomes. “It does a fabulous job with this little 32-foot Breeze – the only diesel of this size in the U.S. market today.”
Riding on a modified version of Tiffin’s proprietary PowerGlide chassis, the company also raised the floor 6 inches so that it’s flat all the way across. “Beyond that,” said Tiffin, “we made the storage compartments 6 inches taller. It has a residential refrigerator now and we put four batteries on it with a nice-size inverter. We’ve got two air conditioners and an 8-kW diesel generator. It’s a miniature Allegro Bus, but we call it Allegro Breeze.”
Tiffin | 256-356-8661 | www.tiffinmotorhomes.com
Although Winnebago showed a lot of its lineup at the Elkhart RV Open House, the Iowa-based RV builder kept its cards close to its vest when it came to its most intriguing new motorized product: a 24-foot Class C mounted on a new-to-the-U.S. Ford Transit van chassis with the 3.2-liter five-cylinder diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission. The Winnebago Fuse officially debuted at the Louisville Show.
“It’s a segment-buster because it’s a brand-new look,” said Russ Garfin, product manager for Class B and C motorhomes for Winnebago. “It takes everything that we’ve learned about compact coaches from Mercedes-Benz and from the Dodge ProMaster and combines all of that into the next generation of compact coaches for Winnebago,” added Garfin.
The Fuse, with MSRPs starting at $93,880, is available in two floorplans, one (23T) with a rear bedroom slide that houses a queen walk-around bed and another (23A) with a slide up front and twin beds and a bathroom in back.
Winnebago | 641-585-3535 | www.winnebagoind.com