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Showstoppers: RV Trade Show

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Each year, in late November, motorhome manufacturers gather in Louisville, Ky., to show off their best offerings for the new year, and hopefully pull off some surprising reveals. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s 47th National RV Trade Show was no exception. Despite the past year’s economic downturn, motorhome manufacturers have heartily embraced innovation.

One of the most exciting introductions at the show was from Tiffin Motorhomes. The 28-foot Allegro Breeze diesel-pusher motorhome – named “Best of Show” by our sister publication RV Business – breaks new ground on diesel-pusher length because of its relatively short size.

“Smaller” was definitely one of the themes for manufacturers showing 2010 and 2011 product at the trade show. Led by Tiffin, this year’s motorhomes tend to be smaller, with Fleetwood RV offering an all-new 28-foot gas-powered Encounter Class A, and Damon Motor Coach recasting the 28-foot Avanti front-end diesel on a new Freightliner chassis.

The Tiffin Allegro Breeze, built on the Red Bay, Ala., manufacturer’s own chassis with a gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) of 21,500 pounds and equipped with a 215-hp Navistar MaxxForce 7 V-8 engine, may well point to the future direction of motorhomes. The Breeze unveiled at the show was a concept vehicle that is expected to be available in March. As of press time, the company had not set an msrp or determined the coach’s fuel mileage, although fuel economy is expected in the mid-teens.

Highlights of the Allegro Breeze include a single streetside slideout, one-piece windshield, antique white interior, booth dinette, queen bed, separate toilet and shower and plenty of interior and exterior storage for a coach its size, and as such, may be a glimpse of things to come.

The trend toward smaller coaches, however, was not universal. Winnebago Industries, Monaco RV and Four Winds International all introduced new 40-foot-plus tag-axle models for a market some see as going in two directions at once.

“The motorhome market has migrated from the middle to the ends,” said Fleetwood President John Draheim. “It’s migrated down on the A’s and C’s and it’s migrated up on the A’s to the very high end.”

Canadian builder Roadtrek Motorhomes pushed the envelope on innovation with the first slideout in a van camper on a Sprinter chassis imported to North America by Germany-based Daimler AG. Roadtrek’s SS-Ideal was designated “Best of Show” runner-up for engineering a 3-foot-deep slideout extending through the Sprinter’s rear double doors, thus requiring no chassis modification.

On the motorhome chassis front, Spartan Custom Chassis introduced a highly customizable Next Generation Platform (NGP) chassis that the company calls a crossover between a Class A diesel-pusher and a Class C rail with a front-engine version available later this year. At the Louisville show, Spartan displayed a 34-foot NGP with a gvwr of 33,000 pounds. The custom-designed NGP comes with or without a front cap and can be equipped with holding tanks, wiring and leveling jacks before being shipped to the RV manufacturer – all designed to allow manufacturers flexibility and the ability to focus on designing and building floorplans.

“It could be a number of gvwrs and could go anywhere from 300- to 600-hp,” said Spartan Director and CEO John Sztykiel. “It could go as long as 45 feet or as short as 30 feet.”

In the front-diesel category, Freightliner Custom Chassis introduced the new MC-L front-diesel chassis, equipped with a Cummins 6.7-l 200-hp ISB engine that Damon Motor Coach adapted to its 2-year-old Avanti Class A motorhome.

“Freightliner developed the MC-L chassis as a solution to Class A customer needs,” said Jonathan Randall, Freightliner director of sales and marketing. “Working in conjunction with body builders, we designed and engineered the MC-L to enable the manufacture of more fuel-efficient and aerodynamic motorhomes, while offering customers a durable, reliable and maneuverable option.” The MC-L also features an updated driver station configuration, low-profile frame rail, a gvwr of 18,000 pounds and an up to 50-degree wheel cut.

Meanwhile, Workhorse Custom Chassis reported the front-diesel Workhorse W20D Class A chassis powered by a 230-hp International MaxxForce 7 V-8 engine that has been certified to get 13.2 miles per gallon by independent testers at the Bosch Proving Grounds in South Bend, Ind.

“Potential (Class A) buyers still want power and performance, but they are also demanding better fuel economy and that’s what the new W-series delivers,” said Tony Monda, Workhorse vice president of marketing.

Although new diesel emissions standards kicked in on Jan. 1 that require diesel engine manufacturers to reduce tailpipe emissions, 2010 will be a year of transition because chassis manufacturers are being allowed to use engines that meet the former standards until they run out.

Here are some of the highlights from the Louisville show:

Damon Avanti

Thor subsidiary Damon Motor Coach has added a second floorplan to the stylish Avanti front-end diesel Class A motorhome, which is now being built on Freightliner’s MC-L chassis and is equipped with a Cummins 6.7-l 200-hp ISB engine mated to an Allison automatic six-speed transmission. One of the industry’s most visible downsized motorhomes, the Avanti’s new 28-foot offering is equipped with 17-foot full-wall slideouts with corner beds and large walk-through baths. Features include Corian countertops and curved cabinets and side walls. Base msrp: $140,000.

Fleetwood RV Encounter

Motorized manufacturer Fleetwood RV, of Decatur, Ind., introduced an entry-level gas-powered Encounter Class A motorhome that the company calls a crossover model. “The Encounter has the increased sleeping capacity of a Class C and the increased storage and tank capacity of a Class A,” said Fleetwood’s Draheim. “It has the driving benefits of both.” Available in three 28- to 31-foot floorplans, Encounter is mounted on a Ford F53 SuperDuty chassis with a gvwr of 16,000 or 18,000 pounds. Options that characterize the Encounter as a crossover include a queen-size hide-a-loft bed that powers down electronically from over the cockpit. Encounter features include pass-through storage, heated holding tanks and luggage compartment, rear-vision camera with monitor and water filtration. Base msrp starts at $81,263.

Forest River Georgetown

Forest River has added two new floorplans – for a total of three – to the recently introduced gas-powered non-basement (NB) entry-level Class A Georgetown motorhome. The 301?2-foot Georgetown NB is designed with a full-wall slide equipped with free-standing tables and chairs while a 32-footer features rear bunk beds. Built standard on a Ford F53 SuperDuty chassis powered by a 6.8-l, 362-hp Triton V-10 gasoline engine, the Georgetown NB is optionally available on a Workhorse W20 platform. Forest River earlier introduced a 34-foot double-slide floorplan. Featuring a fiberglass front cap with one-piece windshield, the Georgetown NB is equipped with side-swinging, one-piece fiberglass baggage doors, rear pass-through storage, flat floors throughout, halogen accent lights and convertible booth dinettes. Base msrp starts at less than $80,000.

Four Winds Montecito

Motorized manufacturer Four Winds International introduced a Montecito motorhome – the Thor Industry subsidiary’s first diesel-pusher. Available in three 38-foot single-axle and two 42-foot tag-axle floorplans, Montecito is built on a Freightliner XCR chassis with a gvwr of either 32,000 or 44,600 pounds and powered by a 360-hp Cummins ISC diesel engine. Projecting a residential feel inside the coach, the Montecito features king-size beds, dresser drawers, kick panels, solid-surface countertops and glazed solid wood cabinet doors. Base msrp: $230,000.

Leisure Travel Vans Unity

Manitoba, Canada-based Leisure Travel Vans has installed a fold-down Murphy bed into the U24MB, one of two floorplans in its new Unity Class C motorhome. The Unity is built on a Sprinter cab chassis with a gvwr of 11,030 pounds and is powered by a 154-hp Mercedes-Benz diesel engine. The queen-size Murphy bed hinges down from an 18-inch slideout above two powered reclining lounge chairs that become the bed’s base. New front and rear caps, European-designed windows, LED interior lighting, Corian countertops and curved cabinetry are standard. The second floorplan, also with a single slideout, includes a rear bed. Base msrp: $121,458.

Monaco Cayman

Monaco RV redesigned its Monaco Cayman/Holiday Rambler Neptune diesel-pusher with four new floorplans on the company’s proprietary Roadmaster eight-air bag raised-rail chassis. “We tried to incorporate a high-value product with residential floorplans,” said Monaco Brand Manager Ryan Lee. “From a ride standpoint, there is a major difference in how this handles.” The Cayman/Neptune, available in 36- and 40-foot floorplans, is powered by a 340-hp or 360-hp Cummins engine. Features include tile floors, queen beds and optional residential refrigerator and stackable washer/dryer. Base msrp: $214,278.

Newmar Mountain Aire

For the 2011 model year, motorhome manufacturer Newmar redesigned the luxury Mountain Aire diesel-pusher coach built on the Spartan Mountain Master chassis with a gvwr of 34,600 or 46,000 pounds and powered by a 425-hp Cummins ISL engine. Available in six 40- to 43-foot floorplans, the redesigned Mountain Aire includes new front and rear caps with an integrated spoiler, frameless double-pane windows, integrated power awnings, a coffered ceiling with halogen lighting, porcelain floors, solid-wood hand-glazed cabinets with concealed hinges, Mystera countertops and a NewPlex multiplex wiring system that allows users to control lights, ceiling fans and window shades from multiple locations inside the coach. Base msrp: $406,695.

Roadtrek SS-Ideal

The motorhome industry’s first and only slide room out the rear doors of a Class B was introduced at the show by Canadian builder Roadtrek. Built on the high-mileage Sprinter 2500 chassis with a gvwr of 8,550 pounds and equipped with a 154-hp six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz diesel engine, the new 20-foot SS-Ideal has a 3-foot-deep rear slide, which houses half of a double bed that converts to a sofa. With the rear doors extended the slide creates an extra 3 feet of living space when in camp. By using the existing rear door opening, the vehicle’s original structural integrity is not compromised, according to the company. Base msrp: $97,110.

Winnebago Via/Itasca Reyo

Winnebago Industries introduced a second floorplan of its Sprinter-chassis based Winnebago Via/Itasca Reyo Class A motorhome. The new rear-bath 25R floorplan features two dining areas and a larger streetside bed/sofa slideout. The 25-foot Via/Reyo, equipped standard with a bed that drops down from over the cockpit, is the first Class A motorhome built on the Sprinter Cowl chassis with a gvwr of 11,030 pounds and equipped with a six-cylinder 154-hp Mercedes-Benz diesel engine. Base msrp: $143,000. Winnebago also debuted a Winnebago Tour/Itasca Ellipse 42D tag-axle model on a Freightliner Maxum chassis with a gvwr of 44,320 pounds and equipped with a turbocharged 400-hp Cummins ISL diesel engine. The new 42D features a curbside slide with an L-shaped sofa that extends with the slideout. Base msrp: $339,000.

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