Of the coaches we’ve reviewed over the years, those that most clearly stand out in our memory are the ones that were fun to drive and easy to use. The Phoenix Cruiser 2551S joins that list as a coach that’s sure to please anyone who enjoys traveling in comfort and style.
The Phoenix Cruiser returns for 2010 with the popular twin-bed, rear-bath floorplan. New this year is the addition of an enlarged slide, which creates an open, roomy feel in this 26-foot-long Class C motorhome. When entering, you immediately notice the aerodynamic, contoured side walls of the body and matching entry door and realize this is no ordinary motorhome as you close the unique retracting screen door.
Once inside, you’re treated to the deep, rich tones of the optional ($980) cherry cabinetry and trim that lines the cabin and slide in the Classic Umber dÃ©cor selection. A light maple dÃ©cor is also available along with three additional fabric choices. The optional ($4,130) 7-foot-wide, 32-inch-deep slide holds the fold-out sofa air bed and a double-door fridge-freezer capable of easily handling a weekend getaway or holiday family feast.
Looking closely at the stain-hiding dark carpet selection surrounding the couch, you’ll find four carpeted plugs hiding the sockets for the two-leg cherry-top pole table. In the travel mode, the table can be set up for a quick meal without having to extend the slide, and while in camp, with the slide deployed, the table can be positioned again at the sofa or at right angles to it, creating a very useful snack island for the galley or at either end of the couch while watching the game on the 26-inch flat-screen TV housed in the forward overhead cabinets. Add the optional ($504) surround sound DVD player and you’ve created an excellent home theater on wheels. The optional Premium Convenience Package ($8,393) adds the 26-inch TV, convection/microwave oven, gas/electric water heater, outside shower, TV antenna with booster, roof air with heat strip, 5,000-pound hitch receiver, Fan-Tastic roof fan, wood accent dash trim and tray, electric step, outside mirrors with heat and 1,800-watt power inverter.
For those who need space to work at a computer, Phoenix provides a fold-up laptop-size table accessed from the co-pilot’s seat after swiveling aft on its cockpit pedestal.
Storage for AV media and general cargo abound throughout the cabin as well as in the oversize drawer under the sofa for bedding and pillows. Tight cabinet joints and beautiful, consistent wood finishes give this interior the sophisticated look of a much larger, high-end coach.
The galley blends seamlessly into the living area with the use of complementary solid surface countertop colors set on the full extension drawer and cabinet galley module.
Fill-in covers for the dual burner range and a very deep single-basin solid surface sink create a useful food prep area augmented by a counter extension matching the cherry dining table. The sink and range covers stow behind the range in a drop-in slot, offering useful protection from cooking splatters, while coordinated vinyl floor coverings at the entry and throughout the galley help ease cleanups from meal spills, pets or the intrepid family trekkers.
Mirrors are useful in creating the illusion of more space and are often used in smaller coaches, but it was unusual to find a mirror on the side splash of the range, a feature that will require extra effort to keep clean. The residential-style single lever sink faucet and handy pullout spray hose create a very clean look to the otherwise unbroken galley countertop. The micro/convection oven combo and powered range exhaust hood that houses the coach system’s monitor panel complete a fully featured, compact and easy-to-use galley.
After a busy day, a soft bed is very appealing and with this twin-bed plan, you can take your pick of the comfortable 6-foot-1-inch or the 5-foot-8-inch beds (needed for slide clearance) that are anchored by his-and-hers half-height wardrobes and overhead cabinet storage. A full-length double door hanging wardrobe is provided along the curbside wall in the bath and can accommodate a significant amount of clothing and/or odd-size cargo. The cabin dining table and pole legs are also stowed here for travel.
The optional ($1,078) 15-inch HD flat screen TV is mounted to the curbside bedroom wardrobe and hinged to allow a reasonable view from the other bed. However, the DVD player seemed to be an afterthought, using a simple, bare metal automotive-style hanger that the factory is now installing in its own small enclosure. That same DVD player had fits running on inverter power supplied by the coach’s Xantrex 1,800-watt modified sine wave inverter, causing an oscillating hum in the soundtrack and making the movie unwatchable despite numerous attempts to correct the problem. We turned to reading a book instead but after settling in discovered the lack of any reading lamps – there’s only the excellent overhead fluorescent light fixtures that run the entire length of the coach.
Phoenix prides itself on custom touches and by capitalizing on factory-direct sales, customers can generally order additional specialty items they require, within reason.
Cool evening weather prompted the use of the furnace and like most RV systems, plenty of heat is available but directing it to the proper outlet is often a problem. Vents closest to the source have the greatest output and such was the case in the Cruiser, but a switch from free-flow to adjustable-flow outlets would likely solve the problem of too much heat in the smallest room and not enough in the largest. The factory is also considering the addition of adjustable outlets on future models.
Bath accommodations are excellent and large enough for two when necessary with a domed skylight in the shower to accommodate taller campers as headroom decreases slightly near the side walls from the contoured one-piece fiberglass roof design. The bath layout maximizes the available space and provides proper storage for personal items as well as a dedicated linen closet for extended trip needs. Overhead lighting is excellent but again, an under-cabinet task light over the sink would be an excellent addition for late-night use.
Exterior features include a unique 200-pound-capacity pullout compartment door drawer. The interior cover folds up to enlarge the space to handle tall, bulky items and is watertight. We’d like to see a small drawer drain and cap added to handle wet items or ice. The Cruiser is also equipped with a Sani-Con holding tank transfer system.
Highly regarded as an easy and clean way to handle tank dumping chores, the system uses a macerator pump to discharge effluent into any legal discharge point up to 20 feet higher than the pump and in a pinch, can also discharge through any ordinary garden hose. Phoenix has also engineered a large, shallow trunk into the rear wall of the 2551S that is capable of holding a pair of lawn chairs, patio mat, freshwater hose and other camp setup items often needed and sometimes dirty from use.
Driving the Cruiser is a treat. Its length makes it very nimble when negotiating crowded campgrounds or parking lots and its aerodynamics minimally react to approaching or passing large commercial vehicles. Heading out for the first time you’re treated to silence. No, not from your co-pilot but a refreshing lack of rattles, squeaks and odd harmonics that can irritate and detract from an otherwise fun trip.
Attention to detail in coach body, design and cabinetry construction allowed normal conversation levels and wireless Bluetooth phone calls without annoying distraction. The only rattle that we noted was from a loose convection oven rack still packaged inside the yet unused oven.
Ford provides excellent heated mirrors on the E-series chassis using nearly a third of the mirror head for a large, wide-angle mirror at the bottom, offering excellent side and rear visibility and large enough to clearly monitor rear tires or forgotten unlatched compartment doors. Rear visibility is further enhanced by the optional ($1,008) rear camera and color monitor mounted next to the optional ($304) compass/temperature interior rearview mirror that makes use of the centered rear bath window.
We traveled freeways and country blacktop and the Cruiser remained planted wherever we pointed it. Factory sway bars fore and aft minimized the little body lean we could wring out of it and the only improvement we’d suggest would be the addition of an improved steering damper when cruising over unevenly patched asphalt roads.
Power from the V-10 engine was readily available to tame even the 6 percent and 7 percent grades encountered and we had no trouble maintaining 53 mph in third gear at 3,000 rpm to the crest. A Power Stroke diesel engine option is also available. The brake actuated auto-downshifting Tow/Haul feature of the TorqShift transmission makes descents a controlled affair utilizing drivetrain electronics to assist with engine braking gear selection. Using the Tow/Haul feature on downgrades kept speeds at 55 mph at 3,000 rpm in third gear, requiring only minimal service brake applications to maintain a safe and controlled speed.
Simple, complete and easy-to-read cockpit gauges monitor the health of the Triton V-10 engine and dash controls are laid out for intuitive use, avoiding repetitive eye contact.
Seating is first rate and Phoenix nailed it on its choice of comfortable cockpit seating with the optional ($686) leather covered captain’s chairs with optional ($504) six-way power adjustments on the driver’s side, making them one of most comfortable sets we’ve used. Great support with infinite adjustments combined with the Cruiser’s stance and minimal interior noise eliminated tiring stints behind the wheel.
Simply stated, we wish we had more time in the Phoenix Cruiser. It’s a motorhome that contains all the ingredients for great trips near and far.
With convenient options such as the ($924) push-button awning; the upscale interior appointments; appealing dÃ©cor; and a very livable floorplan, you might think you’ve stepped into a much larger motorhome. You’ll immediately appreciate the craftsmanship Phoenix builds into each coach and better understand why there is such a large and loyal owner following of this brand.
2010 PHOENIX CRUISER 2551S
Unique retracting screen door, generous storage, compact galley, comfortable cockpit seating, 200-pound-capacity pullout compartment door drawer, intuitive dash controls.
Lack of reading lamps, uneven furnace heat, DVD player problems, no under-cabinet task light over bathroom sink, easy-to-get-dirty mirror on side splash of range.
Fuel economy: 9.1 mpg
Acceleration: 0-60 mph: 16.5 sec 40-60 mph: 10.8 sec
Engine: Ford Triton 6.8-l V-10 (Optional Power stroke Diesel available)
SAE HP: 305 @ 4,250 rpm
Torque: 420 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed auto
Axle ratio: 4.56:1
Brakes, F/R: disc with ABS
Suspension, F/R: Twin I-Beam, Coil Spring with Stabilizer Bar/Leaf Spring with Stabilizer Bar
Fuel cap: 55 gal
Warranty: 3 yrs/36,000 miles
Ext length: 26′ 5″
Ext width: 7′ 9″
Ext height: 10′ 1″
Int width: 7′ 5.5″
Int height: 6′ 4″
Construction: aluminum framing, fiberglass skin and roof, polystyrene sheet insulation
Freshwater cap: 45 gal
Black-water cap: 35 gal
Gray-water cap: 23 gal
Water-heater cap: 6 gal
LP-gas cap: 10 gal
Furnace (1): 30,000 btu Air conditioner (1): 13,500 btu
Refrigerator: 12 cu-ft, (optional 17 cu-ft)
Converter: 50 amps
Inverter: 1,800-watt modified sine wave
Battery: (1) 12-volt chassis, (2) 12-volt coach
AC generator: 4kw
Base MSRP: $81,886
MSRP as tested: $102,021
Warranty: 1 yr
(Water and heater, fuel, LP-gas tanks full; no supplies or passengers)
Front axle: 4,120 lbs
Rear axle: 7,300 lbs
Total: 11,420 lbs
GAWR, F/R: 4,600/9,500 lbs
GVWR/GCWR: 14,500/20,450 lbs
OCCC: 3,080 lbs
GAWR: gross axle weight rating
GVWR: gross vehicle weight rating
GCWR: gross combination weight rating
OCCC: Occupant and cargo carrying capacity rating
Phoenix USA Inc. 574-266-2020, www.phoenixusarv.com.