A revitalized Fleetwood offers an all-new crossover coach for 2011 that combines the best of class C features with class A amenities.
Â As a coachbuilder that is continuously expanding its product lineup, Fleetwood has introduced the Storm “crossover” – a motorhome that will certainly attract a lot of attention.
The Storm combines Class C functionality and sleeping capacity with Class A amenities to create a fully featured motorÂhome with a base price that starts at less than six figures. It’s capable of satisfying cost-conscious first-time families, move-up buyers or active empty nesters, looking to offer the lifestyle to the next generation of RV enthusiasts. The Storm is available in three floorplans and two lengths, and we chose the 32BH bunkhouse plan for its multipurpose function. We headed for Ventura Ranch KOA in nearby Santa Paula, Calif., a beautiful full-service riverside campground and picturesque destination, to evaluate a first-day drive of a new coach.
Â Once parked and the optional ($2,513) hydraulic auto levelers were deployed, we were ready to enjoy the Storm. The main cabin is split by a large 42-inch by 72-inch dinette on the curbside and directly opposite a 42-inch by 60-inch sofa bed in the streetside slide, both equipped with seat belts and situated directly behind the cockpit for easy conversation on the road or in camp.
The main cabin can also transform itself into a family-size dormitory with sleeping for six by making up the dinette and sofa, then lowering Fleetwood’s optional ($2,520) Hide-A-Loft bed that is cleverly concealed against the full-height cockpit ceiling. Using four enclosed chain-drive units, the upholstered bed platform with attached above-windshield storage cabinetry drops right into the laps of the cockpit chairs, revealing a queen-size pneumatic mattress that’s inflated by a hand-held 120-volt AC air pump.
Interlocked with the Loft control switch is the powered mounting bracket holding the 26-inch LCD TV that must be swung out into the cabin-viewing position to permit the Loft’s travel. Nylon safety netting surrounds the platform on three sides with a ladder providing easy, safe access. Also interconnected to the Loft’s mechanical functions are two overhead incandescent light fixtures that automatically extinguish as the bed is raised into the travel position.
We couldn’t resist trying out the Loft’s inflatable mattress the first night of our trip and were pleasantly surprised by just how comfortable this type of mattress can be once you’ve mastered the inflation process. Having the air-fill inlet centered on the end of the mattress is a bit inconvenient. But with some practice inflating and manual capping a comfortable air pressure, it should become a simpler task. With the TV returned to its stowed position, and the perfect inflation for the Loft, we were ready to enjoy a movie and drift off after a busy day.
Refreshed and looking forward to a leisurely drive to the full-service Pacific Dunes RV Resort in Oceano, Calif., we headed for the L-shaped galley. It shares the streetside slide with the sofa bed, creating a wonderful open cabin space for family meals and fun. The range and upper microwave oven and cabinetry move out with the slide, creating added floor space for the chef. Pot and pan storage is found below the three-burner range-and-oven combo with additional drawer and cabinet storage in the stainless double-basin sink base and in raised-panel overhead cabinets that ring the cabin. Whole-coach water filtration from the generous 60-gallon freshwater tank and laminate countertops throughout come standard.
The lighter cherry wood and interior dÃ©cor package called Antique Sand and Butterscotch Spice is a handsome combination with a high-end look, yet easy to maintain and clean. Excellent cabinet fit and finish was the norm throughout the Storm and proof of Fleetwood’s attention to detail. Complementary low-maintenance vinyl flooring in a busy hardwood pattern is provided throughout the cabin, extending through the entryway, bath and hall. Plush carpeting makes its sole appearance around the master bed.
Forming the end of the cabin and completing the galley is the curbside 6-cubic-foot refrigerator with matching raised-wood door panels that is capable of handling a large family’s cold storage needs. We heard a repeating fan hum resonating from the refrigerator cabinet that made sleeping in the master bed a challenge and ended up requiring us to shut off the fridge. In a call to Fleetwood we learned that a new fan-equipped fridge has replaced the old model and cabinet sound-deadening improvements are being explored.
Another innovative feature found in the Storm is the optional ($742) Bunk Bed-n-Breakfast that should appeal to kids from ages 6 to 60. By day, it’s a cozy facing dinette built for two, complete with seat belts, and by night it transforms into a fold-down pair of 6-foot bunks. The optional ($644) dual-glazed windows throughout the Storm gave us wonderful views of the resort’s panoramic sand dunes and sunset. The bunk bed can also be outfitted with a recessed and articulated wall-mount 19-inch LCD TV ($497) for smiles and miles of personal entertainment complete with adequate storage for video games and related media above and below the TV.
For others, it can be the perfect place to read a good book or write an e-mail. Animal lovers will appreciate the ability to stow show crates in place of the lower bunk cushions or just let their four-legged companions lounge on the bunks. Our Class A “crossover” sleeping count is now up to eight with more coach yet to explore.
The bath sports a 24-inch by 34-inch shower with a bowed-out curtain rod offering additional shoulder and hip room. Along with a domed skylight and a roof vent with power exhaust fan, there’s a practical and useful shampoo and soap shelf. Cabinetry throughout the Storm is Ozite-lined, including the bath – a nice feature that will save wear and tear on otherwise slip-and-slide cargo when traveling. It’s also needed in the Storm’s exterior cargo compartments to prevent damaging cargo shift.
Despite less expensive choices available, Fleetwood has chosen to provide a china bowl toilet with hand sprayer along with heated holding tanks. Storage cabinetry with open shelf space for extra towels and a lighted medicine cabinet complete the bath.
The large rear slide is also shared between the bunks and the bedroom’s floor-to-ceiling wardrobe unit that provides generous hanging and drawer storage and allows access to the bed and its use even when the slide cannot be extended. A privacy door can separate the bedroom from the bunks. Wall space with connections for the optional ($504) 19-inch LCD TV are next to the wardrobe. The long window above the headboard provides both natural illumination and cross ventilation with the large rear wall combo window/emergency exit equipped with pleated nightshades. Nightstand shelves on each side of the comfortable queen platform bed will accommodate small bedside items illuminated by a pair of reading lamps while additional overhead and exterior-connected under-bed storage should handle the rest.
Dual 20,000-Btu furnaces supply ducted heating in all spaces and cooling is also ducted throughout the Storm from a single 15,000-Btu roof unit, which refreshed us after shooting photos on a 90-plus-degree day. Coach capacities and generator functions are monitored from a panel conveniently mounted by the entry door.
Rotomolded polyethylene storage comÂpartments ring the coach with two sets interconnected by over-the-frame pass-throughs, perfect for storing a 4-foot stepÂladder or folding chairs. The service bay is easy to use with controls and valves ergonomically positioned. Bottom-hinged storage compartment doors eliminate the uncomfortable head prop while looking for an item and provide full access to the interior. Generous access to the 4 kW Onan MicroQuiet generator should make any owner servicing quick and easy.
Dropping the front cap’s twin lock hood section on its pantograph hinges provides service access to the front of Ford’s Triton engine and cooling system. The Storm’s large open grille should have no problem keeping the cooling system well-fed.
There’s also room behind the grille to mount a telescoping squeegee, which you’ll need to maintain the Storm’s expansive one-piece windshield. Fleetwood’s designers want you to see the landscape up close through this windshield with an effective driver’s seat view of 93 inches by 47 inches. The visibility combined with the large power and heated side mirrors and rear camera make the Storm’s actual 31-foot length seem diminished.
The cockpit features comfortable swiveling armrest-style captain’s chairs with manual adjustments overlooking Ford’s twin-gauge dash pod. All cockpit controls are within easy reach of the driver, including the combo stereo/rear camera display, and satellite radio function when ordered.
Behind the Wheel
Driving the Storm is a pleasure with the Triton V-10. Developing peak horsepower at nearly 4,800 rpm, it thrives on rpm that may be a little disconcerting for first-timers pulling out to pass and allowing this engine to wind up. With the low doghouse centered in the cockpit, the high-revving V-10 will also let you know just how happy it is entering the on-ramp or grade, momentarily interrupting a conversation or phone call. Fleetwood indicates it’s looking into improving doghouse and insulation design for future Storms.
Ford’s smooth TorqShift five-speed OD transmission handled everything we threw at it, making the trip a relaxed journey allowing its shift-adjusting Tow-Haul setting to minimize braking on steep descents. Assisted by the speed-sensing auto-downshifting feature, engine braking has never been easier. Finally, the 50-degree steering cut made campground maneuvering a non-event assisted by the excellent visibility.
Whether there’s two or 10 in your family, the Storm with its unique crossover Class C sleeping capacity combined with Class A amenities and a base price that’s less than six figures is an entry-level “Gas-A” coach high on our list for fun, form and function.
For more information: Fleetwood RV Inc. 800-322-8216, www.fleetwoodrv.com.
Pacific Dunes RV Resort and Riding Stables 805-489-8100, www.pacificdunesranch.info.
Ventura Ranch KOA 805-933-3200, www.koa.com/where/ca/05459.
2011 FLEETWOOD STORM 32BHÂ
Â WHAT’S HOT Sleeping capacity for 10; optional Hide-A-Loft; 50-degree wheel cut; optional Bunk Bed-N-Breakfast; large windshield with driver’s seat view of 93
Â Â Â
WHAT’S NOT Cabinetry for the fan-equipped refrigerator fails to reduce noise; inadequate engine compartment noise control.