Whether you are contemplating long-term travel, are full-timing or simply desire a lot of floor space in your motorhome, Winnebago Industries’ new Itasca Sunova 36V may suit your needs. With a length of 37 feet, 5 inches, this dual-slide floorplan is destined to be a real crowd pleaser with its expansive, forward lounge, well-equipped mid-coach galley and impressive audiovisual componentry including four flat-screen LCD TVs.
The centerpiece of the dramatically open, slideout lounge is a sectional sofa that can quickly convert to seat up to seven people. Added to this zone are two of the flat-screen LCDs: a 32-inch set above the driver’s compartment and a 40-inch model mounted on a forward-facing dinette wall.
A fully equipped galley is situated mid-coach, with a streetside dinette located across the aisle. Aft of the galley is a walk-through bathroom, followed by a large, slideout master bedroom. With these features and many more, this layout promises plenty of flexibility for those who like to entertain guests, or who need extra space for a large family.
Winnebago equips its motorhomes, including the Itasca line, with one of the best superstructures in the business. Framework consists of welded steel and aluminum members with interlocking joints, which also connect the floor, side walls and roof assemblies into one very strong and durable package. Side walls are bonded composites utilizing internal metal framework, high-density block foam insulation and exterior gelcoat fiberglass panels, while molded end caps grace the unit’s fore and aft extremities. Topping things off is a one-piece, crowned fiberglass roof assembly that offers strength and longevity.
The test coach had exterior Espresso painted graphics over high-gloss gelcoat fiberglass (optional full-body paint is available), and a full assortment of functional features and appointments that gave it a higher end feel. Standard among these were a one-piece windshield, hydraulic leveling jacks, MCD American solar/blackout roller window shades and a 5.5-kW generator, to name just a few. With these items and many more, the base price of the unit totaled $124,730.
Added to the above mix, our test rig came with a long list of options that included an exterior 32-inch LCD TV/DVD equipped media center ($1,610), color rearview monitoring system ($406) and a 1,000-watt power inverter ($532). These plus a host of other options raised the final price to $136,950.
Powertrain and Performance
What better way to analyze the performance of a new coach than a trip through four terrain and climate zones, including coastal plains, an interior mountain range, high desert and Sierra Nevada foothills? As we pushed off from our base in Ventura, Calif., the Sunova with its Ford F53 chassis took to the road like a veteran. With its lengthy 242-inch wheelbase, leaf spring suspension with Bilstein shocks and 22.5-inch wheels and tires, the motorhome handled freeways and rural highways with relative smoothness and confidence-inspiring stability.
First, we came to a 7 percent grade that seriously tested the innate power of the unit’s 362-hp, Triton V-10 engine. With pedal to the floorboard, we were able to maintain a minimum speed of 60 mph in second gear at 4,200 rpm up the entire grade. This in itself was quite impressive considering the rig’s wet weight of 18,300 pounds, and gave us some insights into the coach’s general performance capabilities.
Next was a transition from Interstate 5 to state Route 14 in the dreadful Newhall Pass area that is as congested with traffic as it is continually plagued by construction zones. We managed to guide the coach alongside phalanxes of commercial truck traffic, cement K-rail lane barriers, and across rutted, uneven highway surfaces with accuracy due to the chassis’ spot-on steering and reassuring highway feedback. At one point, we had to accelerate rapidly as a lane suddenly petered out, and we made the dicey transition with plenty of room to spare.
The coach’s acceleration ability was demonstrated earlier in timed tests before our trip began. In 0 to 60 mph runs, the Sunova averaged 25.9 seconds, with 40 to 60 mph intervals of 13.6 seconds. Despite its lengthy proportions and formidable wet weight of more than 9 tons, this rig can still cut it when extra power is needed. Besides being quick off the line for its size, the coach also has plenty of energy in reserve for making lane changes and entering on-ramps.
Dropping into the Antelope Valley near Palmdale, Calif., we tapped the brake pedal, causing the tow/haul feature to downshift the TorqShift five-speed automatic transmission, and let the engine’s compression slow us down a bit. Earlier, we had experienced the coach’s significant downhill holdback capabilities on a 7 percent grade. In this instance, engine compression held our speed to a maximum of 58 mph in second gear at 4,200 rpm without having to use the brakes.
Just before Palmdale, we encountered turbulent winds that caused the coach to buck and shudder strongly. Despite wicked gusts that tried to tear off an awning or two, we were still able to maintain lane position though the ride was a white-knuckle affair. We eventually outran the windstorm and settled into a smoother, easier pace of 65 mph with the cruise control set.
The 36V is equipped with a generous 80-gallon fuel tank that allows a considerable travel range, and only required one fill-up during our trip to Lone Pine and back. Despite having to traverse several grades in the 5 to 7 percent range and dealing with capricious headwinds at one point, we still managed to average 7.4 mpg.
As we neared our final destination near Lone Pine, we were eager to get the 36V set up in an RV park and begin enjoying the generous interior spaces and creature comforts the floorplan offers. With dual streetside slides for the lounge and bedroom areas, the unit’s layout provides loads of residential room.
Décor throughout is done in a staid but tasteful Baritone brown collection of fabrics, with the centerpiece being an optional 48-inch by 93-inch sectional sofa ($805) in the forward lounge area. The sectional as well as both cockpit captain’s chairs are upholstered in buttery soft Ultraleather, while a curbside, fabric-covered rocker/recliner with adjacent small pull-up table acts as a convenient sidepiece to this stylish ensemble.
Cabinetry and table surfaces consist of wood in a rich Forest Cherry finish, and are accented with brushed nickel hardware. Added to the mix are molded, laminate countertops in the galley, bed and bath areas.
Floor covering in the lounge/galley/bath zones is easily cleanable, tile-patterned vinyl, while gold-tone carpeting is used to grace the cockpit and bedroom areas. Finishing off the interior’s décor treatment is a soft, vinyl headliner that dampens itinerant noises and ensures muted acoustics.
After a taxing day of driving it felt good to finally get the coach plugged in at Boulder Creek RV Resort in Lone Pine. With little effort, we pulled our folding chairs from an exterior cargo bay, deployed the optional one-touch electric patio awning ($840), and got ready to enjoy some high desert ambiance.
What a feeling of residential roominess and warmth the forward lounge provided us weary travelers. After retrieving some cool drinks from the nearby optional 12.1-cubic-foot refrigerator with icemaker ($2,485), one of us spread out on the sectional sofa and read a newspaper, while the other plopped into the comfy curbside recliner rocker with feet up for some needed looking-out-the-window time.
The galley and adjoining areas have a veritable plethora of overhead cabinets, drawers and cupboards that can store enough groceries and culinary essentials for a safari. Besides the refrigerator that holds a goodly amount of perishables, there is also a handy, adjoining ceiling-to-floor slideout pantry to salt away any number of smaller boxes and canned goods.
When we were rejuvenated enough to begin dinner, there was no end to the possibilities the galley had to offer with more than 13 square feet of usable surface area atop its main curbside counter. We pulled a few dry goods from the overhead cabinets, some veggies from the fridge and a couple of cans from the pantry and we had the makings of a tasty, home-style meal.
From there on, it was no time before we had a full spread ready to go, using the convection microwave ($392) and three-burner stovetop. In this particular unit, we also had the benefit of a gas oven that can really be handy if the need arises for an additional cooking implement. As it was, the microwave and stove were enough for us.
Once our meal was prepared, we quickly slid into the streetside dinette to literally enjoy the fruits of our labor. With a 26-inch by 41-inch tabletop to spread out across, we had plenty of elbowroom to eat our dinner as well as other meals in relative comfort. When the dishes were cleared, this area also made a great place to use our laptop and go over some maps for our next day’s exploring.
Several evenings we sat outside enjoying beautiful sunsets, with mood-enhancing music drifting from the coach’s exterior AM/FM stereo radio. Watching tiny bats darting around chasing bugs as day blurred into night, we were completely captivated by the ruggedness and beauty of our location.
Winnebago obviously equipped this unit for entertaining, and appointed the lounge with dual TVs as noted previously. After dinner, we watched a bit of cable TV on the forward 32-inch set, and then switched over to the DVD player to view movies that we had brought along.
Between the lounge/galley area and rear slideout bedroom is a generous walk-through bathroom zone, with a 24-inch by 38-inch curbside shower stall and a private, enclosed streetside lavatory with washstand and commode.
Showering while aboard was a relatively pleasant experience, with plenty of headroom in the stall for taller individuals at 77 inches, and enough space to wash and rinse off without hitting the sides. The only nitpick is that the chintzy plastic showerhead and dual-control faucet could be more upscale to match the level of other fixtures.
The private lav room with washstand and toilet allowed plenty of room to move around and enough counterspace for morning makeup or shaving. Though the toilet has plenty of foot space in front, the hand-flush model used here is just a step below what one might expect in a rig of this caliber.
For the 36V, a full 60-inch by 80-inch queen bed is standard issue (no short queen here), and the 6-foot member of our team appreciated this aspect greatly. With a king bed available as an option, however, we think we would definitely spend the extra dollars for this alternative. Depending on the size of the individual, there are a total of six sleeping positions available if the dinette is folded down and sofa converted.
Besides plenty of walk-around room on three sides of the rear queen, the bedroom includes the fourth TV (26 inches), plus an abundance of cupboard, cabinet and drawer space. The room has not one but two 49-inch-high by 30-inch-wide by 18-inch-deep curbside ward-robe closets for hanging clothes, shoes and other gear. If this isn’t enough, the available drawers can hold about as much as those found in the average residential bedroom.
Weather can often be capricious in the eastern Sierra foothills, and we appreciated the coach’s multi-zone heating/air conditioning/heat pump option ($455), which is well worth the money. The system also has dual thermostats (one for the bedroom; the other for the remainder of the coach) that efficiently direct warm or cool air to the right place at the right time. We had occasion to use the handy electric heat pump on several crisp mornings, to cozy things up before breakfast.
Another inherent benefit of a longer floorplan such as the 36V is its ample external storage capacity of roughly 152 cubic feet. There are many compartments on both sides of the unit, including two pass-through bays, to stow a remarkable number of items. In our case, we were able to load firewood, chairs, toolboxes, photo equipment bags and a lot of other things without even putting a dent in overall holding capability.
The only aggravation we experienced with several longer outside compartments was a tendency of some doors not to completely latch when slammed shut. This required extra effort of pressing the bottom corner of each door to fully secure it.
Itasca’s Sunova 36V is perfect for full-timers, snowbirds or those who just want a coach with a dramatically open floorplan, lots of storage capacity and plenty of entertainment possibilities. Built atop a stalwart and powerful Ford F53 gas chassis, this model should be a strong, trustworthy performer on the highway, as well as a residential tour de force in any RV park.
2011 Itasca Sunova 36V
sofa; four LCD TVs; one-piece windshield; powered night shade in
cockpit; MCD American blackout roller shades; four-door, 12-cubic-foot
refrigerator with icemaker; 152 cubic feet of exterior storage and two
No DVD player for 27-inch bedroom TV; longer overhead
interior cabinets need dividers to prevent stored items from sliding
around; entry-level shower head and faucet; hand-flush toilet
fuel economy: 7.4 mpg
0-60 mph: 25.9 sec
40-60 mph: 13.6 sec
model: Ford F53
engine: 6.8-L V-10
sae hp: 362 hp @ 4,750 rpm
torque: 457 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm
transmission: 5-speed TorqShift with Tow-Haul
axle ratio: 4.88:1
brakes: disc w/abs
suspension, f/r: tapered multi-leaf
fuel cap: 80 gal
warranty: 3 yrs/36,000 miles
ext length: 37′ 5″
ext width: 8′ 5.5″
ext height: 12′ 6″
int width: 8′ 0″
int height: 6′ 8″
construction: steel/aluminum framing, fiberglass skin and roof, polystyrene block foam insulation
freshwater cap: 94 gal
black-water cap: 39 gal
gray-water cap: 44 gal
water-heater cap: 6 gal
lp-gas cap: 18 gal
air conditioner (2): 13,500 btu
furnace: 40,000 btu
refrigerator: 12 cu ft
converter: 55 amp
battery (3): 1 12-volt chassis, 2 12-volt coach
ac generator: 5.5 kw
base msrp: $124,730
msrp as tested: $136,950
warranty: 1 yr/15,000 miles
(water and heater, fuel, lp-gas tanks full; no supplies or passengers)
front axle: 6,220 lbs
rear axle: 12,080 lbs
total: 18,300 lbs
gawr, f/r: 8,000/15,000 lbs
gvwr/gcwr: 22,000/26,000 lbs
roccc: 3,700 lbs
(deduct weight of passengers for net cargo capacity)
gawr: gross axle weight rating
gvwr: gross vehicle weight rating
gcwr: gross combination weight rating
roccc: realistic occupant & cargo carrying capacity (full water, no passengers)