Over the course of many years, Class C motorhomes built on van cutaway chassis have been the “go to” vehicle for countless RV enthusiasts. This trend has been driven in large part by several factors, including affordability, ease of handling, and of course, a level of comfort and amenities often associated with larger, costlier Class A’s.
One of the more prominent manufacturers of Class C motorhomes in the field today is Forest City, Iowa-based Winnebago Industries. This old guard company is renowned for the quality and reliability of its products, and has been able to weather the economic ups and downs of the recreational vehicle industry for decades.
At the forefront of Winnebago’s Class C lineup for 2011 is one of the latest incarnations of its Itasca brand, the Impulse Silver. We were fortunate to acquire one of the company’s most popular and best-selling models, the 26QP, to experience just what it had to offer in the way of performance and livability.
“The Impulse lineup is better than ever this year, with the addition of the new 26QP floorplan,” said Roger Martin, Winnebago’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Plus, with the addition of the Silver package, RVers can accessorize this classic motorhome with such amenities as a new, aerodynamic front cap, deluxe graphics, full-body paint and contemporary interior upgrade packages.”
Our 26QP came with what might be considered a rather close-quartered floorplan that is obviously dictated by the coach’s maximum length of 27 feet, 10 inches. Usable living areas amounted to a forward galley/dining area with streetside slideout dinette; an enclosed mid-coach bathroom, also streetside; a rear master bedroom that sported a walk-around queen bed; and a roomy cabover bunk for an additional guest or two.
Base pricing on our test motorhome is $83,317, and the coach includes many higher-end features as standard equipment, such as the molded, full fiberglass front-end cap, 7.5-cubic-foot double-door refrigerator, china bowl toilet and one-piece fiberglass roof. The motorhome also had a multitude of optional upgrades that made living even more comfortable, but commensurately elevated the coach’s final suggested retail price to $92,688. Notable of these options are an entertainment system with 26-inch LCD flat-screen TV ($1,120); a 4-kW AC generator ($2,793); and a rear-view video monitor ($812).
The automotive foundation of any good motorhome requires a solid, powerful chassis. In the case of this coach, it is built on a rugged and proven Ford E-450 van cutaway platform equipped with a 6.8-l V-10 engine. Not only does the motive core of this system churn out a willing 305-hp at a high winding 4,250 rpm, it also has 420 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm for added emphasis. It is backed by Ford’s dependable five-speed automatic transmission with overdrive, and includes a handy tow/haul feature that enhances towing and downshifting operations.
Winnebago is well-known for the robust construction of its coaches, and the Itasca reflected this reputation. The company uses its exclusive “Super Structure” architectural approach that includes a specially joined framework of aluminum and steel, below the main floorboard and above. Upper coach walls are durable, lightweight composites of exterior high-gloss, gel-coated fiberglass panels, dense block foam insulation and internal aluminum support bracing. Also, roof segments utilize metal frame members, insulation and a one-piece fiberglass crowned roof. In our Silver model, molded fiberglass front and rear end caps contributed aerodynamic functionality as well as extra eye appeal.
California’s central coast was the area we selected to road-test our distinctively painted Itasca, adorned in a contemporary Dark Bronzemist exterior graphics package. Beginning from our base in Ventura, Calif., and traveling north to Morro Bay, the route also offers access to several inland highways and byways that present topography ideal for testing the performance and livability of most any recreational vehicle.
First impressions of the Itasca’s performance were its swift acceleration and almost passenger-car-like ease of handling as we headed out onto U.S. Highway 101. Nudging the gas pedal for a bit more power produced quick bursts of speed that were appreciated when trying to merge into fast-paced streams of freeway traffic.
Throughout the test, the motorhome demonstrated exceptional braking capability for a vehicle of its size. Whether at full speed in a fast traffic lane or just loafing around town, the four-wheel disc brakes with ABS exerted authoritative “whoa” whenever called upon.
Early in the trip, we encountered a moderate 5-percent upgrade that produced minimal downshifting of the Ford’s TorqShift transmission to third gear. Even though the unit was loaded with cargo, fluids and two adult passengers, it still descended the other side of the hill well within the 65 mph speed limit, and without having to apply brakes.
Later in the trip, we had occasion to climb a more serious 7-percent incline that truly put our powertrain to the test. Despite the formidable wet weight of 11,872 pounds, we were still able to maintain a minimum upward speed of 58 mph at 4,800 rpm in second gear. Heading down this same gradient near the end of the test, the coach exhibited excellent engine compression holdback that limited our downward progress to no more than 57 mph in third gear at 3,000 rpm.
Upon arriving at our destination in the Morro Bay vicinity, we were able to deftly make our way through a crowded beach parking lot and back in to a space that a larger motorhome might not have negotiated, thanks to the coach’s compact length just shy of 28 feet.
That afternoon, we spent a lot of time traveling around the tighter confines of several coastal towns. Despite the challenges, we were still able to easily get around, and even parallel-parked near a fast food joint to stop for a quick bite.
Our Itasca took us just about everywhere we wanted to go with ease. However, one shortcoming we experienced in town-driving was the Ford E-450 chassis’s inherent wide turning radius of more than 33 feet. This really doesn’t amount to much during normal highway driving unless you experience a sharp turn; but in any type of a U-turn situation, drivers should use plenty of forethought, and choose a very wide spot in the road before attempting such a maneuver.
Though the 26QP’s floorplan is somewhat compressed, it isn’t short on residential amenities, and is a study in the efficient use of available space. The dÃ©cor scheme for our coach was Glacier Mist, and it reflected a blend of earthen brown hues from dark coffee through light beige. Added to this were creamy white Ultraleather, multi-adjustable captain’s seats in the cockpit.
Other dÃ©cor elements include thermo-formed, white laminate countertops in the galley and bathroom, warm Coffee-Glazed Sierra Maple cabinetry, predominantly vinyl flooring in the galley and bathroom, a touch of carpeting in the bedroom area, and an acoustic-enhancing, vinyl-lined ceiling. The vinyl flooring can withstand aggressive use and is easy to clean as well.
We found that the galley area afforded us plenty of room to enjoy a quick bite in comfort. With the 7.5-cubic-foot curbside refrigerator at hand, plus surrounding cabinets, drawers and a narrow but suitably ample pantry with slideout shelving to support our culinary efforts, we were able to put together a tasty lunch spread in just a few minutes. With food assembled, we moved into the adjacent streetside slideout 42- by 67-inch dinette to enjoy the fruits of our labor and recharge our batteries.
Storage cabinets and recesses are suitably situated throughout the coach’s interior for items such as food, clothing and other gear, though no single receptacle would accept a lot. In the galley, modestly proportioned cabinets are located over the curbside sink and counter, while more are found above the dinette. Especially practical were storage areas beneath both dinette seats that are easily accessed, yet out of the way. In the rear bedroom, more cabinets are available over the bed, along with two rear corner wardrobe closets.
After an enjoyable day at the beach, we relocated to a nearby RV park. Once we had leveled and hooked up to shore utilities, dinner was swiftly prepared. We used the optional overhead convection/microwave oven ($105) and afterward had things quickly cleaned up and squared away for the evening.
This model does not have a lot of sitting and lounging areas; the primary spots are the dinette, overhead bunk and rear bed. Despite this, we were able to find enough spaces to plop down and enjoy some of our favorite movies and cable shows using the very flexible 26-inch, swivel-mounted LCD TV near the kitchen sink, and a 19-inch LCD TV in the rear bedroom.
When time rolled around to turn in for the evening, we really appreciated the fixed, 60- by 75-inch queen bed located at the rear of the coach, and consider this one of the motorhome’s key residential elements. We much prefer a dedicated sleeping arrangement of this type as opposed to foldouts or other questionably comfortable contrivances. The bedroom also had enough aisle space on either side of the queen for easy access, making bed makeup in the morning effortless.
For those who wish to take along an extra passenger or a couple of grandkids, the 53- by 78-inch cabover bunk is an ideal sleeping place. In a pinch, the dinette can even be converted to a sleeping surface for a smaller person or two. And if the overhead bunk is not to your liking, buyers can instead choose an optional home theater system for this space, complete with a larger 32-inch LCD TV.
Mid-floorplan streetside, and tucked neatly out of the way, is the bathroom. It is compact but complete with full shower and china bowl toilet. Though small in layout, the facility afforded enough room for showers and adequate foot room in front of the toilet. Though a dinky washstand on the forward wall took some getting used to, this area and an exterior wash station were welcome and much-used fixtures during our stay.
Loading the Itasca before leaving home was remarkably easy, and due in large part to its external rear pass-through storage compartment. The generous bay is crafted of molded vinyl and comes complete with two large access doors – one aft and the other curbside. The large compartment is also uniquely designed with a removable floor segment that can convert into a picnic table, and includes a drain plug in the floor bottom for easy washouts.
Combined with several other small compartments spotted on either side of the unit, available external storage area amounts to more than 74 cubic feet. In all, the coach can accept up to 2,628 pounds of passengers and cargo before exceeding its gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) of 14,500 pounds.
Itasca’s attractively appointed Impulse Silver 26QP is loaded with a generous array of residential amenities, in a compact floorplan less than 28 feet in length. Supported by a robust Ford E-450 chassis with lots of power, car-like handling, abundant cargo capacity and a size that allows easy access to a wide range of campsites and other locations, this classy coach is quite remarkable.
2011 Winnebago Itasca Impulse Silver 26QP
Full walk-around queen bed, not usually found in a floorplan of this length. Humongous, vinyl-lined pass-through exterior storage compartment.
Ford van cutaway chassis does not exactly turn on a dime. U-turns require plenty of room, and a fair amount of forethought. Small, curbside galley vent cover has no visible means of restraint and flaps while coach is underway.
fuel economy: 8.5 mpg
0-60 mph: 17.1 sec
40-60 mph: 9.4 sec
manufacturer: winnebago industries
model: Ford E-450
engine: 6.8-L Ford V-10
sae hp: 305 hp @ 4,250 rpm
torque: 420 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm
transmission: 5-speed automatic
axle ratio: 4.10:1
brakes, f/r: disc/disc w/abs
suspension, f/r: coil/leaf
w/rear air bags
fuel cap: 55 gal
warranty: 3 yrs/36,000 miles
ext length: 27′ 10″
ext width: 8′ 5″
ext height: 11′ 3″
int width: 8′
int height: 6′ 10″
construction: aluminum framing,
fiberglass skin and roof, foam insulation
freshwater cap: 42 gal
black-water cap: 30 gal
gray-water cap: 30 gal
water-heater cap: 6 gal
lp-gas cap: 18 gal
air conditioner: 14,500 btu
furnace: 30,000 btu
refrigerator: 7.5 cu-ft
converter: 45 amp
batteries (3): (1) 12-volt chassis,
(2) 12-volt coach
ac generator: 4.0 kw
base msrp: $83,317
msrp as tested: $92,688
warranty: 1 yr/15,000 miles basic limited; structural, 3 yrs/36,000 miles
(water and heater, fuel, lp-gas tanks full; no supplies or passengers)
front axle: 4,238 lbs
rear axle: 7,634 lbs
total: 11,872 lbs
gawr, F/R: 5,000/9,500 lbs
gvwr/gcwr: 14,500/20,000 lbs
roccc: 2,628 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 and cargo carrying capacity (full water, no passengers)