The Fleetwood moniker has been around a long time, and the company can certainly be credited with influencing the direction of the RV industry since the early 1970s. After hitting the wall last year and filing for bankruptcy protection, the company has reinvented itself, albeit in much more svelte form. Fleetwood emerged as a motorhome-only builder, retaining some its well-established nameplates.
One of those models is the Discovery, and we were eager to see what a fresh slate could do for Fleetwood. After spending time with the Discovery 40X, we’re convinced the company hasn’t lost its touch, and in this case, it has produced a motorhome that’s even better than previous models.
Although the $236,000 price tag dictates less-than-highline placement among big-bucks motorhomes, enthusiasts will be hard-pressed to deny this 40-footer luxury status. Everywhere you look, from the handsome exterior paint scheme to the interior floorplan, the coach exudes style, convenience and practicality. The first thing I noticed was the use of high-quality, name-brand components, many of which are strangers to the RV world. These top-notch fixtures and appliances, which are better able to withstand the rigors of long-term habitation, will keep potential owners from having to make redundant upgrades.
Once the opposing slides are opened up front, the biggest decision owners will have to make is where to sit. The choices include a curvy C-shaped dinette behind the driver’s chair, Euro-style recliners adjacent to the dinette, or the couch on the opposite wall, next to the galley. If that’s not enough, then the occupants can swivel the cockpit chairs to face the living room.
Since every seat in the house is worthy of extended lounging, settling into a favorite spot will take some experimentation – and lots of nap time. But that process will likely be influenced by activities: reading, eating, lounging or watching TV. For example, there are two TVs in the living room, one up front in a traditional mounting place above the dashboard (optional), and the larger in the wall that divides the living room from the bathroom and bedroom. The logic behind two TVs in the same room is puzzling, unless you’re completely addicted to the tube. If so, you’ll appreciate the third TV in the bedroom and the fourth in the outside entertainment enclosure. All four are Sony Bravias, which produce wonderful HD pictures.
Obviously, entertainment is a big factor in the design of this coach. TV visuals are backed by a surround-sound system and the signal is pulled in by an ambient antenna or the KVH automatic dome. Outside there’s another high-quality stereo and speakers next to the TV, which hopefully will be used with your RV park neighbors in attendance. If you like to party, the pull-out exterior cooking station – with refrigerator, sink and barbecue platform – is very appealing and a perfect complement to the outside entertainment center.
For those who prefer to cook indoors, the front galley on the curbside offers exceptional spaciousness and the proper accouterments. With the exceptions of the LP-gas stove and oven, the kitchen is graced with non-RV components, such as the big, two-door residential refrigerator (with water and ice dispensers in the door) and the GE Profile microwave/convection oven. The solid-surface countertop and sinks are fitted with a Moen faucet with a pullout sprayer, soap and lotion dispensers, surrounded by a generous selection of cabinets and drawers.
The optional 22-cubic-foot refrigerator operates only on 120-volt AC power, which is supported by an additional 2,000-watt pure sine-wave inverter and two extra 6-volt, golf cart batteries. We let the refrigerator run without battery charging (other than what we got from the optional 65-watt solar panel) for most of the day with no problems, but boondocking will require the use of the 8 kW Onan diesel generator. Kudos to Fleetwood for providing a very robust onboard 12-volt DC electrical system backed by a total of six 6-volt batteries and two 12-volt starting batteries.
A central monitoring station above the co-pilot’s seat provides instant access to the electrical system condition, including input and output power and battery state of charge. The controls for the slides, awning, leveling system, generator, inverter, water pump, water heater and co-pilot’s retractable floor are part of the monitoring/control package behind the glass-faced cabinet door.
Complementing the living/galley portion of the coach is a gorgeous ceramic tile floor that extends to the bedroom, where carpeting is used. There’s also an abundance of overhead storage cabinets and a number of strategically placed drawers – including two large drawers in the dinette structure. Rich-looking woodwork, understated – but aesthetically pleasing – window treatments, large windows and plenty of lighting fixtures round out the dÃ©cor. Windows are dual pane and covered by high-quality MCD Innovations pull-down window shades (diffuser and blackout). The MCDs are the best we’ve used in RVs.
Down the side hall is the bathroom on the curbside and rear bedroom. Allocated space for the bathroom is just about perfect and is highlighted by a corner shower with rounded doors. The skylight adds plenty of light and additional headroom – and there are even enough cubbyholes for stowing necessities like soap and shampoo.
Generous cabinetry for storing folded towels and toiletries contrasts beautifully with the tile floor, large sink and lighting fixtures, but I hope the single towel holder was just an oversight. Also, the shower diverter valve was way out of sync with the rest of the coach. It’s one of those cheesy RV valves that does a poor job of mixing the hot and cold water.
Out back, the bedroom is pretty much standard fare, with a few features thrown in to bolster comfort. The queen bed with optional air mattress fits snugly into the slide structure, leaving limited, but enough, room to maneuver around it. Small shelves on each side, good lighting and controls for the generator are all within easy reach. Mirrored sliding doors conceal the rear wardrobe and there’s an optional stacked washer/dryer in the adjacent closet. Once the blackout shades are drawn, there’s total darkness. The only thing that can disturb a good night’s sleep is the nearby hot water tank, which will serenade you if left on LP-gas instead of silent electric.
Overall, the creature comforts afforded by the systems work as designed. Heat and air are distributed well and there is good holding tank and freshwater tank support. The water pump is on the anemic side for such a big coach, but that’s a simple matter of the factory selecting a pump with a higher flow rate. Hooked up, the water system flows nicely.
Hookup utilities are accessed through a single compartment door, laid out in a very usable fashion. There’s even a gravity fill for water, which is rare these days in a luxury coach. We learned the hard way that the outside faucet valves (for the spray-down nozzle) must be closed in order for hot water to flow to the inside fixtures.
Outside storage will keep any pack rat happy and with more than two tons of capacity, the rig will undoubtedly be filled up by its owners. All the doors open to the side for super convenience and there’s even a shallow compartment with pegboard to handle tool display and storage.
On the road, the Discovery is pleasant to drive, with a big part of the comfort attributed to the plush power captain’s seat and the ergonomics of the instrumentation, steering wheel and pedals. Controls are easy to reach and visibility is excellent, helped by the side-view cameras that send an image to the monitor screen when the turn signals are deployed.
The coach is built atop a proprietary Power Bridge chassis using Spartan components and tied to a 350-hp Cummins engine and Allison six-speed auto transmission. Handling is very good, but the powertrain could use a few more ponies, especially traveling uphill. The rig slowed to 40 mph on a three-mile, 7-percent grade, without towing a vehicle. On the other side of the grade, the engine brake held the coach back to controllable speeds without major brake pedal work. Maintaining a steady 60-65 mph on flat ground, we were able to realize as much as 9.2 mpg.
It was easy acclimating to driving this coach; there were no surprises, other than the less-than-compliant suspension on rough highways. The choppy ride was a little more pronounced than we expected for an air-suspended 30,000-pound coach (loaded for the trip); once we left the concrete with the infamous expansion joints, the ride was very smooth. The sharp turning cut allowed critical maneuvers in camp, even though the rig is almost 41 1/2 feet, bumper to bumper.
The bumpy ride on certain roads aside, piloting the Discovery was fatigue free, even after spending many hours behind the wheel.
Based on our time with this coach, it’s clear that Fleetwood is in tune with the wants and needs of discriminating buyers. The Discovery 40X delivers all the livability an owner could want, and more. Combined with its wide-open floorplan augmented by three slides, the Discovery 40X will make a nice home-on-wheels for motorhome buyers who are looking to spread out for long periods of time.
If the Discovery is an example of the new company’s culture, then, indeed, Fleetwood is back.
2010 Discovery 40x
High quality, name-brand fixtures and appliances; enormous living area when slides are deployed; robust onboard 12-volt DC electrical system; good road handling.
Cheesy shower diverter valve; only one towel holder in bathroom; water pump is a little anemic; could use more horsepower for climbing hills; less than compliant suspension on rough roads.
fuel economy: 9.2 mpg
mph: 40.0 sec 40-60
mph: 22.0 sec
manufacturer: Fleetwood RV
model: Power Bridge
engine: Cummins isb 6.7-L diesel sae
hp: 350 @ 2,600 rpm
torque: 750 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm
transmission: Allison 3000MH 6-speed automatic axle
brakes: air with ABS
suspension: air bag
fuel cap: 100 gal
warranty: 3 yrs/50,000 miles
ext length: 41′ 4″
ext width: 8′ 6″
ext height: 12′ 10″
int width: 8′
int height: 7′
construction: vacu-bond walls, floor and ceiling. tpo roof.
freshwater cap: 100 gal
black-water cap: 50 gal
gray-water cap: 75 gal
water-heater cap: 16 gal
lp-gas cap: 30 gal
furnace (2): 20,000/30,000 Btu
air conditioner (2): 15,000/11,000 Btu
refrigerator: 22 cu-ft
Inverter/charger: 2,000 watts/100 amps
batteries: (2) 12-volt chassis, (6)
6-volt coach ac generator: 8 kw, diesel
base msrp: $236,719
msrp as tested: $224,364
warranty: Coach, 1 yr/15,000 miles; Structural, 3 yrs/45,000 miles
(water and heater, fuel, lp-gas tanks full; no supplies or passengers)
front axle: 9,780 lbs
rear axle: 17,920 lbs
total: 27,700 lbs
gawr, f/r: 12,000/20,000 lbs
gvwr/gcwr: 32,000/42,000 lbs
Roccc: 4,300 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)
Fleetwood RV 800-322-8216, www.fleetwoodrv.com.