Redesigned for 2016, the full-featured Fleetwood Pace Arrow LXE 38K hits its mark
As you stroll through the miles of aisles at local RV shows and dealerships, you find that your mind is alive with possibilities, ideas and questions. There’s so much to think about when purchasing a new motorhome, particularly a Class A diesel pusher; sensory overload becomes a familiar friend as you consider gleaming stainless-steel appliances, glittering natural stone and layers of hand-rubbed paint. Manufacturers compete for your attention with the biggest TVs, the highest-tech entertainment systems, the largest slideout rooms, the most storage, the highest power. But what it all really boils down to is this: When is enough really enough?
It’s not an easy question for consumers — and believe it or not, it’s not an easy one for manufacturers, either. Finding that harmonious balance of content versus price versus value is one that eludes many motorhome product planners — something you can often tell as you walk through various floorplans. But as the days roll by in the 2016 Fleetwood Pace Arrow LXE we’re testing outside of Palm Springs, California, it appears that the company got it right. This 38K floorplan offers many of the same features we’ve seen in other motorhomes costing $400,000. Yes, but the kicker is that this one comes in well south of $250,000.
If you can live with 340 horsepower instead of 400 (which would cost a lot more), the Pace Arrow rewards with everything else you would expect in a diesel pusher — full-body paint (Aztec Quartz in this case), aluminum wheels, a power awning with LED lighting and automatic leveling, plus an uncommonly large storage bay with side-opening baggage doors. Inside the coach are more surprises — not the least of which is a full-wall slideout, name-brand residential appliances and solid-surface countertops, to name a few. And, in fact, the engine had no difficulties maintaining highway speeds and climbed grades better than expected; in our testing, the Pace never dropped below 55 mph.
Stepping into the cockpit, we found that the Freightliner dash is logically arranged and everything is within easy reach of the driver. The instruments in particular are simply laid out, with an analog tachometer on the left and speedometer on the right, along with coolant temp, fuel gauge, oil pressure, battery voltage and primary/secondary air gauges. The instruments are far enough apart so that they’re not crowded and afford easy readability while driving, which is a definite plus. To the driver’s left are controls for an overhead map light, cockpit fans, retarder switch and transmission gear selector, plus power mirror controls and a nice, big cup holder. The HVAC controls feature a classic layout and are very easy to use. There are two screens to the right of the steering wheel; one reserved for backup and sideview camera views, the other a multimedia screen for navigation, radio, etc. Beneath the lower of the two screens is a handy catchall shelf with a foam-padded surface, and a bin that looks like it was sized for maps, magazines, newspapers, etc. Directly above the driver on the left is a large cabinet door that opens to reveal a dry-erase board for checklists and such, and a nearby map light can easily be positioned for evening work.
The dash arrangement is drivercentric, and we appreciate the intended purpose of making everything easier to see/reach for the driver, but it makes it difficult for your co-pilot to assist while you’re driving. If you need help finding a radio station, operating the navigation unit, etc., your significant other is likely going to have to unbelt and crawl over unless he/she has the reach of an NBA star. The passenger does, however, have access to a 120-volt AC outlet to plug a laptop into, and creature comforts are abundant. There’s a power footrest and stairwell cover, a large cup holder on the right, and solar shades for both the entry-door window and passenger window for comfortable travel on hot, sunny days. Above the passenger and to the right is the nerve center of the coach, consisting of the tank levels/battery condition, controls for the 8-kW generator, water heater (gas or electric operation), inverter status, power control system, leveling system and thermostat. Front and center on the test coach was the optional 32-inch flat-screen TV, one of four in this floorplan.
With the full-wall street slideout and opposing galley slideout open, the living space gives up nothing to a million-dollar coach in terms of elbow room. It’s also a great floorplan for entertaining, with a roomy dinette that will easily seat four, complemented by a sturdy table with a faux granite solid-surface top that matches the kitchen counters. The dinette is upholstered in cream-colored Ultraleather and trimmed in matching cloth. Behind the dinette is a multifunction couch that extends to form an L, and pulls out to make a simple bed. Unlike many we’ve sampled, it works well with minimal effort. When the extension isn’t deployed, the couch can seat two, or serve as a chaise lounge, with the end of the stowed extension serving as an armrest. With the extension deployed, four can sit in comfort and view the 42-inch LG LED TV on the opposing wall. It’s a cozy place to relax and watch a movie in the evening, and there is a soundbar below the TV as well as speakers at each end underneath the streetside overhead cabinets to deliver decent sound quality.
The kitchen has plenty of solid-surface countertop space, and there’s more if needed; to your left is a countertop extension, and both the stainless-steel sink and three-burner stove offer matching covers so you can really spread out if you want. Behind the stove is an attractive glass-tile backsplash, and above, a Whirlpool residential convection microwave. The cabinetry fit and finish is good, but the drawers took a sharp tug to open and a deliberate shove to close completely — we suspect that they’ll wear in over time. Moreover, there is adequate room for kitchen essentials, but we wouldn’t call it plentiful; larger pots are going to have to be stored in the deep recesses beneath the sink.
Residential refrigerators are becoming increasingly popular, but in many cases they seem like an afterthought; using one of these units in a motorhome environment demands an adequate power supply when driving or camping without hookups. The Pace Arrow comes standard with a 19-cubic-foot Whirlpool residential refrigerator/icemaker powered by four six-volt batteries and a 2,000-watt inverter, so continuous operation while on the road will not pose a problem. To the right of the fridge is a smallish pantry with shelves that can be adjusted, but not pulled out.
The amidships guest bath is a bit on the tight side (as it is on many dual-bath floorplans) but with the toilet angled toward the door, there is adequate legroom. The corner-mounted lavatory has a solid-surface top and glass backsplash that matches the kitchen, and features a metal residential-style faucet. The sink is a gray plastic material that feels sturdy, and above are mirrored cabinets that are adequately sized for sundry items like pill bottles, etc. Beneath the sink is more storage. Switches are logically placed just inside the door, and the fan and water pump switches are likewise at eye level when perched on the throne. Directly across from the guest bath is a cabinet with standard washer/dryer prep, or in our case, a stackable washer/dryer combination.
Just a small step up from here and you’re in the master bedroom, which can be segregated from the living area by sliding wood doors. The tail end of the full-wall slide, combined with an opposing bedroom slideout, makes this area feel very roomy, an effect that is magnified by the power bed that can be retracted into a sort of large lounge. With the bed in this position, there’s a good four feet or so of walking space, which really makes a difference. Across from the bed is the wardrobe, which houses another 32-inch TV, a countertop, four large drawers and a mirrored cabinet on either side. The doors feel a bit flimsy, but inside are shelves, room for hanging clothes, and two built-in drawers at the bottom.
The rear master bath fills the width of the interior, but isn’t very deep. It should be enough space for most, however, and features a Thetford Tecma toilet, single sink (same equipment as the guest bath) and lots of cabinet/drawer space. The overhead cabinets are deep and are mirrored for easy primping. The shower is about the size of a small residential unit, but has a good-sized seat molded in at one end. The area also features a large skylight, Fan-Tastic Vent fan and switches for the fan, water pump, light and toilet (which flushes electronically) all within easy reach.
Overall, there was really nothing to complain about in this coach, which is somewhat unusual. It’s not trying to be the fanciest thing in the park, but it is well put together, tidily arranged, very well-equipped and comfortable. That, in our opinion, is more than enough.
Fleetwood RV/REV Recreation Group