The Phantom is Real
It’s easy — and fun — to add personal touches when buying a new Nexus Super C factory-direct
Buying a new motorhome is a very personal experience. Most people in the market shop diligently, looking for models, floorplans and options that fit their lifestyle. Often, compromises are made because a particular model does not meet all the criteria. Manufacturers gather customer feedback and study market trends when designing motorhomes, but it’s virtually impossible to meet everyone’s needs with any one particular plan. Those with quirky requirements are even harder to please, but most people are resigned to the fact that there is rarely utopia when choosing a new motorhome.
If you’ve got big bucks, you can turn to the Newells and Foretravels of the world and pretty much have a custom coach built. For the rest of us, there’s Nexus — a relatively young company that specializes in semicustom Class C motorhomes that are sold factory-direct. The brainchild of industry veterans Claude Donati and Dave Middleton, Nexus encourages potential customers to work with factory representatives during the ordering process to ensure the final product meets or exceeds expectations. While customers can’t quite start with a blank sheet of paper, the factory will make design changes where possible, although the lineup of off-the-shelf models will likely appeal to the majority of potential buyers.
Class C’s built on the Ford cutaway chassis are the bread-and-butter motorhomes for Nexus, and the company recently introduced a Class A, but its Super C, built on a diesel commercial chassis, is very intriguing to those who want to step up to a diesel but are not ready to go to a big Class A — or shell out the big bucks. We tested the 2016 Phantom 33SC which, by comparison, has a base price that’s lower than most Class C’s built on a Sprinter chassis — and offers a whole lot more room inside.
The floorplan and profile of the 33SC is one that is well-established in the Class C community, but the use of the International TerraStar platform puts a completely different spin on this motorhome. This chassis is a purebred commercial rail that melds nicely with the lines of the Phantom body, toning down most of the hardcore appearance of a work truck. Most guys will appreciate the macho look, but the women we surveyed (who tend to focus on the interior design and amenities) were unimpressed by the tough profile — but seemed willing to acquiesce to their male partner’s fantasy of driving a real truck.
Starting the 300-horsepower MaxxForce 7 turbodiesel will bring smiles to those who relish the sound of a true corn binder. By the same token, the uninitiated might find the sound disconcerting, especially those people who make the comparison to a diesel pusher or one of the newer diesel-powered pickups on the market. Get ready for some engine rattling and exhaust roar. It’s obviously an acquired taste, but after a few minutes on the road, the driver and passenger are conditioned to the sound, which is not loud enough to drown out conversations or the stereo.
Climbing aboard this big beast of a cab seems more ominous than it really is. Strategically placed steps facilitate entry and egress, but it takes a few tries to add a little grace to the maneuvers. Having the cab doors will quickly become a can’t-live-without feature. Once plunked down on the soft and comfortable seat, the driver will be treated to a commanding view of the road, something expected of a cab that’s targeted at commercial drivers. Instrumentation and controls are ergonomically placed, but there’s nothing cute about the arrangement, which has an industrial aura. We especially liked the view provided by the Western-style sideview mirrors, something that’s given way to more stylish counterparts in most motorhomes. The mirror surface is huge, which makes changing lanes and backing pretty simple, but it does block visibility a bit when turning into congested areas. Thankfully, it’s not an insurmountable acclimation process.
The driving experience is fun and certainly not boring, even after racking up a lot of miles on the road. Handling characteristics are predictable and confidence-building, but the ride is on the bumpy side compared to a typical diesel pusher. It’s nothing that can’t be tolerated for those who like the macho image, giving way to the inherent long-term benefits of a commercial-grade chassis, but you should probably expect a few rattles and creaking inside on the more bumpy roads.
International’s MaxxForce 7 engine is built for the long haul. The company claims that 500,000 miles on the odometer without a teardown is an easy target, which is considerably more distance that the average Nexus owner will travel in the life of the motorhome. It’s not a rocket ship, although the 300 ponies and 660 lb-ft of torque do a credible job of propelling the weight of the motorhome.
There’s nothing dramatically different about the living arrangement in the 33SC, but the elements are long proven to be a staple in the industry. If sleeping capacity is important, then this motorhome fills the bill nicely, even though it works equally as well for a couple. Interestingly, there are only three windows inside the motorhome, excluding the windows in the cab and entry door. Normally, that would flag our minds to think darkness will prevail, but that wasn’t the case. When the cab is open to the interior, the windshield and door windows pull in a lot of additional ambient light. And the three shallow slides (two opposing in the living room and one in the bedroom) really open up the interior space. Unfortunately, you’re not going to like the curtain that’s currently used to block off the cab when privacy is required. The lightweight material is not very easy to position, nor is it pretty. As part of the company’s policy on making modifications, potential owners could likely have some input here.
Up front, the jackknife sofa on the driver’s side faces the large dinette on the opposite side. The sofa is soft and comfortable, but on the short side for those who like to sprawl out for an afternoon nap. Two can sit upright easily and since the TV, mounted on the passenger side wall in the cabover, is bolted to a fully adjustable rack, it can be viewed from the sofa without too much neck craning. Add a couple of ottomans, and the comfort factor rises considerably.
Those who prefer a booth-style dinette will love the one in this motorhome. The cushions are big, as is the table; four people can eat here without crowding or plate clanking. In the sleeping mode, two kids or one adult can be accommodated. Although the cabover is a great place to stash stuff used on a daily basis, it can handle another sleeper by folding over a section of the mattress, when access to the cab is not needed.
In this plan, emphasis is given to the living area up front and the rear bedroom. Between the two are the kitchen and bath area. Those who like to prepare elaborate meals will find the galley space confined, but workable with some creativity and neatness. The range/oven share part of the slideout with the sofa and the folding top adds workspace. Adjacent to the stove are the sink, counter and cabinets, which are offset. The cook will be more successful preparing meals if the overhead cabinets and pantry next to the opposing refrigerator are used to stash items during the process. If the kitchen is not your favorite place, then you’ll appreciate the additional square footage allocated to the living room.
Occupants who subscribe to the theory that bathrooms are utilitarian only will enjoy using the shower stall and tolerate the cubbyhole dedicated to the toilet and sink. The curved shower, which is part of a split-bath arrangement, has plenty of room and is augmented by the large skylight. When the toilet room door is opened, the area becomes a large, private, uninterrupted bathroom, which worked nicely for toweling off and dressing.
Using the toilet, on the other hand, was pretty comical. The problem lies in the raised platform used to mount the toilet, exacerbated by the general lack of elbowroom. Too much floor space was devoted to the toilet platform, making it very hard to find a place to put our feet. Getting re-potty-trained at our age was not in the cards but we all had to learn new techniques. We also struggled with the sink because it was placed in such a manner that even brushing teeth was difficult.
We had a conversation about the toilet room with a factory representative and he agreed that improvements could be made. He also made it very clear that the factory can easily respond to modifications requested by potential buyers — part of the custom-build model of being a factory-direct manufacturer. In that case, those who like the overall plan, but feel they need more room in the kitchen and bathroom, can look at possible modifications.
Out back, the bedroom was fitted with a king bed that had an innerspring mattress. Although the slide opens up the room some, the bed occupies the majority of the space. There’s really not enough floor space to get dressed between the end of the bed and the wall of cabinets, but there was still enough walkaround space to make the bed, and sleeping in that room was heavenly. Visually, the bedroom would work better with the standard queen mattress, but bed size is a personal choice. An LED TV can be ordered for the bedroom. It would be mounted in the center of the cabinet structure on a lift-up door that leads to a concealed storage area. The company did a good job hiding the intent of the door; we actually missed the fact that it opens until about three days into the trip.
Décor-wise, the upgraded flooring, raised-panel hardwood cabinetry, window treatments and pleated day-night shades work well with the nickel cabinet handles and fixtures. LED lighting is used throughout.
The décor of the motorhome is an area where potential buyers will be able to choose the look. The website allows buyers to change the décor using an interactive program and interior images of the various floorplans. The company encourages buyers to spend time perusing the website and brochure when planning the build of their motorhome. There’s an extensive list of options that the company feels are good embellishments to the already well-equipped standard package — and all prices are clearly stated.
Outside, the array of exterior storage compartments is arranged in a practical manner, taking advantage of every open space. Pack rats will need to control their belongings — and for the most part there’s plenty of physical space for essentials and recreational items — but the limited weight carrying capacity of this motorhome will seriously restrict the number of items that can be stored (see specifications). Pass-through compartments are not super tall, but can accommodate a variety of longer, flat items. The utility compartment is wide open and the valves and black-tank clean-out port are easy to locate and use. A separate door on the side wall leads to the city and gravity water fills, which is not a very common practice these days. We’re big fans of a gravity fill, which seems to simplify the tank-filling process, especially in primitive camping locations.
Full-body paint is a nearly $7,000 option, but it really upgrades the appearance of the Class C profile. LED lighting, including the taillights, and the rest of the outdoor accouterments are mated stylishly to the International cap, which is representative of today’s more modern-looking commercial trucks.
Those looking to be part of the planning and manufacturing process will enjoy working with Nexus when it comes to personalizing a new motorhome. There are some inherent benefits of a Class C motorhome, including sleeping capacity and maneuverability. Add in a commercial chassis with a rugged turbodiesel engine, and the possibilities are extensive.
855-786-3987 | www.nexusrv.com