Phaeton 40 QBH
Tiffin Motorhomes has Added All the Elements to Make this Coach Live Well in the Lap of Luxury at a Surprising Price Point
Forty feet seems to be the magical number when it comes to sizing motorhomes. There’s plenty of length to satisfy those who want maximum livability without going to a 42- or 45-foot coach and it’s close enough to the actual size of a 36 to 38 footer, so buyers might as well go for the 40. It’s also a coach size that Tiffin Motorhomes is comfortable producing, since three of its four Phaeton floorplans are 40 footers. However, the 40 QBH we tested is the only one with 1½ baths.
The Phaeton is the quintessential Tiffin motorhome. It’s wildly popular among Tiffin fans, and quite frankly, looks and feels like a much more expensive coach. At $311,000, the Freightliner-based Phaeton is at a price point most people have a hard time believing. We stayed at the Outdoor Resort Indio (800-892-2992, www.orindio.com) near Palm Springs, Calif., and most of the residents in the RV park who we socialized with felt the coach’s luxurious stature put it in a higher price class.
For one, the exterior paint is stunning, a sort of Tiffin trademark that exudes top-notch craftsmanship. The company’s full-body paint is known for its brilliant shine — and the fit and finish are excellent, albeit there were a few flaws in the alignment of storage compartment doors, which should be fixable at the dealer level. Beyond the quibbles, the coach is handsome, decked out graphically in a classy way and has a feel-good physique that makes owners loyal — not to mention the legendary service the Tiffin family has provided throughout the company’s history.
Inside, the floorplan is familiar but enhanced smartly by four strategically placed slideouts. Upon entering the front door, the focal points are obviously its well-placed living room and kitchen components. The opposing slides in the front open up the living space tremendously while allowing access to the residential refrigerator and half-bath when retracted. A couple of configuration options in the test coach changed the dynamics in the living room dramatically, transforming a common sofa-facing-booth-dinette plan into a much more entertainment-friendly atmosphere. The streetside sofa gives way to a corner-mounted 42-inch LED TV and fireplace next to a Euro-style recliner, and a semi-freestanding dinette with computer workstation replaces the booth seating arrangement. These optional components make a huge difference in livability without eliminating too much seating. Turn the cockpit seats around and add the two folding chairs to the expanding dining table and there’s room to seat 10 people for indoor entertaining. The recliner, though, was not a favorite; the seating geometry and mechanism could easily be improved.
I suppose TV lovers will appreciate the optional flat-screen mounted above the cockpit seats, between cabinetry, but it seems somewhat superfluous since the viewing angle to the main TV is comfortable from the curbside sofa.
Hanging out in the galley is pleasurable for the designated cook and it has all the accouterments to make occupants happy. Counterspace expands when the covers for the double stainless-steel sink and cooktop are in place, and a pullout cabinet/drawer structure enlarges the working area. A microwave/convection oven handles the baking and heating necessities and the dishwasher in a drawer takes care of cleanup. There is plenty of drawer and cabinet space for galley utensils and foodstuffs, supported by the pantry next to the refrigerator.
It’s nice to have a 22-cubic-foot refrigerator, and the standard residential model in this coach fits nicely in the designated cabinet structure. It’s backed by six 6-volt batteries and a 2,000-watt inverter for on-the-road operation, but does require running the generator when parked without hookups. A gas/electric refrigerator is optional.
Almost directly across from the refrigerator is the entrance to the half-bath. Inside is a lavatory, porcelain toilet and storage compartments. Considering the nature of the half-bath, the floorspace was pretty generous. Opening the door to this bathroom is somewhat restricted when the slides are retracted, but it’s doable, making it practical for use while on the road.
The back portion of the coach is reserved for the bedroom and master bath. Close the sliding door and the area becomes a roomy master suite, courtesy of the opposing slideouts. Sleeping on the optional king size bed with pillow-top memory-foam mattress was very comfortable, complemented by a padded headboard and smallish nightstands that are certainly minimalist in nature. The king size bed is shoehorned into its allocated space, which makes changing the bedding an athletic event. Nevertheless, it’s hard to complain about all that extra room, especially if Fido shares the mattress. True to form with most diesel pushers in this category, the bed is covered with a heavy comforter and a bunch of duvets, shams and throw pillows. If I had my druthers, I’d leave them home, but I won’t win that battle. Under-bed storage is not huge, but there’s plenty of room to handle the two folding dinette chairs.
Across from the bed is a well-thought-out ensemble of cabinets and drawers, including a pullout hamper. Cabinetry workmanship here, as well as the rest of the coach, is stout and feels and looks good. Solid surface countertops are strategically placed; one for the 42-inch TV and the other for storing typical bedroom stuff. Louvered doors reveal a satellite receiver (requires activation), a DVD player with surround sound and the cables needed to hookup auxiliary audio/visual components — including connection to the in-motion, rooftop satellite dome antenna. All the TVs are connected to an HDMI router and RCA cables are provided to hook up a non-HD receiver, if desired.
Tiffin designers did a masterful job of packing in all the elements that make the rear bath complete. There’s a lot going on back here, but floor space is not compromised. The large glass-door shower is not fancy, but it offers plenty of elbowroom. A residential-size porcelain, vacuum-operated toilet is tucked in between the shower and sliding-door closet on the rear wall, but legroom is still good. Mirror clad doors close off a large wardrobe closet and provide the main viewing area for those who need primping.
In what can be construed as a cubbyhole at the rear, streetside corner of the coach is a lavatory complex that defies its space limitations. The countertop is huge, as far as bathroom lavatories go, and the surrounding cabinetry swallows up a lot of towels and toiletries — there’s even a second hamper built into the cabinet structure. There’s only one window in the bathroom and a skylight over the shower, so multiple LED fixtures play a vital role in providing the necessary lighting at the sink area. Immediately to the right of the bathroom sink is the housing for the stacked washer and dryer.
While we enjoyed the bathroom accommodations, getting hot water was problematic. The test coach was fitted with an optional instantaneous water heater that sends hot water when flow reaches a certain rate. Although the water flow to the faucets and shower in the coach was good, regardless whether hooked up or using the on-board demand pump, it wasn’t strong enough to activate the water heater. We opened two faucets at a time and the hot water finally started to flow. Obviously, some adjustments are in order, and confirmation that it’s working should be determined before getting into the shower for the first time after taking delivery of the coach.
No doubt the Phaeton 40 QBH is easy to live in. Décor is pleasant and maybe even understated for some people. The entire floor area is fitted with radiant heaters and covered with porcelain tile that contrasts beautifully with the English Chestnut cabinetry. Floor temperature is zone-controlled by two thermostats in the half-bath and the warmth on the tile was soothing on bare feet, especially when getting out of bed in the morning.
Roller shades on the tinted windows, handsome valances and a soft-touch vinyl ceiling (with tray feature) enhance the ambience of the interior. The floorplan prevents an abundance of windows, but the extensive use of LED lighting brightens the interior dramatically.
Exterior compartments are arranged in logical order and fitted with pullout drawers that make access to stored items convenient without crawling in or using an extension hook. The raised-rail Freightliner chassis allows for good-size pass-through compartments and a number of other storage areas usually necessary for owners who spend long periods of time on the road. Two neatly arranged compartments are home to everything necessary for connecting to campground utilities, and the 50-amp power cord and hose are on reels to facilitate hookups without the snarled mess from excess cable and hose rolled up on the ground.
Driving the Phaeton gets high marks in two arenas: cockpit comfort and chassis handling. The cockpit seating position is conducive to long stints on the road and all the instrumentation and controls are ergonomically placed. Even the throttle and brake pedals are adjustable. Although the stereo is easy to reach, the screen-touch controls are temperamental and require too much attention to change programming and channels. Sound is good. And one small nitpick: the cup holder is too small for larger insulated coffee mugs.
From the chassis side of things, the four-point air bag suspension does a good job of smoothing out rough roads, and the interior noise is kept well under control — testament to Tiffin’s overall workmanship. A 55-degree wheel cut makes short work out of maneuvering the 40 footer in tight locations and the 380-hp Cummins diesel is well matched to the coach.
Forward visibility and mirror placement is excellent; rear- and side-views are reinforced by the camera and monitor system (with navigation) that displays images of the sides when changing lanes. There were no complaints from the passenger, nestled in the captain’s chair.
Like most coaches at this price point, there are a lot of goodies packed in the Phaeton 40 QBH. Tiffin has a knack for building feature-rich, quality coaches with excellent livability, while making owners comfortable with their purchase over a long service life.