The Show Goes On
April 2, 2012
Filed under RV News
Every year the RV industry gathers in Louisville, Ky., to show off its latest and greatest for the upcoming season. The late-fall event — one that’s been going on for almost a half century — not only allows dealers to plan their inventory for the following year, but also gives the RVing world a glimpse into the future. This year there was a very interesting dichotomy: Much of the brouhaha was focused on luxury coaches of maximum lengths and Class B’s with exceptional upgrades and ingenious use of space. But there was also a smattering of diesel coaches in the 32-foot range, a class of motorhomes that have slowly entered the market.
On the high-end of the spectrum, there were new coaches from Fleetwood, Entegra, Tiffin, Monaco and Winnebago that were eye-popping beautiful. Forty feet is the norm in this category, but an amazing number of coaches in the 42- to 45-foot range made their debut. It’s hard to get all that luxury and second bathroom in those “short” 35- to 40-footers. There was even a 44-foot coach built on a Freightliner Cascadia truck chassis providing quarters for horses. Horses transported in this motorhome by Equine Motorcoach are treated better than most people!
Freightliner is betting that the luxury coach market will continue to grow by introducing a new chassis designed specifically for 40- to 45-foot motorhomes. The new chassis, dubbed the SL13, features a passive steer tag axle with independent suspension, and is powered by a 500-hp Detroit Diesel. Not to be outdone, Entegra builds its new Cornerstone 45-footer on a Spartan chassis powered by a 600-hp Cummins, while Tiffin puts 500 ponies in its highline Zephyr. Getting to the top of the grade first in pure opulence has never been more competitive.
Luxury is not exclusive to the biggies. Great strides have been made in the Class B segment of the industry. Enhancements in living space, with very creative floorplan management, led the charge in the diminutive motorhome arena. I got a real kick out of seeing Winnebago’s concept Era 70A with the Carefree Patio Room. I had one of those extra rooms attached to my first RV back in 1970 — a Dodge van that I converted to a fully outfitted “motorhome.” We once slept 10 people in that old rig while we camped on the sand in Pismo Beach, Calif.
Of course, sleeping for two in the latest Class B’s is more practical in offerings by Pleasure-Way, Roadtrek, Winnebago and Great West Van — products that stood out at the show. We saw lots of creature comforts in these Class B’s that span up to 24 feet in length. The latest crop of Class B’s appeal nicely to enthusiasts who are stepping down from larger coaches, but are unwilling to give up inherent amenities.
The excitement in the smaller-motorhome segment can be attributed to the Sprinter chassis. The Mercedes-built-and-powered chassis has made it possible for manufacturers to build quality Class A, B and C’s without sacrificing livability and drivability. To show just how versatile this chassis is, we took a look at three motorhomes built by Winnebago on Sprinter chassis in all three configurations. While all three coaches were uniquely different, they were all powered by the same drivetrain, a Mercedes diesel designed for terrific fuel economy. You can see how they stacked up starting on page 36.
The bar was also raised for entry-level Class A’s built on the Ford F53 chassis. Gassers in the 27- to 34-foot range by Newmar, Forest River, Thor Motor Coach, Tiffin and Winnebago all sport a new level of comfort and features. It’s hard to call these coaches entry-level any longer, except that the prices are very appealing.
We’ll also keep a close eye on the all-electric motorhomes by MVP. Timely concept, but probably relegated to close-to-home trips at the moment. Read more about the National RV Trade Show.