Sizes of motorhomes, including Class A gas and diesel units, have been trending downward for a multitude of reasons, including the quest for better fuel economy, improved access to camping locations and mobility in increasingly congested driving environments. With thoughts of shorter diesel floorplans in mind, Fleetwood RV of Decatur, Ind., has aimed its latest efforts at this market segment with a new iteration of its familiar Class A diesel Excursion line.
Our 2013 test coach is one of three floorplans offered on the new Excursion. It boasts a forward living room/galley with 30-inch-deep flush floor streetside slideout, mid-coach bathroom and rear bedroom with walk-around 60-by-75-inch queen bed. The design also replaces the forward bus-style entry with a mid-coach door.
Several unique residential embellishments should also appeal to users, including an optional drop-down 60-by-80-inch second queen bed in the forward compartment, and a space-saving streetside L-shaped convertible sofa with adjustable dinette table for added convenience.
The test coach wore Fleetwood’s edgy, Gold Starfire ebony and silver full-body paint, and has a noticeably lower profile than the average Class A at 11 feet 10 inches (intended to lessen drag and improve fuel economy). With air bags deflated, a reduced height of 11 feet 7 inches even allows the vehicle to fit beneath a 12-foot garage door opening.
Fleetwood has seen to it that construction on the Excursion is solid for its class. Aluminum framing reinforces vacuum-bonded wall, floor and ceiling segments that are all held securely together with interlocking joints. Exterior skin and end caps are crafted of fiberglass; there’s polystyrene bead block foam insulation throughout, while the crowned roof is finished with resilient thermoplastic polyolefin.
Sporting many upscale interior and exterior amenities as standard equipment, the Excursion has a suggested base retail price of $175,747, which can be viewed as quite a bargain in the diesel-pusher field. Items packed in at this price include a solid surface counter in the galley, a drop down 40-inch Sony LCD TV mounted behind a galley cabinet that deploys for viewing with the flip of a switch, an electric patio awning, and 6.0-kW generator, to name just a few.
Options on the coach consisted of, but were not limited to, the drop-down Hide-A-Loft bed ($2,002), a Splendide washer-dryer housed in a rear bedroom wardrobe closet ($1,716), an exterior protective front mask ($1,251) and a 32-inch LCD TV in the bedroom ($858). For these options and a few others, the final suggested price as tested totaled $184,401.
Powertrain & Performance
The road from Ventura, Calif., to Joshua Tree National Park includes some of the harshest highway conditions in the country. From broken and potholed freeway surfaces and daunting commercial truck traffic, to wind-prone passes and crazy motorists, this route will definitely test the mettle of any motorhome and its driver.
For the most part, Fleetwood’s new Excursion with Freightliner XCS Series diesel chassis, 300-hp Cummins ISB 6.7-L engine with exhaust brake, and six-speed Allison 2100MH transmission gave a spirited account of itself throughout our test.
When I got behind the wheel, the first thing I noticed was the excellent forward visibility offered by the expansive, single piece windshield, and a uniquely sculpted dash layout that provides extra space to the copilot area. The cockpit is comfortable and well appointed, with electrically adjustable Ultraleather captain’s seats.
Arrayed in front of the driver is an instrument cluster that includes a backup camera screen with good visibility and logical placement. And because of the way the dash is curved forward into the front of the cab ahead of the copilot, Fleetwood engineers have managed to provide unusually generous foot room, and an optional convertible captain’s seat that has an adjustable footrest for optimum comfort.
A seeming tradeoff for designing the dash in this way is that curbside passengers have little upper dash surface on which to place anything. And for that matter, there is scant room for the likes of a pullout desktop platform for things such as laptops and other portable devices.
On smoother-surface highways, the Excursion scudded along smoothly and quietly as if this was to be the norm. Unfortunately though, when the road surface got rougher the coach’s suspension seemed to telegraph a large part of the commotion from irregular highway surfaces back up to the interior in the form of noise and vibration – unusual for an air-bag-suspension chassis. Considering that the test unit was a prototype, it’s hoped these issues will have been ironed out on production models with air bag and tire pressure adjustments.
Though we encountered some very irregular highway stretches, it was easy to maintain good lane position thanks to the chassis’ effective steering architecture. It was likewise accurate when maneuvering between lanes, and entering or exiting freeways thanks to positive steering feedback.
We also experienced a lot of busy surface street traffic and had to make some unexpectedly quick stops at signals, and other abrupt slowdowns. In these instances and many others, the motorhome exhibited superb braking ability above and beyond what you might expect in a coach of this weight and size.
With a wet weight of 21,860 pounds, this unit is no hot rod off the line, even with a 300-hp engine. This was attested to in early time trials, resulting in 0-to-60 mph speed runs averaging 23.9 seconds, with 40-to-60 mph intervals of 11.3 seconds. Once momentum is picked up, however, and this motorhome starts rolling, it can easily keep up with and even surpass the flow of traffic when need be. Power is especially evident in the mid-range areas where needed the most.
As an example, there were many Class A gas motorhomes, including those laboring up the 5-to-6 percent Whitewater grade in the Cabazon area, that saw the backside of our unit as we passed by at 60 mph and 2,200 rpm in fourth gear. Previously, the Excursion demonstrated its uphill prowess even more on the 7 percent Conejo Grade in Ventura County, logging 54 mph and 2,600 rpm in third gear. Overall, the unit’s power on all roadways was fluid, impressive and reassuring.
The test coach was no slacker either in negotiating the tighter layouts of campgrounds and parking lots at a slower pace. On one stop at a shopping center in Yucca Valley, we found the unit’s positive steering, impressive 55-degree wheel cut and good maneuverability to be helpful when threading through crowded, angularly configured shopping center aisles.
We experienced much of the same excellent lower-speed steerability inside Joshua Tree National Park when crawling through Jumbo Rocks Campground searching for a spot that would accommodate our full-figured unit. Though most sites were obviously for smaller RVs, we were able to identify several locations that we could fit into nicely, thanks to the coach’s shorter floorplan. Similarly, we appreciated the tight wheel cut and narrower turning radius it afforded when making a U-turn on the main two-lane highway in the middle of the park, when we needed to quickly reverse course.
During our test we traveled on level interstate freeway for the most part, but we did experience several grades, gusting headwinds, and of course restricted speed on surface streets. Despite these driving challenges, we still managed decent fuel usage of 12.9 mpg. Coupled with the unit’s impressive 90 gallon fuel tank, the numbers indicate the maximum operational range of this coach on a single tank of fuel could be upward of an impressive 1,000 miles under optimum driving conditions.
Tossing travel gear into the Excursion’s exterior holding compartments before heading out, we liked its side-swing, bus-style cargo doors and sizeable bays, including one full pass-through type. With this coach, you can expect approximately 174 cubic feet of exterior storage space. About the only criticism in this area was that the edges of the cargo doors seemed to be rather thinly and sharply finished.
Interior dÃ©cor was Fleetwood’s upscale Tuscany Toffee package that reflected brown and beige earth tone colors. It also included subtly radiant, Classic Cognac hardwood cabinetry and other accent pieces that tied in well with the overall interior treatment. Counter surfacing in the curbside galley is Fleetwood’s Volcanic Series – solid surface material with a polished, beige-flecked finish that blends nicely with the rest of the dÃ©cor and is also complemented by a black glass tile backsplash.
The entire counter surface in the galley is quite a sight at 114 inches long and averaging 23 inches in depth for two-thirds of its length. With removable inserts for the three-burner gas range and dual stainless steel sinks, the counter offers a generous average of 17 square feet for meal preparation and other culinary tasks.
Floor surfacing throughout the coach is lightly hued, tile-patterned vinyl, with the exception of an apron of gold-toned carpet tucked around the dinette area. Also evident is a soft vinyl ceiling headliner that accents the rig’s substantial interior height of 7 feet.
After a challenging day of motoring around the interior of Joshua Tree, we were glad to finally pull in at a Good Sam RV park in Twentynine Palms for a bit of rest and relaxation. The standard four-point hydraulic jacks leveled the coach flawlessly with one touch of a button, and the living room/galley slideout glided open to create a forward primary lounge area with room to spare.
Since we arrived near dinnertime, we quickly assembled a meal with the assistance of the microwave oven and gas stove. The broad countertop was unbelievably helpful in laying out menu items and utensils, and is located immediately across the aisle from a unique, residential style transformer sectional sofa, and adjustable 31-by-33-inch pedestal table.
Interior storage in the unit is enough to easily support a couple and several guests for an extended period. Besides overhead cabinets in the forward coach and galley areas, there is also a voluminous, curbside 20-by-45-by-21-inch adjustable shelved closet with three lower drawers adjacent to the cooktop. And contributing further to the galley’s storage effectiveness is a convenient streetside three-shelved pullout pantry, which can hold even more supplies.
For our needs, we utilized the pedestal table in its default position, which provided just the right amount of surface area for two to comfortably share a meal. If guests are along, the table can be expanded with a third leaf, and also be slid back and forth to accommodate different sizes and numbers of diners. The table is also capable of being telescoped up and down, and can alternately serve as a coffee table.
When dinner dishes had been cleared and washed, we sat back on the couch for a bit of conversation before enjoying a movie. For this activity, Fleetwood has pulled another rabbit out of the hat with a nifty drop-down, 40-inch Sony LCD TV hidden behind the galley’s curbside cabinetry. When the TV screen is desired, the mere flip of a switch causes it to glide down to its post above the countertop. This provides great viewing angles for those on the couch, as well as potential viewers in the front captain’s chairs, which can been turned to face the rear.
Bathing in this floorplan’s modestly configured lavatory is easy enough in the 20-by-38-inch shower stall with 82-inch overhead. The area is also appointed with a composition-surfaced washstand with stainless steel sink, and overhead medicine and storage cabinets to stash toiletries. And not to be ignored, the porcelain toilet has 16 inches of foot space for ease of access.
For the most part, we enjoyed several nights on the coach’s 60-by-75-inch queen master bed in the rear bedroom. The mattress was comfy enough, with adequate walk-around room of 23 inches curbside, and 12 inches streetside and at the foot.
About the only nit-pick here is that the 6-foot member of our test team ended up with his toes dangling off the end of the mattress. This seems to be an ongoing aggravation for taller users of RV bedrooms furnished with short queens. The bedroom was also suitably appointed with a 32-inch LCD TV attached to a forward wall, and the washer-dryer in the bottom half of the primary curbside wardrobe closet.
Fleetwood RV has done a remarkable job of packaging a whole lot of performance, residential luxury and value into a 33-foot coach. With plentiful mid-range torque and speed, a potential operational range of 1,000-plus miles and abundant storage inside and out, this diesel-pusher can be considered a realistically affordable alternative for many wishing to give this market a closer look.
Find the Fleetwood 33A and thousands of other motorhomes for sale at the online RV Buyer’s guide.
Fuel Economy: 12.9 MPG
0-60 mph: 23.9 sec
40-60 mph: 11.3 sec
model: Freightliner XCS Power Bridge
engine: Cummins ISB 6.7-L Turbodiesel
sae hp: 300 hp @ 2,800 RPM
torque: 660 lb-ft @ 1,600 RPM
transmission: Allison 2100MH 6-speed
axle ratio: 5.13:1
brakes, f/r: drum air assist with
ABS suspension, Neway air bag
fuel cap: 90 gal
warranty: 5 yrs/100,000 miles
ext length: 33′ 11″
ext width: 8′ 6″
ext height: 11′ 10″
int width: 8′ 0″
int height: 7′ 0″
construction: aluminum framing,
fiberglass skin, thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) roof, polystyrene block foam insulation
freshwater cap: 88 gal
black-water cap: 32 gal
gray-water cap: 60 gal
water-heater cap: 6 gal
lp-gas cap: 28 gal
air conditioner (2): 13,500 btu
furnace: 34,000 btu
refrigerator: 8 cu ft
inverter: 1,200 watt
battery (4): 2 12-volt AGM chassis,
(2) 6-volt deep-cycle coach
ac generator: 6 kW
base msrp: $175,747
msrp as tested: $184,401
warranty: 1 yr/15,000 miles
(Water and Heater, Fuel, LP-gas Tanks
Full; No Supplies or Passengers)
front axle: 7,460 lbs
rear axle: 14,400 lbs
total: 21,860 lbs
gawr, f/r: 10,500/17,500 lbs
gvwr/gcwr: 26,000/30,000 lbs
roccc: 4,140 lbs
(deduct weight of passengers for net cargo carrying capacity)