Winnebago uses its design muscle to introduce a feature-rich diesel pusher that’s priced closer to a highline gasser
When Winnebago set out to add another line to its family of diesel pushers, the company targeted potential owners who desire to move up from a gasser and are willing to forgo some of the luxuries in order to keep prices down. The result is the Forza, a coach with an interesting disposition. While it feels more like a highline gas-powered coach, it has the advantages of length and weight, courtesy of the Freightliner XCS chassis powered by a Cummins 340-hp diesel. For the most part, gassers start running out of poop in coaches longer than 36 feet, so the diesel-powered underpinnings gave the Winnebago designers plenty of latitude to spread out and handle the additional amenities.
Winnebago’s Forza makes its diesel-pusher debut in two floorplans, with the 38R we tested being just shy of 40 feet in length; the other is the 34T, which is 35 feet, 6 inches long. The 38R is supported by a chassis with a 27,910-pound gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr), giving the designers necessary leeway for adding features common in diesel-pusher coaches. And all this comes in at a price point that’s really not that far from the company’s most expensive gas-powered coaches.
From the get-go buyers need to understand that 340 horses and 700 lb-ft of torque will not let the coach compete in the big leagues performance-wise, but it’s still no slouch, considering the overall length of the coach and the weight required to handle its roomy bath-and-a-half floorplan. Hill climbing was acceptable with the expected slowdowns to the 45 mph range on 6 percent grades (without towing a dinghy vehicle). The exhaust brake does an excellent job of maintaining safe descent speeds.
The Forza, though fun to drive, really excels in handling big crowds. Double slideouts, one a full-wall extension on the curbside and the other a bedroom expander, contribute to livability versatility. The 38R is designed to be super comfortable for a couple, but is set apart from the norm with the addition of the company’s family-friendly Multi-Purpose Room with Flex Bed System. Two youngsters will certainly enjoy the bunk-bed arrangement and the fact that the alcove can be closed off with heavy floor-to-ceiling drapes. We’re not totally enamored by the look of the drapes hung on the wall, but it does provide an element of privacy, although the adjacent bedroom can also be closed off with a pocket door.
By day, the Multi-Purpose Room can be converted into a dinette booth for two — perfect for playing games or giving the kids their own place to eat. There’s even a smartly placed 120-volt AC/USB charging station below the table, knowing that electronics will keep youngsters occupied. It’s also a great area for an out-of-the-way home office.
It’s hard to get a visual feeling of how this plan is going to work when seeing the inside for the first time with the slides retracted. Frankly, the on-the-road look is kind of mundane, but once the coach is opened up, the wow factor kicks in. The aforementioned Multi-Purpose Room moves out with the couch and booth dinette, expanding the living area dramatically. The whole room comes alive by the curbside components that become visually apparent when the slide is out. Here, the eye goes from the angular entertainment wall unit that’s fitted with a 50-inch LED TV and large fireplace and follows the galley, with its residential refrigerator, all the way to the driver’s seat. Once the cockpit seats are turned around, it’s easy to see that this coach is ready for company, without feeling claustrophobic. An opposing curbside slide, popular in most coaches this size, is simply not missed.
We confirmed the above observation by seating 12 adults for dinner one night while on one of our annual pilgrimages with friends traveling in five other motorhomes. Naturally, some of the diners balanced plates on their laps, but seven people were comfortably seated around the two dinettes. The galley counter was big enough to spread out the evening’s food and drink and everyone got through the meal without much body-crashing while moving about.
Double stainless-steel sinks made cleanup fairly easy, although water pressure from the stylish faucet (with high reach and removable head) was anemic. A pump upgrade might be in order here. Care must be exercised not to splash the TV, which is only a few inches from the sink. A three-burner cooktop and microwave/convection oven handled cooking duties without complaint. And there is plenty of storage space above and below the galley counter, augmented by a two-door pantry.
Forza owners who spend most of their time in RV parks with electric hookups will likely appreciate the extra capacity of the two-door residential refrigerator. We spent our days evaluating the Forza parked in primitive sites and relied on the coach’s self-containment features. Supporting the refrigerator are four Group 31, 12-volt batteries tied to a 2,000-watt power inverter. While on the road, the refrigerator ran perfectly on power from the inverter. Since the days were on the warm side, the generator was running for at least eight hours a day to power the roof air-conditioners, charge the batteries and operate the refrigerator. At night, the refrigerator was turned off and the box maintained enough cold to keep food safe temporarily, although spikes in box temperature (most times caused by adding leftovers after dinner) forced us to consume the food sooner than planned. Fortunately, the refrigerator and freezer boxes cooled down quickly once power from the generator was restored at 10 a.m., which conformed to park regulations. Needless to say, an RV refrigerator is more practical if primitive camping is on the agenda.
Generally, the battery bank on this coach was borderline. Three hours of TV watching through a satellite receiver, a few lights and running the furnace in the morning for around 30 minutes zapped the batteries. The batteries should have performed better, based on capacity, so we’ll chalk up the deficiency on partially sulfated cells from sitting discharged too long prior to building the coach. Since there is room in the easily accessible compartment, we’d opt for three pairs of 6-volt golf-cart batteries if the coach were ours.
By the way, the 40,000-Btu furnace will be hard-pressed to keep the coach warm in colder weather. It cycled too often considering the outside temperature dropped only to the high 40s. A two-zone heating system would be more efficient.
The counter built into the entertainment center (and adjacent to the galley) ended up being a catchall for frequently used stuff during the trip and the cabinets straddling the fireplace were suitable for storing taller items. The entertainment center is in excellent eyeshot of the opposing couch and front dinette bench, so watching TV and staring at the mesmerizing fireplace was comfortable. The couch was on the smaller side, to make room for the dinette alcove, and did not recline — although it did make into a bed for two. Add the convertible dinette to the bunks, and master bedroom, and the coach can easily sleep seven people, with a few kids in the mix.
The half-bath really shines when entertaining large groups. It shares a wall with the entertainment center and blends in nicely with the flow of the components — almost to a point of looking concealed. Inside, is a right-size lavatory with stainless-steel sink and a basic (meaning small) porcelain toilet. I would prefer the more adult-size toilet, and there’s room to handle a longer bowl without consuming too much floor space. Storage in the half-bathroom is immense because of access to a unique compartment created by the structure configured for the TV. We took advantage of this space to store taller items that would not fit in the network of cabinets in the living area and galley. The half-bath is easily accessible when the slides are in — a necessity, since traffic is totally cut off from the rear full-bath unless users don’t mind crawling over the bed.
Once the slideouts are deployed, the bedroom is quite spacious. The wardrobe closet travels with the full-wall slide, and the queen bed moves out with the other on the curbside. The latter slide is dedicated to a queen bed and opens up the room tremendously from physical and visual standpoints. Nightstands are on both sides, and a padded headboard protects sleepers. Making the bed is a pleasure since the optional air mattress (with individual controls) is lightweight and easy to handle. Windows are conspicuously missing in the bedroom, and when the room is closed off from the rear bath and living area, darkness prevails. The only two windows are small, and they are mounted in the slideout side walls. Like the rest of the coach, single MCD shades, which are not fancy but work smoothly, cover the windows. Fortunately, the generous use of flush-mounted LED lighting fixtures illuminates all zones in the coach nicely.
Winnebago’s approach to mounting the 28-inch bedroom TV eliminates any intrusion in the wardrobe/drawer complex across from the mattress. Instead, the TV drops down from a cleverly designed molded console that’s built in to the ceiling over the bed. Shelves are provided on both sides of the TV for a satellite receiver and/or DVD player. The TV is in perfect position for watching in bed, and it doesn’t restrict movement when moving on and off the mattress. Cabling requires a satellite receiver (or other components) with HDMI connections, and the additional antenna pigtail only hooks up to the rooftop dish. Same hookup is required for the main TV, but there’s a provision for a portable satellite dish. Fortunately, the coach was equipped with an optional Winegard TRAV’LER automatic dish, which was compatible with HD receivers with HDMI connections.
Those who relish a large rear bathroom will enjoy using this space in the Forza. Nothing elaborate decoratively, but there’s good function and a couple of surprises. It’s easy to spread toiletries out on the extra-large lavatory counter and the stainless-steel sink is a nice touch. The faucet is positioned too far back from the sink, so washing hands leaves a mess on the counter; same problem in the half-bath. There are lots of cabinets and drawers surrounding the sink, which means the counter doesn’t have to be cluttered. An unexpected feature is a tambour door to the right of the sink that leads to a clothes dryer; the washer is on the left side of the sink inside a standard-type enclosure.
A three-piece sliding door leads to a roomy shower, which benefits from close proximity to the 10-gallon water heater. We experienced no problems with water temperature fluctuation while turning the shower wand on and off and flow was excellent. We did lose some hair getting in and out of the shower due to the low shower-door support. I keep calling out door manufacturers for building systems that are too low, but nothing changes. Maybe it’s just my 6-foot frame.
Thetford’s popular Tecma toilet is used in the master bath; vacuum-flush plumbing is typically found in this type of an arrangement, which allows for holding-tank placement versatility.
The Forza has a lot going on for a coach in this price category. It handles well, provides good driver seating and visibility, and it has just enough bells and whistles to keep diesel-pusher fans happy. Don’t expect a super-plush décor and the flooring is vinyl rather than tile. But the upholstery is Ultraleather and the fixtures are upper quality.
What you don’t lose is generous exterior storage capacity, including pass-through compartments, a fully equipped utility bay, full-body paint and aluminum wheels. It looks like Winnebago accomplished its goal of producing a full-featured, nice-looking pusher without breaking the bank.
fuel economy: 8.2 mpg
acceleration: 0-60 mph: 29.6 sec; 40-60 mph: 18.7 sec
model: Freightliner XCS
engine: Cummins ISB 6.7-Liter
sae hp: 340 @ 2,600 rpm
torque: 700 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
transmission: Allison 2500 MH
axle ratio: 4.78:1
front tires: 255/80R22.5
rear tires: 255/80R22.5
brakes: Air Disc with ABS
suspension: NeWay front and rear air spring
fuel cap: 90 gal
warranty: 3 years, 50,000 miles
ext length: 39′ 10″
ext width: 8′ 5.5″
ext height: 11′ 10″ with a/c
int width: 8′ 0.5″
int height: 6′ 8″
construction: Aluminum/steel frame with interlocking joints, laminated side walls with block foam and fiberglass insulation, one-piece fiberglass roof
freshwater cap: 84 gal
black-water cap: 48 gal
gray-water cap: 54 gal
water-heater cap: 10 gal
lp-gas cap: 23 gal
air conditioner (2): 15,000 Btu
furnace: 40,000 Btu
refrigerator: 19 cu-ft
inverter/charger: 2,000 watts/100 amps
battery: (2) 12-volt chassis, (4) 12-volt coach
ac generator: 6 kW
msrp as tested: $221,941
warranty: 1 year, 15,000-miles basic; 3 years, 36,000-miles structure
(water & heater, fuel, lp-gas tanks full; no supplies or passengers)
front axle: 8,060 lbs
rear axle: 16,200 lbs
Total: 24,260 lbs
gawr, f/r: 10,410/17,500 lbs
gvwr/gcwr: 27,910/33,000 lbs
roccc: 3,650 lbs (deduct weight of passengers for net cargo capacity)
gawr: gross axle weight rating
gvwr: gross vehicle weight rating
gcwr: gross combination weight rating
roccc: realistic occupant and cargo carrying capacity (full water, no passengers)
641-585-3535 | www.gowinnebago.com