The 2552 twin-bed rear-bath Phoenix Cruiser Class B-plus has a bright and open floorplan that truly shines
Even before I saw the Phoenix Cruiser, I already liked it because of the name. And there had to be a backstory about why an RV is named after a mythological bird that dies in a fire of its own making, only to rise from the ashes. Well, it turns out that is the Phoenix Cruiser story: “It came out of the ashes of a previous company that was started by a man with a dream on a shoestring budget,” explained Earl Robbins, sales manager. The company, founded in 1996, successfully manufactured Class B-plus motorhomes until 2008 when the recession hit. After losing dealers to the slowing economy, the Phoenix Cruiser is now factory-direct.
Rising through bad times is a good story, and when the Phoenix Cruiser 2552 B-plus motorhome rolled into our parking lot after making its 2,200-mile journey from the factory in Elkhart, Indiana, we were eager to get it back out on the road. Before the Phoenix’s tires had barely cooled down, they were in motion again, heading for California’s San Bernardino Mountains.
The twin-bed, rear-bath 2552 is built on the Ford E-450 cutaway chassis with the 6.8-liter V-10 engine and five-speed automatic transmission (a six-speed transmission will be standard for 2016). There was plenty of power to haul the 12,040-pound motorhome up to Big Bear, California, where the elevation reaches 6,700 feet. And although using the word “agile” to describe the Phoenix Cruiser’s handling may be an overstatement, we were impressed with how smoothly it took the turns as we climbed into the treeline, mindful to steer clear of overhanging rocks. Side mirrors with wide-angle mirrors mounted on the lower part provided an excellent view, and the rearview monitoring system enhanced visibility — with a little unexpected help from the view out the back window that’s centered in the rear bath.
A well-laid-out cockpit with “good old-fashioned American HVAC controls,” as my passenger described them, makes everything easily accessible for the driver. A few muffled squeaks and rattles emitted from behind us, but the only one that was bothersome was from the two-burner range. That was easily quieted with a pillow.
Climbing higher, the roar of the Ford’s engine got louder, to the point that, after a lot of “huh?”s and “what?”s, we decided to stop conversation and just enjoy the ride. The slide’s forward wall is located behind the driver’s seat, yet the designers of the Phoenix Cruiser thoughtfully left space between the two. The pilot’s swiveling chair has a wide berth for adjusting fore and aft, adding to the already comfortable Ultraleather (also available in cloth) captain’s chairs.
Arriving at Big Bear Shores RV Resort, we hooked up in a light rain, and settled in for the evening to watch the rain come down from inside our cozy abode. At 7 feet 9 inches wide, the Phoenix Cruiser is more slender than the average B-plus or Class C and has a low profile with a height of just over 10 feet with the roof-mounted air-conditioning unit, so maneuvering the almost 28-foot Phoenix and hooking up are uncomplicated. To facilitate the hookup process, there’s a compact utility bay with electric dump valve switches and a permanently mounted Sani-Con macerator system.
Even with the slide retracted, the living room/galley is highly functional with a 38-inch width, and it’s a straight shot from the galley, down the aisle that separates the twin beds, to the rear bathroom. A 6.3-cubic-foot Norcold refrigerator, pantry, almost 5-foot-long Ultraleather sofa (which can be reclined and has three seat belts) and three overhead cabinets are housed in the 8½-foot streetside slide that adds more than 16 inches width to the floorplan. With the slideout deployed, the galley/living room is spacious and open, flowing together beautifully and having a larger feel to it. During the day, sunlight poured in, lighting up the raised-panel cherry-wood cabinets (hickory also available) to a golden color and making the solid-surface gray, black and white swirled countertop shine, accentuating the obvious attention to detail that went into building the 2552. Further accentuating the Phoenix’s genuine overall inviting feel is seating for a total of six in the main living area with the Ultraleather Euro chair, which swivels and reclines and has a footrest for some mighty comfy seating. The circular base is secured during travel, and with a couple of turns of a knob, the Euro chair is released and free to be moved around the interior. There’s also a freestanding solid-wood table for use with the standard couch that sets up quickly, is steady and sturdy, and slides across the laminate wood (optional; standard is vinyl) floor on protective covers. This floorplan is also available with a dinette.
Elegant cabinets with smoked-glass doors flank the stationary 32-inch front-and-center Samsung LED TV that’s viewable from pretty much every place in the motorhome. A DVD player with surround sound is placed in a good location for easy access. Behind the driver’s seat and to the right of the slide are the switches for the power inverter, monitor panel, generator and slideout. We needed reading glasses to see the tiny print for the system’s monitor panel.
Preparing meals was a pleasure, especially learning that the top drawer (of three) below the two-burner range — surprise! — is not a drawer but a pullout wood cutting board. The drawers ride on ball-bearing glides and stayed closed during travel. We simply laid a flexible cutting-board mat over the cutting board (which made cleanup easy), chopped food to our heart’s content and then lifted it a few inches to dump the contents into the skillet. The cutting board is a big plus because when the deep single-basin sink with pullout faucet and stovetop are in use, prep space is limited to the countertop extension that pops up next to the sink (and blocks the entry door) or the table. Curiously, the recessed cooktop, with one large and one smaller burner, doesn’t have an igniter, so we needed to use a butane lighter. A residential Sharp microwave convection oven with built-in fan and light is located above the cooktop, and switches for the water pump and water heater are mounted below the sink.
Behind the cooktop is a handy pocket to stow the stove and sink covers, which do double duty to keep grease from splattering on the back wall. The mirror on the wall to the right of the cooktop, albeit attractive, needed wiping down daily. The solid-surface covers that match the counter added chic elegance when in place. Four interior color schemes are available.
Next to the refrigerator is a pullout pantry with sturdy shelves. The refrigerator and freezer doors open to the left and bump up against the accordion-style door that separates the bedroom from the living area. Many times when we’d reach to close the refrigerator door we’d pull open the snap that keeps the door flush against the wall.
Half wardrobes with hanging rods and overhead cabinets offer lots of storage in the bedroom, and the shorter streetside bed (68 inches long versus 74 inches on the curbside) lifts up to reveal a deep bin where large items like boxes of soda and drinking water can be stored. Reading lamps bookend the beds and MCD day/night shades (used throughout the RV) block or let in light as needed. With the windows open above the beds, a nice cross breeze comes through.
When it was time to retire, we found we were a little too long for the mattresses. The curbside bed is 6 feet 2 inches and my husband, Bill, is 6-foot 4; I’m 5 feet 9, and the streetside bed, which loses some space due to the slideout location, is 5 feet 8 inches long. Still, Bill slept pretty comfortably on the 34-inch-wide bed, while I found that the mattress was too thin for me. When I discovered how comfortable the memory-foam sofa bed was the next night, I abandoned the rear twin for pillowy softness, good back support and room to spread out on the 54-by-74-inch mattress.
To make the sofa into a bed, the user reaches under the footrest to release a lever so it will roll forward. Reclining the two-piece sofa is via the power buttons, and a filler piece (stored behind the sofa) closes the gap between the two footrests. With the sofa in the bed configuration, there’s a little space to squeeze by if someone needs to get to the front of the coach.
The bathroom is fairly large and can be closed off from the bedroom via a sliding door. While primping, we preferred to keep the bathroom door open and close off the one to the galley, giving us lots of room to dress while still offering privacy. Countertop space is limited but there are plenty of cabinets and, oddly, the narrow linen closet sandwiched between the shower and bathroom wall turned out to be the most convenient — but the bathroom door had to be partially closed for easy access because the door blocks it. A big mirrored double-door wardrobe (where the freestanding table is stored) with a hanging clothes rod is next to the toilet.
Even though the Phoenix’s ceiling height is 6 feet 4 inches, the crowned one-piece fiberglass roof tapers down near the side walls. That results in the loss of a couple of inches of ceiling height in the shower, which is located in the back right corner. A domed skylight in the shower adds back some height, which is fine for the average person, but for a 6-foot 4-incher, accommodations were tight. Additionally, there are no shelves to hold soap or shampoo bottles, so this shower is a good candidate for hanging baskets held on with suction cups (available at any home store).
Outside, there’s abundant storage for a motorhome this size, including a large rollout drawer rated for 200 pounds, and another cubby above it that was large enough to hold water hoses and several Quick-Fold tables. To access the rear storage compartment, where we kept power cords, the rear ladder needed to be folded up out of the way by removing a couple of clevis pins. A spare tire is housed in a sleek molded fiberglass cover.
The 18-foot electric awning was deployed in minutes and made for a relaxing place to enjoy the scenery. The 2015 test model’s awning did not have LED lights, but starting with 2016 models, LED lights will be standard. A lighted assist handle with the “Phoenix” name on it is to the left of the door and a retractable screen door that is almost hidden glides smoothly.
After “resorting-it” in the mountains, we continued our camping adventures in the desert, at the beach and at a recreation area known for its proximity to the nesting grounds of the California condor — the largest flying bird in North America.
Overall, we were very impressed with the Phoenix Cruiser and what appears to be a well-built Class B-plus that is set up for four-season travel. From the moment we stepped into the motorhome and got a look at the bright and open floorplan, our first impression of a nice home on wheels has stuck. Just like the mythological Phoenix, the Phoenix Cruiser 2552 shines. And for really adventurous types, Phoenix offers a 4×4 option.