Thorâ€™s Freedom Elite 23H Class C offers great storage capacity, quality amenities and plenty of comfort for a party of one or a family with kids
It was one of those days â€” no, more like one of those weeks â€” where chaos ruled and one thing after another seemed to go askew. That overly dramatized Calgon bath products commercial from the 1970s and â€™80s â€” â€œCalgon, take me away!â€ â€” played in my head. Just when I thought I may go into hiding, Tech Editor Chris Dougherty rang me up to ask if I was interested in taking off for a few days to review a Class C Freedom Elite. (I swear heâ€™s a mind reader.) OK! And how apropos that the name includes â€œfreedomâ€ because that was precisely what I needed.
Based on the Ford E-Series chassis, the Freedom Elite line is manufactured by Thor and is offered in five floorplans ranging from 24 feet to a 32-foot-2-inch bunkhouse model with two slides. We tested the 23H, the second smallest of the Elite line, measuring 24 feet 10 inches, with no slides.
Before we launch into the living area of the 23H, letâ€™s look at outside storage. This aspect drew high marks from me, since it was the starting point when packing for an outing to a full-hookup RV park where I had a few days to myself before my husband, Bill, joined me for a few more. At the rear of the 23H, a large compartment can be accessed through two exterior doors â€” one from the curbside and one from the back. Inside is an included 4-by-2-foot portable table â€” a feature that is exclusive to the 23H â€” in its own cubby. With big doors held out of the way with clips, it was easy for us to work together to load two mountain bikes. Though there wasnâ€™t a lack of space, we removed the bicyclesâ€™ front tires and placed them into the larger of two bins with lids that occupy the space beneath the floor of the compartment. The storage compartment has several bright lights, and families with kids will appreciate the space to load in even more gear.
Though floor space inside the RV may be a little tight for those with multiple kids, a roomy dinette with vinyl benches comfortably seats four, plus a cloth-covered barrel chair across from the dinette is perfect for the weary lady or man of the house to lounge in. A 40-inch LED TV is located on a manual swivel that lies flat against the passenger-side cabover wall when not in use. The TV is supplemented with a Sony DVD player that is housed in an adjacent cabinet. Swing the TV out and itâ€™s visible from pretty much anywhere in the RV â€” including the bathroom, if youâ€™re so inclined.
Kids of any age can climb up to a spacious 54-by-96-inch cabover bunk via a sturdy ladder. The ceiling tapers off where the front cap curves downward, so some headroom is lost. Two cup-holders are up against the front wall and a narrow ledge runs the length of the bunk for kids to park (and race) Hot Wheels and display small stuffed animals. For additional sleeping space, the dinette table folds down into a bed.
The â€œbedroom,â€ which shares a wall with the bathroom and has a queen mattress cut at an angle at one end for easier access to the bathroom, can be closed off with a privacy shade. Three large overhead cabinets offer voluminous storage space, though youâ€™ll have to kneel on the bed to get to them. With a fixed rear window as wide as the bed and another large sliding side window, lots of daylight pours in. I enjoyed lying in bed in the morning, looking out the window and watching birds toss seeds out of the neighborâ€™s bird feeder.
Light also comes in from the vent over the bed; this vent is one of three in the 23H, but only the one located in the bathroom has a fan. The thermostat for the 19,000-Btu Airxcel furnace is conveniently located on the wall alongside the bed, so you donâ€™t even need to get out from under the covers to set the temperature on chilly mornings. However, with 90-plus-degree days at our site, the 13,500-Btu roof-mounted Coleman-Mach air conditioner was cranking much of the time and kept the inside comfortable.
When itâ€™s dark out, thereâ€™s still plenty of light over the bed with four overhead LEDs, plus two push-button reading lights. Actually, the â€œreading lightsâ€ are more like beacons; we believe just one would suffice. If youâ€™re sharing the bed and one person is reading by that light, the other person may as well, too â€” or put a pillow over his or her head. A dimmer, or a varying brightness setting, would be appreciated.
These same reading beacons are ceiling-mounted in the cabover bunk, plus thereâ€™s bright LED lighting throughout. With dark, high-sheen Brazilian cherry flat-panel cabinet doors, the 23H has the potential to be dark inside, but is far from it thanks to large windows and overhead vents that admit natural light. The dark wood ties in well with the light-colored Bayside II dÃ©cor furniture, residential vinyl flooring and laminate countertops. The cabinet doors open toward the 7-foot-high ceiling via smooth gas struts, and most are out of the way of heads attached to tall people.
The kitchen is efficiently laid out with a Norcold 6-cubic-foot refrigerator located across from a three-burner range, oven and microwave. Thereâ€™s minimal counterspace between the range and dual-basin stainless-steel sink with pull-down sprayer, but enough space in back to hold little bowls, bottles and a small coffeemaker. The flip-up extension next to the range adds prep space, and while it is located near the entry doorway, it doesnâ€™t completely block the area. In fact, this turned out to be a handy setup when retrieving bowls of various appetizers Iâ€™d stacked onto the extension to bring across the street for a potluck gathering. Grab handles inside and outside the entry door make ingress/egress easy, though it would be nice if there was padding at the top of the entry doorâ€™s interior for taller folks.
Speaking of which, cabinets over the entry door and microwave are useful for tall people. At 5 foot 9 inches, I could reach into the front part of those cabinets, but stuff that had slid to the back during travel was a struggle to retrieve. Below the counter extension, near the RVâ€™s control panel, is a handy 120-volt AC GFCI outlet for plugging in appliances, and under the sink is a cubby for a large provided waste bin so trash is out of sight.
A 5-inch step up from the galley is the bathroom (and bed), an efficient, subtle way of separating the two from the living area. Itâ€™s also handy to scoot to the edge of the bed in the morning, take two steps and be in the bathroom. It did take time to remember to step down when coming out of the bathroom, however, since the step could easily be missed when youâ€™re not used to it.
The bathroom is roomy, and the plastic toilet, angled out from the corner, maximizes floor space. A mirrored medicine cabinet and cabinet under the plastic single-basin sink has enough room to store the essentials. We were most impressed with the three towel racks mounted to the bathroom door with quality hardware, presumably to handle the weight of towels and clothing that will no doubt be slung over them.
I stepped up a foot into a spacious 20-by-34-inch shower pan, boasting a total of 6 feet 6Â½ inches of headroom with the overhead skylight, and closed the retractable screen. A lot of shampoo bottles and such can occupy the three big shelves. The hand-held sprayer has a shut-off valve, water pressure was good and warm water is supplied from the 6-gallon water heater. So far, so good. Except when I wanted to get out, I couldnâ€™t. As I struggled to open the shower door with a bit more force, the bottom rail came off the track. Now I was really stuck.
â€œHellooooo, anyone out there?â€ This could be embarrassing. Fiddling with the door and tugging it in from the bottom, it finally retracted with a snap. After being released and inspecting the door, I saw that the â€œHold and press inâ€-labeled handle was on the outside â€¦ aha! The shower frame had been mounted in the wrong position! Weâ€™ll chalk that up to an employee who was on a mental hiatus that day â€” evidently the same one who hastily patched the staple marks with putty so that little light-colored blots were visible on the bathroom wall adjacent to the bed. These small concerns were in contradiction to the rest of the Freedom Eliteâ€™s overall good quality. When the shower screen works as intended, a built-in squeegee whisks water off as it retracts.
In addition to the exterior storage compartment, another feature that gets high marks is the electric awning with LED lights that runs the length of the 23H. Not only is it big lengthwise, it also offers a lot of coverage, so much so that other RVers stopped by to comment on it and check it out. A few were envious, especially since theyâ€™d been broiling under the sun in 92-degree weather.
After several relaxing days, I climbed back into the cab for the drive home. I liked how I could see out of the back window from the rearview mirror while in the driverâ€™s seat; though with the back window located so high up, you canâ€™t see cars, but other RVs and large trucks approaching are sometimes visible. Another nice feature worth noting is an emergency engine start switch that allows the engine to be started with an extra shot of electricity from the house battery if the engine battery discharges.
It was another hot day, so I started the engine, blasted the dash A/C and aimed the four ducts in a row toward myself. The cloth captainâ€™s seats with high headrests were comfy. It can get a bit noisy in the cab from windblast while underway, but no major squeaks or rattles came from the back. A touchscreen AM/FM dash radio has a backup monitor, but no GPS. The RVâ€™s dash-mounted stereo has interior speakers only. The exterior mirrors are manually operated and the cab floor is rubber, but that makes it easier to keep clean. Thereâ€™s also storage galore, and cup-holders in the doghouse.
The Freedom Elite line is manufactured by Thor exclusively for Camping World. Overall, we liked the 23H. Itâ€™s simple and manageable, yet doesnâ€™t require owners to give up essential amenities or comfort. Itâ€™s set up for a family while underway, too, with two seatbelts in the dinette bench and one in the barrel swivel chair. Add to this a friendly price point and an impressive 4,060-pound cargo carrying capacity, and you neednâ€™t worry what (or who) you bring along for the ride. Whether a party of one or a family, the 23H is perfect for those times when you just need to get away from it all.
Thor Motor Coach | 800-860-5658 | www.freedom-elite.com