Belly up to the bar — kitchen bar that is — and Winnebago’s entry-level Class A gasser will serve up easy living
A favorite place to congregate in a home is the kitchen. If there’s an island counter, it’s hard to get anyone to leave, especially if there’s room for a few stools. You know the scenario: Watch the cook prepare the meal (and offer friendly advice) while snacking on munchies before finally migrating to the dining area or outside.
It’s hard to do that in a motorhome, or at least it was until Winnebago introduced the Vista 36Y. In this plan, the focal point is a large kitchen-bar-type counter that’s the major section of a C-shaped structure that starts in the streetside slideout and ends up in the space shared with the entryway. Entering the coach immediately attracts your attention, usually with an expression of surprise. Part of the visual appeal and positive response is due to the huge picture window across from the counter, but overall, the galley and the adjacent spacious living area make the entire front section welcoming to anyone who enters the coach. First impressions from most people, “This is a great place to hang out.”
Standing in the galley, the cook is surrounded by all the amenities necessary to prepare big meals, with plenty of space to spread out. The kitchen bar portion of the counter, which is made of Corian, houses the double stainless sinks serviced by a long-neck faucet. In itself, the counter is plenty big to do just about anything, and the second-level shelf on the outer edge provides a great place to add serving dishes filled with snacks. Integrated into this structure are plenty of cabinets and a trash chute with an easy-to-access container — a little touch with great impact.
A smaller connecting shelf leads to the backside of the galley, where the three-burner stove and oven, microwave, pantry and four-door refrigerator reside. Above this shelf are shallow cabinets with decorative glass doors, suitable for smaller foodstuffs, glasses and spices.
The galley is certainly a happy place, with lots of natural light compliments of the aforementioned picture window. No doubt Winnebago designers knew that anyone working in the galley would enjoy peering out this window, which provides a clear view to the patio area and keeps the cook engaged with what’s going on outside. The space between the wall and counter doubles as the aisle to the bathroom and bedroom, and can handle small, bar-type stools without impeding traffic.
When the opposing slides are deployed, the galley and living room, which occupy more than half of the coach’s 37-foot overall length, open to an area that epitomizes easy living. Once the cockpit chairs are turned around and the two additional chairs are added to the expanding dining table, the living area can comfortably seat nine people. And there’s plenty of floor space to add a couple additional chairs, if necessary. But as a coach for two people, the living area is a splendid place to relax, with a few caveats.
The Ultraleather-covered couch is very comfortable — for sitting upright. A footrest pops out of one side and there’s a sleeper with a 52-by-70-inch mattress in the other. Without the ability to recline the back of the couch, the footrest is awkward to use and the bed is on the small side for a couple. Theater seating would work better here, especially since there’s a clear shot to the retractable TV that’s stored in the opposing buffet. Viewing this 39-inch TV is also possible from the driver’s seat, but a little close for those seated at the dining table. Nevertheless, retracting the TV is a good feature for those who prefer not to look at it when it’s off — and, of course, the extra counterspace comes in handy while dining.
An optional power StudioLoft, 32-by-89-inch bed makes an ideal place for one person, which can help justify substituting the sofa bed for theater seating, if a guest stays over on occasion. When the loft bed is retracted, it fits snugly against the ceiling so as not to impede headroom, but it does restrict access to the cabinets directly over the dash. Normally, that wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but the hookups for the satellite dish receiver and controls for the antenna/cable TV are in these cabinets. After discussions with a Winnebago audiovisual engineer, the location for the components will likely be moved when the loft bed is ordered.
The audiovisual system could work as is, since a remote IR system is provided, but some modifications would still be required to make the TVs in the bedroom and outside compartment work in concert with a satellite dish. For those who prefer to activate only one receiver, it will have to be physically moved and hooked up to use with the other TVs, but only if it has an HDMI connection port. While there are inputs for an optional rooftop and portable dishes, there’s no way to hook up a portable dish to the bedroom and outside compartment TVs unless you’re willing to do some cable maneuvering and use routing switches. Creative use of a receiver with a radio-frequency (RF) remote can make it work, or simply opt for multiple receivers and use a rooftop dish. If you’re using campground cable and/or over-the-air broadcasting, all three TVs are ready to go.
The back section of the coach relies on a configuration that Winnebago has employed for a while, and frankly, it works well. A side aisle leads to a completely enclosed bathroom and bedroom, which is in the very rear of the coach. There is just the right amount of space allocated for the bathroom. Users can move about freely and there’s little wasted space. The corner shower with rounded glass doors is roomy and the shelf for the soap and shampoo is big enough to hold (and secure) large bottles; a seat adds convenience. The shower wand is on the cheesy side, but good water pressure makes it workable until a better unit can be retrofitted.
Storage in the bathroom is fantastic and even better if the combination washer/dryer is not ordered. The shelf created by the cabinet that’s configured to accommodate the washer/dryer makes an excellent place to spread out toiletries, supplementing the limited space surrounding the lavatory sink. Still, the cabinets above and below the sink can handle a decent amount of toiletries and bathroom supplies.
Access to the bathroom is via a hinged door in the aisle or a pocket door from the bedroom. A third door closes off the aisle from the bedroom. This seems like a lot of doors, but they provide exceptional privacy and allow guests to linger in the front without feeling squeamish. We liked opening up the cockpit curtain and MCD blackout/solar shades early in the morning to enjoy the scenery without making the other person taking a shower and primping for the day run for cover. Although they wrap around the windshield and side windows completely, the curtains in the cockpit could be a little thicker and placed on more substantial hardware.
Winnebago offers a king bed option and in many cases, the mattress can overwhelm the available space, but not here. There is plenty of space to walk around the mattress, which is quite comfortable. Large nightstands are built into both sides, and the tops hinge open, exposing deep cabinets, which are perfect for storing personal items.
Space utilization in the bedroom is excellent. The entire wardrobe at the foot of the bed moves out in a dedicated slideout. Once open, there’s access to a bank of drawers below a gigantic closet. Since the TV is concealed in a drop-down shelf mounted to the ceiling, the entire closet is available for clothing and other bulky items. A second pair of dining chairs is housed under the bed platform, which has some room for more stuff. The TV, by the way, is in perfect eyeshot while lying in bed, and can even be heard when the rear air conditioner is running.
Overall, the interior is very livable for those who like a kitchen-centric plan and slideouts are placed perfectly to enhance spaciousness. Beyond that, the curbside slideouts are not that deep so they don’t infringe on the patio real estate. That makes setting up chairs and tables less cumbersome while still allowing access to the storage bays.
All the compartments have slam-latch hardware with the emphasis on “slam.” Latch quality is so-so, and requires a lot of knee work to close completely. That also impacts the seals, which allow some dust to enter the compartments. That was most evident when pulling out the TV that’s mounted in a clever bracket inside one of the patio-side compartments. The TV was pretty dusty when we pulled it out for viewing one morning. Those who enjoy watching TV outside will like the pullout arrangement, which could be even better if the bracket was made to swivel from side to side.
Overall storage is robust for the size of the coach, and there are shallow pass-through shelves that handle chairs and tables nicely. The utility bay is well organized, but the opening in the floor that provides a pathway for the sewer hose is too small for some hoses with integrated fittings. Generally, once the compartment doors are adjusted, owners will have little complaint about the exterior facilities.
Visually, the Vista has moved on from just entry-level status to a coach that looks like it could stand with higher-priced models. Winnebago redesigned the front this year and added just enough pizzazz to create smoother-flowing lines. Of course, the optional full-body paint and standard aluminum wheels really help.
The coach is built on the Ford chassis and handles predictably. Loading the motorhome heavily results in a more top-heavy feel, but overall, road manners are good once the pilot gets over the engine screaming at high rpm. Of course, the V-10 has no problem turning at a higher speed when downshifting, but it can be disconcerting to the uninitiated. We have also seen a notable increase in transmission efficiency. In Tow/Haul mode, the transmission knows exactly what to do, whether climbing or descending grades. We let it do its thing and were able to crest the infamous Grapevine grade on California’s Interstate 5 at 50 mph. Holdback downhill was almost too good, slowing us down more than necessary at times, without riding the brakes.
Generally, it’s easy to spend long stints behind the wheel, but that’s dependent on how you process noise. Normally, Winnebago’s strong building techniques have resulted in rather quiet environments while on the road. The use of a steel cage up front and the aluminum/laminated wall structure has proven to be durable and reliable. But this coach blared out a cacophony of noises that could be annoying at times. No rattles here; fit and finish are good and everything inside was tight. We suspected the creaking and groaning were coming from the slideout mechanisms, which made almost identical sounds during deployment. The overhead bed also seemed to contribute to the noise.
It’s a mixed bag, as far as the cab goes. The seats are super comfortable, but we really missed the adjustable arm rests. There’s no such thing as a one size fits all here. We found the arm rests to be too high for our comfort. The old-style sun visors require gorilla-length arms to reach, but the defroster fans are a nice touch. Ergonomically, the instrumentation and controls work fine, except for the stereo/backup monitor.
The irony here is that the Pioneer combination stereo/backup monitor/Sirius radio is good quality equipment, but the placement in the center of the dash made the unit unusable for the driver. First off, the screen can’t be seen without neck stretching and taking one’s eyes off the road. I didn’t even discover the side-view camera images until the last day of the trip when I saw a view from the corner of my eye.
Also, the controls are frustrating and difficult to use, albeit the remote control helps. Admittedly, I couldn’t consume enough caffeine to get through hundreds of pages of tiny type in the owner’s manual. When I got stuck (immediately) I ran out of patience waiting for the Pioneer tech people to answer the phone.
It’s really hard to call the Winnebago Vista, “entry level.” The 36Y looks, feels and lives like a much more expensive motorhome, and the floorplan exudes a lovable persona. Throw in a few modifications to neutralize the minor idiosyncrasies and this coach will make a wonderful home away from home.
Winnebago Industries | 641-585-3535 | www.winnebagoind.com