When Winnebago introduced the Sightseer in 2002, it was aimed at buyers looking for a value-priced Class A but with enough niceties to step up from entry level. Over the years the Sightseer has been a bread-and-butter coach for the company and has served its owners well.
While its popularity hasn’t waned, the Sightseer has gone through a transformation that started in 2008, and every year since the company has injected changes and upgrades that have taken this coach to a new echelon, even though it’s still only one step from entry level in the Winnebago Class A lineup. The 2013 33C is one of four floorplans under the Sightseer nameplate, and at 34 feet 7 inches, it’s right smack in the middle of the size offerings. Using three slides, one nearly full length, the configuration of the 33C is one of the most versatile and livable plans we’ve experienced. A front living room with an optional buffet and expanding table with freestanding chairs highlight the front portion of the coach while the galley and bath take center stage. A rear bedroom rounds out the floorplan.
Former optional or unavailable items that are now standard, such as Corian galley countertops, MCD American Duo roller shades, aluminum wheels, upgraded entertainment equipment, 1,000-watt inverter, power management system and an LP-gas/120-volt AC water heater, change the look and feel of this coach. Add in a number of targeted optional items like full-body paint, Ultraleather furniture, side-view camera system and an outside entertainment module and the Sightseer lives like a much more expensive coach than the retail sticker price of $148,317 on this fully loaded test coach.
The entryway is just about center coach, which, at first glance, seems like a departure from the popular front doorways that are commonly seen in floorplans similar to the 33C. While the exterior stature, handsome full-body paint and 22.5-inch aluminum wheels give the impression that the coach is a pusher, it takes a moment to recognize it’s really built on a Ford F53 chassis. That being the case, it’s natural to place the door rearward of the cockpit seats. Several guests we had over to fill the cabin to capacity during a birthday celebration actually thought they were in a much higher priced coach.
Buyers can choose from a number of options when configuring the living area. Standard is the BenchMark dinette, a proprietary component that uses spring-based cushions for added comfort. Opposite the booth dinette on the standard plan is a sofa/bed and a recliner. Opt for the buffet structure on the streetside that houses the retractable TV and opposing Comfort sofa/sleeper and Euro lounge chair, and the front living room becomes a wonderful place to hang out or host socials – especially after the cockpit seats are turned toward the room.
Visibility of the TV from the couch and Euro chair is superb, as long as the occupants can stay awake. We’re talking about exceptional comfort with this furniture. We had no problem showing a movie to a full house in this living room. The 40-inch TV in the buffet blocks the view out the window, but it only takes a push of a button to send the screen down into the cabinet.
The expandable table is built into the structure and can be easily pulled out to seat two more diners – after adding the extra chairs stored under the bed. Surrounding storage cabinets and drawers swallow up a lot of stuff, but adjustable shelving would make the facility even better.
Winnebago’s buffet concept isn’t new, but has been refined. The first ones had a lip on the floor that was part of the slide mechanism/structure, which made placing the chairs on a level floor difficult when all four are used. The improved flat floor makes all the difference, and since the carpeting gave way to attractive Beauflor vinyl flooring throughout the coach except for the cockpit and bedroom, the chairs are even easier to position. Cleanup is also less problematic and overall the dÃ©cor is more appealing.
Adjacent to the buffet unit, the L-shaped galley fits perfectly within the overall floorplan scheme. Counterspace is good, even without the flip-up extension. Designated chefs will have no problem preparing meals and will find the double stainless sinks, stovetop, microwave and refrigerator all within arm’s reach. With the optional four-door refrigerator, the pullout pantry shrinks in size, although it’s still usable and necessary for taller items. Generally, there are plenty of cabinets and drawers to handle anything needed to fully equip the kitchen.
Opposite the refrigerator and pantry is the bathroom. For our tastes, the bathroom is right sized for this coach; some owners might find it on the small side. The corner lavatory provides enough room to do the normal washing, etc., but the overhead cabinet gets in the way when
trying to lean over the oval sink. The shower, though, is plenty big, especially considering the overall size of the bathroom. Using a plastic toilet, though, is incongruent with the philosophy of building a coach with more bells and whistles. Kudos for the taller sliding glass for the shower stall; it’s nice to retain our scalp when entering and leaving the shower.
Out back, the space is reserved for the bedroom. A queen bed is standard, but in this case a king was ordered for the test coach. It’s nice to have the extra room, especially if Fido regularly snuggles with the occupants, but it does overwhelm the available space, even with the slide extended. Walking around the king bed takes some finesse and making the bed is challenging at times, but it is comfortable. Within line of sight are the wardrobe and storage cabinet below a counter; an optional 26-inch TV is placed for perfect viewing from the bed.
What makes the 33C floorplan work so well is the open feeling one gets throughout the coach. Strategically placed slideouts expand the living space beautifully and it’s nice to see just about anywhere in the coach from any vantage point. Good lighting and window placement – even though there are not that many windows considering the size of the coach – keep the interior bright and cheery. The aforementioned MCD window shades are a huge improvement from day/night type window coverings because they not only do a good job of regulating and blocking out light, they are easy to use and not plagued by stubborn strings and pleats. The power shade blocking the cockpit windshield is another nice touch that adds value and convenience to the Sightseer.
Comfort wise, heat distribution is fairly even, although the bathroom gets pretty warm when the furnace is running. The test coach was optionally fitted with heat pumps in the roof air conditioners to supplement temperature control. This is a good way to conserve LP-gas use when hooked up to electric, but the fans are on the noisy side.
Outside there’s a generous array of storage lockers that can handle just about anything a typical user of this coach will want to take along. The utility compartment retains Winnebago’s commitment to centralizing access points (think One Place systems center), offering clearly marked utilities, 3-inch dump valves for the gray water and wastewater and a wash station. There’s definitely a quality feel about the compartments even if the doors required a little nudging to get the corner latches to catch.
Controls for the automatic hydraulic leveling jacks can be found in three places, including one switch in the utility compartment. The main control is next to the driver and the other satellite position is at the entry door. While having multiple control points is appreciated, the jack system was not our favorite accessory in the Sightseer. The system is rather temperamental, with the “computer” having a mind of its own.
Driving north on U.S. Highway 101 from our offices in Ventura, Calif., is a make-or-break deal when it comes to forming first impressions about a coach. The road is about as bad as it gets on concrete beleaguered by expansion joints and other common highway maladies. We were expecting the normal bucking and snorting exhibited by the Ford chassis on this section of highway, but it didn’t happen. Sure, we could feel the surface being transmitted to the driver’s seat, but Ford’s improvements over the years helped squelch the bad ride. Much of the credit for the unexpected comfort goes to the coach’s exceptional fit and finish.
Absent were the common noisemakers created by squeaks and rattles – even the stovetop was quiet. Wind noise from the expansive one-piece windshield and side windows was minimal and the general quiet gave the impression that the coach was smoothly sailing down the highway, in spite of the stiff Ford springs. Helping in this department is Winnebago’s SuperStructure steel cage used for the cab area, as well as the solid construction techniques employed for the coach body.
The driving experience overall is pleasurable. The coach handles roadway maneuvers nicely and the stout Ford engine has plenty of get up and go, even while climbing grades. Cab seats are comfortable for long hauls and the dashboard controls are ergonomic and intuitive.
Winnebago’s 33C floorplan is a home run in my opinion, which is supported by my wife’s view after spending time in this coach. The layout is conducive to entertaining big groups and the front living area can easily be transformed into a cozy lounge for two people to cuddle for TV time or reading. Versatility is the key; the coach wards off claustrophobia and the dÃ©cor is aesthetically pleasing and practical. If I needed to find fault, it would be the encroachment on patio real estate because of the slides on the right side of the coach.
While the test coach is a 2013 model, Winnebago will continue to offer the Sightseer 33C as part of its 2014 lineup. Based on what we’ve seen during the last six years, the coach will likely get even better.