Within the realm of higher-end diesel motorhomes, the Beaver marque has long been
recognized for high class, strong performance and elegant livability. Now produced by
Monaco Coach Corporation of Coburg, Oregon, the company has recently moved to expand the Beaver line by producing a hierarchy of four models with a broader selection of
powertrains, decor options and price points. The Santiam, which we recently road-tested in
a 40-foot floorplan (Model 40 DST), is a step up from the lowest-priced Baron in the Beaver
series, but is more affordable than the top-of the-line Marquis. It is built on Monaco’s
proprietary Roadmaster RR8R-Series raised-rail chassis that serves as an integral and
relatively seamless foundation for the unit’s upper coachwork. The Beaver Santiam is
available for 2003 in 13 floorplans, from 34 to 40 feet, six of which sport triple
slideouts. Our test coach had the benefit of three slides; two opposing slides forward
create a generous living-room/galley area and a streetside slide opens up the bedroom.
The coach also boasts not one, but two bathrooms: a half-bath with sink and toilet between the galley and rear bedroom and a full bath aft of the bedroom that includes a tub/shower. All cliches notwithstanding, this floorplan is about as close to traditional homestyle living
as one can achieve in the amount of space available in a motorhome. As with many luxury
coaches, the Santiam comes equipped with a standard selection of appliances, appointments and amenities that by themselves would render a motorhome completely outfitted.
Some of the more prominent of these include tinted thermopane windows, a 10,000-pound hitch receiver, hydraulic leveling jacks, a Pacbrake and six-way ultraleather upholstered pilot/copilot seats. For this wealth of fixtures and much more, the base price of the test coach totaled $178,888.
Several options were added to the already generous standard features, which pushed the motorhome’s final price up to $195,212. The costlier items included aluminum wheels ($2,100), a full pass-through slide-out tray in the cargo compartment ($1,120), a
four-door refrigerator with icemaker ($2,100) and an Onan 7.5 Quiet Diesel AC generator
($5,208). Construction elements used with the Santiam line are of sturdy quality and
incorporate Monaco’s Alumaframe superstructure with steel-cage support and a steel-frame
floor topped with laminated Structurwood oriented-strand board (OSB). The coach is further appointed with molded fiberglass nose and end caps, gelcoated fiberglass side walls and a peaked aluminum roof that provides the remainder of the unit’s exterior skin.
Internal insulation consists of fiberglass in the roof assembly and polystyrene foam in side-wall and underbelly areas. Chassis/Powertrain Monaco’s Roadmaster chassis has
earned a solid reputation for strong performance and robust durability beneath many of the
company’s highline and midrange coaches. For the Santiam platform, raised steel rails are
utilized, which allow an abundance of pass-through basement storage. Frame rails are
3/8-inch thick, and rail portions in the rear engine compartment are flared to 42 inches,
allowing a lower engine-mounting position. This provides for better residential use of
rear-coach areas, plus improved suppression of engine noise. Another practical construction element is aircraft-grade, weather-resistant wiring throughout the unit that is stamped every 3 inches with the name of the system or amenity it is associated with.
Suspension components on the chassis that help impart a velvet-smooth ride consist of eight outboard-mounted air bags (two per wheel), plus four shock absorbers for optimum roll resistance and vibration dampening. Each axle is also appointed with leveling sensors that continuously adjust air pressure to maintain a level ride. Powertrain mechanisms on this model include a Cummins ISC 330-hp turbodiesel engine that proved to be more than adequate for pushing the motorhome’s hefty wet weight of 29,493 pounds. The engine is backed by an Allison 3000MH sixspeed World transmission, and braking is assisted by a Pacbrake compression braking system. Road Trip Initially entering the cockpit prior
to takeoff, the first thing you notice after sinking into soft and supportive ultraleather
adjustable seats is the area’s uncluttered dashboard, appointed with a Roman bronze
instrument panel and easily readable gauges.
The switches and accessories surrounding the driver’s area, such as a Sony color rearview monitor and a radio/CD player, are well within reach and not lost in a clutter of dashboard bric-a-brac. The driver’s position also has adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, which add optimum comfort and control to long-term driving. Piloting a 40-foot coach takes a bit more calculation and preplanning when turning tight corners and negotiating mazes, such as busy gas stations. However, though we thought we might be somewhat limited by the motorhome’s length, we really weren’t.
We did catch a few sideways glances from passersby during our first parking attempt, when we realized it took two regular curbside parking spaces to dock this baby. The Santiam is not exactly a jackrabbit off the line, with 0-to-60-mph times averaging 32.4 seconds and 40-to-60-mph readings of 17.3 seconds. Despite that, it accelerates smoothly and adequately, allowing easy merging into traffic, and picks up speed nicely after engine rpm gets a chance to build. Once off and cruising with the average flow of freeway traffic, the driver must make a concentrated effort to hold speed to 65 mph because the motorhome definitely wants to go faster. We especially noted and appreciated the powertrain’s willing mid-range acceleration ability during lane changes and when the need arose to quickly pass slower vehicles. Ride throughout the test was smooth, predictable and relatively quiet with no drifting or other negative tendencies. Most of the time, it was like floating along on a cloud. We did hit some high winds, though, that had us hanging onto the wheel pretty tightly. Despite being bopped around mercilessly for about 10 miles, we managed to keep the coach in its lane.
Further into the test, we encountered a 6 percent grade on the outbound leg and again when returning. In both instances, we breezed up the moderately steep incline at 54 mph at 2,000 rpm in fifth gear. Going down the other side, we kicked on the Pacbrake, which slowed us to the point where we had to override its braking effects and accelerate to keep traffic from piling up behind us. We toured around the local attractions and nipped in and out of angled driveways and busy parking lots with plenty of room to spare. Turning is smooth, precise and predictable, and we experienced no trouble whatsoever negotiating narrow lanes and shoulderless byways. Overall, this coach is a very well-mannered, comfortable highway cruiser that takes much of the effort and headache out of most driving challenges.
Fuel consumption of 8.1 mpg was adequate, considering the high winds encountered, though we weren’t hindered by them for very long. Moving into the triple-slide luxury of the Santiam 40DST is something we’d love to get used to on a regular basis. The two forward slideouts create a luxurious living room, galley and dining area that are truly residential in proportions. Livability Loading is considerably simpler on this coach than
some others we’ve encountered for two distinct reasons: First, it has two flat-floor
pass-through cargo bays of generous proportions. Second, there is an optional
full-pass-through slide-out tray that takes the back strain out of the process and is a
must-have, in our estimation. Considering the fact that users can load up to 1,891 pounds
of cargo before reaching this unit’s gross vehicle weight rating of 32,000 pounds, there
should be more than enough space and capacity to carry all the necessary supplies and gear for extended travel and livability. The test coach was appointed with the company’s Golden Essence decor package, which is one of four available. Cabinetry was Western oak, with beige carpeting in living and bedroom areas and light-colored ceramic tile in the galley
and bathrooms. Solid-surface countertops are found in the kitchen and both bathrooms, and window treatments consist of cloth day/night shades and easily cleanable metal blinds in the galley and the rear bathroom. The living-room layout, with its double-slide roominess and handsome interior amenities, should appeal to just about anyone — especially if you’ve been used to motorhomes with a single slide or none at all. The floorplan featured an ultra-leather upholstered J-sofa curbside and a fabric-covered Flexsteel Magic bed in the streetside slideout, which converts effortlessly into an auxiliary sleeping location without giving up too much floor space.
Although we didn’t need the sofas for nighttime sleeping, they sure made comfortable locations to sprawl out and enjoy the easily viewable 25-inch television installed over the dash. The sofas likewise made great locations for just looking out the large windows on both sides of the coach and enjoying the oak-studded savannas and verdant ranchlands at the end of a long travel day. Meal preparation is uncomplicated in the expansive galley, which includes a convection/microwave oven and a three-burner stovetop. Higher-end coaches often come without a conventional oven as standard equipment, as with this floorplan, but we didn’t feel the loss, considering that microwave meals are usually our food of choice on most trips. For long-term travel, however, we like a conventional oven as an alternative, and there is one available as an option with this model. When we were sitting down to eat and later to write up field notes, the streetside freestanding dinette table served admirably. Chairs upholstered in dark-maroon brocade and adjacent brass accent lights helped create a swanky ambiance.
The solid-surface countertop in the galley, with approximately 14 square feet of clear space, has excellent potential for preparing more complex menus if so desired. Lots of overhead and undercounter cabinets are also located in this area. Helping to support culinary efforts further is a streetside four-door refrigerator/freezer with icemaker and a
vertically oriented slide-out pantry for stashing canned and narrow boxed goods. When
preparing for bed, we felt very pampered with our own separate bathrooms to wash up in, and the distaff member of our team quickly opted for the rear full bathroom with its shower-and tub combination. The oval tub is actually large enough, at 46 inches long and 10 inches deep, to take a modest soak. The shower space above is plenty roomy for comfortable bathing with 78-inch standup room. Situated in its own bedroom-slide module, the master queen-size bed is bracketed by narrow nightstands that additionally function as shirt closets.
Behind the master bathroom, a wardrobe closet and cupboards are situated for easy access and are out of the path of bedroom/bathroom cross traffic. Beaver’s Santiam, with triple slideouts and two bathrooms, is truly built for long-term living and extended travel. With a
sophisticated Roadmaster chassis that imparts superior handling and ride, along with
voluminous cargo space and an elegant decor package, this may be the last motorhome you’ll ever want to own. Floorplan, Specs Beaver Motor Coaches, (800) 423-2837, beavermotorcoaches.com