A popular song whimsically suggests that “life is a journey, and not a destination,” which may have a passing correlation to Winnebago’s wish that your travels include one of its new Journey motorhomes. With a record of building some of the best, most durable coaches in the business, the name Winnebago has all but become synonymous with the term motorhome itself.
Winnebago’s Journey class is not its first trip around the block in building upscale diesels. Though no entry-level coaches in any sense of the word, the Journey line represents the less expensive of the company’s two diesel-powered offerings (the Tour being the top tier), with prices beginning higher than $245,000.
The 36M is a new Journey floorplan for 2012, and provides a full-wall curbside slideout that substantially increases interior living space, plus an optional exterior entertainment center with a 32-inch HDTV, AM/FM stereo and DVD player. Adding more to the roominess of the floorplan are two streetside slides; one expanding the forward lounge and mid-coach dinette areas, while the other is located to the rear as part of the master bedroom. As in previous year offerings, the Journey uses Freightliner’s proven Maxum lowered rail, turbodiesel chassis as its automotive component.
Though not unreasonably priced for this market segment, a well-outfitted 36M still lists for a healthy price of $246,498. This includes everything from finely crafted wood cabinetry, high-end appliances, and lush, upholstered furniture; to leading-edge electronics and full-body exterior paint.
Unfortunately, a navigation system is not standard issue on the 36M. For this, buyers must opt for an “Infotainment Center/GPS” package at $1,813, that includes a 7-inch, dash-mounted LCD monitor with voice guidance, two remotes and Bluetooth compatibility. And who can forget the previously mentioned exterior entertainment center that lists for $1,610, a home theater system with Blu-ray at $301, and an Ultraleather, multi-position Rest Easy streetside sofa that goes for $560. With these and other options totaling more than $6,000, the final msrp ended up a rather hefty $253,762.
Powertrain and Performance
On a sunny day, we hit the highway at the wheel of a new Journey 36M, to see what the high-end coach had to offer in the way of performance and livability. Our test unit came with an eye grabbing Platinum full-body paint scheme with contemporary graphics, a one-piece windshield that optimizes forward visibility and some of the cushiest captain’s seats we’ve experienced in a long time. Once we had tweaked the electrical seat adjustments to our liking, and slid the retractable, step-well cover into place (all Journeys have a forward, bus-style entry door), we were on our way.
At the heart of the Journey is a beefy Cummins ISB 6.7-l, 360-hp turbodiesel. The Cummins, which is mated to one of Allison’s bulletproof 3000MH six-speed transmissions, boots out 800 lb-ft of torque at 1,800 rpm … early on in its power curve where needed the most.
Some of the highlights of Freightliner’s well-crafted Maxum platform include dropped-rail architecture that provides a lower center of gravity for improved ride and handling, a Neway front and rear air suspension that helps smooth out the ride, and a power steering box that allows a 55-degree turning angle (wheel cut) for good maneuverability. Also part of the drivetrain is an integral engine exhaust brake that came in handy throughout the trip, and spared brakes and nerves when descending steep grades.
Loading the Journey for our excursion, we appreciated the comfortable and user-friendly cockpit with its logically laid out gauges and controls, including a centrally located radio/rearview 6.5-inch LCD monitor. The only system that didn’t work as well as we thought it should was the navigation. This was due mostly to the placement of its 7.3-inch screen, beneath the rearview monitor and lower down on the dash. The placement ultimately made trying to read nav cues difficult for the driver, who at the same time was trying to keep eyes elevated and looking down the highway. The turn-by-turn voice guidance function helped overcome this shortcoming somewhat, but not entirely.
Merging onto U.S. Highway 101, the coach accelerated smoothly and reassuringly into traffic, with its tilt/telescopic steering column and suspension mechanicals transmitting satisfactory feedback to the driver. Lane position was easily maintained, even when encountering numerous chuckholes and bumps on road surfaces. Overtaking slower vehicles from time to time, the coach had plenty of mid-range oomph to accelerate around these obstacles.
The motorhome’s powertrain exhibited quiet, ample power under most highway circumstances, though it was not quick from a standing start. Early on, we tested its acceleration capability on a flat stretch of highway free of traffic. It logged 0-60 mph runs averaging 32.2 seconds, with 40-60 segments of 18.3 seconds. This performance is about par for the course with one of these big units; especially one like this that had a prodigious wet weight of 28,080 pounds.
We encountered several grades in the 6- to 7-percent range, and the Journey handled them reassuringly, though at a measured pace. We methodically worked our way up San Marcos Pass heading north out of Santa Barbara, Calif., and were impressed with the coach’s staying power on this steep, winding mountain road. Approaching the top of the pass, we managed to grind out 43 mph at 2,800 rpm in third gear. Heading down the opposite side of the pass, we engaged the engine’s exhaust brake that slowed us to a comfortable 55 mph.
During our test, we ran into coastal winds and gusts that shook us up a bit, though the coach was minimally fazed. All that was necessary was an alert and steady hand on the wheel to maintain lane position.
As previously mentioned, we encountered plenty of hills, capricious winds, and a long pull over San Marco Pass during the test. As it was, we measured 12.2 mpg, which is pretty decent considering the motorhome’s weight.
Stepping aboard the Journey on our initial walkthrough, the interior’s Hawthorne dÃ©cor treatment ($553) in shades of rich gray, taupe and caramel registered impressions of understated elegance. Establishing its stately ambiance even further are abundant solid wood cabinets and woodwork throughout in a rich, Coffee Glazed Vienna Maple finish, with brushed nickel accents.
Rounding out the elegant interior, designers have chosen lightly hued Corian for all countertops, easily cleanable vinyl tile flooring for lounge, galley and bathroom floors, and plush carpet in the bedroom, dining room and cockpit areas. Also, exterior light and interior privacy are deftly controlled with the inclusion of MCD American Duo solar/blackout roller shades on most windows, with a full windshield electric nightshade for the ultimate convenience. In all, we could find no cheesy trappings in this coach, but instead, a lot of substance and utility from both an aesthetic as well as a comfort and usefulness perspective.
As you enter the bus-style, curbside entry door, you encounter a lounge area replete with a 75-inch Rest Easy convertible sofa streetside followed by a freestanding, extendable 24-inch by 40-inch dining table with two chairs (two additional folding chairs from the cargo compartment, plus an extension segment may be added). On the curbside lounge wall is a smaller, 53-inch convertible sofa, and then a spacious, semi-U shaped mid-coach galley with convenient pullout countertop extension.
Interior and exterior storage areas are abundant and admirably supported by a braggable realistic occupant and cargo carrying capacity (roccc) of 4,270 pounds, due to the brawny chassis’ generous gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) of 32,350 pounds.
Packing gear for our road trip, we made good use of the cavernous, pass-through basement storage bay with removable floor panels, and lower shelves housing lidded containers. Traditional forward, streetside bays were also useful as loading options, and added to the unit’s exterior storage capacity of approximately 181 cubic feet.
Interior storage alternatives are generous as well, with overhead cabinets in the lounge, dinette and bedroom, and plenty of cupboards, closets, and other spaces in the galley and bathroom. For our purposes, we barely tipped the scale as far as loading this roomy motorhome.
Finally arriving at our destination for the evening, it was a cinch to guide the sizeable, 36-foot 8-inch coach around the RV park’s tightly configured maze of roadways to our site. Once parked on a relatively level pull-through, we activated the one-touch, hydraulic leveling jacks, slid out our three room extensions, and instantly felt the love with the overall spaciousness and residential ambiance. In measuring the combined lounge and galley area, we came up with approximately 148 square feet of floor space.
Getting comfortable in the forward lounge after a busy day on the road, the two sofas helped ease our aching joints with their pliant comfort. With feet up thanks to the Rest Easy sofa’s one-button, multi-position feature and pullout ottoman, we were treated to all the comforts of home.
At the heart of the coach’s A/V interior setup are two TVs: a 40-inch LCD flat-screen on a forward facing, streetside dinette wall, and a 26-inch LED in the bedroom.
With a galley as tricked out as the one in this coach, you almost hate to mess up its broad, approximately 22 square feet of available counter area. We chose the easy way and gave the convection oven/microwave a workout. In no time at all, we had two frozen dinners piping hot, and served up across the aisle at the streetside dining table.
The rear master bedroom is well laid out, with a 60-by-80-inch queen-size air-type mattress as its centerpiece. The “Ideal Rest Comfort Digital Control” mattress with remotes ($770) is a step up from conventional inner spring iterations. The bedroom’s curbside chest of drawers can hold a virtual ton of goods, and on the opposing wall is a generous 21-inch deep by 42-inch high by 75-inch long closet with mirrored sliding doors for hanging clothes. Topping things off in the bedroom is a demur ceiling fan ($119), which is a welcome surprise.
Despite the condensed, but acceptable, space afforded in the bedroom, it was easy enough to get around the bed with 18 inches of aisle space for quick make-ups, and to access closets and cabinets for stored apparel. A 19-inch-deep by 24-inch-wide by 69-inch-high curbside utility closet is also located in the hallway between the galley and bedroom, which can additionally be pressed into service for storing towels, clothing, gear, or even an optional washer/dryer.
Washing up in the enclosed, streetside shower/toilet room with included washstand proved adequate, though snug considering the overall size of the floorplan. Nevertheless, there is sufficient room in its 26-inch-deep by 40-inch-wide by 81-inch-high shower stall for a decent scrub up. A porcelain toilet also shares floor space in this zone, with 17 inches of foot space in front. The only thing we didn’t care for here is the smallish bathroom for a coach this size.
Winnebago’s 2012 Journey 36M floorplan has a bounty of contemporary features and residential appointments. With a full-wall, curbside slide to enhance the spaciousness of lounge and galley zones, plus a powerful and reliable Freightliner Maxum chassis to move it around, this coach should make a worthy and luxurious traveling companion in no uncertain terms.
Full-wall curbside slide, abundant storage with pass-through external bay, generous interior living space, one-piece windshield, extra washstand with medicine cabinet in bedroom, power door lock with remote.
Small bathroom, navigation system not standard equipment and dash mounted nav screen too low to be effectively viewed by driver.
Fuel Economy: 12.2 mpg
0-60: 32.2 sec
40-60: 18.3 sec
model: Freightliner Maxum
engine: 6.7-l Cummins ISB turbodiesel
sae hp: 360 hp @ 2,400 rpm
torque: 800 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm
transmission: 6-speed Allison 3000MH
axle ratio: 4.78:1
brakes, f/r: disc/drum air assist with ABS
suspension, f/r: Neway air bag
fuel cap: 100 gal
warranty: 3 yrs/50,000 miles
ext length: 36′ 8″
ext width: 8′ 5.5″
ext height (with A/C): 12′ 9″
int width: 8′ .5″
int height: 7′
construction: steel/aluminum framework and substructures with interlocking joints, crowned fiberglass roof and fiberglass side walls, polystyrene block foam insulation
freshwater cap: 102 gal
black-water cap: 46 gal
gray-water cap: 60 gal
water-heater cap: 10 gal
lp-gas cap: 28 gal
air conditioner (2): 13,500 btu
furnace: 40,000 btu
refrigerator: 12 cu ft
inverter: 2,000 watts
battery (6): 2 AGM 12-volt chassis,
4 AGM 12-volt coach
ac generator: 8 kW
base msrp: $246,498
msrp as tested: $253,762
warranty: 1 yr/15,000 miles
(water & heater, fuel, lp-gas tanks full; no supplies or passengers)
front axle: 10,420 lbs
rear axle: 17,660 lbs
total: 28,080 lbs
gawr, f/r: 12,350/20,000 lbs
gvwr/gcwr: 32,350/42,350 lbs
roccc: 4,270 lbs
(deduct weight of passengers for
net cargo capacity)
gawr: gross axle weight rating
gvwr: gross vehicle weight rating
gcwr: gross combination weight rating
roccc: realistic occupant & cargo carrying capacity (full water, no passengers)