Tiffin thinks outside the box with its highly maneuverable diesel pusher powered by a new high-tech Cummins V-8 engine
Diesel pushers are the crown jewels of motorhomes and represent the most luxurious and largest models offered to the RV community. So when someone mentions a 33½-footer, the natural reaction is to assume that a gasser is the subject of the conversation. Tiffin Motorhomes, a longtime builder of motorhomes from entry-level Class A’s to ultraluxury pushers, is mixing up the playing field somewhat by introducing its totally redesigned Breeze – a more svelte, fully fledged diesel pusher with a lot to talk about.
The Breeze is not new but has gone through a transformation over the past few years to make it truly a motorhome in a class by itself. Its handsomely detailed compact stature features “pusheresque” design elements – supported by gorgeous full-body paint – that are clearly intended to appeal to enthusiasts who want to step up from a gas-powered Class A. What’s under the rear hood, though, is what confirms the company’s outside-the-box thinking when it comes to propelling this stately motorhome. After three years of collaboration with Cummins, the result is a diesel engine, the ISV5.0, which defies the odds for motorhome propulsion. For one, the motorhome has a 24,500-pound gross vehicle weight rating but the diesel engine has considerably less horsepower and torque than the Cummins engine powering a Ram pickup. And the motorhome pushes a lot more air than a pickup, so the forces of nature are not in favor of aerodynamics.
Does it work? The short answer is “yes,” but there are a few caveats. It’s not a rocket ship by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets the job done – and with pretty decent fuel economy. We drove the Breeze over a 1,200-mile course from the company’s Red Bay, Alabama, headquarters to our destination at Low Key Hideaway in Cedar Key, Florida, and fuel economy hovered around 10 mpg during the entire trip.
The Cummins V-8 diesel is a state-of-the-art machine that uses the latest technology for durability and emission cleanliness. It employs a VGT turbocharger to spike the ponies and overall, it’s quiet and responsive. We didn’t get a chance to tow a vehicle during the trip, but Tiffin boasts a hitch receiver rated at 4,500 pounds, which may be somewhat optimistic if the motorhome is going to see much hill climbing.
Out of the chute, the Breeze accelerates with respectable power, but the hills slow it down. We were not uncomfortable with the performance as a whole, and accepted the fact that slowing down on the hills was a small compromise in return for consistent double-digit fuel economy, but those with a penchant to crest a grade first might be a little disappointed. Part of that hill-climbing slowdown can be attributed to a lag in downshifting, which is something that should be able to be reprogrammed through the computer.
Once you wrap your mind around the benefits of a more nimble motorhome with all the amenities and many of the luxury features reserved for the big boys – and tie it into the comfortable cockpit – you’ll settle down into a predictable driving experience as you become acclimated to minor idiosyncrasies exhibited by the chassis and drivetrain. Except for some wind noise emanating from the windshield and less-than-stellar steering accuracy, the ride quality was relatively smooth. A ZF independent front suspension and air system kept the bumps at bay and the proprietary PowerGlide chassis does a good job keeping the motorhome close to the road. We did find too much steering wander in windy conditions and when being passed by big trucks, which caused driver fatigue after a few hours on the road. We called that issue to the attention of Tiffin’s top brass and learned that the test motorhome was an early production model and the engineering staff was still tweaking the chassis. We were also informed that front tire pressure affects steering precision. Based on Tiffin’s legendary track record for service, we feel confident our concerns will be addressed and corrected in a timely fashion.
Once you get the motorhome settled into position on a site, a push of a button sets the HWH air leveling system in motion. The system does a good job of stabilizing the body so there’s virtually no movement while wandering around inside. Depending on the geography of the site, the front might end up too low to activate the electric step, but it can be turned off when the entry well is at a good height in relation to the ground. The front entry door is on the short side, so it will take a few knocks on the head to remember to duck, and a lip on the threshold is a trip hazard, which Tiffin recognizes and claims it will modify in subsequent production units.
Having the front entry door, like most diesel pushers, provides necessary floorplan versatility to promote the feeling of openness within a smaller footprint. It’s a tried-and-true floorplan, using a common component placement, like the split bath, but Tiffin added enough interesting touches to keep the inside from feeling ordinary. For example, the optional wraparound dinette in the front living room not only looks good, but also can seat at least four adults. The table is easily adjustable, which comes in handy when working on a computer or craft projects, or converting the surface into a bed. The low-profile, visually appealing seat backs could use some reconfiguration so those sitting on the cushion can have more back support while dining.
With the cockpit seats swiveled toward the rear, the space up front can be transformed into a roomy area for quite a few people to congregate. The opposing slides in the living room do a tremendous job of opening up the front section, but viewing the television sets from the couch and/or dinette – one high up in the cockpit and the other facing the front adjacent to the galley – takes some neck stretching.
Sharing the space in the streetside slideout with the couch, which can be converted into a bed for two, is the compact galley. At first look, we felt the galley would be too small to prepare anything but simple meals, maybe because the lower ceiling height (than typical diesel pushers) created less visual spaciousness, but the opposite was true. First of all, the lower ceiling height turned out to be an asset and one that created a much more intimate living experience. And it’s easier to control comfort heating and air conditioning in this type of an interior environment.
Componentry in the kitchen is well-proportioned and centers around a large stainless sink and high-rise faucet. The galley counter is extended when the cover for the two-burner cooktop is down and there are plenty of cabinets to store foodstuffs, which can also be packed into the large cabinets above the adjacent couch; a pullout pantry aids in this department. All the cabinetry throughout the motorhome is crafted of hardwoods with ball-bearing drawer slides, and is mounted to the ceiling for strength. Most of the cooking duties are handled by the microwave convection oven.
Across from the galley is the optional residential refrigerator that was right sized for the motorhome and next door is another pantry that swallowed up a lot of supplies.
The entire front section of the motorhome can be closed off by a sliding door with a decorative opaque window insert. This door is as classy looking as it is functional. When closed, the split bath and rear bedroom are isolated and private – and turn the rear section into a large master suite. A split bath – shower on one side of the aisle and the toilet room on the other – has been used for years in motorhomes where space is limited. Beyond the space consideration, a split bath makes sense. It allows for placement of a large shower, which in this case was exceptionally roomy. On the other hand, the toilet room was on the cramped side and could use a little more room around the china commode. We reasoned that unless you like to linger in the bathroom, the smallish dimensions should not be a deal breaker. We were happy with the sink size and counter space, but would like to see the extra-large cabinet reconfigured so as not to impede the use of the sink.
As you move into the slide-free rear bedroom, you’ll find that the additional room normally afforded by an expanding wall is not really missed. The queen-size bed fits symmetrically against the rear wall and is surrounded by a generous number of cabinets, including one fairly good-size wardrobe and a linen closet on opposing sides of the aisle as you enter the bedroom.
The memory-foam mattress is a pleasure to sleep on and large windows on both sides provide excellent ventilation and ambient lighting. As in the rest of the motorhome, privacy window shades are controlled by cords, and the LED lighting operates via a multiplex switch system. Since wall space is limited, the TV in the bedroom is built into a flip-down cabinet right above the mattress and is easily viewed while lying down.
DÃ©cor wise, the Tiffin folks use a combination of dark-color cabinetry (Cordovan) that contrasts vividly against the Zest fabric package that includes white/beige leatherette upholstery on the couch and dinette. The tile flooring looks like wood and works well with the overall look inside this motorhome. The dÃ©cor might be a little dark for some people, but it’s certainly rich looking and modern. Solid-surface countertops, large windows and a light-colored padded ceiling all contribute nicely to the interior aesthetics.
As a family business, the Tiffins have long prided themselves in build quality and customer service and the Breeze is another example of such tight workmanship. A sound network of tubular aluminum is used to build the walls, floor and roof, and the motorhome feels solid. The roof is capped with one-piece fiberglass and the laminated side walls are fitted with gelcoat fiberglass on the exterior, which is beautifully painted. Flush-mounted slideouts really dress up the exterior appearance, as do the polished-aluminum wheels. Concealed behind a flip-up door in the patio slideout is the fourth LED TV.
Most of the exterior accessories are placed judiciously so that the exterior lines are not interrupted, but we did find the sideview mirror on the passenger side a little low. Visually, it provided a safe view for negotiating traffic, but we crashed our heads into the arm while walking around the front of the motorhome more times than we care to admit.
Clearly, the Breeze has been crafted to offer a high level of luxury and exceptional maneuverability for those who also like to venture outside commercial RV parks. It lives, looks and feels like one of the “big boys” but offers all the attributes of a more compact motorhome. All the systems are in place to make the motorhome highly livable and there are plenty of high-tech features to keep any owner happy. Storage is not plentiful, but the swing-out compartment doors lead to a surprising amount of space for packing essentials, although the pass-through component is more limited. The utility center is well-marked and easy to use.
Not everyone wants to tool around in a big motorhome, but diesel-pusher enthusiasts are not likely to sideline luxury just to gain maneuverability, which is where the Breeze excels. The Breeze offers an option that is not commonly found in the marketplace and it comes from a company that values its customers.
I can still remember Tiffin’s sales representatives demonstrating the integrity of the build by doing chin-ups on the overhead cabinets. The Breeze, while not for everyone, is just another example of Tiffin’s commitment to innovation.
Tiffin Motorhomes | 256-356-8661 | www.tiffinmotorhomes.com