Great livability both on and off the road makes this triple-slide coach a good choice for entertaining family and friends
At some point when shopping for a Class A motorhome, the inevitable question will be raised: Gas or diesel? From a financial standpoint, it used to be a pretty cut-and-dried answer, as a diesel pusher could easily cost twice that of a gas motorhome. Today the line continues to blur as gas coaches offer more luxurious features, and manufacturers find more creative ways to keep diesel pushers affordable.
With a price disparity that may now be as little as $20,000, it’s almost just a question of which fuel source you prefer.
Winnebago Industries’ Itasca Sunova 35G makes a pretty good argument for going with gas. Positioned just underneath the Winnebago Adventurer/Itasca Suncruiser, the 35G is a triple-slide coach with a focus on entertaining both on the road and at the campsite, with a roomy living area that can accommodate extra guests with aplomb. And while a base price of $159,179 isn’t cheap, this coach offers most of the features you’re likely to want standard, including full-body paint in your choice of Black Mist, Cloud, Denim, or Black Garnet, the color of the test unit.
During the winter months, we ordinarily head south on our tests, but with unseasonably warm weather, we decided to head north, venturing into central California. Like most full-size Class A’s, the Sunova offers an abundance of exterior storage, and only two of the large storage compartments were required to stow everything for our trip. We soon learned, however, that packing the inside was going to be a different story. While the kitchen and bath areas are easily accessible in the travel position, the bedroom is not; the foot of the bed is up against the wardrobe, meaning the slideout must be deployed before stowing folded or hanging clothes. Since our clothes were already in bags, we decided the easiest solution was to place everything on the bed until we arrived at our destination.
Climbing into the cockpit, we found that the Sunova was neither sparse nor luxurious, but it was comfortable and the controls were all within easy reach. A single screen in the middle functions as a display for the rearview camera, sideview cameras and radio, which, while space-saving, isn’t really ideal for travel. It’s not easy to use while driving, and angled toward the driver, it’s not convenient for the co-pilot to use, either – but we suppose over time it would become easier. We did like that the leveling controls are just to the right of the steering column, making it easy to get leveled once you reach your destination. We also really liked Winnebago’s “coach heat” feature, a heat exchanger system that utilizes the engine’s coolant. Those of you who have traveled in cold weather know that the dash heater does little to keep you comfortable while driving, as most of that heat dissipates in the expanse of the coach. Flip on coach heat, and the heat not only comes out of the dash, but the heat registers in the living area. It keeps the whole coach toasty warm when you’re driving in cool weather.
The Ford chassis is the only gas Class A chassis available right now, and unfortunately, it shows. We really wish Ford would do more to improve the driving experience, as the last few coaches we’ve tested on this chassis offer spongy brakes, numb steering and excessive engine noise, especially when driving up hills. While Ford has improved the ride quality of its chassis in recent years with the addition of Bilstein shocks, it needs to do more to make this chassis work for RVers, who expect more than delivery truck ride and handling. That being said, Winnebago has done a good job making the drive as comfortable as possible, with plush Ultraleather seats and a power MCD windshield shade that blocks out the sun.
The living area features an interesting layout with an extendable U-shaped sofa in a curbside slideout, and an opposing slideout with a movable table, a recliner and an entertainment center featuring a 48-inch flat-screen TV and fireplace. Many coaches we’ve tested offer great livability once at camp, but travel leaves something to be desired as the living area becomes a narrow hall once the slides are in. The 35G floorplan, however, makes the journey part of the fun; there are three belted positions on the sofa and the aisle is clear from the living area to the rear bathroom. If you had a motion satellite system, your passengers would be in ideal location to watch TV and go back and grab a drink or snack whenever they desired. At the same time, the cockpit passengers are not too far away or isolated so that they couldn’t chime in on the conversation.
Once at camp, we appreciated the living room layout as well. The table is equipped with wheels on the rear so it is easy to pull into place at the sofa, where it can function as a snack table or dining table once the leaves are deployed. Every spot on the couch has a perfect view of the television, and the optional home theater sound system ($476) seemed to offer good sound, although we only watched cable TV from the RV park connection. We liked the built-in “eye” for the TV remote control in the upper left side of the fireplace cabinet, which is located above a deep cabinet door that has plenty of storage for movies and such. And the recliner, while not really situated for watching TV, serves as a nice spot to sit and read by the fireplace. The only problems we had with this area were with the U-shaped sofa itself; the side nearest the cockpit was very stubborn to pull out, and neither the seating position nor the upholstery were conducive to long-term comfort. The seat backs felt upright, and the upholstery is slick, causing involuntary slouching after only a few minutes. A cushier seat and back, combined with a textured upholstery surface, would probably solve this problem.
Adjacent to the entertainment center in the same slideout is the galley, which features Corian countertops with plenty of space, plus a double-bowl stainless-steel sink with residential-style fixtures. There is no standard oven beneath the three-burner stove, but the upside of this is lots of drawer space – there are seven large drawers below the counter, along with a small but handy pullout pantry, and a large space underneath the sink that can easily house a kitchen trash can.
Above is a residential-sized High Pointe microwave convection oven, three more cabinets, and a pullout spice rack.
The wood-front, double-door refrigerator is located directly across from the sink, and there is plenty of LED living area/task lighting. Overall, the living/galley areas are well executed, but we did find them a bit plain. Most of the interiors offered in the Sunova dÃ©cor palette are comprised of neutral colors, namely beige and light brown, which is probably a safe choice for most people. However, we felt like the area could use more contrast to enhance visual interest.
Just behind the refrigerator is a sliding door that separates the galley/living area from the bedroom. Here, there is a good-sized bathroom on the streetside with decent countertop space, porcelain toilet with sprayer, drawers, cabinet storage and a large mirror. Across the hall is a plain white plastic shower that seemed out of place in a coach like this. It was adequate for the job at hand, but had a flimsy glass door and didn’t make us feel like we were in an upscale motorhome. A textured enclosure with faux tiles and a better door would make a big difference.
The bedroom area is on the small side but comfortable. The 35G comes standard with a powered queen bed topped by an Ideal Rest Nouveau digital comfort control mattress. Like other air mattresses you may be familiar with, this one offers dual remotes that allow each sleeper to adjust firmness to his/her liking. The powered platform is a nice feature for sitting up in bed and watching the 28-inch TV, but we learned that it is as much a necessity as it is a luxury. The space isn’t wide enough to accommodate the length of a queen bed when the slideout is in the travel position, and in fact, the bed must be set to its reclined position before the slideout can be brought in. Other than this oddity, the room works well enough with its mirrored wardrobe, chest of drawers and storage with washer-dryer prep.
Of course, the difference between an entry-level and upscale coach is often in the details, and the same is true with the Sunova. We appreciated that all of the switches throughout the coach are logically placed, and that MCD blackout shades come standard. And like other Winnebago products, this one features the OnePlace command center, which includes the slideout controls (with power lock), tank monitors, PowerLine energy management system and Xantrex inverter panel. The only thing we thought could be improved was the heat distribution from the furnace. The bedroom and rear bathroom stayed nice and warm during the night, but in the morning, we found it necessary to turn on the fireplace to heat up the living area.
Another area we thought could use improvement was the utility center. The dump valves are located inside a rear compartment, but the cutout in the floor isn’t big enough for the sewer hose or even the 50-amp power cord to pass through, so the door had to be kept open. And, both the compartment door and the slideout are directly above, so head-knocking opportunities are numerous and ever present.
Like most motorhomes, the Itasca Sunova isn’t without its flaws, but for the most part, is a comfortable, livable motorhome that should serve family and friends well for many memorable journeys to come.
Winnebago Industries Inc. | 641-585-3535 | www.goitasca.com