Beyond driving nirvana, the Marathon H3-45 motor coach activates one’s senses and feeds the desire for pure luxury
There’s a certain mystique about bus conversions. After all, they are the rides of choice for the rich and famous, including entertainers and bands that trek over the highways from gig to gig. So it only makes sense that the general populace can only daydream about what it’s like to travel in ultimate, or maybe more accurately, opulent, comfort and luxury.
Coaches built within a Prevost shell are most common in this high-end segment, and with budgets seemingly inconsequential, loading these roving palaces with the best appliances, materials and accessories money can buy is the norm. One of the most recognizable names in the bus conversion market is Marathon Coach, a company based in Eugene, Oregon, that excels in building coaches that will require owners to part with almost $2.5 million during acquisition.
Obviously, these are not cookie-cutter motorhomes with factory-designed floorplans, so potential owners play an active role in developing the interior décor, overall styling and theme. Since all sales are factory-direct, Marathon assembled a new show coach, the 45-foot H3-45, featuring four slideouts and a number of popular livability elements, which was targeted for this evaluation.
OK. What’s not to like? If you are one of the lucky few who can afford such a mobile palace and something is not exactly to your liking, the culprit for such missteps is likely staring at you in the mirror. Marathon has made a science of successfully planning and executing coaches that exceeds expectations, and provides a foundation for travel that is almost impossible to beat. The company prides itself in working closely with clients to ensure perfection is achieved.
Right from the get-go, owning a Marathon and the process to become an owner is usually driven (literally) by the person in the family who thrives on piloting the ultimate machine on eight wheels. Those who drive fancy cars and enjoy the finer things in life are attracted to piloting a vehicle that exhibits precise road manners and provides enough fodder to feed an insatiable ego.
The key to driving prowess is the Prevost bus, which is solid, heavy and provides exhilarating performance, even when propelling 55,000 pounds of coach down the highway. This Marathon is powered by a Volvo D13, 500-hp commercial-grade diesel engine tied to a six-speed Allison transmission. Like all Prevost-based motor coaches, the Marathon is no slouch when it comes to ripping down the highway and gobbling up grades with alacrity. It’s quite a spirited machine, relatively speaking, that stimulates one’s senses into a feeling of driving nirvana that makes long stints on the road about as pleasant as they can be.
Obviously, the machine quotient brings out the macho in any driver, especially those who are used to piloting expensive vehicles wrapped in luxury and performance, but the livability experience can be catapulted into the stratosphere, only dependent on your bank account. The H3-45 is an exercise in opulence, considering the conversion and option costs will reach $1.7 million; the rest is the cost of the Prevost shell.
Inside, the elegance will have those not indoctrinated in the luxury motor coach lifestyle rolling their eyes. For those experienced with this level of motorhome travel, the H3-45 is a prime example of how luxury materials, high-end appliances and high-tech electronics meld into a motor coach that provides exceptional comfort and convenience. The bottom line: Marathon’s long experience in the field makes it easy to create living quarters that reflect the personalities of the buyers.
The front entry leads to the cockpit. In true tour-bus fashion, the driver and passenger seats are mounted lower than the main floor, which is accessed via steps and a curved handrail. Surrounded by well-placed instrumentation and controls, the driver has an acute command of the road, and is planted on an ISRI air seat that provides plenty of tush and back support. This seat is the world standard for bus drivers and is upholstered by Marathon. There’s no fatigue when piloting the coach down the road for long stints — something to which entertainers who travel from city to city can attest.
Interestingly, Prevost has resisted the temptation to replace the two-piece windshield with a single glass counterpart, something that usually begs the question “why?” from prospective buyers. The glass is still plenty big and really doesn’t restrict the view of the road, and there is a method to the company’s madness. These buses see millions of miles on the road and the odds of getting damaged by flying rocks are much greater. Typically, only one glass panel has to be replaced at time, and is much less expensive than having to buy an expansive, one-piece windshield. That thought brought a chuckle considering the financial status of the owners.
Behind the cockpit seats is a parlor that exudes the highest level of luxury. While the show floorplan is one chosen by the company, it represents a strong platform for customers to work with when designing their own coach. Of note in coaches on the H-shell is the lower roofline. At 83 inches, it actually has a much warmer look, and since the ceiling sculpture is not overstated, the room is a magnet for lounging and enjoying the wonderful view out the generous placement of windows. The big benefit of the H-shell is the more spacious storage lockers; buyers can get 6 more inches of headroom with the X-shell option.
Prevost shell, flush slideouts, full-body paint, custom interiors, air-pocket doors, luxury appliances, entertainment system
Other than the price, what’s not to like?
Taking advantage of four slides, manufactured and installed by Valid Slide Co. in British Columbia, Canada, the Marathon is as spacious as a motor coach can get. In the front parlor, opposing slides disappear in to the interior landscape when extended, and the floor on the passenger slide is flush with the beautiful wood flooring; the lip on the driver’s side slide is carefully concealed by the furniture. Outside, the slides blend into the painted surface as if they were not there.
While no floorplan/décor package is alike, the show coach sports elements that appeal to typical buyers looking for a high-line motor coach. Outsiders of the luxury bus conversion fraternity tend to imagine these interiors are flashy, which is quite the opposite here. The interior is classy and the materials are obviously high-end, but, for example, the ceiling is not gaudy and outlandish. Maybe the lower ceiling height demands a statelier look, but in any case, it works incredibly well, especially in the front parlor.
Blend in the elements that exude pure comfort and owners will relish hanging out inside — and entertaining guests. Of course, many of the owners don’t cook elaborate meals, so the galley will be considered on the small side when compared to some mainstream diesel pushers. Stove and sink inserts extend the versatility of the solid-surface countertop and a practical selection of drawers and cabinets handles storage for a well-equipped kitchen.
Cabinetry is made from laminates supplied by Laminart, Formica, Polyrey and DuPont, and built using birch plywood, which is straight, strong, lightweight and non-porous. All the drawers are made of stranded bamboo and are lined with a nice fabric — as are the cabinet shelves. The end result is a network of radius-corner laminates that scream “high-end” luxury and look very clean. Add in the touches of glass doors, strategic lighting and stunning décor, and it becomes clear that these items are usually reserved for high-priced custom homes. Most of the interiors feature a two-tone laminate look that contrasts nicely with the wood floor.
The galley shares the front streetside slideout with the couch. It’s well equipped, although just about everything is concealed behind laminate cabinetry. A Fisher & Paykel dishwasher is built into a drawer and the same brand refrigerator is virtually undetectable behind laminated doors adjacent to the galley. It’s all part of that mystique of a luxury bus and is further represented by a newly conceived convenience center across from the galley. Here an air-pocket door opens with a push of a button (think spaceship stuff) revealing a coffee/espresso machine, a steam oven and wine cooler, all made by Miele, of course.
Sharing the same wall is another air-pocket door that leads to the half-bath. The pocket doors, other than being sexy and fun, keep the aisle uncluttered and visually open, even when in use.
Establishing a focal point inside is a process that takes time when deciding on elements to meet the customer’s lifestyle. In the show coach, it’s the living room, which is rather understated intentionally because the trend seems to be going toward keeping things uncluttered. Make no mistake, this understatement is still highly luxurious, but there’s not a lot of bling here — something that really works well.
Seating arrangements are fairly conventional, albeit the upholstery is top notch and beautiful to look at, not to mention comfortable. Behind the driver’s compartment is a 78-inch sofa that converts into a bed for guests. Across is a Danish-made recliner next to an occasional table that doubles as a desk when the extension is pulled out. The adjacent L-shaped dinette is really comfy for two people, but can handle two more guests in a pinch. And the table is controlled by a motor, so it can be positioned easily for dining or when working on a computer or other projects.
Model Prevost H3-45
Engine Volvo D13
SAE hp 500 @ 1,500-1,800 rpm
Torque 1,750 lb-ft @ 1,050 rpm
Transmission Allison 6-speed
Axle Ratio 3.91:1-4.10:1
Front Tires 365/70R22.5
Drive Axle Tires 315/80R22.5
Tag Axle Tires 365/70R22.5
Brakes Air disc
Suspension Air, outboard shocks
Fuel Capacity 235 gal
Fuel Economy 6.5 mpg
Warranty 24 months bumper-to-bumper/5 years engine/transmission
Exterior Length 45′
Exterior Width 8′ 6″
Exterior Height 12′ 5″ with A/C
Interior Width 8′ 0″
Interior Height 6′ 11″
Construction Fiber composite shell,
303 surgical-grade stainless-steel
Freshwater Capacity 158 gal
Black-water Capacity 70 gal
Gray-water Capacity 91 gal
Water-heater Capacity 22 gal
LP-gas Capacity N/A
Air Conditioner (4) 15,000 Btu
Furnace Espar Hydronic 55,000 Btu
Refrigerator 17 cubic-foot
Inverter/Charger (2) 4,000 watt/33 amp
Batteries (4) 24-volt AGM chassis,
(6) 4D AGM coach
AC Generator 20 kW
MSRP as tested $2,433,569
Warranty 24 months bumper-to-bumper
(Water & heater, fuel, LP-gas tanks full; no supplies or passengers)
Front Axle Custom
Drive Axle Custom
Tag Axle Custom
GAWR, F/Drive 19,000 lbs/22,500 lbs
Tag Axle 14,000 lbs
GVWR/GCWR 55,000 lbs/75,000 lbs
GAWR Gross Axle Weight Rating
GVWR Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
GCWR Gross Combination Weight Rating
ROCCC Realistic Occupant and Cargo Carrying Capacity (full water, no passengers)
Large windows surrounding the parlor provide an almost panoramic view to the outside and are dark tinted so peeking inside during the day is nearly impossible. To darken the room, day/night duet shades can be employed with a touch of a button on the iPads mounted on magnetic launch pads in the bedroom, living room and outside entertainment bay. Just about everything is integrated through Crestron Electronics programming, which makes operating the TV screens, blinds, AV gear and HVAC touch-screen simple in a wireless environment. The iPad functions are mirrored on a hardwired screen in the cockpit allowing redundant operation of the coach accessories should the iPads develop a glitch, or the driver wants to make adjustments.
As expected, entertainment equipment is audiophile quality. The main TV screen flips down from the ceiling in the cockpit and a second screen is positioned on the wall behind the driver’s seat. High-end AV components are mounted in a rack positioned in the outside bay and are cooled by their own air conditioner. There’s a TV in the bedroom and one (50-inch) in the entertainment bay that can be articulated on its mounting bracket.
The back living area is devoted to a grand master bedroom and the rear bathroom. According to Marathon, the bathroom in this model is the biggest in the market, featuring an additional 16 inches of space. Beautiful appointments in the tiled shower stall lure owners to luxuriate under the water for longer periods of time. There’s a double vanity and a Thetford Tecma toilet — and plenty of closet space. Push a button and an air-pocket door slides open to reveal the rear wardrobe. And, of course, the pocket door to the bathroom is also controlled by air. The door here is almost all glass, and becomes opaque when pushing another button, affording privacy.
Step into the bedroom and you’ll see a king bed that occupies much of the space, surrounded by copious closet and drawer placement. Viewing the big 49-inch TV from bed is nearly perfect, especially when another button is pushed and the back portion of the mattress raises. One of the iPad control tablets is mounted above the nightstand on the forward side of the bed, as is the multiplex switching panel, which can also be found positioned on walls throughout the interior.
Although a lower roofline can reduce the visual perception inside the coach, the four slides do a marvelous job of countering any lack of spaciousness. Larger storage bays are the beneficiaries of the H-model shell. Five bays can be accessed from between the axles and two have a pass-through configuration. This bus was actually developed in the early 1990s and the bays are a foot taller, which allows for storing a great amount of supplies.
A huge utility bay is quite a sight. All the components are organized neatly and user-friendly. There’s even a disposable-glove dispenser. Interestingly, as complex as this coach is, access to service points are better than those in most gas-powered and diesel-pusher motorhomes. That theme is carried throughout many areas inside and outside the coach. Not surprisingly, the electrical and plumbing systems are patented, and everything is assembled by hand over many hours — and documented precisely.
Overall, there is not much to want when owning a Marathon 45-foot motor coach, and the build process, which can take up six months, is quite exciting. Those people with the financial wherewithal to purchase such a motorhome can be as creative as they like, and the company is not shy about encouraging opulence and sheer convenience. Throw in a driving machine with masterful handling characteristics, and the Marathon ranks right up there with the best the industry can offer.
Driving into an RV park just about always turns heads, and when on display in shows, people wait in long lines to take a peek. If you’re a Marathon owner, you just have to get used to all that attention.