Monaco Coach Corporation is offering this diesel pusher at an entry-level price and equipping it with many standard features.
By Lazelle D. Jones
In 2002 Monaco Coach Corporation designed the diesel-powered Cayman type A motorhome to bridge the price gap between gasoline-powered and diesel-powered coaches. Today, with a manufacturer’s base suggested retail price beginning at approximately $113,000 (for the 30-foot model), the Cayman makes stepping into the realm of diesel-pusher ownership a distinct possibility for many motorhome enthusiasts.
The Cayman is available in four lengths — 30, 32, 34, and 36 feet — and four floor plans. Every Cayman floor plan has two slideouts.
Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to test a 36-foot Cayman — model 36PBD — which I picked up at the Monaco factory in Coburg, Oregon. From that point, I spent seven days and traveled more than 1,000 miles in the motorhome. During my test outing, I discovered many more pluses inherent in this diesel-powered coach than just its relative affordability.
The Cayman has a width of 100.5 inches and a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 24,000 pounds. It comes with a receiver hitch and can tow another 4,000 pounds. With a tank full of fuel, the maximum 80 gallons of fresh water, and 10 gallons of LP gas (the LP tank holds 31 or 38 gallons, depending on the model), the unit we reviewed weighed 20,000 pounds. Thus, it could have accommodated approximately another 4,000 pounds of cargo, passengers, and additional fluids in the holding tanks.
In developing this coach, Monaco designers set about keeping down the weight of the Cayman wherever possible by using strong yet lightweight construction materials. Aluminum C-channel framing forms the coach’s walls and roof; the C-channel members intersect one another in a grid pattern called Alumaframe Superstructure construction. Every intersection is welded. Fiberglass insulation is packed between the vertical and horizontal structural members, and single sheets of .040-gauge aluminum skin are riveted to the outside. New for 2003, smooth, gelcoat fiberglass exterior walls are available as an option.
The Cayman’s cockpit is built around a welded tubular-steel cage. The roof consists of aluminum skin that is bonded to solid foam insulation with a lauan backing. The two roof pieces are joined lengthwise down the center of the coach, and the entire roof is sealed with a barrier designed to be impervious to the elements. The foam insulation in each of the two roof sections is wedge-shaped; this creates a centerline roof crown that facilitates water runoff.
The floor is constructed using welded tubular steel, and foam insulation is cut to fit and installed between the steel members. The inside floor surface consists of a composite wood that is anchored to the steel floor members. The back side of the interior floor is dressed with a product called Darco, a moisture- and puncture-resistant membrane.
The Monaco Roadmaster R4R Series chassis was designed specifically for the Cayman. It features an air-suspension system with four outboard-mounted air bags and custom-tuned gas shock absorbers.
To achieve equitable weight distribution, the Cayman’s fuel tank and holding tanks span the entire width of the coach. Pass-through storage compartments are also a hallmark of the Roadmaster chassis. This coach’s exterior storage bays are made of molded polyethylene and anchored to the bottom side of the floor. Buyers can choose an optional 12-volt electric heater to protect the holding tanks in cold weather. The heater will be standard beginning in 2003 models.
The Roadmaster R4R series chassis comes with a 275-horsepower Cummins ISB turbocharged diesel engine that yields 600 foot-pounds of torque at 1,600 rpm. It’s coupled with an Allison 2000 MH five-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. In my opinion, this combination creates a good power-to-coach weight ratio. A new option in the 2003 models is a Cummins ISB 300-horsepower engine and Allison MH2000 transmission.
Right out of the gate, I was impressed with the Cayman’s fuel economy. I drove south from Coburg to Sacramento, California, rather hurriedly, as I was being chased by a late-winter snowstorm. I drove the maximum speeds allowed along the interstate, which climbed the mountain passes of the Cascades, and averaged a very respectable 10.4 miles per gallon. Actually, that is better than respectable — it’s excellent. The fuel tank, which can be filled from either side of the coach, holds 75 gallons. That puts the potential driving range of the Cayman at approximately 700 miles. Since diesel fuel costs less than gasoline in some states (significantly less, in some places), buyers have yet another reason to consider this coach.
The exhaust brake did a good job of slowing the motorhome, and I liked how the cruise control worked. It permits drivers to incrementally increase or decrease the speed of the coach without canceling the current speed setting and starting over.
An engine, transmission, and fuel delivery service center at the rear of the coach makes routine maintenance, including fluid level checks, uncomplicated. An electronic data port located in the engine compartment enables any authorized Cummins service center technician to download performance information for troubleshooting.
I found driving the Cayman to be a pleasant experience. With its 50-degree front turning radius, the coach was easy to maneuver and navigate in urban settings. I also liked the fact that the dash heating system really did deliver hot air; in my experience, many diesel coaches do not provide adequate dash heat. However, as with any coach that has a massive windshield, it’s a good idea to augment the defrost function with auxiliary dash fans.
The fabric-covered captains chairs were comfortable, even over the long haul from Oregon to California. (Soft-touch vinyl chairs are standard in 2003 models.) The dash instrumentation package features large, legible gauges. The number of gauges in the instrument cluster has been kept to a minimum for simplicity’s sake.
A large, sliding driver’s-side window provides good visibility and ventilation. However, I pointed out to Monaco officials after our test that the window could use a pull-down shade to help deflect excessive heat and light. Such a shade can be purchased as an aftermarket accessory.
Monaco designers’ focus on working smarter to contain costs without compromising quality becomes evident during a Monaco plant tour. For example, I was impressed with the way the Cayman’s fiberglass dash is dressed with a finished vinyl cover. Sheets of vinyl are heated and then lowered over the dash, which has been sprayed with an adhesive. A vacuum bonding process is then used to remove every last bit of air from between the fiberglass and the vinyl. The end product looks absolutely flawless. But equally important is the fact that the time required for an employee to do this job has been reduced from two hours to 25 minutes. Such cost savings are passed along to the coach buyer.
The Cayman comes standard with an Onan 6.5-kilowatt LP-gas generator. The 2003 models offer an Onan 7.5-kilowatt Quiet Diesel generator as an option. In terms of electrical power, the coach is wired for 50-amp shore power and comes with a 30-foot shore power cable. AC receptacles (120 volts) with ground fault circuit interrupters are located in the living, galley, dinette, bath, and bedroom areas.
The coach’s forced-air heating system features a 35,000-Btu LP-gas furnace that is centrally ducted fore and aft through a system of adjustable floor registers. Dual roof air conditioners (a 13,500-Btu unit and an 11,000-Btu low-profile unit) are standard on the 36PBD model. (They are not standard on the other floor plans.) The roof air conditioners are centrally ducted through a plenum that services the adjustable registers that lace the ceiling, front to rear.
The water heater holds 6 gallons, and the gray water and black water tanks each hold approximately 52 gallons.
Entertainment equipment on this coach includes a dash-mounted AM-FM radio with a CD player, and additional speakers in the bedroom. A 25-inch stereo TV is situated in the living area, above the windshield; a 19-inch bedroom TV is now available as an option.
My test coach was equipped with an optional push-button three-point hydraulic leveling system, which operates with one jack up front and two in the rear.
The front slideout encompasses the streetside galley and the living area sofa, and also contains overhead cabinets. This slideout is powered by an HWH hydraulic mechanism. The rear bedroom slideout is also on the street side and includes the head of the queen-size island bed. It is powered by an electric slideout mechanism. Automotive-type bulb seals are used in each slideout, and a rubber wiper removes moisture from the exterior walls when the slideout is retracted. Awnings are situated above the slideouts to repel debris, rain, and moisture. Both slideouts are operated from a control panel located near the center-aisle bath. It’s a good location, as one can see both slideouts as they move. This central panel also includes the systems monitor and the generator start-stop switch.
The front slideout measures approximately 11 feet long, 68 inches high, and 18 inches deep. When extended, it yields quite a bit of added living space. However, as with all Cayman models, plenty of room is still available to move through the living and galley areas when the slideout is retracted. It needn’t be extended every time you want to take a break at a rest area or stop for lunch.
Plush, padded carpet dresses the floor in the living and bedroom areas. The galley and bathroom floors appear to be covered with ceramic tile, but the material actually is high-gloss vinyl that has been patterned to appear that way. Again, by using this product, Monaco helps to increase the cargo-carrying capacity of the coach, yet not compromise aesthetics.
Raised-panel oak door cabinetry and laminated countertop surfaces in the galley, dinette, bath, and bedroom create continuity. The Cayman is available in three interior color combinations: Oxford Blue, Cobblestone, and Lavender Mist. My test unit featured the Cobblestone color scheme.
The windows are outfitted with mini-blinds sequestered behind fabric-covered valances and lambrequins. Coordinating fabric covers the sofa and swivel chair and the dinette bench seats.
The galley in the 36PBD is well-appointed. On the curb side is a booth dinette, a double-door refrigerator, and a pantry that stretches from floor to ceiling. An ice maker can be added to the refrigerator as an option. On the street side is a dual fiberglass sink, a microwave oven, and a three-burner cook top. A conventional oven is available as an option below the cook top, and a microwave-convection oven also is optional. Yet another small pantry is situated to the left of the cook top. An optional ceiling fan may be added to the galley.
Pocket doors at the front and rear of the Cayman’s center aisle lend privacy to the bath area. A private area for the toilet, a sink and vanity, a medicine cabinet, and a roomy sit-down shower with a skylight number among the bathroom appointments. A neo-angled bathtub is available as an option in this model.
A floor-to-ceiling wall cabinet covered by louvered doors is just aft of the toilet area, providing space for an optional washer-dryer unit.
The bedroom in the Cayman 36PBD is replete with a coach-wide storage complex across the rear that consists of a wardrobe with two sliding, mirrored doors and a stack of drawers and storage cabinets. The head of the bed is positioned on the streetside wall, and the bed moves in and out with the nightstands when the slideout is extended and retracted. Storage cabinets are located above the head of the bed. Facing the foot of the bed on the curbside wall is a floor-to-ceiling cabinet complex that is designed to hold generous amounts of personal gear. The bed lifts up to reveal storage space for blankets and bulky items.
For 2003, the base suggested retail price of the Cayman 36PBD with value package is $121,738. The value package, new for 2003, includes interior and exterior upgrades such as raised-panel cabinet doors, Corian countertops in the galley and bath areas, a Corian sink in the bath area, upgraded lighting, and a painted exterior skirt and mask.
Motorhome builders are always looking for ways to work smarter, to be innovative, and to improve product quality. With the Cayman, it appears that Monaco has achieved these goals. For many motorhome buyers, the Cayman can be a steppingstone into the realm of diesel pusher coaches.
Manufacturer . . . Monaco Coach Corporation, 91320 Coburg Industrial Way, Coburg, OR 97408; (800) 634-0855; fax: (541) 681-8899; www.monacocoach.com
Model . . . Monaco Cayman
Floor plan . . . 36PBD
Chassis . . . Roadmaster R4R Series
Engine . . . Cummins ISB, 275 horsepower; 600 foot-pounds torque @ 1,600 rpm; Cummins ISB 300-horsepower engine optional
Transmission . . . Allison 2000 MH with overdrive; five-speed automatic
Axle ratio . . . 4.88 to 1
Tires . . . 255/70R 22.5
Wheelbase . . . 228 inches
Brakes . . . 4-wheel disc, air over hydraulic, ABS
Suspension . . . air bags, outward-mounted, with custom-tuned shocks
Alternator . . .160 amps
Batteries . . . chassis — (2) 12-volt Group 31; house — (2) 6-volt deep-cycle; optional inverter with two additional house batteries
Steering . . . power
Inverter . . . 1,500-watt, optional
Electrical service . . . 50 amps
Auxiliary generator . . . 6.5-kilowatt Onan, LP gas
Exterior length . . . 36 feet 4 inches
Exterior width . . . 100.5 inches
Interior height . . . 6 feet 6 inches
Exterior height . . . 11 feet 9 inches (with roof air conditioner)
Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) . . . 28,000 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) . . . 24,000 pounds
Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) . . . front — 8,500 pounds; rear — 15,500 pounds
Wet weight as tested . . . (weighed with full water and fuel tanks and 10 pounds of LP gas) front axle — 7,060 pounds; rear axle — 12,880 pounds; total — 20,000 pounds
Payload . . . 4,000 pounds
Frame construction . . . Alumaframe
Insulation . . . multilayered fiberglass and foam
Fresh water capacity . . . 80 gallons *
Holding tank capacities . . . gray water — 52 gallons; black water — 52 gallons *
Fuel capacity . . . 75 gallons *
Fuel requirements . . . diesel
Propane capacity . . . 38 gallons *
Water heater . . . 6-gallon LP gas/electric with electronic ignition *
Water system . . . demand
Furnace . . . 35,000 Btus; electronic ignition; forced air
Air conditioner . . . (1) 13,500-Btu; (1) 11,000-Btu, ducted
Refrigerator . . . double door; ice maker optional
Toilet . . . toilet with sprayer
Warranty . . . chassis — 3 years/36,000 miles; coach — Alumaframe Superstructure, 5 years/50,000 miles; remainder of motorhome, excluding chassis, 12 months/24,000 miles
Base suggested retail price . . . $121,738
* Tank capacities are approximate. Actual usable capacity may vary as a result of variances in installation and fabrication.