The Powerliner II diesel-pusher tag-axle chassis features a ZF independent front suspension, among other new technology.
By Jim Brightly
Freightliner Custom Chassis, C1905, rolled out its new top-of-the-line Powerliner II diesel-pusher tag-axle chassis with a ZF-designed independent front suspension (IFS) system for the media to inspect and test during RVIA’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, December 3 through 5, 2002.
This is the first time Freightliner has used components from the German-based ZF Friedrichshafen AG in its chassis. ZF provides transmission, suspension, and steering products to manufacturers in the automobile, construction equipment, heavy truck, transit, marine, and aviation industries.
According to representatives of Freightliner Custom Chassis, the RL75EM double-wishbone IFS system offers a significant reduction in vehicle roll and steering effort, which, when combined with a reduction in unsprung mass, results in a superior ride, increased comfort, and improved handling characteristics. The system also includes an extremely sharp turning angle for the front wheels “” a 56-degree cut “” providing a nice, tight turning radius for whatever wheelbase length is chosen.
The new front suspension is offered on the Powerliner II tag-axle chassis with either a 12,000-pound or 14,600-pound gross axle weight rating. The RL75EM system is equipped with needle-roller bearings for the kingpin and Bendix-Knorr SB7000 disc brakes with ABS and wear sensors. Its control arms have outboard tapered roller bearings for precise wheel control and dampening of vertical impacts. Inboard, the control arms are equipped with maintenance-free rubber-metal bearings for vibration insulation.
A short test drive in a well-used type A motorhome equipped with the new IFS demonstrated precise, but not overly stiff, steering. The steering wheel returned to center easily and smoothly, and required no more turning effort than would be used to maneuver a front-wheel-drive sedan with power steering. And for a motorhome the size of the one being tested, the turning radius was just short of amazing.
Motorhome chassis equipped with the RL75EM suspension system are expected to be delivered to high-line diesel motorhome manufacturers during the second quarter of 2003. At press time, a list of manufacturers that will build motorhomes on chassis incorporating the new IFS system had not been finalized by the company.
In addition to the IFS, the Powerliner II tag-axle chassis features a Neway AD123 rear suspension and NL110 tag axle suspension, together rated at 30,000 pounds.
Powering the Powerliner II is a Caterpillar C-12 505-horsepower engine with 1,550 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with an Allison 4000MH six-speed automatic transmission with push-button control. All this is wrapped up in a chassis with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 44,600 pounds, which should be an ideal foundation for premium motorhomes with body lengths of 40 feet or longer. Available wheelbase lengths are 240, 282, and 302 inches.
The Powerliner II is equipped with a next-generation electrical package that provides the motorhome driver a more luxury car-like experience, including single-key operation for the ignition and doors and an impressive new light control system. A new driver message center provides data on engine and transmission performance, fuel consumption, and engine horsepower and temperature levels.
The Powerliner II chassis warranty includes a maintenance package that covers standard maintenance work such as fluid and filter changes and four-wheel alignment when performed at specified intervals by a certified Freightliner service center.
Freightliner Custom Chassis also has instituted the Oasis Service Network, a new program designed to increase the number of quality service locations for motorhome chassis, plus improve service support for RV dealers. Freightliner plans to add service locations at select RV dealers nationwide and at Freightliner affiliates throughout the United States.
Service writers and managers from Oasis member dealerships attended a three-day training conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, last fall to find out about the company’s latest products and service developments from Freightliner Custom Chassis representatives.
“We will continue adding first-rate dealers to the Oasis Service Network in 2003,” said Jack Conlan, president of Freightliner Custom Chassis. “Our Oasis dealers have made a significant commitment to addressing the unique service needs of motorhome owners. They have dedicated facilities or areas, highly trained service personnel, and other amenities that make their dealerships especially RV-friendly and efficient. We’re actively recruiting more Oasis Service Network members so the high level of service is more readily available.”