Winnebago Industries debuts its most recent “evolution” of upper-level diesel-pusher coaches.
By Lazelle Jones
Darwin would be pleased. The evolution in the design of motorhome chassis, as evidenced by the all-new Winnebago Industries Evolution chassis, takes the diesel pusher type A motorhome to new levels. The Evolution chassis provides the foundation for both the 2004 Itasca Horizon and its sister coach, the Winnebago Vectra.
Using one-piece formed rails that are designed to be taller in those areas where added strength is needed, the Evolution chassis eliminates the need for a stacked-rail configuration and maximizes the amount of exterior storage capacity. Be it the 34-foot 34TD floor plan (208-inch wheelbase) that was introduced at the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, this past December; the 36-foot 36GD model (228-inch wheelbase); or any of the 40-foot (267-inch wheelbase) Horizon or Vectra floor plans, the available space in the outside storage bay system is phenomenal. The 40AD floor plan delivers 212 cubic feet, the 40KD yields 201 cubic feet, the 40QD and 40WD both offer 210 cubic feet, while the 34TD and 36GD yield 141 cubic feet and 139 cubic feet, respectively. And when you couple this with the fact that both the Horizon and Vectra have cargo-carrying capacities (CCC) that can range as high as 5,194 pounds, the phrase “you can take it with you” has new meaning.
The features found on the all-new Evolution chassis do not stop with the one-piece formed rails. Winnebago Industries officials worked with Freightliner Custom Chassis engineers in the design and development of the Evolution, which is being built exclusively for the motorhome company. Other design features include proprietary rear axle gear machining, for an improved ride, and a 10,000-pound-rated hitch receiver with a seven-pin electrical connector, including a provision for an electric brake controller. Independent front suspension on the 40-foot models permits a 56-degree front wheel cut for an exceptionally tight turning radius. The Evolution chassis features air-ride suspension, with a compressed air system that includes both automatic heated moisture ejectors and air dryer. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the 40-foot models is 32,000 pounds, while the 34- and 36-foot units have a GVWR of 27,910 pounds. To protect the rear air springs and improve ride characteristics, the air springs are positioned in a wide-track stance, just inside the rear wheels. For ease of refueling, the 100-gallon fuel tank is accessible from both sides of the coach.
Standard equipment includes a 7.2-liter Caterpillar C7 turbocharged diesel engine (with aftercooler). It develops 330 horsepower and yields 860 pound-feet of torque. For those who want more power, an optional Cummins ISC turbocharged 8.3-liter aftercooled diesel is available in the 40-foot models. This power plant yields 350 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque. Both engine packages come standard with an engine exhaust brake for slowing forward progress at off-ramps, on downhill grades, or in city traffic. Both engines are coupled to an Allison 3000 MH six-speed (push-button) transmission, with automatic lockup. Using what is called Smart Logic, this Allison transmission memorizes driver habits as they pertain to shifting points and then fine-tunes these points accordingly.
Six floor plans are offered in the Horizon and the Vectra. On the 40-foot models, they can be enjoyed with as many as three slideouts, while two slideouts are available on the 34- and 36-foot models.
Both models feature Winnebago Industries’ patented StoreMore Slideout System. This exterior storage compartment system comes with seamless bays that are fabricated in-house using a rugged, lightweight composite material. The storage bays beneath the forward slideout articulate in and out with the slide. The StoreMore system ensures accessibility to gear stowed in these bays, regardless of whether the slide is extended or retracted. Interior overhead cabinets are included with the StoreMore system. For ease of loading and accessing gear stowed in the coach-wide bay, a slide-out tray is available.
The base manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for the standard-equipped Itasca Horizon and the Winnebago Vectra are $197,227 and $194,058, respectively. However, don’t let the phrase “standard equipment” fool you. The basic Horizon and Vectra are replete with features, appointments, and amenities. Among them is Winnebago Industries’ own TrueAir Residential Central Air Conditioning System. Designed to streamline the exterior appearance and reduce the drag coefficient (wind resistance) as the coach motors down the road, the 24,000-Btu central air-conditioning package is installed in the basement.
A number of Winnebago Industries’ other patented systems are available in both the Horizon and Vectra product lines. The OnePlace Systems Center clusters vital switches, gauges, level indicators, and controls in one convenient location. The PowerLine Energy Management System keeps the electrical systems running smoothly even when the central air-conditioning is not operating on 50-amp shore power. The QuickPort Service Connection Hatch eliminates the need to thread the power cord or sewer hoses through the hatches, and the QuickConnect Coupling Valve and storage holster are stowed inside a heated service center. KeyOne is a single key system that unlocks most of the exterior compartments; the key fob remotely locks and unlocks all doors and turns on the porch light and interior map lights for 20 seconds to illuminate the way during entry. Cargo lock and cargo unlock buttons manage the security of the cargo bay doors. The TripTek Trip Computer calculates and displays on a Sony backup monitor the distance to a specified destination, the estimated time of travel, the actual time traveled, fuel economy, and a “preflight checklist” to review (such as checking to see whether the leveling jacks are up) before setting out.
The Horizon is available in three interior décor packages and with four different types of wood cabinetry. The Vectra is offered with its own three interior décor packages and with three types of wood cabinetry. Both the Horizon and Vectra come in three exterior paint and graphic schemes as well. All models on both product lines come standard with full-body paint, which consists of a base coat on gel-coat fiberglass, one layer of color, and one layer of clear coat.
The Horizon and Vectra are laced on the inside with appointments and amenities designed to yield creature comforts as well as elegance. For example, the rear bedroom in both coaches features the Sleep Number Bed by Select Comfort. This bed consists of a platform of foam and inflatable air compartments with dual controls to allow each side of the bed to be custom tailored (softness or firmness) to individual preference.
Winnebago Industries’ RV Radio features large buttons and easy-to-operate controls. When coupled with the optional Sirius Satellite Radio, up to 100 digital channels are available. A flat-screen Sony television with DVD/VCR is found up front, with a 24-inch flat-screen Sony in the rear bedroom.
The company’s patented Rest Easy Multi-Position Lounge in the living area can be enjoyed as a sofa with a center flip-down beverage tray or as a recliner with a pull-out ottoman. It also can be converted into a bed for overnight guests. Optional UltraLeather can be the fabric of choice for the sofa. A Euro chair or a rocker/recliner (with footrest) is available also. In addition, Winnebago Industries offers the BenchMark Full Comfort Dinette, which features cushioned innerspring seats that fold up to provide access to the gear stored inside. A dining table that can accommodate up to four people is also on the list of choices.
Available are stainless-steel appliances (Horizon only), a 30-inch microwave-convection oven, a Moen single-control faucet, a stainless-steel galley sink, and solid-surface countertops.
Ceramic tile and plush carpeting dress the floors in both models. Power electric patio and door awnings are standard. Available on some models is a galley pullout island.
Among the less glamorous but oh-so-important appointments found on the Horizon and Vectra are a 7.5-kw Onan Quiet Diesel generator, a 2,000-watt inverter, an optional electric reel for the 50-amp shore power cable, and a power reel for the water hose. For the driver, adjustable gas and brake pedals are standard.
The Itasca Horizon and the Winnebago Vectra are presented by Winnebago Industries to demonstrate that luxury can be affordable and enjoyed at prices far below what many coach enthusiasts would believe possible.
Winnebago Industries, P.O. Box 152, Forest City, IA 50436; (800) 643-4892, (641) 585-3535; www.winnebagoind.com.