This front-diesel motorhome is said to get more than 14.5 miles per gallon.
By Bob Zagami
Damon Motor Coach rocked the RV world at the Pennsylvania RV and Camping Show in Hershey this past September with the introduction of the Avanti, a 31-foot motorhome touted as the industry’s most fuel-efficient “clean” diesel Type A. Arriving at a time when fuel costs are high on RVers’ minds, the Avanti promises up to 70 percent better fuel economy than comparable diesel-powered Type A motorhomes, and, according to preliminary testing, it delivers better than 14.5 miles per gallon.
The coach is powered by a front-mounted, 200-horsepower Navistar International MaxxForce 5 V-6 “clean” diesel engine, said to improve emission levels and fuel efficiency. This is the first time the engine has been used in a motorhome, but it is already a factor in the truck industry. It provides 440 pound-feet of torque at 1,800 rpm.
The MaxxForce engine is coupled with a six-speed Allison 1000 MH automatic transmission with two overdrives for smooth shifting and optimized economy. All of this efficiency rests on a lower-profile, and smaller, Workhorse W16D chassis that offers a 50-degree wheel cut for better maneuverability in tight spaces. Its gross vehicle weight rating is 16,000 pounds. The W16D chassis enables the coach to be nearly 6 inches closer to the ground and nearly 12 inches lower than any other Type A motorhome, enhancing its drivability.
Although I have not had an opportunity to test-drive this motorhome, Damon officials claim the low-profile vehicle will drive like your favorite SUV, since it’s been designed to have an automotive feel behind the wheel. Considering its lower center of gravity and aerodynamic shape, that claim sounds believable.
The Avanti is steeped in European styling, and Damon has built a lot of livability into the coach. Curved contemporary cabinetry surrounds yacht-like seating arrangements in the living room area. Above the cockpit is a drop-down bed system for extra sleeping space when needed. The galley features sleek appliances that add to the European flavor.
The Avanti has a street-side slideout that contains an 80-inch U-shaped dinette, a countertop range, and a microwave-convection oven. One 26-inch LCD television is located above a pantry cabinet, and a 17-inch LCD TV is mounted on the ceiling in the rear bedroom. The coach also includes ducted central air conditioning; a 34,000-Btu electronic-ignition furnace; a battery disconnect; automatic leveling jacks with touch-pad controls; and an Onan 3.2-kilowatt Quiet Diesel generator.
In the cockpit is a digital touch-screen multimedia system with a DVD 5.1 home theater, an AM-FM radio, a CD player, and an MP3 player/iPod docking station; an SD card reader; a USB port; and Bluetooth. It also is GPS-navigation ready and satellite-radio ready. You certainly won’t miss anything with this array of products built into the motorhome.
The Avanti’s specification sheet lists a 40-gallon fuel tank, a 50-gallon fresh water tank, and black water and gray water holding tanks with capacities of 40 gallons apiece. It also features a 208-inch wheelbase; an interior height of 6 feet 6 inches; and an exterior height of 10 feet 11 inches, including the roof air conditioner.
At 31 feet 10 inches in length, this Type A is small by today’s standards, yet it provides abundant storage space in exterior bays “” 121.5 cubic feet. In addition, a tall pass-through storage bay is located under the rear queen bed. This is a well-thought-out, compact design that packs a lot of motorhome into a slim, aerodynamic, 94-inch-wide body.
Compact, fuel-efficient motorhomes have been used in Europe for years, as people there deal with high fuel prices and narrow roads. The trend may be growing in North America. The Avanti is an excellent example of what can be done when designers start with a blank screen and a lot of creativity. And, by the way, “Avanti” means “forward” in Italian. How appropriate.
The Avanti was expected to begin appearing on dealers’ lots late in 2008 or early 2009. Its base suggested retail price ranges from $144,060 to $146,580.
Damon Motor Coach, P.O. Box 2888, Elkhart, IN 46515; (800) 860-3812, www.damonrv.com.