By Lazelle Jones
Four reasons underscore why the 2009 Coachmen Avant-Garde Type A gasoline-powered motorhome makes good sense.
First, even in these challenging economic times, the base manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the Avant-Garde is $102,900, a competitive figure in the Type A motorhome market. Second, this is a full-service luxury motorhome that will accommodate the part-time enthusiast and the full-timer alike. Third, it delivers respectable fuel economy: 9.3 mpg during a recent outing, which included steady-state 55-mph freeway driving and urban driving. And last, but certainly not least, is the obvious forethought Coachmen RV officials have given to the design of this coach “” right on target, in my view.
Last fall I took delivery of a 2009 Avant-Garde 310DS for evaluation, one of three floor plans currently available. (A diesel-powered Avant-Garde is also offered.) By the end of the test outing, I had concluded that for the cost-conscious, quality-conscious consumer who demands comfort and luxury from a motorhome, this coach does the job. The options included on my test unit added another $5,800 to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, with $2,450 of that being the optional partial exterior body paint, bringing the total to $108,700.
In December 2008, Coachmen Industries completed the sale of its Coachmen RV Group to Forest River Inc., a subsidiary of Berkshire-Hathaway Inc. Forest River has established Coachmen as a separate division, similar to its other RV divisions, and plans to continue to use the Coachmen brand name, RV model names, and logos for the RVs produced by this division – including the Avant-Garde.
Because of a couple of notable design features and several subtle augmentations to the interior, the Avant-Garde appeals in a fresh, new way.
The 310DS comes with two slideout rooms: an up-front street-side slide in the living area that incorporates a sofa and dinette, and a rear curbside bedroom slide that houses the queen-size bed. The cabinetry and woodwork throughout feature Brazilian cherry wood, giving the coach interior a very European-style character. It is pleasing to the eye and creates a warm, inviting ambience. Plus, the use of radiused corners for cabinetry, tables, etc. adds to the European feel.
Coachmen designers have incorporated pewter-colored metal cabinet door and drawer pulls and decorative leading-edge metal restraints on the open shelves that prevent items stowed on these shelves from sliding off. These metal restraints are also curved in parallel with the shelves to further accent and draw attention to this aesthetically pleasing style. For example, in the overhead storage complex that lines the windows above the sofa and dinette in the living area slideout, two center compartments feature pull-up doors. The compartments at either end of these closed cabinets feature the open shelving noted above. It makes a visually appealing and functional spot for stowing and/or displaying items.
I liked the residential-style curtains that dress the windows throughout the unit; they are translucent and permit filtered daylight to illuminate the interior. Behind these curtains are pleated shades for nighttime use.
Low-maintenance Beauflor composite vinyl flooring extends through the galley, the private midship water closet, and the midship center aisle and living area. Only upon close examination is it evident that this flooring is not really wood. The wood pattern also will be appreciated for its ability to hide dirt that gets tracked in. The faux-wood floor treatment is surrounded by a limited but totally adequate amount of plush-style carpet, immediately in front of the sofa and then across the width of the coach just in front of the cockpit. Carpet also dresses the floor of the rear bedroom. The carpet provides a luxury salon-area appearance where it is used, but does not appear in the most high-traffic areas, cutting down considerably on maintenance and cleaning.
Immediately forward of the main entry stairwell is a floor-to-ceiling cabinet complex that features four tiers of open display shelving with the same pewter-style metal restraints noted earlier. At the top is a large double-door glass cabinet where more precious treasures can be stored and displayed. From the main entry stairwell, this complex reveals a large opening that provides access to a closet area where coats can be hung and stowed immediately upon entry into the coach – perfect for those times when RV camping is being enjoyed in cold weather. Below this closet area are two open pocket shelves.
In the galley, Coachmen designers have created a handsome yet low-maintenance venue that is highly functional, with everything immediately at hand. Food preparation is enjoyable in this coach. Located immediately aft of the main entry, the galley countertop is rounded at the forward end (adjacent to the stairwell entry) with an ever-so-slight dogleg that begins just forward of the cooktop and gives greater depth to the counter as it extends toward and past the galley sink.
The countertop is made of a composite material that resembles marble and is enhanced by an accent trim on the leading edge. Located below the cooktop is a sizable microwave-convection oven. A huge, almost floor-to-ceiling pull-out pantry sits immediately aft of the cooktop and also adjacent to a large (8-cubic-foot) stainless-steel double-door refrigerator. Above the galley counter are three humongous closed storage cabinets with creative storage slots designed above each one to hold those thin, flat items that need to be accessed quickly. A large roll-out pots-and-pans drawer is located below the microwave oven, while a stack of drawers is located just forward of the microwave. Drawers feature full-extension ball-bearing guides. A large double-door cabinet sits immediately below the oval-shaped galley sink.
In addition to the unconventional shape of the sink, it and the three-burner LP-gas cooktop have been given yet another treatment worth noting. They feature hinged glass covers, which quickly and effortlessly fold up and out of the way when the sink or cooktop is put into service. Once the glass covers are lowered into place, a huge amount of additional countertop surface area is instantly created.
With the front living area slideout extended, a 26-inch LCD flat-screen television is revealed; it is mounted next to the dinette on the short interior wall that remains disguised when the slide is in the travel position. The television is mounted on an adjustable arm that enables it to be moved about and viewed from anywhere in the forward half of the coach. Below the TV are four European-style open storage nooks that are integrated into this short wall. A separate oblong-shaped nook immediately above these areas houses the audiovisual components. This area includes a short countertop fashioned from the same material as the galley countertop. A glass-door cabinet above the television can be used for displaying curios, photos, etc.
The center aisle that leads to the rear stateroom is lined on the curb side by the private water closet. A floor-to-ceiling glass shower with frosted doors sits on the opposing side of the coach and features interesting contours, including a 180-degree curved glass front. The shower opens into the center aisle and rear bedroom. For privacy, this area can be cordoned off by an accordion-style curtain. Immediately aft of the shower is a clothes hamper.
Coachmen designers have done a superb job appointing the rear bedroom. One feature that many likely will look upon favorably is the large window in the back wall of the coach, which permits one to lie in bed and enjoy an unimpeded view of the world outside. Another noteworthy feature is the floor-to-ceiling complex that includes storage cabinets, half wardrobes, and open shelves, all with the aforementioned pewter-style hardware. In the middle is a vanity countertop, with a 19-inch LCD television directly above it. This attractive complex occupies the street-side wall at the foot of the queen-size bed. Here as elsewhere in the coach, halogen lighting is plentiful.
The plush carpet is a neutral tone, as are the bedspread and pillow shams. When the slideout is extended, full access is available around the 60-inch-by-80-inch queen island bed. However, the bed can still be used when the slideout is retracted, which means that an afternoon power nap at a rest stop is totally doable.
The slideouts come standard with topper awnings, which prevent the collection of debris and moisture when the slides are extended. These are self-cleaning when the slides and the toppers are retracted. The mechanisms that articulate both slideouts are electric. The dual standard deep-cycle marine-style coach batteries move the slides quickly and easily, with power to spare.
Other standard features include the gas/electric water heater, the whole-house water filters, a 6.5-kilowatt gasoline auxiliary generator, and 50-amp shore power service. Heating is provided by a centrally ducted 30,000-Btu LP-gas furnace, while cooling is supplied by two 13,500-Btu ducted roof air conditioners. The rear-vision camera and heated exterior mirrors with remote control are also standard on the Avant-Garde. My test unit was equipped with optional side-view cameras that are activated when the turn signals are used. However, this coach is nicely appointed and very serviceable with only standard equipment. The only other options included were a sleeper sofa; soft-touch upholstery on the sofa and the bench-style dinette seats; and surround sound.
I appreciated how the Avant-Garde handled, both on the freeway and as I transited through urban settings. Road noise was minimal, and the tightly sealed windows did not emit the kind of noise that is evident when window seals are loose. The Ford F-53 chassis was powered by a 6.8-liter Triton V-10 engine coupled with a TorqShift five-speed automatic transmission, which left nothing wanting when entering an on-ramp or initiating a passing maneuver. I could have towed 5,000 pounds behind the coach, and with an actual gross weight of 17,540 pounds and a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 20,500 pounds, I could have carried another 2,960 pounds of cargo on board.
Visibility through the one-piece windshield was good, enhanced by Coachmen’s own Sight Right dash; this patented dash is said to provide a better look ahead and to minimize blind spots. I especially appreciated the side-view cameras. This is a coach that can support long-haul travel days with minimal fatigue.
I like what Coachmen has done with the new Avant-Garde, especially its European flavor and livability. With a suggested price point slightly above $100,000, this unit should look very attractive to the quality-driven, cost-conscious RV consumer who wants to enjoy RVing to the fullest.
Coachmen RV, Division of Forest River Inc., P.O. Box 30, Middlebury, IN 46540; (800) 353-7383; www.easyRVing.com
Ford V-10; 362 horsepower @ 4750 rpm; 457 pound-feet torque @ 3250 rpm
TorqShift five-speed, automatic overdrive with tow and haul mode
5.38 to 1
245/70R 19.5 F
tapered multileaf with Bilstein gas shocks
coach “” (2) deep-cycle marine-style batteries; chassis “” (1) 12-volt 750 cca, maintenance-free
power, TRW TAS 40 Gear (includes cooler)
32 feet 7 inches
6 feet 8 inches
12 feet 1 inch (includes A/C)
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front “” 7,000 pounds;
rear “” 13,500 pounds
WET WEIGHT AS TESTED
front axle – 6,380 pounds;
rear axle – 10,900 pounds;
total – 17,540 pounds
(full fuel and water; no passengers or gear)
PAYLOAD AS TESTED
block foam throughout
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
black water – 45 gallons;
gray water – 48 gallons
30,000 Btu, LP-gas, centrally ducted
(2) 13,500 Btu, ducted
8-cubic-foot double-door stainless-steel
porcelain with foot flush
coach “” 1 year/12,000 miles;
chassis “” 3 years/36,000 miles;
power train “” 5 years/60,000 miles
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED