Fleetwood returns to its roots with this variation on a popular motorhome theme.
By Bob Zagami
The motorhome reviewed for this article was a prototype built on a Ford chassis with a 22,000-pound GVWR and a 208-inch wheelbase. However, the chassis currently used in the production of the Bounder Classic is Ford’s 19,500-pound-GVWR, 190-inch-wheelbase model.
You know why people buy motorhomes? So they don’t have to fly in airplanes! Traveling to Decatur, Indiana, to pick up the new Fleetwood RV Bounder Classic motorhome for this evaluation proved to be quite a challenge thanks to the weather, but I did finally make it. I was stranded in the airport on the way out and stranded on the way back, but while I was in Indiana, I traveled in what just might become one of the best-selling motorhomes once again.
The original Fleetwood Enterprises was founded by John Crean in 1950. By the time John passed away in January 2007, he had left an indelible footprint on the RV industry. The management team at the new Fleetwood RV wanted to return to the concept of the original Bounder basement motorhome that John personally designed and introduced in 1985.
John’s obituary included this paragraph: “He built his fortune on the belief that success comes when you put customers and employees first. He and his wife, Donna, traveled around the country asking RV owners what they liked “” and disliked “” about their roving homes. He then incorporated their wishes and ideas into his new models.”
To be honest, I was somewhat skeptical as I traveled out to Indiana, where Fleetwood RV has reopened its motorhome manufacturing and service facilities and hired several hundred workers as they build a new company. (In July 2009 Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s motorhome division and Goldshield Fiberglass operation were purchased by private-equity firm American Industrial Partners.) As a new company actively engaged in ramping up production, it would be understandable if they didn’t get it quite right as the first models came off the assembly line. I was so wrong; this company is building them right – right from the start.
After I received a thorough walk-through of the 30-foot motorhome by Steven Hileman, Fleetwood marketing specialist, it was my turn to get behind the wheel and hit the open road. The first thing I noticed is what John Crean wanted in the Bounder: simplicity. The dashboard of the Ford V-10 gasoline-powered motorhome looks like an automobile dash. Functional it is; complicated it is not.
The two-piece windshield provided great views as the sun reflected off the flat dashboard. This area affords a wonderful resting spot for pets that want to travel up front with their owners, and they will be quick to claim this as “their” space. The backup camera is mounted at the top of the windshield.
It seems that every feature of this coach can be described nicely by one of the three magic words that make the Bounder Classic reminiscent of the original Bounder: simple, affordable, functional.
Without leaving the cockpit seats, you will be amazed at the features at your disposal. Magazine racks in the side panels provide plenty of room for maps or books. Cup holders are seemingly everywhere, including one to the left of the driver and one to the right of the copilot. (I would like to see a few more cup holders in the center storage unit, which would benefit anyone who is right-handed.)
The tank monitor panel is in the dash itself. Simply press the button from the copilot seat, and all of the capacities are illuminated for your convenience. A 120-volt electrical receptacle, also in the dash, makes it very convenient to plug in a laptop or charge a cell phone. Also in the front of the dashboard you will find two 12-volt receptacles and the generator start switch.
Above the copilot’s head are switches for the water heater, the battery disconnects, and the heater/air-conditioner controls.
In the evening, privacy is assured by an easily engaged curtain that flows effortlessly toward the center of the windshield where three hook-and-loop-fastening strips hold it securely in place. Very simple and functional.
Both Flexsteel captain’s chairs rotate to become part of the living room when it’s time for relaxing or entertaining guests.
Before I cover the other creature comforts you will find in this coach, let me jump back to the Bounder Classic’s powertrain and drivability. I was again pleasantly surprised at how tight and quiet it was driving down the interstate. Structurally, this is a solid motorhome that has the road manners of a luxury sedan, and it’s just a few feet longer! The petite 30-foot frame draws attention from everyone when pulled into a parking lot, and it fits nicely in two back-to-back parking spaces. As mentioned above, the unit sits on the Ford chassis, which is powered by the V-10, 6.8-liter gas engine coupled with a five-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. You’ll appreciate the 5,000-pound towing capacity offered with this platform.
While I did not encounter any steep hills, treacherous curves, or dramatic downhill challenges during my 500-mile journey, I was very pleased with the 10.8 miles per gallon that I averaged over three days. I did encounter a lot of stop-and-go driving while touring the Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana, area and stopping in at the new RV/MH Hall of Fame Museum featured in FMC magazine a few months ago. If you find yourself in the RV capital of the world, don’t miss a trip to this great museum.
Weight distribution can be a challenge when all slideouts are on one side of a motorhome, and the Bounder Classic 30T does have two street-side slides. But such is not the case with this coach. The gross weight on the scales totaled 15,765 pounds. With a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 22,000 pounds, that leaves slightly more than 6,000 pounds of carrying capacity. There was only 425 pounds difference between the street-side weight (8,095 pounds) and the curbside weight (7,670 pounds). The front axle weighed in at 6,560 pounds, and the rear axle tallied 9,205 pounds. The design engineering built into this coach obviously had a great deal to do with the mileage results also.
Let’s go back inside and see what awaits there. As noted, both slideouts on the 30T are street-side, providing unencumbered space at the campsite. The single entrance door brings you into the coach just behind the copilot’s chair, a very convenient location. On the left panel as you enter are several light switches and another water pump switch, so that you don’t have to enter the coach if you want to use the outside water spray/shower hose in the rear roadside compartment. Coat hooks are positioned on either side of the coach behind the cockpit area, and several more are above the door. A pull-down shade on the exterior door provides complete privacy when used in conjunction with the night shades on all windows.
Across from the door in the living room/kitchen slideout, you will find a jackknife sofa and the galley. As you enter the coach, the dinette is to the left, featuring an easy-to-use drop-down table that quickly converts into sleeping quarters. Remember the cup holders? Well, you will find more in the table and the shelf behind the sofa. Like the electrical outlets, they appear to be everywhere. When the slideout is extended, a wall-mounted cabinet emerges, which is handy for the storage of small kitchen items.
The 30T does not come with a mid-ship television, but I have asked Fleetwood designers to consider adding this option. It does come equipped with a 26-inch flat-screen LCD HDTV that is positioned above the driver at the front of the coach. I would move this toward the center so that anybody sitting in the captain’s chairs would have a much more comfortable viewing position. The motorhome is satellite-ready with all wiring in place, ready to be connected to the television and DVD equipment in the overhead cabinets in the cockpit.
Even when the living room slideout is retracted, occupants have ample room to walk through the coach.
A large 8-cubic-foot Dometic refrigerator/freezer sits behind the dinette and across from the sink, oven, microwave oven, range, and pull-up shelf, the latter of which provides extra working area in the kitchen. Don’t read that sentence too fast or you will miss mention of the built-in oven in addition to the cooktop range and microwave. Many manufacturers have eliminated the oven and replaced it with a convection-microwave oven. However, the folks at Fleetwood told me that Bounder owners have always liked having this feature onboard, so they kept it in the new Classic. A pantry stands next to the refrigerator.
The kitchen and living room areas reveal an enormous amount of storage space for a 30-foot motorhome. Full drawer slides; adjustable shelving; and large, open space in the cabinets will challenge RVers to use all the available storage areas in this coach.
You might think of John Crean and his attention to comfort and utility when you see the wooden knife holder just behind the range and the clever drop-down cutlery tray just above the sink. The coach also has two built-in spice racks above and behind the cooktop.
The split bath across the aisle has a sink and ample counter space, cabinets, and drawers on the patio side. The toilet and large shower, with shower curtain, are behind a door opposite the sink. Pocket doors at either side of the bathroom provide entry and exit. This allows for different configurations and privacy depending on how many people are in the coach at any given time.
At the rear of the coach is a functional bedroom with a queen-size bed in the street-side slideout. Shelves with those ubiquitous cup holders flank both sides of the bed, and electrical outlets are available above the counters for recharging cell phones and powering an alarm clock to keep the area neat. Fleetwood calls it an expandable bed, because it offers a unique fabric buffer that sits on top of the bed with cushions during the day but slides down to mattress level during the night to extend the bed to full queen size.
A 19-inch extendable flat-screen LCD HDTV is attached to a large closet with four storage bays below. To the left of the closet are four drawers and a countertop for miscellaneous items in the evening.
This is a very well-lit motorhome. In fact, it was so bright, I decided to count the light fixtures in the ceiling one night. There are 26 lights in this coach, and that does not include the lights in the cabinets, closets, or outside bays.
Back outside the coach, side-swinging doors close off the storage bays. The bays are fashioned from roto-molded polyethylene and include drain holes. Pass-through storage is ample. All of the plumbing, hoses, shutoff valves, and filter housing make working on the plumbing an easy chore. The rear compartment on the passenger side includes the easily accessible water bypass system.
The compact size of the Bounder Classic 30T is evident with the short overhang behind the rear wheels. You will not be scraping any elevated driveways when leaving shopping centers or gas stations.
The front compartment behind the driver houses the 4.0-kw Onan generator.
The rear street-side compartment offers an electrical outlet, cable hookup, water controls and drain, spray hose, and the waste management system. Cable pulls are color coded for the black and gray tanks. This is an improvement over two black handles, but I still would have liked to have seen a label on the black piping that said, “Empty this tank first!” Simple and functional.
Gee, where have we heard those words before?
With the slideouts on the street side of the coach, a huge 22-foot awning provides protection for outdoor activities.
I’m convinced that the new Fleetwood RV has returned to its roots and has built a motorhome that John Crean would be very proud of. Longtime owners and followers of the Bounder nameplate are going to want to be first in line to upgrade their coaches. But I predict that Fleetwood also will create an entirely new generation of Bounder fans “” perhaps young couples and families who want a simple, affordable, and functional motorhome and longtime RVers who want to stay with a Type A unit but would like to downsize significantly.
This coach is so good that it might well become the best-selling Type A model. It is truly a motorhome that will sell well as the industry rebounds. Why? Because it is simple, affordable, and functional “” just like John Crean intended it to be!
Fleetwood RV Inc., 1031 U.S. 224 E., Decatur, IN 46733; (800) 322-8216; www.fleetwoodrv.com
5-speed automatic with overdrive
5.38 to 1
house “” (2) 6-volt deep-cycle;
chassis “” (1) 12-volt
30-amp standard; 30-amp EMS and 50-amp EMS optional
4.0-kw standard; 5.5-kw optional with EMS
30 feet 7 inches
6 feet 7 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front “” 7,500 pounds;
rear “” 14,500 pounds
WET WEIGHT AS TESTED
front axle “” 6,560 pounds;
rear axle – 9,205 pounds;
total – 15,765 pounds
PAYLOAD AS TESTED
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
50 gallons standard; 85 gallons optional
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water “” 40 gallons;
black water “” 30 gallons
Whole-house filter with demand water pump
(1) 15,000-Btu ducted, standard; dual, optional with EMS
Dometic porcelain marine
coach “” 1 year/15,000 miles limited;
structural “” three years/45,000 miles
BASE MANUFACTURER’S SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED