Flying high in American Coach’s popular Type A diesel pusher.
By Mark Quasius, F333630
When you think of American Coach — the luxury motorhome division of Fleetwood RV — chances are the first thing that comes to mind is the American Eagle. The American Eagle has always been a popular American Coach model, and you’re bound to find at least one in every busy campground. The Eagle is very versatile and is available in both 42-foot and 45-foot floor plans and with horsepower ratings ranging from 450 up through 600. The particular model that we chose for this review was the 45T floor plan.
American Coach models are built on the Liberty Chassis, which features a proprietary truss-style bridge design that connects the steering clip with the rear drive clip. This eliminates the raised-rail center section common to diesel pushers and allows for excellent strength and rigidity. It offers improved storage space and allows the chassis to be customized for each specific model and floor plan. Rather than traditional C-channel frame rails, the Liberty incorporates laminated I-beam rails that reduce the rail height and allow greater clearance in the pass-through basement storage bays.
The front and rear clips on this particular coach were provided by Spartan, featuring a 450-horsepower Cummins ISL9 engine with 1,250 pound-feet of torque powering an Allison 3000 MH six-speed transmission. Automatic traction control is standard on the Eagle, as is a 55-degree steering angle. Cooling needs are met by a side-mounted radiator with a hydraulically driven fan motor. Larger chassis options are available, featuring the 500-horsepower ISX11 or 600-horsepower ISX16 engines.
Traditional raised-rail chassis place the fuel tank immediately behind the front axle. The bridged design of the Liberty chassis allows the fuel tank to be relocated to a midship position for better weight distribution, which is a huge plus on any tag axle diesel pusher. The 16,600-pound-capacity front axle is equipped with 315/80R 22.5 LRH tires, while the drive and tag axles are equipped with 295/80R 22.5 LRH tires.
The American Eagle is outfitted with both air and hydraulic leveling systems. The air leveling system utilizes the existing air-ride suspension to provide automatic leveling without jack deployment. An onboard electric compressor provides air pressure to ensure that the coach stays level once the engine has been shut off. For times when the slope is too extreme for air leveling, the automatic hydraulic leveling jacks can be deployed.
American Coach uses a vacubonded sidewall, floor, and roof construction with the sidewalls connecting the roof and floor via an aluminum interlocking channel design. Flush-mounted windows and Girard patio awnings that are built into the upper roof fascia provide a streamlined appearance and minimize wind noise. Two of the roadside windows on my test unit were topped by Girard window awnings.
This particular coach was done in the Cabernet Gold paint scheme with Flightline graphics, using DuPont paints with three clear coats that produce an attractive glossy finish. American Coach’s signature curved front cap sports a pair of chrome, heated six-way power mirrors mounted on bus-style upper arms. The windshield wipers are also top-mounted above the one-piece automotive-style windshield. The windshield is glued to a steel frame, which is bolted to the heavy steel firewall rather than set into a rubber grommet.
The cockpit area is well designed, and all of the controls are easily within the driver’s reach. The usual array of rocker switches fills the center dash cluster, and a rearview monitor and navigation/entertainment system finish out this area. A cabinet above the entry door houses all of the control panels for the inverters, automatic generator start, leveling system, energy management system, slideouts, and a host of other functions.
We found the dash heat and air system to be a cut above the rest. The American Eagle uses an SGM HVAC system that originally was designed for fire truck applications, where lots of heat and defrosting are needed instantly. This system has 46,000 Btu of dash heat plus an additional 44,000 Btu of defroster heat. It is capable of keeping coach occupants toasty warm in any cold conditions while still keeping the windshield free of fog and ice. For those hot summer days, a 34,000-Btu dash air-conditioning unit will help to keep the interior cool.
Main Living Area
The 45T makes an excellent first impression. The polished porcelain tile floors, the mirrored ceiling treatment, and attractive hardwood cabinetry are pleasing to the eye. American Coach slideouts measure a full 30 inches deep, as opposed to the narrower curbside slideouts in some motorhomes. This does give you more floor space when extended, but the drawback is that with the slideouts retracted, the aisle is more narrow. If you need to take a walk to the bathroom in travel mode, it is fairly tight, especially if someone else is sitting on the couch.
The full-wall slideout gives the impression of additional length, because you can stand at the front of the coach and look straight back into the bedroom. An 84-inch ceiling height offers plenty of headroom.
Our test coach was outfitted with the Bronze Fusion interior, including Regency Cherry hardwood with Ebony Glaze. Comfortable Villa furniture covered with Ultraleather was used in the living and cockpit areas. Among the four Sony televisions in our test coach was a 32-inch unit mounted in a covered compartment in the patio sidewall. Just beyond the wall with the midship television is a half bathroom.
Ducted ceiling registers provided quiet airflow from the three rooftop air conditioners. An 83-inch sofa with air mattress was located in the massive full-wall slideout next to the galley work area, while a 60-inch sofa graced the patio-side slideout, next to the dinette. Our test coach was not equipped with the optional L-shaped transformer sofa.
Dinette And Galley
The curbside dinette consists of a base cabinet with an extendable freestanding table and is equipped with shelving and compartments suitable for use as a computer workstation. Immediately opposite is the galley area, which features solid-surface counters and an electric glass cooktop. Spacious overhead cabinets flank a GE Advantium convection-microwave oven. An optional Fisher-Paykel drawer-style dishwasher was installed beneath the galley counter in our test coach. A Whirlpool Gold 25-cubic-foot side-by-side stainless-steel residential refrigerator with in-door ice maker and water dispenser is located in the full-wall slideout, next to a pull-out pantry. An entertainment center cabinet houses a 40-inch LED television and surround-sound system and provides a place for a satellite receiver.
The lavishly appointed bedroom contained an optional king-size bed flanked by nightstands on the curb side. Multiplex controllers are handily located to allow remote operation of the lighting, window shades, door locks, and generator. On the opposite side, a large dresser with a solid-surface top houses plenty of storage as well as a 32-inch LCD TV and DVD player. One window next to the bed and one across the room by the dresser provide flow-through ventilation.
Rear baths have recently become very popular, but the 45T adds a twist to this design. The 45T has the usual rear bath but also includes a walk-in closet at the very back of the coach. This area has a full-width cedar-lined wardrobe, a dresser cabinet with overhead mirror, plus a large cabinet enclosing the stackable washer-dryer. A built-in safe in the wardrobe floor conceals important papers or valuables. The solid-surface vanity features dual flush-mounted sinks with an attractive overhead mirrored medicine cabinet. The opposite side of the room includes a residential-style toilet with the optional macerator system and a circular clear-glass shower surround that shows off the porcelain tile shower stall.
A powered slideout system enables the 10,000-watt Onan generator to extend from the lower portion of the front cap for ease of access. An Onan EC-30 automatic generator start module will engage the generator should the battery voltage fall to a preset level, or if the thermostat calls for cooling when shore power is not available. A Precision Circuits energy management system sheds loads as needed to prevent tripping the pedestal breaker when on 30-amp shore power and also interfaces with the dual (2,800-and 2,000-watt) Magnum true sine wave inverters to provide additional capacity.
A 50-amp power cord reel is located in the basement, and a Surge Guard power monitor watches over valuable electrical components. A bank of eight 6-volt AGM batteries provides ample power to meet the coach’s 12-volt needs. Six battery-disconnect switches make it possible to disconnect the chassis and house batteries as well as the inverters. The rearmost curbside compartment contains a central service center, along with the AGM chassis batteries, chassis disconnect switches, air drier, and fuel filters to make it easy to service the motorhome.
The Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system uses either diesel fuel or electricity to warm the boiler so as to provide comfortable heating and unlimited hot water for long showers. The burner’s exhaust is routed to the rear of the coach, away from campground neighbors. The Aqua-Hot boiler is placed at a right angle when compared to the usual installation, because the 150-gallon midship fuel tank location doesn’t permit a lateral installation. This makes it a bit harder to access for service work.
Our coach included the optional 90-inch dual-acting cargo slide tray in the first full storage bay, which could be accessed from either side. The second bay held a pair of optional 36-inch and 54-inch cargo slide trays. The split arrangement allowed a tray to be accessed from one side without affecting the other side, making it possible for taller cargo to be placed there and not get hung up on the frame rails. A generous 22.5-inch clearance between the bottom of the I-beam frame rails and the floor provides plenty of room to pack large items or containers.
Driving The Eagle
Driving the American Eagle is an enjoyable experience. The Liberty chassis is rock solid and squarely supports the interlocking superstructure to prevent the body from racking back and forth in turns, which will minimize those squeaks and groans that typically occur once a coach has a number of miles on it. The entry door is equipped with pneumatic door latches and automatically engages whenever the parking brake is released. This allows for ease in opening the door while still holding it nice and tight during travel to prevent any air leaks or whistling.
The tag axle chassis provided the stability one would expect, and handling on uneven two-lane country roads was excellent. The front disc brakes and engine compression brake performed well in bringing the coach to a stop in minimal time. My first concern was whether the 450-horsepower engine would be up to the task of hauling around a 45-foot coach with a 46,600-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). But after driving the unit for a while, I found that the 450 ISL easily handled this motorhome, and my initial concerns were put to rest. While the 500-horsepower ISX would certainly provide better acceleration, it does come as a $41,756 upcharge over the ISL.
This coach was also one of the better balanced units I’ve seen. A six-point scale reading showed side-to-side variances within 200 pounds and verified the advertised cargo carrying capacity (CCC) and unloaded vehicle weight (UVW). It should also be noted that American Coach recently announced that it will be using Freightliner chassis for its modular chassis components on the Liberty Chassis, most likely by the time you read this article, so some of the following specs may change in subsequent models.
The 2012 American Eagle 45T has a base suggested retail price of $574,717. The as-tested price of the unit I reviewed was $592,270 and contained these options: 40-inch front overhead LED TV (a 32-inch unit is standard), 32-inch exterior LCD TV in galley slide, Fisher-Paykel dishwasher drawer, two-burner electric cooktop with GE Advantium convection-microwave oven, power hose reel, power shades, heated tile floor, 90-inch slideout cargo tray in first full storage bay, 36-inch and 54-inch split cargo trays in second full storage bay, king bed with Select Comfort air mattress.
American Coach, a division of Fleetwood RV Inc., 1031 U.S. 224 E., Decatur, IN 46733; (800) 435-7345; www.americancoach.com
Cummins ISL9; 8.9-liter; 450 horsepower @ 2,100 rpm; 1,250 pound-feet torque @ 1,300 rpm
Allison 3000 MH six-speed automatic with electronic shifter
4.88 to 1
front — 315/80R 22.5 Michelin LRH radials; rear and tag — 295/80R 22.5 Michelin LRH radials
full air brakes with automatic slack adjusters; front disc, rear drum
Tuthill IFS with 55-degree ZF gear
Leece-Neville, 200 amps
chassis — (2) Group 31 AGM
coach— (8) 6-volt AGM
dual 2,800 and 2,000 watts, pure sine wave
Onan 10,000-watt diesel on power slideout
44 feet 11 1/2 inches
13 feet 1/2-inch with roof A/C
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 16,600 pounds;
rear — 20,000 pounds;
tag — 10,000 pounds
front axle — 13,195 pounds;
rear axle — 18,070 pounds;
tag axle — 7,860 pounds;
total — 39,125 pounds
OCCUPANT AND CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY (OCCC)
vacubonded sidewall, floor, and roof; aluminum interlocking channel design for sidewalls
dense bead foam
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 60 gallons;
black water — 40 gallons
N/A; all-electric coach
Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system
Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system
(3) 15,000-Btu low-profile units
double-door residential refrigerator with ice and water dispenser
(2) residential china bowl, power flush with hand sprayer
coach — 12 months/15,000 miles;
structure — 36 months/50,000 miles;
chassis — 36 months/50,000 miles
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED