A new entry-level motorhome designed for first-time buyers, RVers who want to downsize, or others looking for a multipurpose vehicle.
By Lazelle Jones
The Ranger RT Type B motorhome arrived in Anchorage, Alaska, with 4,200 miles on its odometer. It had been driven from the Roadtrek Motorhomes factory, not far from Toronto, Ontario. I took delivery of this new model to conduct a road test and livability review for Family Motor Coaching.
I put another 450 miles on this new motorhome, using Anchorage as a base from which to venture out. If problems were going to appear, the Alaska Highway would be the triggering mechanism. Despite the mileage incurred, only a couple of items were noted. One, an errant rock kicked up by another vehicle on the gravel-covered washboard surface caused a crack in the windshield. Two, an aftermarket strap was added to stop the swing-out, pivoting flat-screen television from rattling against the wall to which it was secured. Suffice it to say, this gravel-and-dirt portion of the Alaska Highway was a good testing and proving ground.
Roadtrek’s new Ranger RT was designed for a particular niche. The company’s objective is to offer a fully equipped Type B motorhome at a lower price point. The vehicle has all the utility and functionality of a large SUV but can be used for vacations as well as shorter outings. This entry-level unit does not contain several items that typically increase the cost of constructing a motorhome. For example, it is not equipped to tow, so any related expenses — wiring, receiver hitch, etc., and installation — are eliminated. In addition, it is built on a lighter-weight chassis and powered by a smaller engine to increase fuel efficiency.
The Ranger RT also features a flat interior floor, which eliminates costs associated with lowering the floor to increase interior height and provide a catch basin for the shower. (This motorhome includes a wet bath with a sit-down shower.)
The Ranger RT is constructed using a Chevy 2500 van chassis as its platform. The suspension is all GM. The drivetrain features a 4.8-liter V-8 gasoline engine and a 6-speed Allison automatic transmission with a selection that permits the driver to stay in a chosen gear or change to a higher or lower gear. The engine develops 285 horsepower and yields 295 pound-feet of torque, which I found sufficient to meet any driving scenarios I encountered.
Roadtrek uses the existing van walls that come from General Motors. Workers remove the top of the vehicle; apply spray-on insulation; add the interior appointments; and attach Roadtrek’s own fiberglass top, which has been designed in-house, to the walls. This results in an interior height of 6 feet 2 inches — sufficient for most individuals to stand fully erect inside.
The Ranger RT has an overall length of 20 feet 5 inches (without the Continental kit that houses the spare tire), an exterior width of 6 feet 7 inches (without the mirrors), and an exterior height of 8 feet 9 inches.
I weighed the unit with a half tank of fuel (approximately 13 gallons), a full LP-gas tank (7 gallons), and a full tank of fresh water (15 gallons). The black water and gray water tanks were empty (10 and 23 gallons capacity, respectively). Onboard at the time were two adults and one teen, totaling about 450 pounds. At the scales, the coach registered a gross weight of 8,280 pounds. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,600 pounds, which when compared to the actual weight, means 320 pounds of additional cargo, fluid, or passengers could have been added to this 20-footer. The actual front axle weight was 3,900 pounds, with the rear weight 4,680 pounds. The gross axle weight ratings (GAWR) are 4,300 pounds and 5,360 pounds, respectively.
I calculated the fuel economy over 450 miles of urban, highway, and mountain driving to be 14.9 mpg. Here is a motorhome that can be used to run around town for errands, take soccer players to practice, or arrive at a social function looking sophisticated. Plus, the Ranger RT is good-looking from every exterior angle.
Now here is just one of the pluses associated with driving a smaller Type B motorhome. At the 2.5-mile-long Whittier Tunnel, I was charged the same fee as a sedan to utilize this entrance and exit to Prince William Sound. Fees assigned to a larger motorhome can be considerably higher. Once we were through the tunnel and inside Whittier Harbor to go on a glacier and wildlife cruise of Prince William Sound, I was able to maneuver the Ranger RT into a parking spot, much the same as if I were driving a large sedan. No need to pay for big-rig parking in the separate lot across the way.
I navigated the motorhome around the city of Anchorage, driving through entrances to attractions, pulling into service stations, and cruising down four-lane or two-lane blue-line roads that led to the attractions we had gone there to see. Throughout these explorations, the Ranger RT was an absolute pleasure to drive.
With its totally automotive cockpit and controls and overall automotive configuration, the Ranger yields the feeling of driving a large SUV or passenger van rather than a motorhome. There is a very small learning curve, if any, before feeling comfortable behind the wheel — and I suspect the same would hold true for someone who has never driven any kind of motorhome. The instrumentation, the dash-mounted controls, the steering wheel, the audio system, the automotive HVAC systems, and the visibility out the front cab and to the sides will assuage any anxiety about being able to pilot this unit.
In addition to the driver and passenger doors, a hinged curbside entry door opens into the middle living area of the coach. Exterior running boards facilitate stepping down to the ground from all three doors. Two additional doors on the rear of the coach swing open from the middle to permit loading and to provide access to items stowed below the rear electric coach-wide sofa (24 cubic feet of storage), which converts into a queen-size bed (more on that shortly).
On the curb side, exterior compartment bays with hinged, lockable doors provide access to the dual deep-cycle house batteries. The street-side exterior compartments house storage, dump valves, and a handheld shower, as well as the shore power extension cable. One of the street-side exterior bays can accommodate a set of golf clubs, fishing rods, or any other long, bulky items. Two lights illuminate this bay, one positioned at each end.
The Ranger RT comes with a 30-foot-long, 30-amp shore power cable and an auxiliary extension in case the distance to reach a power outlet is longer than usual. The fuel fill is located about midway on the curb side of the coach.
The interior of this compact yet full-service Type B is configured to include a permanent water closet and a permanent sit-down shower. The Ranger RT features a wet bath and a flushable marine toilet, with the toilet emptying directly into the 10-gallon black water tank. The sink is molded into the fiberglass interior walls of the water closet and, along with the shower, it drains into the gray water tank. A draw-across shower curtain protects the inside of the bathroom door.
The front living area becomes a larger, more usable space when turning the cockpit captains chairs rearward. Once that is accomplished, you can bring out and easily install a table around which lunch, dinner, or just a beverage can be enjoyed. The post on which the table sits stows behind the driver’s seat and slips into a slot in the floor; the tabletop is then added to the upper end. Since the table is located adjacent to the full-service street-side galley, food prep and delivery are easy evolutions.
The standard Ranger RT includes a simplified electrical system, with 120-volt-AC and 12-volt-DC power sources. When not connected to shore power, the 120-volt appliances can be operated using the dual large-capacity auxiliary batteries in conjunction with a 1,250-watt power inverter. The test coach featured the propane option, which includes a propane tank and propane-powered stove and furnace. This option might be desirable for those who need additional space heating provided by the furnace or need to use the stove during extensive dry camping. As with all Roadtrek motorhomes, a generator is necessary to operate the air conditioner when not connected to shore power.
The optional two-burner LP-gas cooktop in the test coach galley included a fold-up/fold-down glass cover that provides additional countertop surface area when the appliance is not being used. (When the propane option is not added, an electric two-burner cooktop comes standard.) The single stainless-steel sink is accompanied by a single hot-cold water faucet. Other appliances include a 0.7-cubic-foot microwave oven and a 3.1-cubic-foot two-way (120-volt AC/12-volt DC) refrigerator-freezer that is thermostatically controlled — no more frozen produce when the temperature drops at night. Storage above and below the countertop is available in both cabinets and drawers.
While enjoying lunch or dinner in the front living area, passengers can view the optional flat-screen television from the rear-facing captains chairs. The TV is attached to the back of a cabinet in the rear of the coach; it is mounted on an articulating arm that permits it to be pivoted 180 degrees for viewing from either the front or back of the motorhome.
As alluded to earlier, the rear of the Ranger RT is a multipurpose venue. When not being used as sleeping quarters, this area can be configured as a U-shape seating area. A pole-mounted table can be installed quickly in the middle to create a much larger dining area. The same table post used in the front of the coach can be inserted into a slot in the floor for this rear area. The table is stored below one of the seat cushions when not in use. The sofa comes equipped with two seat belts, which means a total of four passengers can travel in this motorhome (although it is rated to sleep two).
The sofa converts into a rear queen-size bed with the push of a button; the seat moves forward and the back of the sofa lowers to a flat position. The side bench seats and the tabletop (without the post) are used to create the rest of the bed. Again, watching television from bed is possible by swinging the TV and mounting mechanism rearward.
The optional LP-gas furnace is a 16,000-Btu forced-air heater controlled by a wall thermostat. Cooling is accomplished by a 10,200-Btu roof air conditioner (with heat pump). The latter is positioned in the rear portion of the ceiling, unobtrusive to those on the inside while minimizing exterior clearance issues. The electric water heater holds 2.5 gallons. A 1,250-watt inverter with a wall-mounted control that toggles on or off is capable of powering 120-volt-AC needs (with the exception of the roof air conditioner).
The monitoring panel, along with the inverter control and the auxiliary generator start/stop switch, are mounted where the ceiling curves down to meet the exterior wall. Even without the optional propane tank, this unit would supply sufficient power via four 120-volt-AC receptacles, plus two 12-volt-DC power ports to charge handheld devices, notebook computers, etc. The multispeed ceiling-mounted Fan-Tastic Vent fan can be set on automatic so it turns on and off at the set temperature and operates at various speeds to meet the comfort needs of occupants.
The wood used to create the cabinetry and wall in the Ranger RT is oak, with a cinnamon finish (a gorgeous look). The fabric covering the rear sofa and side bench seats is low-maintenance microfiber. The front captains chairs come dressed with original-equipment upholstery from GM. Vinyl covers the floor from front to rear. Above the windshield are storage pockets that are designed into the roof, which sweeps forward to meet them. The street-side wardrobe is three-quarters high, which means that many garments can be stowed wrinkle-free, and the pull-out mechanism on the drawers make articulation quiet and smooth. The cabinets, drawers, and wardrobe door include a push-in/pop-out knob that also locks them in place for travel.
The Ranger RT also is designed to provide outdoor comforts when a destination/campsite is reached. An optional 11-foot-long box mounted at the roof line contains a crank-out patio awning that extends outward up to 8 feet. A port behind a small door in the rear bumper reveals a quick propane connect/disconnect, so an outside gas grill can be enjoyed. For cool aesthetics and ease of access (should it ever be needed), a smart-looking Continental kit, mentioned previously, allows for storage of a spare tire.
The choices for full-body paint include monochrome white, and white with optional Deluxe Silver Ground Effects, plus graphics.
The base manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the 2013 Roadtrek Ranger RT is $72,800. My test unit, equipped with all available options, came to $81,313. The house portion that Roadtrek builds comes with a 4-year/48,000-mile limited warranty. The Chevy 2500 chassis comes with the conventional GM warranty of 3 years/36,000 miles.
The Ranger RT is a perfect fit for the couple starting out to enjoy the motorhome lifestyle; for those who may be looking to downsize from a larger RV but who don’t want to forgo the accoutrements they associate with the motorhome lifestyle; and for those who want a motorhome as well as a multipurpose family vehicle.
Roadtrek Motorhomes Inc., 100 Shirley Ave., Kitchener, ON N2B 2E1; (888) ROADTREK (762-3873); www.roadtrek.com/FMCM
One standard floor plan with various options
Chevrolet 2500 Express Cargo Van
8-liter V-8; 285 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm; 295 pound-feet torque @ 4,600 rpm
6-speed Hydra-Matic with overdrive
3.42 to 1
Chevrolet 4-wheel antilock, 4-wheel disc
Chevrolet StabiliTrak electronic stability control system; front — independent with coil springs and stabilizer bar; rear — hypoid drive axle with multileaf springs
Chevrolet G10 van shock absorbers
Chevrolet Integral Power
chassis — (1) 95 amps;
coach — (2) 6-volt AGM, 220 amp-hours
Onan 2.8-kw gas, optional
20 feet 5 inches
6 feet 7 inches (without mirrors)
8 feet 9 inches
6 feet 2 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 4,300 pounds;
rear — 5,360 pounds
(weighed with full water and LP-gas, half tank fuel, approx. 450 pounds of passengers)
front axle — 3,900 pounds;
rear axle — 4,680 pounds;
total — 8,280 pounds
OCCUPANT AND CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY (OCCC)
spray-on and spun fiberglass
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 23 gallons;
black water — 10 gallons
16,000-Btu (with optional LP system)
(1) 10,200-Btu with heat pump
Thetford marine (foot pedal flush)
coach — 4 years/48,000 miles, limited
chassis — 3 years/36, 000 miles
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED