A luxurious diesel pusher produced by Winnebago Industries.
By Lazelle Jones
The Solei, a Type A diesel-powered motorhome in Winnebago Industries’ Itasca product line, is loosely named after the French word for “sun.” And appropriately so, because the coach exudes a warm, inviting feeling. During a recent examination of the 2015 Solei 34T, one of two floor plans available, I concluded that the name seems quite suitable. The motorhome struck me as the perfect mobile residential option for snowbirds, full-timers, and other RV enthusiasts who spend their leisure time following the sun.
After picking up a test unit from Mike Thompson RV in Fountain Valley, California, I immediately began assessing how this luxury motorhome performs out on the road (freeways; urban roadways; and winding, hilly byways); how it functions residentially; and the fit and finish Winnebago Industries employees have incorporated into this $210,000 coach.
During the ride-and-drive part of my assignment, I found that the Solei 34T yields an exceptionally quiet and smooth ride. Southern California freeways span a broad spectrum of road surfaces (from smooth to rough, to just plain blunt), where the behavior of a vehicle is immediately apparent. Winnebago designers have done a great job of anchoring all of the appliances, interior structures, surfaces, appointments, and the massive slideout rooms to prevent nuisance rattles. Very little if any wind leakage or noise was noticed around the window seals, windshield, slideouts, or side entry door when proceeding at steady freeway speeds, which reached 65 and 70 mph.
The suspension system that is engineered into the Freightliner XCS chassis (the platform on which the Solei 34T is created) features the 340-horsepower Cummins ISB 6.7-liter turbocharged engine, Allison 6-speed automatic 2100 MH transmission, and NeWay front and rear air suspension. These components help “get the job done” when it comes to intercepting and mitigating road trauma generated from irregular road surfaces.
Though I didn’t perform 0-to-60 acceleration tests or power braking scenarios, I did experience getting quickly up to speed upon entering freeway on-ramps, as well as slowing down (including use of an engine exhaust brake) and braking (utilizing ABS air brakes). I was completely satisfied with these operations.
The actual gross weight of my test coach, which included 90 gallons of fuel, a full fresh-water tank (84 gallons), and a full propane tank (23.5 gallons), registered 22,360 pounds at the scales. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is listed at 26,000 pounds, which means that even with full water and fuel, the unit reviewed could accommodate another 3,640 pounds of passengers and cargo — sufficient to support a snowbird lifestyle or other type of extended trip. In addition, this coach can tow 4,000 pounds.
The Solei has a mirror system that can be adjusted to give the driver good views along both sides of the motorhome. When either turn signal is activated, the dash-mounted monitor shows objects that might potentially be in conflict with turning or moving the coach in that direction. During normal operation, the monitor displays activity behind the coach.
The instrumentation and driver and passenger controls feature large knobs and large rocker switches, which are exceptionally user-friendly. Only the radio requires adjusting the band, stations, and volume with push-button digital controls. In my opinion, coach instrumentation does not need to look as though it has been borrowed from the starship Enterprise, and in the Solei, it doesn’t. This motorhome offers a friendly, easily readable presentation.
Dual pull-down shades provide protection on both the driver and passenger sides; one is made of a woven fabric that breaks up the effects of the direct sun yet permits occupants to see outside. The second pull-down shade provides total privacy when parked. The MCD blackout shade, which runs the width of the windshield, raises and lowers via an electric motor by pushing a large finger switch. Because the shade can be lowered incrementally, it works nicely as a visor when one is driving directly into a late-afternoon sun. It also serves as the privacy/blackout shade when camp has been set up.
The Solei 34T comes with two slideouts, each featuring a topper awning. The one on the curb side expands the galley and the rear bedroom. The street-side slideout houses the living area sofa. Winnebago Industries now incorporates electric motors along the tops of each slideout. The slideout rooms are easily operated with the touch of a button. Company literature recommends that the automatic four-point hydraulic leveling jacks be lowered prior to extending the slides.
The continuity and flow from front to rear of the motorhome is achieved in several ways, one being the use of 16-inch-by-16-inch vinyl tiles fore and aft that are laid in a diagonal pattern. I liked this look a lot, not only for the continuity, but for its low-maintenance functionality.
The ultra-soft leather-like fabric that dresses the sofa is as comfortable and inviting as it appears. Releasing a latch on each end of the sofa allows the ends to slide out to create a large, U-shaped seating area — Winnebago Industries’ own InLounge. The InLounge converts into sleeping quarters as well. It is accompanied by another company design, the multipurpose InTable, which can be used as a coffee table or counter extension, as an end table, or to provide dining for six. This convenient table folds for storage when not in use.
Cabinets line the interior above the sofa. Aft of the sofa is a floor-to-ceiling storage unit that is intersected midway up by a countertop. The InTable slides into the end of this unit for storage; a double-door cabinet above provides additional storage.
In the cockpit, above the driver and passenger seats, designers have coaxed additional utility out of an area that typically is underused. Here, the optional StudioLoft electric-powered bunk bed lowers from the ceiling; when not needed, it stows flush against the ceiling, out of the way. You simply can’t tell that a bunk bed is there until it is put in service. The bunk includes a thin foam mattress with a pad that lies on the mattress top.
Immediately aft of the passenger cockpit seat is a floor-to-ceiling entertainment cabinet that houses a 48-inch TV, a home theater sound bar system, a DVD player, and an optional electric fireplace (the latter actually serves as a warming source for the living area). Aft of this structure is the entry stairwell. One thoughtful appurtenance is the long grab bar that runs vertically alongside the entry door.
The curbside slideout, which begins aft of the entry door, measures 17 feet long by 16 inches deep. It houses all of the features associated with a complete residential-style chef’s prep area, as well as a residential-style refrigerator/freezer, a storage cabinet with room for the optional washer-dryer, and a floor-to-ceiling wardrobe.
Interior cabinetry choices in the Solei are either Coffee-Glazed Forest Cherry or Coffee-Glazed Honey Cherry.
Winnebago designers continue to rethink functionality and utility in the galley, but they have done so without sacrificing the elegant look they obviously have gone to great lengths to create. Most notable is the design approach taken to create the L-shape counter area, part of which is at a right angle to the exterior wall and includes a double stainless-steel sink with a designer faucet. This permanently fixed structure is slightly lower than the main galley counter along the curb side of the motorhome. When the slideout extends and retracts, it moves over the permanently fixed counter. The sink and faucet remain accessible when the slideout room is retracted.
The galley features marbled-gray granite-look Corian countertops with a beveled/bullnose leading edge. The folding cover for the three-burner cooktop is made from the same material. A microwave-convection oven hangs above. The full-tile backsplash complements the already gorgeous galley area. Immediately aft of the cooktop is a 17.5-cubic-foot stainless-steel double-door residential refrigerator. The double-door (floor to ceiling) storage cabinet aft of the refrigerator features glide-out adjustable shelves, with capacity for plenty of dry goods, or to house the optional washer-dryer.
With both slideouts extended, the coach interior width measures 11 feet 9.5 inches, giving the interior a huge, open feel. However, let it be noted that full livability can be enjoyed without extending the slideouts. The center-aisle design leaves plenty of unobstructed room to move from the front to the rear of the coach with no maneuvering issues. Stopping for a quick lunch on the road is as easy as setting up camp for the night.
Even the queen-size bed in the rear bedroom — topped with an innerspring mattress or optional Ideal Rest Nouveau digital comfort control mattress — can be walked around when the slideouts are retracted. As in the living area and the cockpit, pull-down MCD blackout roller shades in the bedroom get the job done. All windows in this area, and throughout the coach, are tinted, dual-glazed, and thermo-insulated.
The fit and finish of the Solei is in evidence in the bedroom as well. This room includes luxurious handcrafted storage wardrobes, cabinets, nightstands, and drawers. The headboard above the bed is sculptured and tucked, using fabric as the medium. The beauty of a flat-screen television is that they take up practically no room, a feature that is underscored by the 32-inch Insignia HD LED television attached to the interior wall at the foot of the bed.
On the street side of the center-aisle passageway, between the front and rear of the coach, is the bathroom. This functional, utilitarian space is equipped with all of the elements found in a residential bathroom.
Winnebago designers have provided ample capacities for heating and air-conditioning, electrical, and plumbing utilities, allowing the owner to opt for a luxury RV resort or primitive stand-alone camping. These include 50-amp shore service, a 2,000-watt inverter, and a 6-kw Cummins Onan Quiet Diesel auxiliary generator. Gray and waste tank capacities are identified as 54 gallons and 48 gallons, respectively. The Solei features two 13,500-Btu roof-mounted, ducted air conditioners (one equipped with a heat pump), and a 35,000-Btu ducted furnace. They are more than sufficient for four-season, full-time RV camping.
The company’s penchant for comfort is reflected in the construction of this coach, which is built to the company’s patented SuperStructure standards. Features include a steel cab structure; a steel firewall; interlocking structural joints; cockpit seats that are attached to solid steel; welded laser-cut roof, wall, and floor structural tube members; and all appliances and cabinets anchored in steel panels mounted in the sidewalls. The insulation is thermo-formed EPS polystyrene foam that is rated at R-8.26 (roof), R-6.44 (floor), and R-7.44 (walls).
The Solei is offered with a choice of four exterior paint schemes (all full-body paint); three interior decor options; and, as noted earlier, two cabinetry finishes.
I found the Solei 34T to be an elegant and luxurious motorhome — one that I predict will remain in the stable of Itasca models for some time to come.
Winnebago Industries Inc., 605 W. Crystal Lake Road, Forest City, IA 50436; (641) 585-3535; www.goitasca.com
Cummins ISB 6.7-liter turbocharged; 340 horsepower @ 2,600 rpm, 660 pound-feet torque @ 2,100 rpm
Allison 2100 MH 6-speed automatic
4.78 to 1
Michelin XRV 255/80R22.5 G
air brakes with ABS
power assist with tilt wheel
chassis — 1900 cca;
coach — (4) deep-cycle marine/RV
6,000-watt Cummins Onan Quiet Diesel
35 feet 6 inches
8 feet 5.5 inches
6 feet 8 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 10,410 pounds;
rear — 17,500 pounds
(weighed with full fuel and fresh water)
front axle — 7,380 pounds;
rear axle — 14,940 pounds;
total — 22,360 pounds
OCCUPANT & CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY (OCCC)
Steel cab substructure with windshield securely mounted in steel; tubular aluminum frame within sidewall
EPS (polystyrene) foam
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 54 gallons;
black water — 48 gallons
ducted 35,000-Btu Suburban forced-air furnace; heat pump on 13,500-Btu roof-mounted air conditioner
(2) 13,500-Btu roof-mounted air conditioners, one with A/C only, one with heat pump
17.5-cubic-foot 2-door residential refrigerator/freezer with ice maker
coach — 12-month/15,000-mile basic limited warranty; 36-month/36,000-mile limited warranty on structure, 10-year limited parts and labor warranty on roof skin
chassis — 3-year/50,000-mile limited warranty
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED