The 31W floor plan features a 22-foot-long slideout for enhanced living space.
By Lazelle Jones
It was destined to happen, and Thor Motor Coach (TMC) is among the first companies to do it. “Do what?” you might ask. The answer: To design, engineer, build, and offer a full-wall street-side slideout in a Type C motorhome.
Thor Motor Coach uses three different Ford chassis to create its Type C lineup, producing models with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) of 12,500, 14,500, and 19,500 pounds. Motorhomes based on the Ford E-350 chassis begin at 23 feet; next longer-length models, up through 31 feet, are built on the E-450 chassis. Super C motorhomes, which are longer than 31 feet, utilize the Ford F-550 chassis and are powered by the Ford 6.7-liter Power Stroke Diesel. (Chevrolet and Sprinter chassis also are available.)
The 31-foot gas-powered Chateau Type C is offered in three floor plans that can include either a single full-wall slideout or dual slideouts. The E-450 chassis used for these vehicles receives power from a 6.8-liter Ford Triton V-10 engine married to a 6-speed automatic transmission with tow-haul mode. The horsepower and torque ratings on the V-10 are 305 horsepower and 420 pound-feet, respectively.
Recently, I spent an entire day climbing over, around, through, and under the Chateau 31W, the full-wall-slideout floor plan built on the E-450 chassis. Comfortable and quiet, this large Type C can service the needs of a growing family, as well as empty nesters and/or those who want a quick weekend escape. The Chateau also will work beautifully for four-season motorhome enthusiasts, for it comes with heated holding tanks (via electric heat blankets).
The full-wall slideout is on the street side of the coach. When extended, it begins just aft of the driver’s seat and runs all the way back to the rear exterior wall. Its interior measures 18 inches deep and 268 inches long, with an interior height of 84 inches. TMC uses four 12-volt-DC electric motors to extend and retract the slideout; one is positioned on the top and bottom of each end. Microchips communicate between the motors to ensure smooth, non-binding operation.
Despite the slideout’s 22-foot-plus length, I didn’t experience any lag or lead at either end, or at the top or bottom, during extension and retraction. The patented 3TRAX wall slide system is operated using the Chateau’s two standard house batteries. This means you do not have to run the standard-equipment 4-kw Onan gasoline auxiliary generator to operate the slideout; the motorhome doesn’t need to be hooked to shore power; and the Ford engine doesn’t need to be running. The house batteries get the job done. A mechanical override is incorporated in the unlikely event any difficulties should be encountered during operation. The slideout comes with a single topper awning that covers its entire length.
Front to rear, the full-wall slideout houses a dinette; a solid-surface galley counter complex with cabinets, a double sink, a cooktop, and a residential microwave oven; a pantry; and a closet. Aft of the galley, also inside the slideout, are his-and-her wardrobes in the rear bedroom.
Handcrafted wood cabinets, doors, panels, and drawers line the interior from front to rear, with the wood choices being either cherry or maple. Three interior décor packages are currently available: Arabian Spice, Dark Rum, and Taupe Metallic. My review unit featured Oyster Bay décor, which is no longer available from the factory, although as of September 2014 some units with this décor still were on dealer lots.
This full-wall slideout is but one of the trendsetting features that come standard on the 2015 Chateau 31W. Also of particular note is the 18-cubic-foot, double-door, stainless-steel residential Whirlpool refrigerator-freezer. Positioned on the curb side, immediately aft of the main entry stairwell, it is the kind of appliance one would find in an upscale residential home. Its appearance alone makes a clear statement about what the rest of the coach offers. With a freezer above and a refrigerator below, this appliance has a dedicated 1,800-watt inverter that provides power via the house batteries. The inverter also powers the 120-volt-AC receptacles and the televisions.
Opposite of the refrigerator is a solid-surface galley countertop. The positioning of these two galley mainstays eliminates any need to “step and fetch.” By pivoting 180 degrees, the chef can open either the upper freezer or lower refrigerator doors, and immediately retrieve what is needed to complete a culinary project. It’s a functional galley configuration.
Looking forward from the mid-entry door, one sees a jackknife sofa on the curb side of the vehicle. The sofa provides a 40-inch-by-60 inch sleeping area when needed. The Dream Dinette across from it offers a 42-inch-by-68-inch sleeping area when converted to a bed.
The Chateau features an uncommon configuration in the center aisle, midway of the coach, just aft of the curbside bathroom: a 5-inch step into the rear bedroom. This step helps to create a huge curbside basement compartment that yields 59.5 cubic feet of storage. The step also contributes to a feeling of privacy in this rear venue. The walkaround queen bed rests crosswise, with the head against the curbside wall. The bed incorporates a premium Denver Mattress. TMC designers made the choice to include these brand-name mattresses as standard equipment in place of the industry’s more common generic foam pad. This comfort zone is totally accessible and can be used for napping even with the slideout fully retracted. A 24-inch flat-screen television hangs opposite the bed in the wardrobe configuration that is incorporated in the slideout.
The actual gross weight of my review unit was 13,680 pounds. The Chateau 31W was weighed with a full tank of fresh water (40 gallons), a full fuel tank (55 gallons), and 200 pounds of passengers. Based on this actual gross weight, the remaining amount of cargo carrying capacity was approximately 800 pounds. The gross combination weight rating (GCWR) is 22,000 pounds. The E-450 chassis is designed to tow 5,000 pounds, a capability that can accommodate towed vehicles; utility trailers; and adult toys such as a boat, off-highway vehicle, etc. The Class V trailer hitch and the wiring harness are options, as is the dash-mounted brake controller and the rear backup camera.
On The Road
Winding out along the two-lane blue-line highway that weaves its way up through the Santa Ana Mountains of California, I gauged the mettle of this motorhome through urban settings and also out on the interstate.
The ride I experienced in the cockpit was comfortable, with no negatives to report. Conversations were held in normal tones, for little if any noise emanated from interior objects squeaking or moving around on their foundations. Minimal road noise or traffic noise found its way inside. Driving the coach could be done with ease, much as though one were piloting a large sedan.
Thor Motor Coach designers seem to have taken the construction of the house portion of the Chateau seriously. The cab-over area comes standard-equipped with a bed, which will comfortably accommodate two adults, and also houses a 32-inch flat-screen television. The TV is mounted on an adjustable robotic arm that makes it viewable from anywhere in the living or galley areas. It can be stowed to the side against the bulkhead for travel, or pulled out and positioned for viewing.
The cab-over structure is a fiberglass-cast unit with no seams, a design element that yields increased structural integrity, weather resistance, and improved aesthetics. A window on the street side permits daylight and ventilation in this area when desired. Air-conditioning is also ducted to the sleeping quarter.
The Chateau’s floor, exterior walls, and roof structures all feature aluminum frame construction. Between the aluminum tubular framing, thick block foam with an insulation factor of R-9 is cut to fit. The interior walls consist of lauan, with a decorator finish added. Walls and roof are laminated and vacuum-bonded together. A TPO exterior surface that is impervious to the elements and can be walked on tops the roof. Beneath it are lauan panels, with block foam insulation cut to fit between the aluminum frame members.
Ducting for the coach air-conditioning runs throughout the roof. Adjustable registers fore and aft can be opened, closed, or adjusted to deliver cool air from the standard 13,500-Btu Coleman roof air conditioner. An optional 15,000-Btu roof air-conditioning unit is offered. Heating is handled by a 30,000-Btu forced-air furnace that is ducted throughout the unit. Just as with the roof air-conditioning, the heating has its own register in the private water closet/bathroom.
Floor construction features steel cross members, solid foam insulation, and Darco unberbelly material to protect the undercarriage from road debris. The interior subfloor is dressed with low-maintenance vinyl flooring, from the cab back to the bedoom.
What Thor Motor Coach has done to the exterior fiberglass walls merits special attention. To achieve a full-body paint look without the cost, TMC builders infuse color into the fiberglass before it is applied. Three exterior color schemes are offered, with the standard choice being fiberglass gel-coat white. The other two choices feature the color-infused fiberglass, a patented process called HD-MAX. This TMC process involves mixing color with the material before it is sprayed on as gel coat and then applied as “chop.” Both are infused with the color and are then applied in layers. Thus, the color runs all the way through the fiberglass of the exterior walls. The exterior graphics are then applied, with two choices available.
One advantage associated with this color-infusing process is that it gives the motorhome a full-body-paint look for a fraction of the cost, because it eliminates the man-hours required to apply full-body exterior paint, which must first be preceded by a base coat. Second, should the exterior become scratched, it is much less obvious and can often be rubbed out.
The electrics on the Chateau 31W include 30-amp shore service. The aforementioned 4-kw gasoline-powered Cummins Onan auxiliary generator is standard and draws from the 55-gallon Ford chassis fuel tank. All interior lighting is LED.
TMC offers one other option that seems to be the answer to every end-user’s prayers: its patented Rapid Camp wireless remote-control system, which operates five different devices using a single hand control — the slideout, leveling jacks, patio lights, auxiliary generator, and patio awning. Sweet!
The driver can benefit from heated, remote-controlled side mirrors that feature integrated side-view cameras. When activated by the turn signal, these cameras feed visual data to the dash-mounted screen to let the driver know what is happening along both sides of the coach.
The base manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the Chateau 31W is $104,625. Options can include an exterior television, an over-the-cab entertainment center, child safety tethers, and a power driver’s seat. The as-tested price of the unit I reviewed carried an MSRP of $107,867, with these options: leatherette driver and passenger captain’s chairs and sofa; one 15,000-Btu A/C unit (replaces the standard 13,500-Btu unit); wood dash applique; Starlight HD-MAX exterior; free Premier Package on 31-foot models, including solid-surface countertops, universal USB power charging station, LED lighting, Bluetooth stereo with exterior speakers, residential microwave, kitchen water filtration system, black tank flush EZ-Clean System, premium roller shades, Rapid Camp remote control system.
Thor Motor Coach, 701 C.R. 15, Elkhart, IN 46516; (800) 860-5658; www.thormotorcoach.com
Triton V-10; 305 horsepower at 4,250 rpm; 420 pound-feet torque @ 3,250 rpm
TorqShift 5-speed automatic
4.56 to 1
front coils; rear leaf
chassis — (1) 650 cca
house — (2) 12-volt deep-cycle; 750 cca each
Cummins Onan RV QG 4000, gas
32 feet 2 inches (without ladder)
99 inches (without mirrors)
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 5,000 pounds;
rear — 9,600 pounds
(weighed with full water, full fuel, one adult passenger, one child)
front axle — 4,520 pounds;
rear axle — 9,080 pounds;
total — 13,680 pounds
OCCUPANT & CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY (OCCC)]
aluminum frame floor, walls, roof
low-density, solid foam, R-9
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 28 gallons;
black water — 28 gallons
1 15,000-Btu unit, optional (1 13,500-Btu unit, standard)
18-cubic-foot residential stainless steel; inverter-powered
coach — 12 months/15,000 miles;
chassis — 36 months/36,000 miles
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED