Building upon Born Free’s heritage of motorhome engineering and design, this new model unites fuel economy, functionality, utility, and comfort.
By Lazelle Jones
The Reign, a new Type C motorhome from Born Free Motorcoach, made its public debut at the 2016 Florida RV SuperShow this past January. When the 24-foot Type C motorhome became available on the West Coast shortly afterward, I jumped at the invitation to take a detailed look. I motored up the California coast to Sky River RV in Pismo Beach, where two new Reigns had just been delivered.
The Reign comes in four floor plans. Three have a slideout: the 24RB, my review unit, with a coach-wide rear bath; the 24CB, a center-aisle bath arrangement with twin beds that convert to a coach-wide queen bed across the rear; and the rear-bath 24FL, featuring an 11-foot-long slideout containing a 68-inch sofa and a dinette. The newest floor plan is the non-slideout 24TI, with front twin incline beds; the head of each bed can be raised or lowered for television viewing, reading, etc.
As I began my inspection of the 24RB, I immediately noticed a significant difference from previous Born Free models. Though the company continues to build Type C motorhomes on Ford chassis, its traditional chassis of choice, the all-new, downsized Reign is constructed on the Mercedes-Benz 3500 diesel-powered Sprinter platform.
Instead of being built on an assembly line, each Born Free motorhome is constructed by a team of workers. Born Free receives the dual-rear-wheel 3500 chassis with a cutaway cab from Mercedes-Benz and augments it with steel outriggers and rail extensions to create the foundation that supports the floor. The subfloor consists of 1-inch sheets of a lightweight core sandwiched between two sheets of fiberglass and anchored to the chassis’ steel members. The interior floor covering is installed next; in the test unit, faux wood plank vinyl was used, one of three available designs. This is followed by placement of the cabinets, appliances, other large features, counters, and interior walls.
Next, the walls and roof are set into place — lightweight aluminum structural members that are welded together. The use of aluminum strips significant weight from the unit, yet still provides strength and structural integrity.
The exterior surface, composed of fiberglass dressed with Azdel, a lightweight composite panel, is added. Cut-to-fit foam-core insulation is then placed between the aluminum members that compose the walls and ceiling. The interior walls combine Azdel surfaced with a leatherette fabric.
The slideout is installed last via the opening on the driver’s side. It is fabricated separately, employing the same construction techniques and materials (aluminum framing and insulation) used in the house portion of the motorhome. It is an electric slide system, rolls on casters, and is powered by a 12-volt-DC touch-switch motor that runs off the house battery. Large automotive crush-type bulb seals surround the opening inside and outside, protecting the interior of the motorhome from the outdoors in both extended and retracted positions. Giant, dual wiper-type rubber blades remove moisture from the exterior walls as the slideout retracts. A standard topper awning protects the roof of the slideout from debris and excessive moisture.
A signature safety feature long associated with Born Free motorhomes remains an integral part of the new 24-foot Reign: three high-tensile-steel roll bars. They are strategically located where the cab and cabin join, immediately aft of the slideout room, and near the rear of the coach. The location of the midships roll bar varies with each floor plan, depending on the size of the slideout. This three-roll-bar system has been a feature on Born Free motorhomes for decades.
As with all Born Free motorhomes, the Reign comes with full-body paint and graphics. The standard exterior paint schemes are Sandstone, Garnet, and Blue, in addition to the Black and Silver scheme that dressed my review unit. A base coat is applied, followed by the graphics design and two layers of clear coat. The front of the coach receives an application of Diamond Coat, a sealant that protects the exterior from scratches and paint nicks caused by kicked-up road debris.
Outside storage is configured such that extended road trips and family vacations are doable in the Reign. Six hinged storage compartments swing open laterally, providing easy access to the contents inside. At the very rear curbside corner of the 24RB, a handy 60-inch-high compartment accommodates long, odd-shaped items — for example, skis and ski poles or golf clubs. This compartment, which is not seen in most Type C motorhomes, is included in all four Reign floor plans.
The holding tanks also facilitate extended RV trips, with a little planning and tank economy. The fresh-, gray-, and black-water holding tank capacities are 35, 29, and 21 gallons, respectively. The propane tank is rated to hold 12.2 gallons; it fuels the cooktop, the water heater, the 30,000-Btu forced-air furnace, and the standard auxiliary generator. Capacity of the Reign’s diesel fuel tank is 26.4 gallons. This means that under normal highway operating conditions, the range could be 450 miles between fuel stops (based on the 16-18 mpg city and highway average Born Free Motorcoach advertises for this motorhome).
All units come with a 2.5-kilowatt propane auxiliary generator that can be upgraded to a 3.2-kw diesel-fueled model. A 14.75-foot-long Carefree power patio awning is also standard. The patio area can be made more entertainment-friendly with an optional 32-inch LED flat-screen television, radio, and speakers.
Motorhomes today deliver much more than just form and function. Seeking to enhance the residential ambience inside Born Free motorhomes, the company enlisted a consultant — an industry décor veteran who also teaches at a university school of design. As I evaluated the décor, appointments, and overall living space in the Reign 24RB, I concluded that the results were successful.
Born Free designs and builds its own cabinetry. The interior wood in my review unit was hand-stained premium cherry; other choices include walnut, alder, and oak. Corian countertops (front and rear) complemented the warm tone of the deep-red cherry wood cabinets in my review unit.
Four interior décor packages are offered. This unit featured the Platinum package, which is unique to the Reign. The Platinum option features a high-tech, automotive look, which coincides nicely with the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 chassis.
In the living area, just aft of the cockpit, is the street-side slideout, which measures 62.5 inches by 68 inches by 27 inches and houses a large 68-inch sofa that quickly converts to a queen bed. At the touch of a button, a standard 32-inch flat-screen television rises out of the Corian counter that sits opposite the sofa.
Just aft of the living area is the galley. A full-size sink and a two-burner propane cooktop are situated in an L shape on the street side, with a 6.3-cubic-foot three-way refrigerator and freezer across the aisle. A standard 1.1-cubic-foot microwave-convection oven rests above the refrigerator. Roll-out, dovetailed drawers for service ware and large cabinets for cooking utensils are augmented by a curbside pantry and overhead cabinets.
In the rear of the 24RB, the coach-wide bath is appointed with a glass shower that has a full-size door; a porcelain toilet; a lavatory with cabinets below and a mirror above; and floor-to-ceiling cabinets and wardrobe. A solid pocket door with a full-length mirror closes off this area.
The heating and air-conditioning systems help satisfy RVers’ needs. The 15,000-Btu roof air conditioner does not dump air directly into the main cabin; ducting in the ceiling structure routes cool air from the central A/C unit to all areas of the interior. On a coach this size, the cooling capacity of the rooftop unit more than adequately handles the sometimes torturous outdoor temperatures and humidity encountered during summer RV travels. The 30,000-Btu propane-fueled Suburban forced-air furnace also is ducted throughout the coach.
The Sprinter diesel-powered chassis, with its 3.0-liter V-6 turbocharged diesel engine married to a five-speed automatic transmission, has become a major player in the motorhome market. Owners of this chassis can take advantage of a worldwide dealer and service network.
Operating a Born Free Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis feels much like driving a large sedan, SUV, or full-size pickup truck. Even with a residential structure incorporated in it, including passenger seat belts in the cabin, the utility of the 3500 chassis is broad-based. Use the 24RB to transport the kids or grandkids to events, or to complete errands around town. The Reign’s exterior dimensions are 94 inches wide by 127 inches tall by 24 feet 6 inches long. It fits in many driveways and can slot nicely in many urban parking spots. And the coach has a 3,500-pound towing capacity.
The base manufacturer’s suggested retail price of the 2016 Reign 24RB is $140,700. Fully appointed, its MSRP comes into the mid-$150,000 range.
Born Free Motorcoach is strategically developing its dealer network to better serve distant markets and facilitate company growth, while serving the Midwestern market from its factory showroom in Humboldt, Iowa. You can visit www.bornfreerv.com to find the dealer nearest you.
Born Free Motorcoach, 1505 13th St. N., Humboldt, IA 50548; (800) 247-1835, (515) 332-3755; www.bornfreerv.com
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500
3.0-liter V-6 turbocharged diesel; 161 horsepower at 3,800 rpm; 265 pound-feet torque at 1,400-2,400 rpm
4.18 to 1
16-inch Continental 215/85R16 all-season DRW
Active Safety Plus Package
chassis — (2) 12-volt, 100 amp-hours
house — (2) 6-volt
2.5-kilowatt, propane, standard; 3.2-kilowatt, diesel, optional
24 feet 6 inches
94 inches (without mirrors)
10 feet 7 inches
6 feet 8.5 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 3,100 pounds
rear — 6,650 pounds
OCCUPANT AND CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY (OCCC)
low density, solid foam, R-17
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 29 gallons;
black water — 21 gallons
30,000 Btu, ducted
(1) 15,000 Btu, ducted
coach — 3 years/36,000 miles;
chassis — 3 years/36,000 miles
engine — 5 years/100,000 miles
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED