Friday, August 21, 2009

More fuel-efficient is definitely “in” these days when it comes to RV products. Manufacturers are coming up with interesting, new, smaller motorized and towable options for those looking for something a bit different to fit today’s economic sensibilities.

Winnebago Via

Motorhomes based on the Dodge Sprinter van, both the full van and cutaway chassis, are popular and commonplace today. Winnebago Industries (, 641/585-3535) has gone one step further with the introduction of its all-new 2010 Via Class A motorhome.

The Via and its Itasca equivalent, the Reyo, are based on the Sprinter “cowl” chassis that’s currently being imported exclusively by Winnebago. This chassis allows the company to design its entire coach from the ground up, as is typical for any Class A motorhome, instead of working with the Sprinter cab or body features used on the earlier models.

At 25 feet long, the Via is a compact vehicle, yet it offers full-featured livability and comfort. At the same time, its 154-hp Mercedes-Benz 3.0-L turbo-diesel 6-cylinder engine delivers fuel economy numbers considerably higher than the average gas-powered Class A and better than various front- or rear-engine diesel-powered rigs on the market.

Sprinter-van-based Class B motorhomes are reported to achieve as much as 20-plus mpg. Winnebago hasn’t released any fuel economy figures yet, but it’s reasonable to presume that the Via will achieve lower numbers than the smaller van-based rigs, but still better than a V-8-powered coach.

Contemporary body styling and graphics give the coach visual appeal, and the interior abounds with smooth, rounded surfaces and next-generation-looking cabinets. It’s a rig that likely would please the most persnickety type who doesn’t want just another box on wheels.

The Via starts at $135,132 base MSRP. That’s not cheap, but long-term fuel savings make it a viable investment option.

True North Freelance OSV

The interest in downsized trailers means more RV manufacturers are treading the fine line between an RV and a simple enclosed place to sleep on wheels. Northwood Manufacturing, a company long known for building functional and high-quality RVs designed by outdoors enthusiasts, has developed a new small trailer that fits a variety of recreation product niches.

The new Freelance Outdoor Support Vehicle (OSV) by Northwood’s True North division (, 800/766-6274) is an exciting addition to the smaller-RV market. It resembles one of the classic teardrop-style trailers on steroids and offers a wide variety of equipment and function options.

In essence, it’s a 1,535-pound trailer with a sofa that folds down to a bed, a rear lift hatch that covers a kitchenette unit and several exterior-access storage compartments. Its rounded front and sloped aft end help with aerodynamics, and the unit’s 16-foot, 4-inch length means it can be stored in many garages.

As with a teardrop, users need to bend over inside as the entire rig is just 6 feet 9 inches tall overall from ground to roofline. Inside, it’s just the sofa/bed that folds down to 48 x 77 inches, some mesh storage pockets, and extra open storage space. A lower-level access hatch provides pass-through long-item storage capability.

And that’s still a lot more luxurious than the average tent. The Freelance OSV is aimed at those who want to make the leap from a tent into an RV without a lot of complications or cost. This rig retails for about $8,250 base MSRP, and heads up to closer to $13,100 fully equipped.

Users can opt for the base package or equip the Freelance OSV with a wide variety of options including a complete array of Thule rack-mount storage and sporting-toy-mount or camping accessories.

The Freelance OSV is an interesting and versatile new option for first-time RVers or those wishing to expand the flexibility of their leisure time activities.

Chalet RV: moving and shaking

The product designers at Chalet RV Inc. (www.chaletrv .com, 541/791-4610) have been busy with a new model aimed at the lightweight towable market. A company spokesman said the product would be ready for introduction very soon, pending some final detail touches on the first model.

While it’s no big news to build a lightweight RV these days, the big difference lies in how your lightweight compares to the other guy’s product.

The new Chalet model is said to break new ground in that regard and will offer full livability features, including a dry bath, in a very compact size. It’s not a fold-down, like another popular Chalet product line, and it’s not a teardrop, although it blends elements of each.

It also uses wide-body design to help achieve extra interior space.

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