2004 Airstream Land Yacht Review

A different kind of Class A

By Howard J Elmer, Jan. 01, 2008, Photography by Howard J Elmer
The Airstream trailer has had a unique heritage and distinct contribution to the RV Lifestyle. That’s a given – and in some ways the brand name tends to convey certain expectations. But, that’s the trailer; what about the motorhome?

I had a chance to take a Land Yacht on the road for several days and I decided that I’d do my best to look at this Class A with new eyes. Forget the Airstream history and influence and take this vehicle at face value. I think I’ve succeeded; certainly being able to spend five days in the unit helped, plus the 600 miles I put on the odometer. Still, my first impression is that this is a very different RV.

Airstream launched its first motorhome in 1979, a unit that pretty much mimicked the classic riveted aluminum body of its trailers. The Land Yacht, however, rolled out in 1989 and came with laminated fiberglass construction; a look that was much more traditional Class A. For 2004, it’s available in four floorplans from 26 to 33 feet in length. I tested the 30-footer with the only slideout in the bunch.

Built on a Workhorse gas engine chassis the Land Yacht is smaller than what its price might lead you to believe it should be. It’s also shorter and a little narrower than other Class As. But inside the quality of the fixtures and the artistic design accents hint at this Airstream’s target market; established and upscale. Another hint has to do with plenty of features that are standard on a Land Yacht but are optional on other makes.  Overall though the best description of this unit is found in the company’s brochure; it says “The answer for those who want the spaciousness of a larger motorhome with the mobility of a smaller unit.” Currently I still have two teenage boys at home and when we travel a mule-train’s worth of stuff goes with us, so my initial impression was “why, would I want a smaller RV?”

The answer to that question (in part at least) is the on-road manners of the Land Yacht. First the lower profile of the unit reduces the hi-centered sway that some taller units suffer from and the relatively short length eliminates front-end bounce on uneven pavement. The 8.1 L gas engine, pulling this weight, is very strong with ample low-end torque and it cruises easily at (or over) the highway speed limit. With the cruise control set, the coach required a minimum of attention, it felt good, moved easily through traffic and its mirrors and windows afforded good sightlines. I enjoyed my drive of several uninterrupted hours – no white knuckling with this unit. I even found that vacuums and cross winds from passing trucks and bridges had no effect on the unit. My only criticism would be about a small amount of wander in the front end, which required me to work the steering more than I thought was necessary.

A nice feature on the Workhorse is a digital information centre on the dash that includes an instant fuel consumption figure. I noted that it read roughly 9 mpg at roughly 70 mph or 10.7 mpg at 62 mph; figures that I considered reasonable to good.

Its low aerodynamic shape with a split windshield that sits at a 40 degree angle no doubt contributes to its fuel mileage. The driving area is elegant with leather seats (fully powered and reclining) and hardwood accents. The instrument panel is well laid out with easy to read switches, including a generator start switch, front fan controls and the hydraulic leveler touchpad.  The driver’s door has a power lock and window.

An in-dash backup camera can be swiveled with the touch of a button to point the camera down for backing in or swiveled up to watch following traffic on the highway. In addition, because the Land Yacht has a rear window over the bed, there is a clear line of sight via the rearview mirror to the back of the unit. 

In the salon the brocade material on the foldout couch, in the slideout, is rich as is the carpeting, window treatments and cabinets.

The dinette table, just inside the door, has an expandable leaf, and there are two extra folding hardwood chairs in the hanging garment closet.

A key feature in the coach is the unique round sink. It defines the centre of the coach and creates a visual break between the kitchen and salon. The sink has a cover that doubles as counter space. Below it are pair of cupboard doors that match the curve of the sink and countertop – very elegant looking. The galley  comes with a three-burner range with cover, exhaust hood, a convection microwave oven, oak cabinetry, Corian countertops and a residential style Moen faucet. The refrigerator is skinned in a bare steel look. Overhead there are two skylights, with shades, and there are also two Magic Fans that open and close automatically.

Lighting in the coach is a mix of recessed fluorescent fixtures and individual lights throughout. Many of these lamps can be aimed and with separate switches on each you can have as little or as much light as you need. The bedside lamps in particular are nice. 

There are two AC units, both roof mounted low-profile types. One is dedicated to the bedroom, the best place to have air conditioning. The furnace is one centrally located heating unit. During my late fall excursion I had the heater running constantly. Temperatures dipped well below freezing at night and hovered just over it during the day. The system (run off a main thermostat) worked just fine and had no trouble keeping the coach warm. Over the course of five days I went through only about half of the 90 lb of propane on board. It helps that the Land Yacht features a rear automotive heater that really pumps the heat into the coach while you’re driving.

A 20-inch LCD flat screen TV mounted in the main salon with a multi-position swingarm is not only a space saving idea, but the variations in positioning means it can be watched from the table, couch, front seats or even while working in the kitchen. A smaller 14-inch TV in the bedroom can be tuned to different channels or a video signal if your viewing tastes differ from those of your guests. Headphone plug-in over the queen-size bed allows silent viewing or can be switched to listen to the radio.

The bathroom area layout has the full-size shower with glass door on one side of the hallway and the toilet and vanity on the other side (with its own door). If you leave this door open you have a spacious bath and change area open to the rear bedroom. If you choose you can also close the sliding pocket door from the bedroom and have complete privacy.

Interior storage on the Land Yacht is adequate, but outside the low-profile construction of this RV makes the basement section small and narrow. For instance a standard milk crate won’t go through the side compartment door. At the rear, under the window, there is a so-called “trunk”. This is the largest storage space access on the coach. At almost waist height it’s handy for getting things in and out of, but I found that the barrel and pin latch system it uses kept sticking. It’ll need lubrication from time to time.

A large part of the Land Yacht’s appeal is its unique shape, paint schemes and reflective tinted glass. In addition to the two-tone paint, it sports polished reverse chrome bud wheels – even the rooftop mechanicals are color co-coordinated.

If you are thinking of a nice two-person coach; something a bit smaller yet unique and rich, the Land Yacht is worth a look.

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