2005 Coachmen Leprechaun 307KS Review

Ford E-series chassis provides a good ride

By Howard J Elmer, Jan. 22, 2008, Photography by Howard J Elmer
While building a product for a long time does not necessarily mean that itís better Ė the experience that comes with the history canít hurt. Enter Coachmen.

The company highlights some of its building techniques as having been gained through long experience. Such as radius bend waterlines that reduce the number of fittings used by 56 percent. Color-coded wires for easy service that are also grouped and bundled together all recorded on a wiring schematic thatís available to the buyer. Copper piping with double flared ends for tight seals and a Water Works utility panel that takes the guess work out of every water related function. These are the type of components that are rarely seen but show that function is vital to the operation of the vehicle Ė itís a good attitude to take.

The Coachmen unit I tested was the Leprechaun, a 30-foot class C that sits on the Ford E-series chassis (the 450). Itís powered by a 6.8L gas engine and automatic four speed transmission, with overdrive lockout. Its large single slide on the driverís side contains the couch and kitchen. Itís an electric slide, with a flush floor.

In this unit the classic overhead bunk was taken up by an entertainment centre and cupboards. This design allowed a cut-out that made getting in and out of the drivers cab easy, it also opened up the front of the unit visually Ė of course you lose the bunk space, but then this RV has a smaller family in mind.

The entertainment centre features a 27Ē flatscreen Samsung TV and a combination DVD/VCR player. There is also plenty of room for a stereo in the centre glass doored cabinet and storage space on either side for movies, books and other amusement items.  Those glass doors are accented with rope lights and downward aimed flush mini-spot lights are also elegant.

The doors are solid oak and the hardware is a brushed pewter color, course this is the case for all the doors in the unit. On the driverís side in my test unit the material covered valance edging the bunk was installed a little high and the first cupboard door struck it. The other odd thing about the overhead cabinets on the passenger side were that the flip-up doors would only open to about 70 degrees Ė though there was clearly room for them to go to 90. This appeared to be a function of where the assist arm was installed. Its travel stopped short and if you were six feet tall (like me) youíd have to duck to see what was on the top shelf.

To compliment the optional AM/FM/CD, cassette player there are two speakers in the van body doors and two in the ceiling amidships. The entertainment theme continues outside with an exterior AM/FM/CD player, marine grade speakers a 12V plug and a co-axial jack for setting up the spare TV.  All this is fit flush into the curbside wall and secured behind a locking fold-down storage door.  My tester featured a 4 KW gasoline powered Quiet Lite generator. This of course, opens up a whole other world of accessibility when it comes to camping off the beaten path. The fact that it runs off gas means it will draw from the vehicle fuel tank and that means it will run for a long time. As a safety precaution the Geni will stop drawing fuel from the tank when just ¼ tank remains.

The Ford cab itself is outfitted in the standard dull grey plastic that is rampant in the auto industry today. Even the mock leather seats are grey. As for power all the necessary features are there like: windows, steering, brakes, cruise control and mirrors with a heater feature.

A nice touch is the optional rear view camera that uses a small (about five inch) flat screen mounted into the sun visor. It works only when the truck is in park or reverse Ė so you wonít be tempted to watch it while driving.  The driverís seat has a good range of travel but the passenger seat needs to have the seat-back of the dinette folded down to achieve maximum movement. The dinette has a hinge and latch to accomplish this.

The couch is well positioned for watching TV, and it easily folds out with a simple lifting motion Ė but to suggest that you could sleep two people on it is a bit far fetched. Two little kids maybe, but one is more likely Ė also itís only five feet long. The drop down dinette though is more the double bed size and it looks to be comfortable. The same goes for the double bed in the master bedroom. No overly large, but big enough. 

Note that Coachmen offers seatbelts at the dinette as well as the couch, so you can seat (legally) eight including the driver.

The L-shaped kitchen in the slide features a three-burner stove with oven and a conventional (not convection) microwave oven above. There is no backsplash on the wall behind the stove but the folding steel top makes up for this. There is a double steel sink with separate drinking water tap and a pull-out spray head on the regular faucet. There is even a fold-up counter extension.

The bathroom is an all-in-one design, with the toilet, sink and shower all together itís a one-at-time bathroom. A powered vent over the shower will exhaust steam. The half-bath features a three-pane sliding shower door that in my unit was almost an inch out of plumb, judging by the gap at the top of the glass door when it was shut. The cabinet, mirror and counter top were fine, but some rough material finishing and an unleveled light fixture put me off. I expect better from Coachmen.

Across the hall from the bath is a floor to ceiling wardrobe designed with six drawers, three hanging closet sections and a large cupboard with shelves. This is a rich looking piece of furniture with lots of space Ė ideal for longer trips. Moving into the rear bedroom I noticed the large windows right off. The two on the sides are of the jalousie type, and with these two open a good cross-breeze should be possible. There is also a roof vent in the room, but I noticed only two AC diffusers and one heat vent near the floor. The bed does not raise, as the largest part of the pass-through storage is just underneath. This translates into a cross-chassis riser that is the base for half the bed and night tables on either side. A nice touch is the trapdoor on the right that acts as a laundry chute into the basement. At the foot of the bed is the fuse panel, easily seen and accessed.

The bedroom too has plenty of closet and cupboard space along with a corner unit that provides a flat table surface for a second smaller TV, if you choose to have one. The cable outlet is in the cabinet just above Ė but for some reason there is no hole in the bottom of the cabinet to run the cable down. Fixtures, fittings, material and valances all in all are nicely installed and quality items.

Some of the touches I like in the Leprechaun include the magazine rack over the entry door can also double as a central spot to leave manuals, maps and any other frequently used materials needed on a road trip. The light switches are easy to toggle up and down and they are large Ė no doubt easy to find in the dark.  The fire extinguisher right at the door at floor level is a very good idea. There is as much or greater chance that if you ever need it Ė it will be for something burning outside the unit. Good notices and explanations (posted) of systems inside the unit. The one exception is the double-door glass case on the floor as you enter the unit. Itís nice, but I donít get the purpose. Itís a bit big for just keys Ė too low for knick-knacks; maybe itís just me.

The Ford that the Leprechaun is built on drives well. The cab has the advantage of being low and of similar size and feel as a pickup or full-size van. It makes it instantly familiar and easy to drive (just remember the tail swings out on a unit like this). The wheelbase of over 17 feet supports the rear overhang well and I didnít experience any of the rocking horse bounce that comes with some of these long-tail units.

Engine power is more than adequate for highway merging and at speed the overall engine and road noise is minimal. This particular unit also felt quite stiff on its suspension, which I prefer to the softer ride that can cause side to side wallowing that sometimes has these Class Cís leaning like that famous tower in Italy. This might very well have been a result of the optional Firestone Ride Rite air suspension on my tester.

Power steering was fine, but of course the turning circle is huge with this wheelbase. Thatís not a problem but it is something to get used to. The brakes were more than up to the job of getting the Leprechaun to stop when I wanted it to.

Overall, a nice unit with an above average ride.

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