2008 Winnebago Sightseer 29R Review

Sightseer offers exceptional value

By Howard J Elmer, Sep. 18, 2008, Photography by Howard J Elmer
The last time I drove a Winnebago Sightseer was on a trip to Hannibal, Missouri, to take in the Fourth of July celebrations in 2002. The weather was oppressively hot, the fireworks (launched from a barge on the Mississippi) were spectacular and the Sightseer proved to be a good value for a week long vacation in a family-sized motorhome. With several lengths, layouts and multiple slideout options I remember writing that this motorhome offered a great entry point for RVers. Recently I had a chance to drive the Sightseer again, though this time it’s a ’08 model and I found that much had changed.

For 2008 the gas-powered Sightseer comes with either a Workhorse P or W chassis or a Ford 26,000 lb GCWR frame. This Ford chassis is new for ’06 having been redesigned to be more rigid, while the powertrain has been upgraded to a 362 horsepower version of the Triton V10 engine (up from 310 horsepower in ’02) with a five-speed automatic overdrive transmission (instead of the old four-speed with O/D lockout feature). The chassis also offers hydraulic brakes, four-wheel ABS and 130-amp alternator. This is now the standard chassis for five versions of the Sightseer ranging in length from 29 to 35 feet. The Workhorse packages feature GM-built Vortec V8s and Allison transmissions.

I think one of the things that has made the Sightseer a long-term seller for Winnebago is its ability to look like it's more than it is. In ’02 I wrote: "looking expensive but not being – that’s a tough trick to pull off. With the Sightseer this character trait is up front and striking. The bus-style front flows into one-piece fiberglass sidewalls that perch over a full basement storage system. Paint schemes and graphic designs are simple yet commanding. The rear is clean with a large automotive-style bumper and tail light casement. The marker lights (besides being functional) suggest a fondness for travel. Only the amidships entry door signals that this is not a much more expensive unit."

In my ’08 tester, at least, this trait has not changed. The interior material and color schemes are nicely co-coordinated and the unit features all the amenities that any buyer would expect in this price range or higher. But, the way Winnebago has kept this motorhome's price down is to create cleaver cost compromises and by not straying into the “more is better” mind-frame.
 
My tester, the 29R, was not a large motorhome at just under 30 feet. A fact that was noticeable (and enjoyable) while driving it around town. The stiff chassis and supportive suspension has reduced the body lean of earlier models and the short rear overhang follows nicely. Of course you still have to watch for tail-swing, but wheeling the coach around inspired one-hand-on-the-wheel confidence in me – it was that comfortable. I have mentioned chassis stiffness twice now – primarily because the last time (during my Missouri test) I noticed a little too much flex around the windshield frame and gaskets. The dash also rattled and flexed. This time there was none of that.

Some of things that haven’t changed since my introduction to the Sightseer are the centralized, convenient work stations. The OnePlace system puts all the switches, gauges and HVAC controls on one panel in an easy to see location in the hallway while the dump station does the same outside in one compartment which includes a shower head. Underneath the StoreMore system maximizes storage space, creates pass-throughs and moves with the slideouts – no crawling under. These things haven’t changed and frankly why would they.

This unit had two slides, both on the driver’s side. The bedroom slide contains the head of the bed and when open allows access to a full-wall wardrobe with eight drawers and three hanging closets – two with mirrored doors. Immediately beside the entry door is a desk/makeup table above which is the second (optional) built-in TV. This desk has a flip up makeup mirror as well as 12V and 110V outlets and a phone jack – a nice work station for either your laptop or face. The mattress on the queen bed raises to reveal storage as well as floor plate access to the electric slideout mechanisms. In fact, I noted that throughout the Sightseer there is a particular attention to systems access. Someone at Winnebago has done a good job of making sure that every mechanical, electrical and water system is easy to get to for maintenance and/or repair. That’s the kind of smart (rather than expensive) engineering I like to see.

The second slide contains the Sofabed and the stove. This is an interesting choice because it does two things. First, when closed it still allows access to the range, microwave and sink. When open, it creates an L-shaped kitchen without having an overly large slideout. This is just large enough…just. It has two pot drawers rather than an oven, frankly space that is needed. To offset this Winnebago has put a pantry behind the dinette seat back. The double-sink is nice and deep with a single lever faucet. The standard size refrigerator is across the hall. A flip-up counter extender offers a little more food preparation space but when in use it blocks the passage to the bathroom and (in my unit anyway) prevents the fridge door from opening fully.  

This is a family-sized RV from a sleeping point of view, with a fold flat Sofabed and a dinette that will also convert to sleep two. If you moved up to say the 33T model a second sofa would create a potential seventh sleeping space.  In the salon area both drivers and co-pilots seats will turn 180 degrees to face into the interior of the unit making for lots of space for entertaining or lounging.

Entertainment seems to be a key feature of the Sightseer with two TVs (the large screen built-in over the cockpit) a VCR/DVD combo player with five-speaker ceiling mounted surround sound and a floor height subwoofer. The in dash AM/FM /CD player is also fed through the ceiling speakers and two mounted over the rear queen-bed. Using the fade button music can be piped to only one or more sections of the coach. It’s Sirius radio-ready and it has a wireless volume and channel control attached to the steering wheel. The unit comes with an amplified antenna but is also pre-wired to accept satellite.

To create the illusion of a large bathroom space, the half-tub with sliding glass doors is part of the passageway with the toilet, sink and counter across the hall behind a locking hard surface door. By swinging the door wide a private space is created including all the facilities and the bedroom for changing and dressing. For family or guests, the soft accordion door can close off the bedroom leaving a completely private space.

HVAC systems are conventional, with the air conditioning diffused through roof vents and the heating from floor grates. Distribution of these openings looks to offer ample coverage. Powered vents amidships and in the toilet will draw air through the unit as well as getting rid of condensation.

The driver’s compartment is simple, functional and straight forward. Seating is comfortable and manual, the windshield is split. These are the types of things that do not negatively affect a unit yet save money – there is nothing fancy here. Of course you can add leather, fans, backup camera and so on… but you won’t be paying for it if you don’t want it.

This thinking shows up in the pricing as well. My base 29R was priced at just shy of $96,000. To this a long list of options can be added, but Winnebago has also put to a package of the most often ordered items called the Z package. This consists of: patio awning; Day/Night pleated blinds for bedroom, lounge & dinette; Exterior entertainment center with CD player and table; roof ladder; electric remote mirrors with defrost; six-gallon three-way water heater with electronic ignition and finally Stainless steel wheel liners. Ordered like this there is certainly a cost savings.

On any unit I test I’m always looking for fit and finish problems as I know these are the ones the will initially distress buyers the most. On this Sightseer I found almost none – a good job by quality control I’d say. Still there is always something. The screen door on this unit is a heavy extruded aluminum door fixed with three hinges – very solid and well built. So? When closed (while driving) it rattles like crazy. A bit of weather stripping foam would probably solve this problem. Keep going Winnebago you’re doing all the right things.

Winnebago Sightseer 29R Specs
Chassis Ford
Engine Triton V10 – gas
Transmission Five-speed automatic
Wheelbase 190”
GVWR 18,000 lb
GCWR 26,000 lb
Length 29’9”
Width 8'6"
Height (with A/C) 12'2"
Interior Height 6'2"
Slideouts 2
Fresh Water 67 gal
Gray Water 41 gal
Black Water 37 gal
LP Gas 18 gal
MSRP Starting at $95,949

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