2004 Gulf Stream Conquest B Touring Cruiser Review
Gulf Stream (among others) is building what might be called a B-plus style of RV. A unit that exists somewhere between the B-van and the lumbering C-class, and like all RVs it has its admirers and detractors. It’s the first B-plus I’ve tested and I approached it without any preconceptions. What I found is a unit that provides all the necessary amenities along with a few small luxuries in a package that will appeal to a slice of the RVing crowd. Most importantly, it’s one more choice that’s being served up to the buyer. Have a look at some while you’re at the shows.
With a traditional van body, entry to the Conquest B Touring Cruiser can be made via the cab doors or through the rear cabin entrance. This rear entrance has a power step while just inside is a small foyer that has a coat closet on the left. Before you step in you can reach the switches for the step, stair light and porch light which are at floor level just to the left. The level readouts, generator start button and thermostat are all just within reach as you enter.
The bathroom is also at the rear of this unit and is spacious in relation to the rest of it; which is what buyers want. There is a full-height shower with a domed skylight, half-tub with a seat and a pleated shower curtain that runs in a track. There is a sink over a cupboard with a full mirrored medicine cabinet above. On the wall is a switch to operate the heated holding tanks making this unit four-season capable. Strangely though, the windows in the coach are single pane, hardly suitable for any real cold weather. There is also a dedicated heating duct and air conditioning outlet as well as a powered roof vent. But, the bathroom is also where a little more thought needs to be applied. With an angled wall that tapers down to the sink in the corner it’s necessary to stand to the side to use it. The sink and cabinet would be better placed at a 45% angle; facing where you have to stand anyway. In the shower the sculpted material roof that you find throughout the unit will be subject to repeated soakings, and I also noted that the tub surround (where it rests on the bathtub edges) was not properly caulked.
By comparison the rest of the unit is well laid out with a good degree of fit and finish. I particularly liked the lighting fixtures that featured a satin nickel finish with milky glass shades. Cupboard doors are all hardwood with various bits of colored edging and material inserts are used to blend into the overall color scheme and décor.
The size of the kitchen does not prevent it from having everything needed to prepare full meals. The three-burner stove also had an oven (optional) with a microwave framed in above it. This also has the power vent and stove top light built in. The twin porcelain sinks are placed in the countertop at an angle that creates a semi-L shaped kitchen. The refrigerator is directly behind the cook, easily accessible. There are several good size drawers all with the appropriate hardware.
The main body of the RV consists of a full-size couch across from the dinette over nice carpet. (There is tile in the entry, kitchen and bath area.) The couch is also equipped with seatbelts, and though we all know how, these don’t get much use. However, in the case of a child seat this is a good spot to anchor it. Both the dinette and couch fold-out (or down) to make up beds. The good news is that with these open there still remains some 16 inches for an aisle way. Enough to pass in the night and negotiate any other nocturnal in and outs.
The focal point of the unit is the overhead cupboards/entertainment center that is fitted nicely into the air deflector that perches atop the van roof, in a very Class C kind of look. A 19” TV is at the center, with a recessed space reserved for a VCR or DVD player. Antenna and other electrical hookups are neatly stowed behind the nicely finished cabinet work.
The Chevy chassis that I tested is an option when ordering your B-Touring Cruiser and that’s the one I drove, so it’s the one I can comment on. The standard setup is from Ford. First, the Vortec 6L V8 moves the unit out smartly; there were five of us on board during the test. Being just after New Year’s my whole family piled in for the ride and despite holiday indulgences the 6L zipped along. Brakes are good, responsive without any harsh grab and steering and general operating effort is no more than what any pickup truck would require. The cab interior is basic and familiar. The wheel tilts and there is cruise control, a CD player, air conditioning and nice cloth high backed seats. Windows though are cranked and strangely (my wife pointed out) there is no sun visor vanity mirror on either side. The thing I particularly paid attention to is the side to side sway (or lack of it) that is often a problem in these units. In this case, I’m sure that the dual rear wheels and relative short overhang contributed to a stable platform; so apart from some pitch over potholes, the Chevy chassis was good. Another point of note is the turning circle and mirror visibility. This thing really turns well. While looking for suitable photo locations I pulled several U-turns and found the turning circle to be nice and tight. Also while pulling in and out of laneways and driveways I noted that the unit specific mirrors were excellent. They give a great view of the straight sides of the unit and also offer a peripheral width reminder. Meaning, if the mirrors will pass, so will the rest of the unit. I liked how this unit drove, though I suspect that the longer models will exhibit different characteristics.
My tester had an optional generator on board (which I did not run), but being able to get a genie in a unit this size is a bonus – from the dry camping point of view – and as my son Stephen says “for a lots-of-driving kind of RV.” What the thinking is –as expressed by my wife Tracie – “it’s cute, we could live in here on the road, but not if we had to be parked for very long.” This is not the RV to spend the winter in Florida in, but for a unit that will see lots of miles I think it’s great. The other reason that any long-term plans may be a mistake is the fact that when I went looking for the storage I found next to none.
There are several outside lockable spaces, but only one of them is for actual storage. The rest house all the services. Inside, the only larger space is under the dinette benches – a spot usually reserved for bedding. So despite the unit’s first impression of size, for storage it’s a bust. Here’s a thought Gulf Stream, the rear of the B-Touring Cruiser is recessed around the end caps of the fiberglass skin design, and the taillights are housed in the bumper. Why not add a large flat storage locker to the back of the design? Just a thought.