2009 Gulf Stream Conquest Super Nova Review
Most RV names are rather whimsical, meant to create an airy, warm or dreamy feeling – you know the ones – I’m used to testing “Sea Breezes” and Mountain Vistas” so getting one called the Grand Hotel was different. And while I snorted at first the name turned out to perfectly describe the function and purpose of this Super Sized Class C motorhome. This unit sleeps 10, has one and half baths, full laundry facilities, two heaters, two A/C units and enough TVs to satisfy even the most addicted prime-time guests (there were five in the unit I tested). This diesel powered motorhome is the Gulf Stream Super Nova – available in several floorplans – including the Grand Hotel.
This motorhome uses a 25,900 GVWR International chassis as its foundation. From there a fully-boxed steel truss system is built to support its 40-foot length as well as carry its full basement. Also included with that International chassis is a complete truck cab with its own doors and saddle fuel tanks. Under the forward tilting hood is a 300 horsepower International V8 diesel that drives the rear dual wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. So, by now its obvious that this is not a van cutaway mounted Class C – it is in fact a new type of diesel-puller (if you will) and as a diesel Class A it’s a motorhome you can expect a great deal from – good thing because it’s priced like a Class A. To further define this trend Gulf Stream is calling this new line of motorhomes “Conquest”.
Entry into the unit from the cab is easy as the floor is flat, but the side entrance with powered steps is the main door – though it’s nice to have the option. Here you enter the salon with the kitchen on your right and the attractive round dinette and fold-out couch across from you. The key to space in this motorhome is the driver’s side super-slide – almost 30-feet long that houses that dinette, the couch, a set of bunks and a floor-to-ceiling mirrored wardrobe in the bedroom. When open it creates the long portside hallway and opens up the kitchen area. On the other hand when it’s closed, access to the rear bedroom is through the half-bath only. So, while quick stops with the unit closed are possible, they are a bit cluttered.
The second slide moves the head of the king-size bed out opposite the super-slide adding space to the master bedroom. This setup also has a neat byproduct in that the head of the bed (top quarter) has to be raised to a 45-degree angle to allow both slides to close. That’s the practical reason – but it can also be used for watching TV in bed (or reading) – it’s controlled with an overhead switch. While I was playing with this I did notice something I didn’t like and I have to mention here. I noted an oversized, ragged hole where one of the spot lights was installed. While mistakes happen during production – this should have been caught before it left the factory.
The truck cab in this Conquest is built for long-haul duty, a fact that imparts a bonus to the RVer in utility, ergonomics and comfort. The unit has excellent powered/heated mirrors and while the windows are also power each also has a “no draft” opening for fresh air without the noise. The tilt wheel has good range and the stalks and switches are large, easy to use and well placed. The same is true looking at the gauge display. Overhead is a space for a CB radio ready to go beside the rear-view camera screen (optional). Sunshades are doubled up for forward and side protection. While the truck also has its own built-in cup holders, Gulf Stream has added a custom made floor box for map and paper storage above which is another set of mug holders.
Driving the Super Nova is easy – as long as you remember to watch out for the tail swing! As the driver you benefit from the lower position of the cab vs. the floor height of the RV. Also the taper and drop of the truck hood offer good visibility and a nice sense of road position. As for getting a sense of its size – I figured out real quick that if the mirrors fit the body will follow safely. The diesel in this unit is well matched to the weight of the motorhome and the torque in particular that kicks in when heading uphill is strong. The transmission shifts easily and the gears are well spaced. But, probably the best thing about this International truck/chassis is how stiff and firm it feels on the road. While I wouldn’t say that you are unaware of the weight you are hauling there is none of that awful Jell-O-on-wheels feeling that some smaller van chassis suffer from.
Looking again at the “hotel” aspect of the Super Nova its fitting that it has two toilets and two sinks and vanities as the potential traffic in the unit is high. The rear bath however (which covers the full with of the unit at the rear) has a half-bath with a sliding shower door and overhead skylight. This bath is spacious enough to include a hanging wardrobe inside and space enough to dress and do makeup.
The potential for up to ten people in this unit must also be at least one reason for the two heaters and two A/C units. Potentially that is a lot of bodies to heat and/or cool. These units are divided up and controlled from the salon and rear bedroom separately – a design that allows for HVAC comfort when the hotel is full – as much as when it’s just you and your spouse as you can ventilate the whole RV or just the front or rear half as needed. I also noted that the A/C features a double row of diffusers on the ceiling – this would significantly improve air flow in the unit.
The kitchen in the hotel is well appointed with a larger-than-usual microwave, double door built-in refrigerator and three-burner stove. The double sink uses a gooseneck faucet with pull-out sprayer feature to reach either sink – and it can be completely covered with two counter material cut-outs. This is also true of the stove with can also be covered with counter-like lids. The reason for this is lack of counter space – frankly one/the other/or both have to be covered or there isn’t really any prep space at all. On the other hand there is a pantry and the over and under drawers and cupboards are adequate.
Outside the Conquest makes extensive use of fiberglass – for the one-piece roof, sidewalls and front and end caps. This mostly fiberglass body features full paint with painted (not stickered) body graphics. Below the basement is accessed through a series of doors which open vertically or horizontally (as needed). Each has a pressurized gas assist shock on it and the cargo boxes are easy to clean polyethylene with drain holes. The doors are also fitted with rubber gaskets and are individually lockable.
A nice feature of this unit has to do with its construction – it has decent clearance and the underside is clean and undercoated. I noted the dump station pipes are all high and inside (the tanks are heated). The same is true of the electrical cords and an outside rinse and wash station.
One of the obvious uses for a unit like this is as a base and tow vehicle for any type of race team. To that end this 40-footer is rated to tow 10,000 lbs and can also be equipped with an optional Onan diesel generator that draws fuel from the upgraded 140 gallon saddle tanks on the truck – that will give you many days of power while track side. Controls for most systems, including the power awning and main battery shut-off are all located right at the entry door – letting you turn everything on as you enter and off as you leave. As for extensive boondocking ability the Super Nova also carries a 150-gallon fresh water tank and 68 lbs of propane. But, the best thing about this Conquest motorhome is that it’s built on a “real” truck that inspires confidence on the road and is a pleasure to drive.