2004 Winnebago Adventurer Review
About 200 years ago United States President Thomas Jefferson snapped up 800,000 square miles of territory from the Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, who had only twenty days before reclaimed it from Spain. Having a greater need for cash than land Napoleon, with this sale, in effect opened up the West and extended America’s reach to the Pacific. The Louisiana purchase, the greatest of land deals in US history, took place in the Cabildo (Spanish for City Hall) in the French Quarter of Nouvelle Orleans, (or as the locals seem to drawl, ’Naw-lins) and if you visit this unique city today you’ll find this blend of French, Spanish and American history alive and very little changed.
By now you’ll have gathered that the State of Louisiana was the venue for our most recent road trip, where I tested the 2004 Winnebago Adventurer 35U. The company thinks quite a bit of this model – “the most user-friendly and researched motorhome on the market” – its news release says, and I found that this is not just hype. Winnebago certainly didn’t hesitate to ship a brand-new unit to Mississippi to let me test it. Even after I promised to unleash my family on it; Over the course of 10 days we criss-crossed the State, driving about 700 miles and living in the motorhome – all four of us.
The Adventurer series ranges in size from 31 to 38 feet and is built on either a Ford chassis or the new 20 or 22,000 lb Workhorse, with a gasoline engine. There are five different sizes (floorplans) each featuring a dual slideout design the front one of which also features the Winnebago StoreMore system, (storage compartments that move out with the slide).
The 35U I tested was a 22,000 lb Workhorse model powered by the 8100 Vortec V8 gasoline engine with the automatic Allison 5-speed transmission.
If you visit Louisiana you better like swamp – down here it’s a constant and in it’s own way very beautiful. Mind you they call it the bayou, a native Choctaw word meaning ‘slow moving waters,’ and in Louisiana alone there is some 3200 square miles of it. Along with coastline marshes this region makes up 42% of all the wetlands in the United States, a surprising amount of which you can see first hand on roads that run along the ridges of levees or from any of the thousands of bridges in the State. Driving in the motorhome we often got some tremendous panoramic views of the bayou. Take the Atchafalaya Basin for instance. It covers 860,000 acres and you get to drive right through the middle of it on a double-lane divided causeway that perches 25 feet above the water cutting through some 20 miles of swamp. In the RV it felt like we could see all of it – including the bass boats driving between the bridge pylons and darting in and out of the cypress trees.
The 8100 Vortec engine easily handles the weight of the Adventurer, but the Allison transmission deserves even more praise. It’s strong, shifts smoothly and manages engine rpm very economically through five gears; the proof being the electronic fuel consumption readout that recorded an average of nine miles to the US gallon at 55 mph and eight at 70 mph. Ride quality and rolling resistance are also good – thanks in part to new 22.5 inch radial tires. This praise also applies to the suspension. It allows very little side to side movement or yaw, on rough roads or in cross-winds. What you do experience though is a pivoting forward/rear bounce. The first hit is considerable but the second bounce is then severely dampened by the shocks – once you realize it’s going to happen it’s not a surprise, and it does not pull at the steering.
Part of the reason for that bounce is the length of the wheelbase. There is a considerable overhang and this is not helped by the set back front axle, but this feature along with an almost 50-degree wheel cut makes tight maneuvers easy – I consider this the better choice in the tradeoff. The large heated mirrors have very little road vibration and with the backup camera I was in and out of the tightest spots without aid. The driver’s side door offers a fast-down electric window (great for toll booths) and if need be you could open it to give yourself an even better view for parking.
I have had other motorhomes with driver’s doors that opened into space – without supports or regard for safe entry and exit. The Adventurer though, has a long grab pole inside and outside the door along with two recessed steps and a foot loop. When you open the door an inside map-type light switches on automatically and the door is sturdy enough to hang on. But, it has a wicked wind noise. I checked seals and hinges, which seemed fine, so I have no explanation.
The last Winnebago I tested had a rattling dashboard. Not in this model, it was rock solid and well laid out with large gauges and easily read rocker switches. These included the main slideout button, generator switch and levelers. I could level the unit using a dashboard mounted touch pad, extend the hydraulic slideout, set the radio and pull the blinds before I exited the driver’s seat. There is an extendible work station on the passenger dash side that my sons Matt and Steve used to do their homework while we drove. Underneath it is a large storage box. Over the doghouse (which is almost flat) is another storage box that has cup holders on top and a tray. It slides out on roller bearings and it banged every time I braked or accelerated. It’s a small thing, but needs to be fixed. Speaking of noise, a couple of quick comments. We had some major thunderstorms and the drumming of the rain inside was minimal (no leaks by the way) and the thunderclaps never even woke the kids. The TrueAir residential style central air conditioning system on the Adventurer is located near the back and below the floor, apart from the maintenance and appearance advantages it’s virtually silent inside and very quiet outside – same with the 5,500-watt Onan generator, very little noise. The exception is the 10-gallon water heater that has been relocated to the passenger side forward of the main door. With the window open the sound of the burner firing is annoying.
With four of us in the motorhome we put all the sleeping areas to use. The main couch has an electric motor that reclines it with the push of a button making a 60” by 75” bed, while from underneath the foot of the bed (or ottoman) slides out and up on a track. Apart from making a bed the reclining feature makes for comfortable sitting or television viewing. The one problem we had with the Rest Easy multi-position lounge was a material rip along the piping of the one seat cushion. It tore at the stitching – it appeared to me that it didn’t have enough give in the material. When I returned the unit the dealer confirmed that he had at least two other lounges with the same problem. Otherwise the pull out section worked well and Matt said it was comfortable.
Driver and passenger seats can swing around to face the salon, they also recline and are comfortable to watch TV in, but the rocker recliner is really great. It has a flip-up handle for the footrest and it’s the type has a hinge that flattens the back and the bottom as it’s pushed back. The standard placement allows it to turn all the way around, but it can also be moved having a round metal tube base that’s held in place by just one screw down clamp. A foldaway table top completes the setting. The traditional fold-down dinette was Stephen’s bed for our trip – it worked exactly as it should but it also had some upgrades. This BenchMark unit has innerspring seat cushions that are fixed (but flip-up for storage access) and back cushions that fit well and offer good support. The whole unit is well spaced, letting four adults eat at the table without being crushed or elbowing each other in the ribs. The dinette and the lounge are both located in the large forward slideout. The main bedroom bed is queen size with a Serta mattress, plush bedspread and pillows, set between two end tables with locking drawers. Very comfortable.
Speaking of slideouts, the rear slide does more than just offer up bedroom space, it creates another living area with a distinct sense of privacy. On the opposite side of the salon slide, it moves the head of the bed (with two new-for-this-year screened windows) and a floor to ceiling mirrored wardrobe out by 24 inches. This does two things. First, it opens access to a desk/vanity area that runs the length of the bedroom wall and; second: opens a large floorspace between the vanity and the bathroom. The spring-loaded toilet door (sprung to stay open) closes this whole section off from the rest of the coach. The rounded sink and corner shower (which is big enough for anyone) completes a comfortable dressing area. The desk, bedroom TV, bath and wardrobe with plenty of space to walk about really creates an inviting space that offers privacy – something we all occasionally need – particularly when the kids want to watch music videos.
With the various cultures that have thrived in Louisiana – French, Acadian, Spanish and African – you’ll find music everywhere, most of it music that you’ll enjoy. The Adventurer offers several ways to do this, starting with an outside entertainment station with AM/FM radio/CD player and cable and power hookup for a TV. Inside the QSurround system (four cube speakers and two subwoofers) pipes radio or CD through the unit – or can be switched over to create theater-like sound for the 25-inch TV. Of course you can have a VCR, DVD, cable, satellite dish ready and standard antenna – with forward and rear TV’s accessing individual programming.
Tracie, my wife, really didn’t have much to say about the galley, which for her says a lot. We ate most breakfasts and lunches in and everything she needed was at hand, convenient and worked well (I actually had to turn the fridge down because it froze cans of pop.). As she put it; one step left and two right were enough to reach everything and miss nothing. The easy-light Amana three-burner range had an oven and the Sharp microwave was 30” wide and had a convection setting. The recessed sink is molded into the solid surface countertop, has a removable cutting board and for extra space it had a foldup extension. The Norcold fridge/freezer(with built-in ice maker) is at hand next to the large slideout pantry while the all-important coffee maker is mounted over the dinette – where you can get to it. Storage and cupboards are plentiful, well placed and well built – there is little more to say about that.
After a few days in the RV Tracie said a built-in toaster would be good thing – though she was impressed with the job the convection microwave did on the garlic bread. I prodded her for more comments and she said the fold down seat on the wall of the shower stall with the hand-held shower head, was great for shaving her legs, (kids pretended to throw-up upon hearing this). She also liked the built-in hairdryer and the standard rechargeable vacuum. She also mentioned the simplicity of the OnePlace Systems Center. Placed in the gallery, the OnePlace centralizes all the motorhome functions in one place. The panel houses the water pump switch, water heater on/off, pilot light monitor, generator hour meter and one of three on/off switches. There is a digital battery monitor, solar charging monitor, power draw indicator, tank level readouts heating and cooling thermostat with fan controls.
For me I have to say that the lighting is some of the best I’ve seen. There are large overhead florescent fixtures that provide good main lighting (on the roof only) whereas under cupboards you’ll find swiveling ball-type single bulb lights that can be aimed and are less intrusive. There are also shaded wall mounted decorative lights. Switches, outside lights and floor lights were all well placed. I also noted the sculpted material on the ceiling. I found that somehow it defined the roof arch better than a flat surface and gave the ceiling an added sense of height. I also want to mention the TriMark KeyOne system – one common key for all the exterior compartments, the main entry door and the driver’s door. Thank You.