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Old 10-25-2006, 05:28 PM   #1
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Default Sprinter Chassis Gaining Ground in U.S.

Sprinter Chassis Gaining Ground in U.S.
Bob Ashley
RV Business
Tuesday, October 24, 2006

North American RV manufacturers continue to find innovative ways to convert the imported Sprinter commercial van, a diminutive 22-foot platform equipped with a high-mileage Mercedes Benz diesel engine, into van campers and minimotorhomes.

In fact, nine manufacturers of Class B and Class C motorhomes currently build on the versatile Sprinter chassis, which is expected to undergo major revisions with higher GVWRs, multiple lengths and heftier engines sometime in 2007.

They see it as a timely design.

“It is versatile, and with the fuel efficiency, conveniences of the cab and the fact that it drives like a car, these certainly have been success factors,” said Klaus Tritt, DaimlerChrysler Motors Corp. LLC senior manager for commercial vehicles, which imports the Sprinter to the U.S. under the Dodge and Freightliner nameplates.

The German-made Sprinter, equipped with a 154-hp, 5-cylinder 2.7 liter turbo-charged Mercedes Benz engine, is not all that uncommon in the U.S. today in general use as a delivery van and van camper platform. DaimlerChrysler brought the Sprinter to North America in 2000 as a commercial delivery van, and it first gained RV popularity as a Class B motorhome.

Here's a rundown of Sprinter-based motorhomes currently available in the North American market:

• Built in Germany, Airstream’s Westfalia – a replica of the popular European James Cook van camper – is the only Sprinter sold in the U.S. with a standard “top-hat” roof that offers a full seven feet of interior head room. With a queen-size cabover sleeping compartment and convertible dinette/bed, Westfalia sleeps four and is equipped with swivel pilot and co-pilot seats that also serve as dinette seating, an integrated European-style cooktop and sink, remote-control skylight and a full rear wet bath. Available in one 20-foot floorplan, Westfalia retails from $82,674.

• The Interstate Touring Coach marked Airstream's re-entry into the Class B market. Introduced in 2004, Interstate is available in four 22-foot floorplans standard with Sprinter's high-roof option that provides 6’1” of headroom. Amenities include cherry veneer cabinets, polished aluminum interior walls inspired by the Airstream CCD travel trailer, recessed lighting and full body paint with a retail price starting at $79,694. The more affordable Airstream Parkway, in four 22-foot floorplans, also with the standard high-roof option, offers seating for six and sleeping room for two with an MSRP of about $77,500.

• The Winnebago View and companion Itasca Navion, the only minimotorhomes built on the Sprinter open-rail Class C cutaway chassis, are rated at 10,200 pounds GVWR with 3,000 pounds towing capacity. Both are offered in three 23-foot

floorplans – two with slideouts. A rear bunk model without slideouts was introduced at mid-year. These Class C motorhomes feature independent front suspension and a 23 1/2-foot turning radius. Sporting maple or cherry interiors and European-inspired contoured cabinets with accent moldings, Winnebago View retails (MSRP) for $78,635; the Itasca Navion for $78,872.

• Gulf Stream’s couple-oriented Vista Cruiser MB van camper comes in four 22-foot two-sleeper floorplans that are distinguished primarily by whether the rear of the coach is equipped with a galley, bath, full bed or convertible dual-bench dinette. Designed to accommodate a full bath, Vista Cruiser MB’s standard amenities include a 2.5 kw Onan generator, on-demand hot water system and hardwood cabinets. Swivel pilot and co-pilot seats are available in some floorplans. With three different exterior decor packages, including gold with gray trim, this coach retails starting from $76,000.

• Gulf Stream weighs into the Sprinter Class C category with a Vista Cruiser Mini available in two 24-foot, single-slideout floorplans built on a Sprinter cab chassis that keeps the original cab roof intact. Both floorplans – one with a rear full bed, the other with a rear bath – are equipped with a cabover with a queen-size bed that doubles as a storage compartment capable of storing 1,000 pounds. Sporting fiberglass sidewalls on an aluminum substructure, the Vista Cruiser Mini features a GVWR of 10,200 pounds and gets 17- to 19-miles per gallon. MSRP: about $85,000.

• Factory-direct Sportsmobile Texas Inc. offers 23 Sprinter Class B floorplans, although most buyers design their own custom layouts. Floorplans for 2007 include two sport utility RV (SURV) layouts housing 7 1/2 foot “garages” for hauling small motorcycles, bicycles or other toys or equipment. Sportsmobile Texas also expects DaimlerChrysler early in 2007 to approve a roof cutout that will allow a fiberglass-topped, soft-sided “pop-up” option that Sportsmobile already offers in Ford and Chevy van campers it builds. MSRPs start at $52,100.

• Canadian manufacturer Leisure Travel Vans (1999) Ltd., the first to offer a Sprinter minimotorhome five years ago, currently is building two Sprinter-based Class B's – the Free Spirit on the traditional van chassis and a widebody Freedom II on a Sprinter cab chassis. Free Spirit, at 8,550-pound GVWR, features two- and three-seat floorplans (an additional passenger seat is located behind the co-pilot's) for MSRPs starting at $79,400. With a molded fiberglass body, the 10,200-pound GVWR Freedom II, is 92 inches wide to allow a wider aisle and a separate bath. Retail from $99,580.

• Rexhall Industries Inc., a small California Class A motorhome builder, re-entered the Class C market for the 2006 model year with the diesel RVAN minimotorhome mounted on a 10,200-pound GVWR Sprinter cab chassis that leaves the cab roof intact. Offered in a 24-foot standard floorplan and a 26-foot layout with a stretched 190” wheelbase, RVAN can be equipped with either one or two optional slideouts. The 26-footer, sporting a queen-bed cabover, convertible sofa and convertible dinette, sleeps six. Retail prices start at $79,445.

• Large windows front to back along both sidewalls distinctively identify the Sprinter-based RoadTrek RS-Adventurous van camper by Home & Park Motorhomes Inc., Kitchener, Ontario. The Adventurous is marketed in a single 22-foot floorplan equipped with swiveling cockpit seats and a second row of lounge chairs doubling as dinette seating. The seating also serves as a base for optional folding mattresses that store during the day. Standard in the RoadTrek Adventurous is an enclosed bath, solid surface countertops and stainless steel sinks. Opposing convertible rear dinette benches can be replaced with an optional electric sofa that converts into either a king-size bed or twin beds. MSRP: about $78,000.

• Corian countertops, ultra-leather seating and radius cabinets, doors and interior walls highlight upgrades on all three 22-foot Dodge Plateau floorplans by Pleasure-Way Industries Inc. Retailing for a base price of about $75,000, Pleasure-Way's Dodge Plateau comes with either rear convertible bench seats or electric sofa beds. A stainless steel sink coordinates with a stainless refrigerator and stove in the galley. A third seat behind the passenger is standard in one floorplan and optional on the other two, while a standard 17" LCD TV swings into the aisle from the rear sleeping area so it can be viewed from the front.

• With driver and passenger seats that swivel to also serve as dinette seating, Canadian manufacturer Great West Van Conversions Inc., St. Andrews, Manitoba, has created a two-zone living effect with fixed king- or twin-bed floorplans in the new Sprinter Legend van camper. Available for an MSRP starting at $70,000, a third Legend floorplan features a tri-fold sofa/bed mounted on a track system to move the sofa forward to increase rear storage. A special edition commemorating the company's 30th anniversary is decked out with a special paint scheme, anniversary decals and embroidered cover for the headrest and sofa armrest
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