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Old 09-25-2012, 01:04 AM   #21
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

On my recent trip around coastal Oregon and Washington, I saw a lot of RV parks that looked similar to the one in your picture. The campgrounds were mostly in the woods, as were the premium RV parks, but there were many that were simply by the side of the road with hookups and a view and not much else.

One of the good things about this trip was that my wife reminded me of everything I complained about on our previous class B and our two pop-up campers and then reiterated her complaints with each. It turned out to be a long list but it was easy to prioritize. Our class B was a Coachmen on a Ford chassis with the 350 engine. Unfortunately, they chose to build it on the 250 chassis, which didn't handle the weight well, so it swayed and leaned very badly on the twisty roads. It was underpowered for the mountain roads and we burned out at least 2 sets of brake pads even using lower gears on the downhills. The workmanship wasn't great and we developed a few leaks in the seal between the body and fiberglass top. It had a side couch that folded into a bed. When the bed was down, access to the bathroom and refrigerator were cut off. It had a single coach battery that was inadequate for the furnace on cold nights among other things. We actually liked the interior layout of my modified VW Westfalia camper, although it was cramped.

One of the things we noticed was how many Sprinter delivery and tradesmen vans we were seeing, even in the small remote towns. There must be service facilities for them. Having had a VW camper towed from southern California to Las Vegas to find the nearest shop that could do a major repair, I know that there will be exceptions and places were service is difficult to find.

At this point, I'm keeping all options open, but I understand better what I'm looking for in interior layout, coach battery capacity, power, and chassis stiffness. It will be interesting to do the road tests in the twisty mountain roads near the RT dealer. Then it will be on to the PW, LTV, and GWV dealers...
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Old 09-25-2012, 01:19 AM   #22
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

One big plus about the Sprinters is if you drive one you pretty much have driven them all from the Converters since there is very little modification. They also don't vary that much in the quality of the equipment they put into them. Once you get that out of the way you can then just concentrate and decide on the quality of the conversion, the deal and the plan layouts. Actually from a quality stand point they are not that far apart. The MSRPs are just that, suggestions. The bottom line is the deal you can make in regard to price not the MSRP. So what is really left is the design layout in my mind and how it fits what you want to do.

Saying that, I think the converters know that too and that's why after nearly a decade you are starting to see some actual attempts at differentiation.
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Old 09-25-2012, 02:08 AM   #23
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

The fact that the chassis for the Sprinter models remains the same is what I'm counting on. I also assume that the center of gravity will be very similar. Because I have a RT dealer nearby that is close to some twisty mountain roads, I intend to do test drives of the Agile (short), Adventurous (long), and one of the Chevy models for comparison. Once I decide on the chassis, then I agree that it is mostly about the interior layout and I can refine the search accordingly.
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Old 09-25-2012, 05:39 PM   #24
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

Another thought occurs to me regarding the differences in chassis design. It might be worth it to take your test drive on a breezy day if possible, just to see how the various chassis handle in wind, particularly crosswinds. If you ever do hit the flatlands, there can be some pretty interesting steering and handling challenges (according to some) with the different chassis designs re: width and height. Some drivers say it's negligible, and some have had the opposite results, suggesting that it can be a harrowing experience. Again, this is anecdotal and very subjective, and your personal evaluation of the handling characteristics will probably vary from those of other drivers. Personally, I've been buffeted by the wind myself more than a few times when driving I-40 around Kingman, AZ, and also on I-80 in NE and IA. You can get some odd winds along I-70 in the Glenwood Canyon sometimes, too. It's amazing how it can surprise you sometimes, and literally push you across lanes.
Food for thought?
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Old 09-25-2012, 06:00 PM   #25
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

I've probably driven in high plains winds more than the average because just about every trip I take I have to drive through those areas. I've been in winds strong enough to bend the blade of my Winegard antenna back. I've never been pushed out of or across a lane. The Sprinter shakes but holds its track. Advanced RV has put together some good information from Mercedes Benz on safety that can be found here.

http://www.advanced-rv.com/advanced-safety-features/

I'm not sure Chevy and Ford can match it. If anyone has a source I would not mind seeing it.

MB safety features do work. Only one time was I stupid enough to go into a hairpin turn too fast. The MB took over in an almost violent way to correct me.
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Old 09-25-2012, 10:38 PM   #26
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

Behavior in strong gusty crosswinds are a factor to be considered. It was on the complaint list my dw reiterated for me. My old Coachmen B was particularly susceptible because of its soft and overloaded 250 chassis and rear overhang. And I know what you mean about Kingman, AZ. I've felt the winds there many times. Unfortunately, we're not due for any strong winds or storms for another two or three months, so it will be difficult to check in person during test drives.

Thanks for reminding me of that consideration. That also works into the ground clearance factor between the RT Chevy chassis and the Sprinters. I could see how the lowered center of gravity would help with the crosswinds, but also how it could be somewhat problematic on the back roads and dirt roads leading to National Forest campgrounds. It is something else to think about.
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Old 09-27-2012, 02:07 AM   #27
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

It was just a thought. I hadn't considered it when I bought my Chev based van, and as I later found out, it's usually only problematic when I get caught off guard, like when you're protected by trees or terrain, or buildings and suddenly lose your cover. The crosswind gusts can get your attention quickly, especially if you're day dreaming or otherwise distracted. Having experienced it on our first trip west along I-80, I began to wonder how the taller Sprinter chassis handled. You'll get differing opinions on it depending on who you ask. I always think of the newsreels showing semi trailers tipping over in crosswinds whenever I find myself getting overly confident. I asked a Fedex driver at a nearby gas station once what he thought. He wasn't impressed with them in the wind at all.

We've discussed this topic before on here and some folks have modified their suspensions to varying degrees to compensate, and MB went so far as to change their rear configuration on their larger vans to a "dually", to improve their handling. Not really practical on Chevs/Fords/Chryslers, but their lower silhouette might be compensation enough. Sprinters are just taller, and have a larger exposed surface area for the crosswinds to hit. I found these comments and this video on another RV forum. Certainly not typical of Sprinter handling as mentioned by the author, but it's an example of what you might encounter in handling as seen through the windshield. The video is of a 2012 Winnebago ERA (which is on the 3500 Sprinter chassis with dually rear wheels, I believe?), as the owner indicates in his signature.
http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index. ... ic=56072.0
Like I said, something to consider. I've never had anything similar to the handling issues in this video in my Chevy van. Just caught off guard and pushed to one side or the other. Like when a semi-trailer passes you. Some people could probably drive 100,000 miles and never even notice crosswinds. It is subjective, as you already know.

re: low ground clearance (possibly acts like the ground effects of some race cars?)
Anyway, my Chev has low clearance (typical of Roadtreks with their low slung external storage pods) and we've only once scuffed the pavement when leaving it in Florida - we rubbed the asphalt when we dropped off a deceivingly high coastal roadway to the sandy entrance driveway at Gamble Rogers State Park.
Just be careful, and don't worry about it, you'll learn and adapt to the capabilities of whatever RV and chassis combo you choose.
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Old 09-27-2012, 05:39 AM   #28
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

Any vehicle with a relatively high profile and relatively high center of gravity is going to be affected by heavy wind gusts. I've seen a lot of class C's and A's being buffeted by the winds, as well as some regular height vans. You don't even want to know what it was like in heavy winds in my old VW Westfalia camper!

I would expect that any such problems would be considerably worse with the RT Agile, on the lighter chassis without duallys. There were times in my Coachmen when I just decided that it wasn't worth it and pulled off the road to let things calm down.

There is only so much that can be done with a B to reduce susceptibility to winds or lean in the twisties. It just comes down to picking the unit that comes closest to what I want while not being a pain to drive. Come to think of it, I guess I rate the driving experience as about equal value to the "livability" of the unit.
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Old 09-27-2012, 01:14 PM   #29
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

Correction. Mercedes Benz has always had a 3500 dually in the longer even extended van models. It was the converters who switched not because of handling but because of load. A lot of converters including Roadtrek started out with the newer slightly longer, wider, higher and heavier chassis design as a 2500 before realizing their mistake. Nevertheless, you will find most independent reviewers will give Mercedes Benz higher marks over Chevy and Ford in engineering, safety and handling, including the 2500.

As for the video of the ERA driver. That appeared to be an unusual weather event possibly bordering on tornado conditions. The B held its line and stayed in it's lane and the driver was satisfied with its performance. So what's the point?
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Old 09-27-2012, 02:04 PM   #30
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

Poll - Sprinter handling in the wind:
http://www.classbforum.com/phpBB2/vi...t=309&start=32

I think the consensus is that handling is ok (for an RV) even on the older chassis.

Lot's of factors come into play. Higher, longer ........... more surface for wind to hit. Wind pushes my car around also though. Top heavy B's would fair poorly also.

The guy in video was cautious and did the right thing. He slowed down and decided to pull over at a rest stop and wait it out.

wabbit - You're taking your time on decided on the right van you and that is smart. I see many nearly new and very low mileage B's for sale and wonder if those people didn't take the time to think the purchase through.
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Old 09-27-2012, 04:07 PM   #31
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

Thanks marcopolo. The way I look at it I have the time to do it right. I might even get a better deal from a dealer if I buy in winter. Of course another way to look at it is that if I make a bad decision, I'll have to hear about it for the next few hundred thousand miles of driving! (just kidding) I also have the benefit of past experience and understanding our "style" of touring and camping and what I'll need/want from the rig both on the road and in the woods.
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Old 09-27-2012, 05:37 PM   #32
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Davydd
Correction. Mercedes Benz has always had a 3500 dually in the longer even extended van models. It was the converters who switched not because of handling but because of load. A lot of converters including Roadtrek started out with the newer slightly longer, wider, higher and heavier chassis design as a 2500 before realizing their mistake. Nevertheless, you will find most independent reviewers will give Mercedes Benz higher marks over Chevy and Ford in engineering, safety and handling, including the 2500.

As for the video of the ERA driver. That appeared to be an unusual weather event possibly bordering on tornado conditions. The B held its line and stayed in it's lane and the driver was satisfied with its performance. So what's the point?
I guess MB engineers must have realized they'd be needed on the big boys when they designed them then. In either case, they have added them to their vans for a reason, and if it's for increased stability under increasing load, then that affects, and is part and parcel of, the vehicle's handling characteristics. Unless they added them because they thought they looked cool?
I thought I had qualified/caveated my comments when I said "You'll get differing opinions on it depending on who you ask." Your opinion seems to be that the Sprinter is the best handling base vehicle for conversion. I have been aware of that opinion for some time. Fair enough, but you must realize that not everyone necessarily agrees about the handling of any class B van, and anyone who would buy something based on the opinions of "independent reviewers" is awfully trusting, IMO.
As for the handling of the large Sprinter in the video, you are entitled to your opinion. It was a bad storm with gusting winds and the driver wisely slowed down and pulled over to sit it out. As I said, "it's an example of what you might encounter in handling as seen through the windshield." It was included as an example of what you might encounter.
Have a nice day.
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Old 09-27-2012, 07:15 PM   #33
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I couldn't help but chuckle. My wife wants a new phone and asked me to evaluate the iPhone 5 vs its competition. I couldn't help but compare the way the reviews for each new phone are conducted with the way the reviews for class Bs are run. To do the same sort of comparison for a new B model, they would take a variety of B units with different chassis configurations and do the performance test. They would drive them in a line under the same set of conditions with a split screen showing a bubble level or inclinometer. This would include mountain roads, gusty winds, etc. to provide a side by side comparison. At the end of the test, they would do a precise analysis of fuel consumed. The aesthetics part of the test would compare interior layouts.

That's what they would do if Bs were phones. Alas, that will never happen, but just the thought of it was worthy of a chuckle.
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Old 09-27-2012, 10:27 PM   #34
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Default Re: Decisions, decisions...

That would be great!
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Old 09-28-2012, 12:27 AM   #35
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That is a funny analogy. Quite true, methinks.
If given the chance to be evaluated on a dozen or so quantitative features, for evaluation as a cross section of the B class group of RVs, I wonder which manufacturers would send along a sample for testing, and which wouldn't? Qualitative comparisons would be like judged sports in the Olympics, may the best paid judge win.
Would one Sprinter chassis and one GM, and Ford, and whatever else they're building them on suffice? Or are there enough measurable differences between the conversions to register an advantage or deficiency? As some have said, if you've driven one Sprinter you've driven them all. I guess that would apply across all chassis choices, if true, so maybe one of each would do. However, you'd have to have one from them all to give buyers a better idea of how each conversion company has used the chassis they chose.

Anyway, some of the things I'd compare across the class B group would be.....(an easy to read chart or spread sheet would be cool)

Hill climb efficiency. (important to me, as I think my van is somewhat under powered)
Power to weight ratios.
Straight line acceleration. (for passing or entering traffic safely)
Downhill transmission/engine braking efficiency.
Gas mileage.
Range (miles per tank of fuel).
Average cost per mile to operate, including recommended maintenance at suggested regular intervals, insurance costs, fuel usage, and purchase price. This may have already been done.
Straight line braking.
Cornering.
Turning radius.
Weight. (matters on some bridges and ferries and other things that exclude heavy vehicles)
Parking (what can and can't they do?)
Length and width.
Average life expectancy (based on all available vehicle history).
Resale value.

Feel free to add to the list.
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Old 09-28-2012, 01:01 AM   #36
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For the coach part:
number of batteries
tank capacities
dump system
interior height
number of seats
number of beds
wet or dry bath
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Old 09-28-2012, 02:28 AM   #37
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Inverter type and capacity?
Type and capacity of refrigerator? (evap or compress)
Solar option available or standard?
EFOY (or similar power system) option available or standard?
Generator option available or standard? Output capacity? Fuel source?

Surely someone must have done this for the various class B vans?
Created a master chart for them all, with all this stuff included, and the appropriate boxes checked?
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Old 09-28-2012, 02:53 PM   #38
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A long time ago, when I worked in industrial automation, I got to see how the automotive test tracks work. Every auto mfr has one. There are fast straights, hills, and curves of very precise radii. There are alternate routes with various types of bumps, grooves, and other aberrations to test the vehicles braking and handling under various conditions. There are artificial puddles and rain-on-demand in some sections. Sensors are spread all around the track to record the precise time the vehicle passes. The vehicles were fitted with inclinometers, fuel flow meters, etc. that were also connected to the timer.

Various runs would be made and the data could be plotted to show precise vehicle speed, lean, etc. at each point on the track. Cars and trucks would be tested with just a driver, filled with "passengers", or various types of cargo. The data was used internally to test and prove various design improvements. Vans and trucks were tested with cargos of various weights, distributions, and centers of gravity.

Every mfr has this data for each of their vehicles. The problem is that it is jealously guarded and only used internally. I seriously doubt that GM or Mercedes share this info with B converters, let alone with we consumers. It surely would be handy if we could see it, but that will never happen. Oh well....
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Old 09-28-2012, 03:29 PM   #39
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So, you don't think they're confident enough in their designs and execution that they would participate in a head to head showdown?
I imagine you're right, and that says something about them as a group.
Odd that some independent testing group like Road and Track, or Edmonds, or one of the RV specific evaluators hasn't either done this already, or offered to do it, and been denied, which would also be interesting to know.
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Old 09-28-2012, 06:23 PM   #40
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I don't think that there is any advantage to them to go head to head. Let's go back to the analogy of phone/computer reviews and benchmarks. There are 3 parts to a review: the equipment, the performance benchmarks, and the user interface. All of the B mfrs publish their equipment list (batteries, generator size, inverter, etc.). It would cost the mfr or the reviewer to do performance benchmarks the way that the vehicle/chassis mfrs do - they would have to rent a track and equipment or arrange to have the various models driving a set course in a row on the same day(s) and hope for the right conditions for a meaningful test. The "user interface" reviews for phones/computers are highly subjective, as they would be for B coaches. This part would include interior layout, ease of use, comfort, and "feel".

As discussed earlier, a good performance benchmark test series between one member of each chassis family would generally suffice. If RT provided one of each model to the reviewers and they could be tested against each other, the numbers would be very similar for the other B converters using that same chassis.

So, most reviews focus on the "user interface" and thus are very subjective. Different reviewers might rate differently for the same unit. And it is the "user interface" that will often make the difference to the buyer, since the top B converters use similar equipment.

Hmmmm.... Since Mercedes has both on-road and off-road test tracks in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and allows MB car and SUV owners to test there, I wonder if they would allow the great Sprinter chassis B test-off...
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