Several years ago, when we attended the annual California RV show in Pomona, we found ourselves at a restaurant dining table with platters of sushi, tuna rolls, edamame and seaweed salads all neatly arranged. Around the table was a collection of RVers including then super-bloggers Jason and Nikki Wynn.
Jason and Nikki have now traded their RV life for one of sailing, but over a period of a few years we got to know this winning and taste-setting couple. It doesn’t take long when RVers get together before rig talk and road tales begin. That night’s spirited and laughter-filled conversation still remains memorable, especially with the talk about the depressing state of RV interior design.
To their credit, Jason and Nikki tried mightily with their sponsoring manufacturer to update that company’s interiors. They even made a video about it, but sadly the manufacturer’s idea of contemporary design was little more than changing out the fabrics and countertops.
Owning a couple of Winnebago Navions, we were used to a much more contemporary interior style that is found throughout all European RV designs. These euro-styled compact coaches are top sellers for Winnebago and the modern, clean interior is one important reason why. Everyone that evening lamented that there were absolutely no true contemporary decor choices in Class A motorhomes – from any manufacturer, including Winnebago.
A year later we were in Tampa at a large dealer walking through a collection of custom rigs built on Prevost chassis. Several interiors took a stab at modernity that was cringingly laughable. Why an under-lighted bathroom sink was supposed to be classy was beyond me. Couldn’t anybody come up with something better?
Well Winnebago just did. And boy did they ever. Working exclusively with their same Italian cabinet designer and putting a special internal team together, the company embarked on a complex two year design process that is, mark my words, going to precipitate a major change in American RV design thinking.
As part of introducing this sleek new design approach, the company returns to one of their most cherished model names with the Horizon. And here’s the real stunner: these sophisticated interiors are in a mid-luxury product that sells for a third to one-quarter less than premium coaches like Foretravel or Newell. Now granted, million dollar plus coaches have unique features and refinements that you won’t find in the Horizon. But if you want an excellent motorhome that looks like a million bucks, but for the fraction of the cost, your Horizon awaits.
The company is going to start out with two floorplans. The largest is 42′ long with a TAG axle and a smaller 40 footer without. Both are built on Winnebago’s Maxum Freightliner chassis with 400-450 HP Cummins diesel engines and Allison transmissions. All standard stuff for a good Class A pusher. And while other manufacturers use Freightliner chassis, Winnebago’s custom designed Maxum gives the coach a better sense of centering in weight and offers huge, pass-through basement storage.
But it is upstairs where you live, and honestly, there’s no photo, video or VR tour that prepares you for the sense of tailored sophistication that hits you when you physically step into these coaches. The linear expanses of the the windows, the graceful molded arcs of the cabinetry, and the color palettes that, for all their conservative tones, seem to glow brightly. It’s like stepping onto a yacht anchored off St. Tropez. And it should feel that way, as Winnebago’s exclusive cabinetmaker located in Italy has lots of nautical design experience.
A couple of years ago, in a nondescript workshop at the Forest City campus, I saw a full mockup of the 40A. What stunned me was that, two years later, they actually built it. Usually when you see a concept or mockup the final result somehow seems to be a close, but compromised product. Not the Horizon. Of all the interior architectural details your eye will be drawn to, I encourage you to look up. What do you normally see in most RV ceilings? For lower-cost Class A’s, it is the air conditioner and maybe a low-profile ceiling fan.
For more expensive coaches it’s usually a drop-panel that is trimmed with lacquered crown molding. And what is it about some super-expensive coaches where they love to use mirrors on the ceiling? The Horizon ceiling panel, with its thin backlit LED light dividers looks like something that you’d see in Starfleet.
The 42Q felt like the more traditional of the two floorplans with the extra length being put to use in a larger master suite. The 40A’s dual entry bath (from the master suite and the hall) is cleverly designed to make you forget that this floorplan doesn’t have a half bath. However, what you do get is a double vanity that would be very much the equal of what you’d expect to find in a high-end modern urban hotel.
Beyond Winnebago’s well honed floorplan designs, other key features for a coach in this class won’t disappoint: a residential refrigerator, dishwasher, stacked washer/dryer, induction cooktop, and full multiplex wiring. Up front, the slim A-pillars offer the most unrestricted driver’s view in this class, adjustable pedal heights, easy reach controls, and the 10.5″ Xite infotainment, GPS and camera monitor system – the largest available.
While the laser focus of the Winnebago design team was to bring an RV interior truly into the 21st century, the exterior design team added many subtle styling cues that maintains Winnebago’s famed broad sightlines for the driver. And in an act of near heresy, you can actually buy a motorhome that doesn’t have big swirls painted on it. Yes, there are more traditional exterior paint schemes to choose from, but the relaxed simplicity of a dark wraparound band on a clean white base speaks to the signature elegance this coach will have going across the Interstate.
And finally, the maraschino cherry on top of the icing on the cake: Winnebago has now extended a three-year or 100,000 mile coach warranty on all their diesel pusher products.
Success favors the bold, and as the Horizon shakes off the design dust of the past it’s about to shake up the industry, and bring a lot more new owners into the Winnebago family.