Newell Coach Corporation's upscale 2003 45-foot custom coach incorporates up to four slideouts and is powered by a 500-horsepower Detroit Diesel engine.
By Lazelle D. Jones
It seems safe to say that if any company can create a coach that offers as much luxury as is implied in the term "mansion on wheels," it would be Newell Coach of Miami, Oklahoma. Newell builds custom coaches that epitomize luxury and range in price from $700,000 to more than $1 million.
The coaches that Newell builds are not bus conversions, for the company designs and builds each coach from the ground up, including the chassis. This gives Newell the flexibility to make a number of product enhancements, often to areas that some other custom motor coach makers cannot. Further, during a recent visit to Newell's facility, I was told that an advanced new suspension and axle system purchased from a leading German manufacturing firm will be revealed at FMCA's 69th International Convention in Pomona, California, in March 2003. Newell reported that the 45-foot prototype features a radically reduced turning radius, substantially less than 40 feet. A Newell spokesman said that all new coaches will incorporate this suspension.
I traveled to the company's facility to take temporary possession of a Newell coach for a road test and livability review. The suggested retail price for the unit I assessed was $999,240. Coaches in this price range demand that a reviewer be exceptionally picky when inspecting them, for everything should be absolutely perfect. I did find some critique items that I will note, although most of them involved the placement of a particular item. As the words "custom coach" imply, the client usually decides what items will be included and where many of them will be located. And, in fact, the Newell I reviewed had been built to meet a particular client's requirements and was to be delivered after FMCA's Hutchinson, Kansas, convention.
The first item concerned the location of the digital panel that controls the heating and air conditioning; it was situated on a control panel over the windshield in front of and above the driver's head. (It was not where I would have placed it.) However, this obviously was a matter of personal preference on the part of the coach buyer, and the customer is always right, as they say.
I found two items that did not fall into the "client preference" category. One was the low interior head clearance inside the sofa-dinette slideout -- 6 feet. I am 6 feet 2 inches tall, and initially I kept bumping my head when standing there. Once I "completed my education" in this area, it became less of an issue.
Another item pertained to the bay doors below the slideouts. The doors are equipped with vertical hinges and can be opened when the slideouts are extended. But they have manual locks that require keys. The other bay doors, which have pantographic hinges, can be locked with the push of a button. This is no longer an issue, however, because Newell has since created an automatic locking mechanism for the under-slideout bay doors.
One more item that I need to note concerns the coach's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), which is 55,000 pounds. The as-tested weight of this particular coach was 54,140 pounds when weighed with a full tank of fresh water (160 gallons) and a full fuel tank (256 gallons). This left 860 pounds for passengers and cargo. In addition, the actual front and drive axle weights were right at the threshold of their ratings.
My test coach included optional mirror-finish stainless-steel body panels, front to back in the area commonly referred to as the “window band.” While this is an interesting and attractive cosmetic feature, the stainless steel is considerably heavier than Newell’s standard aluminum body panels. With the test coach also equipped with virtually every other option Newell offers, including four slideouts, the stainless-steel panels pushed the weight of the coach above the rated axle capacities. Newell has therefore determined to discontinue offering the stainless panels. I did note that Newell's reported "typical" wet weights for this type of unit yield a payload of 2,500 pounds. It should also be noted that the fuel and fresh water capacities of the test coach were quite generous, and buyers can opt for smaller tanks as they see fit. One could also argue that such large fuel and water tanks may never need to be topped off to their limits.
Perhaps the biggest innovation in this coach is its four slideouts, three of which have flat floors. Two slideouts are located in the front living area, and two are in the rear bedroom. The curbside living area slideout incorporates a desk and desk chair, as well as a chair and ottoman. Across from this is the other living area slideout, which is longer and includes the sofa and dinette. Both of these slideouts have flat floors.
One bedroom slideout incorporates the head of the bed, so a flat floor isn't needed there -- the floor is covered by the bed. The other bedroom slideout, on the curb side, incorporates a 42-inch plasma television as well as ample closet and storage space. "Head clearance" for someone my height was not a problem inside this slideout.
The custom home on wheels that I reviewed contained a bath and a half. The half-bath -- a guest lavatory, if you will -- is located midway in the coach, just aft of the galley. A full bath extends across the width of the coach, aft of the rear bedroom. It includes a toilet, a large shower, and a large vanity and sink. The entire rear wall is occupied by a huge closet.
Now, you might be thinking, "Four slideouts and a rear coach-wide bath; oh, that's nice." Yes, but accomplishing this required some engineering breakthroughs.
To create a four-slideout coach with flat floors on opposing sides, Newell incorporated a new, all-electric (as opposed to hydraulic) motive device. The slideout system, engineered and built by Valid Manufacturing, also employed a new approach for supporting the slideouts, including the device they ride on when they extend and retract. Eliminating the hydraulics and going with a single electric (AC) motor to extend and retract each slideout permitted the use of flat floors in slideouts on both sides of the coach. In the past, a flat floor was possible on only one side of the opposing slideouts.
Equally important, this new generation of Newell slideouts do not slide over a high-friction surface as they extend and retract. Instead, they move smoothly on linear bearings, with very little force required. The bearings function just like the roller guides on a drawer. Two linear bearings are mounted on either side of the slideout infrastructure and attached to tubular steel welded solidly to the coach chassis immediately below.
A pneumatic system inflates to create a tight seal around the slideout in both the extended and retracted positions. When the slideout is moving, a slight vacuum is deployed to ensure that the seal is fully collapsed and thus doesn't create any drag. No slideout awning toppers are required, for the roof (and the walls and bottom of each slideout) features a flush finish that prevents any leakage or debris collection.
Newell's bridge-type chassis design plays a role in accommodating these slideouts. Boyd Vanover, vice president of engineering, explained, "The rigidity and torsional strength of each Newell Coach is derived from the bridge-style construction of the chassis. The exterior walls sit on top of the chassis structure, which means where openings are required for the slideouts, the integrity and strength provided by the structure below is not compromised."
Each Newell coach body begins with aircraft-strength aluminum framing that attaches to the chassis below. Once the spars or body framing is in place, aircraft-grade sheets of aluminum are secured with structural mastics and Huck fasteners to the spars to create the coach's outer shell. Foam insulation is sprayed inside of the shell; this insulation seals as it dries and penetrates into virtually every possible space, no matter how small.
Like the slideouts, the rear bath configuration also is possible because Newell builds its own chassis. Newell mounts the Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine in a lower position, which eliminates most of the engine doghouse in the back of the coach. The walking area of the coach floor actually extends across the top of the rear engine. Newell makes full use of this extra space by offering four different rear bath and walk-in rear closet floor plans, called "reference floor plans," which are starting points from which to refine each customer's preferences. (Full custom floor plans are also available.)
Rather than including separate black water and gray water holding tanks, Newell traditionally has used a single large combined holding tank. (The capacity of the holding tank on my test coach was 161 gallons.) Newell believes that mixing the gray and black water provides for much better draining than normally experienced with a black water tank and that this larger combined tank is available for the typically more abundant gray water. A Newell spokesman also told me that the plumbing system incorporates water traps on all drains and toilets, so the need for holding tank chemicals is eliminated in most cases.
Another new development pertains to the engine in this coach. In conjunction with Detroit Diesel, Newell has succeeded in meeting new diesel engine emissions standards, which went into effect in October 2002, with no reduction in horsepower or torque ratings.
To lower diesel emissions, a method called cooled exhaust gas recirculation (the method of choice by Detroit Diesel) can be used. Another is to reduce the rated horsepower, which Newell engineers did not want to do. Exhaust gas recirculation requires a much larger, more efficient heat load rejection system (radiator). The challenge for the coach builder is to provide the increased cooling capacity rather than reduce engine power, because of the higher heat rejection of the new engines. Because Newell builds the chassis, the company was responsible for designing a cooling system that would meet the new requirements. During hot-weather testing this past July in Phoenix, Arizona, Newell's redesigned cooling system met the requirements and was certified by Detroit Diesel as acceptable for use with Detroit's most powerful engines that have the 500-horsepower, 1,650-pound-foot torque rating.
Newell customers can choose a floor plan with a side entry or a front, bus-style entry. The side entry features a classic circular entry stairwell accompanied by a curved brass handrail that together sweep around to the left as you enter the coach. It's spectacular. However, with four slideouts now being offered, a front, bus-style entry may be more pleasing for customers who wish to experience the visual drama of entering the massive double-slideout living room from this point.
Regardless of the location of the entry door, it will be pneumatically operated. When opened, the door moves several inches away from the side of the coach, rather than swinging out, and then travels parallel to it. The door was discovered by Newell staff members during one of their frequent visits to Europe to keep abreast of new technology on that side of the ocean. It's interesting to watch this door operate and to note the small amount of space it requires on the side of the coach. As it closes, it first fits flush in the door opening. It then shifts up a fraction of an inch into wedge-shaped retainers, where it becomes seated and latched. The door features keyless entry; it opens after the right combination of numbers is entered into a touch pad.
The 2003 Newell was a pleasure to drive and to ride in. I found that towing a small Chevy van had little if any effect on its performance. The 500-horsepower Detroit Diesel engine makes the coach very responsive.
I was particularly impressed with the quietness of the ride. When crawling underneath the coach, I discovered one reason for this: the same spray-on foam insulation used inside the coach also covers the portion of the chassis that faces the road. This insulation achieves noise abatement; insulates against outside temperatures; and seals against dust and moisture. Another personal impression worthy of note was the lack of any air leakage sound around the A-pillars and windshield when navigating at highway speeds. This is a very quiet coach.
The top and bottom halves of the coach's split-mirror system are power-adjustable, so that any needed adjustments between drivers or day-night conditions can be made easily. The large, white-faced instrumentation cluster is uncomplicated and easy to read.
Newell coaches are available with either three or four roof air conditioners (which provide cooled air through a central plenum) or with an over-the-road basement air-conditioning system. The roof air units also come with heat strips. An Aqua-Hot system warms three individual zones in the coach, including the basement and holding tanks. The Aqua-Hot also provides domestic hot water and preheats the engine on cold mornings. This heating system incorporates a diesel boiler and a 120/240-volt electric source, and can use the engine as an additional heat source when the coach is in motion.
A 20-kilowatt Power Tech diesel generator and a 3,000-watt sine wave inverter provide stand-alone AC power. A second inverter that will allow an air-conditioning compressor to run off the six 8-D deep-cycle sealed house batteries can be added. AGM maintenance-free sealed batteries are an option, and were included on the test coach. A power-operated reel extends and retracts the 50-amp shore power cable. With automatic dump valves for the waste water holding tank on both sides of the coach, hooking up at a campsite or dumping the tank is simple. The dump valves can be operated from outside or inside the coach. When electing to actuate these dump valves from inside the coach, two switches must be operated simultaneously -- an excellent way to ensure that the dump valves are not opened inadvertently.
The coach was easy to set up for the night. My review unit featured a semi-automatic leveling system that uses the eight air ride suspension bags and is operated via switches on the dash.
The slideouts are controlled at two locations -- one up front and the other mid-coach. The motorhome's in-motion TV satellite system renders all three plasma televisions (including the one in the patio entertainment bay) immediately ready for your favorite programs.
A fully electric outside grill, which also is located in the patio entertainment box, is accessible by rolling out the tray to which it is attached.
Power awnings cover all of the motorhome's windows; controls for each awning are located adjacent to the window's day-night shade control switch. The day-night shades also can be controlled using master switches that are situated up front and in the rear bedroom. They enable the coach owner to lower all window shades in these areas simultaneously.
And, once you are set up at your destination, this coach says you truly have arrived.
The base suggested retail price of the 2003 45-foot Newell is $742,500. My test coach included the following options, which brought the price to $999,240: rear bath and center half-bath; four Phantom Suite slideouts; mirror-finish stainless-steel body panels; lower sill molding and headlight cove molding; four 16,000-Btu roof air-conditioning units; second RCA high-definition DSS TV receiver; outdoor entertainment center with flat-screen TV; power-operated Hunter Douglas window shades; Nu-Heat floor warmers under galley and bath granite flooring; 12.5-foot telescoping ladder with built-in carrier; DVD-GPS navigation system; 42-inch flat-screen bedroom TV; DVD player; eight Lifeline AGM batteries; Gaggenau barbecue grill mounted on pull-out in exterior bay; pearl metallic base color.
Manufacturer ... Newell Coach Corporation, P.O. Box 511, Miami, OK 74355; (888) 363-9355; (918) 542-3344; fax: (918) 542-2028; www.newellcoach.com
Model ... 2003 45 Quad Slide
Floor plan ... Rear Bath
Chassis ... Newell Custom
Engine ... Detroit Diesel Series 60, 500-horsepower; 1,650 pound-feet torque @1,200 rpm
Transmission ... Allison 4000MH 6-speed World
Axle ratio ... 4.30 to 1
Tires ... Michelin Pilot 315R80-22.5; load range L
Wheels ... Alcoa 9-inch-by-22.5-inch forged aluminum
Wheelbase ... 317 inches
Brakes ... air-operated disc on steer, drive, and tag axles
Suspension ... steer axle -- Dana independent air ride; drive axle -- Ridewell air ride; tag axle -- Ridewell independent air ride
Alternator ... Delco 12-volt, 300-amp, oil-cooled
Batteries ... house -- six 8D; chassis -- two 8D
Steering ... TRW/Ross integrated with booster cylinder
Electrical service ... 50 amps; 120/240-volt dual leg
Inverter/charger ... ProSine 3,000-watt pure sine wave
Auxiliary generator ... Power Tech 20-kilowatt diesel
Exterior length ... 45 feet
Exterior width ... 102 inches
Interior height ... 7 feet 5 inches
Exterior height ... 12 feet 6 inches without roof air conditioners; 13 feet 4 inches with roof air conditioners
Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) ... 65,000 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ... 55,000 pounds
Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) ... front -- 18,000 pounds; rear -- 25,500 pounds; tag -- 12,000 pounds
* Wet weight as tested ... (weighed with full fuel and water tanks) front axle -- 18,080 pounds; rear axle -- 25,560 pounds; tag axle -- 10,500 pounds; total -- 54,140 pounds
* Payload ... 860 pounds
Frame construction ... welded steel bridge
Insulation ... sidewalls -- sprayed polyurethane; floor -- rigid foam
Fresh water capacity ... 161 gallons
Holding tank capacities ... 161 gallons combined gray and black water
Fuel capacity ... 234 gallons
Fuel requirements ... diesel
Water heater ... Aqua-Hot continuous hot water
Water system ... continuous pressure with heavy-duty 120-volt pump
Heating system ... Aqua-Hot hydronic diesel/electric/off-engine
Air conditioner ... choice of central or roof units
Refrigerator ... Amana side-by-side, flush-mounted cabinet-style
Toilet ... Microphor air flush
Warranty ... coach -- 2 years/unlimited miles
Base suggested retail price ... $742,500
Price as tested ... $999,240
*Newell officials report that typical wet weights for a 45-foot Newell coach would be as follows: front axle -- 17,000 pounds; rear axle -- 24,000 pounds; tag axle -- 11,000 pounds; total wet weight -- 52,000 pounds.