Added amenities and a second chassis choice stand out as highlights for new models of this popular diesel-pusher motorhome.
By Jim Brightly, Technical Editor
Georgie Boy is prepared to soar to new heights with the introduction of the 2004 Cruise Air XL. The latest version of this popular diesel pusher offers many upgraded appliance options, new interior wood finishes, redesigned lighting, and a black water tank rinse system. But the big news surrounding this coach is that it is now available on a second platform. On 2004 models, customers will be able to choose between the standard Freightliner XC chassis and the new Workhorse R Series chassis.
In early 2003, Georgie Boy unveiled the 2004 Cruise Air XL demonstrator coach as the first motorhome to use the new Workhorse R Series diesel-pusher chassis, giving motorhome enthusiasts throughout the United States and Canada their first experience with the new chassis during test drives.
Following FMCA's 69th International Convention in Pomona, California, this past March, I had the opportunity to get acquainted with the 2004 Cruise Air XL on the new R Series chassis. The coach I previewed was what is commonly known in the industry as a “test mule.” It’s a predominantly hand-built unit that's used to test the compatibility of the chassis and coach components. It was taken to the manufacturer’s dealerships to allow the sales staff to get a hands-on feel for the new motorhome and was test-driven by numerous RVers at FMCA conventions and other rallies. By the time I took the wheel of the vehicle, it had 8,000 miles on its odometer.
Even though the coach had been used primarily as a mobile office and sales tool for the new Workhorse R Series chassis, I noticed that the interior had held up very well from the onslaught of visitors and demonstrations (the carpeting and wood flooring appeared to be untouched). I did detect a few squeaks and rattles when under way, which are entirely normal, but I was impressed with the drivability of the coach — especially after I peeked into the basement storage area. Since this coach was being used as a mobile office and demonstrator, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found hundreds of pounds of sand bags (for holding down tents used at rallies) and brochures filling the forward bins.
In the cockpit, the big, wide steering wheel controls the coach well, but its rim was so thick that it obscured my view of the speedometer — but that was probably a personal problem due to my height. The steering and suspension seemed a bit stiff or heavy in front, which I attributed to all the weight in the forward storage bins, but I was told later that the design of the components would be changed slightly in the production chassis.
The Cruise Air XL’s electronic gauges (tachometer, speedometer with electronic odometer, fuel, oil, electric, temperature, and air pressure for both the brakes and the suspension) go through a self-diagnostic phase each time the ignition key is turned on. The fuel gauge does not register until the engine is running, at which time it slowly rises to its indicated fuel level. The gauges are very attractive, with white faces and colorful needles and markings. The odometer can be cycled through boost and various other sensor readings via a push-button control.
Driving the 37-foot Cruise Air XL on the Workhorse R Series chassis was a delight. Pushing the throttle on the 350-horsepower Cummins ISC engine (1,050 pound-feet torque at 1,400 rpm) brought an instant response, even with the motorhome's overall weight of 26,160 pounds, approaching its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 28,000 pounds. The gross combination weight rating (GCWR) for the chassis is 40,000 pounds. The engine was paired with the Allison 3000 MH six-speed transmission. A Cummins 400-horsepower ISL engine and an I-beam front suspension are available options.
The coach had enough power to climb almost any hill, and if momentum was maintained, I could actually accelerate up a 6 percent grade. Although the steering felt a bit stiff, the 55-degree steering cut angle of the ArvinMeritor independent front suspension more than made up for the stiffness. Even before you’ve driven the R Series chassis, you’ll appreciate the steering cut angle just by turning the wheel all the way in either direction and allowing the coach to move out slowly. Its turning ability will both amaze and delight you. It’s nothing short of incredible for a 37-foot diesel pusher. For instance, while driving the coach, we approached an underpass that we suspected was too low for the 11-foot-9-inch RV to clear, so we had to turn the coach around. On a narrow desert two-lane road, I was able to turn tightly to the left and pull forward across the oncoming lane. After shifting into reverse, I turned the wheel hard right and backed up as far as possible on the narrow road with soft shoulders. I shifted back into drive, gave the wheel a hard crank to the left, and we were on our way in the opposite direction.
The Cruise Air XL’s mileage during our test drive averaged 9.2 mpg, using 17.1 gallons of fuel on the 157.9-mile loop from Pomona to Barstow and the Calico ghost town (all in Southern California) and back. Remember, this mileage was achieved with the motorhome’s weight approaching its maximum GVWR, not lightly loaded without any gear.
One of the new interior options is a freestanding dinette with four chairs (two freestanding chairs and two folding chairs). The chairs are secured with straps during transit. Held over for this year is an optional computer work station with overhead cabinets in the bedroom of the 3840 DS floor plan. Last year, the choice was between the computer station and a swivel barrel chair; however, new for 2004 is a choice of the standard cozy bedside recliner with footrest or the computer station.
The 2004 Cruise Air XL also includes a host of other changes and upgrades. For instance, a new optional interior (Baroque Ebony) features satin-nickel appliances, hardware, and lighting. In other interiors, natural cherry hardwood has replaced last year’s walnut finish. Dual-pane insulated windows are also on the 2004 standard feature list.
Inside, other than the décor upgrades already mentioned, the Cruise Air XL hasn't changed significantly from the 2003 models. Two exceptions are the addition of a 15-inch Sony LCD TV in the 3825 DS model’s bedroom, and a dash-mounted Command Center. The Command Center includes a monitor panel, slideout controls, and the generator’s start-stop switch. In addition, the Cruise Air is equipped with six seat belts.
Much of the Cruise Air XL's hardware also has been updated for 2004, starting with a 2,000-watt inverter and a gas-electric water heater. The center roof vent is equipped with a Polar-Aire fan with a thermostat control and a rain sensor that will automatically shut off the fan and close the vent should it sense too much moisture in the atmosphere.
Outside the Cruise Air, you’ll find a detachable 50-amp power cord, enhanced full-body paint graphics, and — if you check carefully — a redesigned holding tank compartment that includes a rinsing system for the black water tank.
Although brief, my outing in the Cruise Air XL steered me to this conclusion: with a choice of chassis and preponderance of standard and optional features, this motorhome is a viable contender in the 2004 lineup.
Georgie Boy Manufacturing LLC, a division of Coachmen Industries Inc., 69950 M62, Edwardsburg, MI 49112; (877) 876-9024, (269) 663-3415; www.georgieboy.com.