A German-built Sprinter chassis, a Mercedes-Benz diesel engine, and more than 6 feet of headroom give this type B a lot of pizzazz.
By K. Stephen Busick, F45180
The Xtreme is the latest type B coach from Xplorer Motor Homes. Xplorer, founded in 1967 and located in Brown City, Michigan (a town that lays claim to being the birthplace of the modern motorhome), specializes in custom-built coaches. Through the years Xplorer has built type A, B, and C motorhomes; however, it now produces only type B and C units.
Although Xplorer has built coaches on a variety of chassis, over the years it has maintained a close relationship with DaimlerChrysler, a virtual neighbor in southeastern Michigan. When production of the Dodge Ram Van chassis was stopped after the 2003 model year, the new Sprinter chassis seemed to be the logical successor. These Sprinters are manufactured in Germany and assembled at the Freightliner Custom Chassis factory in Gaffney, South Carolina. Although sold under the Mercedes-Benz name in Europe, they are badged here as a Dodge or a Freightliner, both DaimlerChrysler subsidiaries.
Xplorer Xtreme compartmentAs Joe Murray, senior vice president of Xplorer, pointed out, “The end of availability of the Ram Van did cause some inconveniences, but the new Sprinter has certainly opened new doors and offered new opportunities for the motorhoming public.”
After looking at several Xtremes, I certainly agree.
The Sprinter chassis is available with single 16-inch rear tires and a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,550 pounds or, like the pictured coach, with dual 15-inch tires and a GVWR of 9,990 pounds.
The latter coach was displayed at the National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky, this past December, a stop on its way to a buyer in Indiana. The buyer had agreed to have the coach delivery delayed so that it could be exhibited for others in the industry and press.
As shown on its front fender, this motorhome, like all Sprinters, is powered by a 2.7-liter turbocharged 5-cylinder Mercedes-Benz diesel engine. Producing 154 horsepower at 3,800 rpm and 243 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 to 2,400 rpm, the engine is serviced from outside the coach; no more greasy footprints or handprints from a not-too-careful mechanic.
As might be expected from a vehicle with the tradition that the Sprinter brings to the market, the cab is extremely functional yet very comfortable. But rest assured that the absence of “glitz” does not mean “stripped-down.” Features include electric swing-away mirrors, power locks for all doors, and four-wheel disc brakes with an antilock braking system (ABS) and electronic acceleration skid control (ASR). Although the steering wheel does not tilt, the non-powered, fully adjustable seat makes finding a comfortable driving position easy. The adjustable three-point seat belts add to the comfortable and secure feeling.
Xplorer Xtreme kitchenOne of the advantages that Mr. Murray saw with the Sprinter chassis was the availability of slightly more than 6 feet of headroom without having to alter the coach by putting on a raised roof. To preserve this valuable headroom, while ensuring the coach can be used year-round, Xplorer installs Heat Shield foil insulation in the roof and sides of the Xtreme. I was told that this insulation, although only 3/8-inch thick, offers an R-value of 18. The display coach was equipped with a 16,000-Btu ducted Atwood furnace under the side-facing couch, and an 11,000-Btu Dometic roof-mounted air conditioner with a heat strip in the rear. A thermostatically controlled Fan-Tastic Vent ceiling fan with a rain sensor should quickly ventilate the entire vehicle.
The Xtreme that was exhibited at the show features a kitchen along the curb side, a dinette/double bed in the back, a fiberglass wet bath along the street side, and a side-facing couch between the bath and the driver. In addition to the maple interior of this coach, light oak and white laminate interiors also are available.
The kitchen, located just aft of the sliding door, includes a single-handle faucet and sink, a two-burner gas cooktop, and, located under the cooktop, a 2.8-cubic-foot Norcold AC-DC refrigerator. Because this is a compressor-type refrigerator, no vents are needed on the roof or side of the coach. The swing-up counter extension and rounded corners on the laminate countertops are nice touches, especially in a small coach. Across the aisle is a Sharp Grill 2 convection-microwave oven.
The rear dinette measures 54 inches from front to back to provide spacious seating. This dinette is in addition to the freestanding removable table by the side-facing couch in the front. Noting that storage space is at a premium in compact coaches, Xplorer designers created the filler strip for changing the rear dinette into a 54-inch-by-68-inch cross-coach bed as a three-piece unit that stores easily in the closet.
The one-piece fiberglass bath in this coach includes a Thetford toilet, connected to an 8-gallon black-water holding tank, and a handheld shower. As in all wet baths, the toilet provides a seat for the shower when needed. A small door with a seal protects the storage area and tissue holder located under the lavatory sink, while a traditional medicine cabinet is located above the toilet. A Ventline circular fan provides ventilation for the bath.
The black-water tank and the fresh-water tank are both installed above the floor to take advantage of the heated interior.
Xplorer Xtreme interiorFor those desiring larger beds, split-bath models are also available. Xtreme motorhomes with the split bath have a shower just behind the sliding door, and a toilet and a sink across the aisle. These showers feature an ingenious door that is akin to a roll-up window shade mounted sideways. The frosted plastic “door” is guaranteed for five years and features a squeegee-type device that dries the door after use. An expanding clothes pole provides for clothing storage when the area is not being used as a shower.
The toilet in the split-bath model is a Thetford swivel-base, cassette-style unit that can be emptied without moving the coach. This model features a larger, 28-gallon, fresh-water tank and no black-water tank. The gray-water tank on all models holds 18 gallons.
Emptying the holding tanks should be a simple job. A work light above the termination valves adds illumination if needed, and since the termination assembly extends slightly beyond the side of the coach, it is not necessary to reach underneath to connect the hose. Handles mounted behind a door located on the side of the coach control the valves and add to the ease of emptying the holding tanks.
As on all Xplorer motorhomes, the exterior water fill is located behind a locking door. This helps prevent the accidental, or intentional, introduction of gasoline or other unwanted material into the 22-gallon fresh-water tank.
Winterizing the coach should also be a simple job. A door on the side of the streetside dinette seat gives easy access to the bypass valves for the 6-gallon Suburban water heater.
An optional 3.5-kw Kubota diesel generator and a solar battery charger on the display coach help support the electrical needs when not plugged into shore power. A detachable power cord with Marinco connectors simplifies setting up and breaking camp.
Besides the standard television antenna with amplifier and cable hookup, this motorhome has a 13-inch television and a remote-controlled DVD player located above the driving compartment. Again Xplorer was able to personalize the coach by building and installing a maple remote-control holder by the couch.
The exterior of this coach sports a Fiamma box awning. While it is true that awnings greatly increase the living space of any coach, this gain is even more noticeable in smaller coaches.
Xplorer Xtreme dinetteMr. Murray said he is proud of Xplorer’s role as a custom motorhome builder. He noted that the company has its own on-site cabinet shop and upholstery shop. This means that design possibilities are not hampered by the lack of a standard-size cabinet or cushion. This also means that cabinets can be placed to take advantage of any available storage space whether it is over or under other items. As an example, in this coach a custom-size storage tray was placed under the floor between the rear dinette seats.
While large families or those who like to stay parked in their coach in one location for extended periods of time often purchase larger RVs, type B motorhomes definitely offer a true motorhoming experience “in a different package.” They can easily be used as a second vehicle while at home, and they allow the back roads to be explored without the need to tow another vehicle while traveling. With a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 14,990 pounds and an approximate vehicle weight of 7,200 pounds, the Xtreme can take boats, race cars, or even a travel trailer along for the trip.
Xtreme prices begin at approximately $77,000. The featured coach had a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $85,519 plus destination charges and dealer prep.
Xplorer has built motorhomes on Dodge chassis for 36 years and, knowing that many individuals still want a unit built on the Dodge Ram Van, they stockpiled several of those chassis before production ceased. However, the Ram Van is used only for the 19-foot XtraVan or the 21-foot wide-body 230 XLW. So, for a while at least, buyers of Xplorer Type B motorhomes have a choice — the new diesel chassis or the traditional, classic van chassis. Like most things involved with motorhoming, it is a decision based on personal preferences and, more importantly, based on fun.
Xplorer Motor Homes, P.O. Box 130, Brown City, MI 48416; (800) 343-2771; www.xplorermotorhome.com