Chinook RV dives into the upscale type C market in a big way.
By Lazelle Jones
Throughout the past decade, I've had the opportunity to report several times in Family Motor Coaching magazine on the performance of type C motorhomes built by Chinook RV. In 1993, while road testing a Chinook Premier, I enjoyed exploring northwest Washington, which included a ferry trip across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Port Angeles, Washington, to Victoria, British Columbia. In 1998 I reviewed a Chinook Concourse and also joined Chinook RV officials in Utah, where a specially outfitted Concourse set the world land speed record for motorhomes at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Then, as the new millennium dawned, I was on hand as three Chinook Baja motorhomes participated in the 2000 Alcan Winter Rally, a nine-day road rally in February of that year. Of the 23 four-wheel-drive trucks, cars, and SUVs that competed in that nine-day event, which ran through Washington and Alaska, one of the Bajas came in 16th. Unbelievable!
So, what is it that brought me back to the doors of Chinook RV? For the past year or so, the company has immersed itself in the luxury slideout type C RV market. Thus, it seemed time to examine one of the newest offerings from this progressive builder of type C motorhomes.
The unit reviewed was the Glacier 2500, a model in its second year of production. The coach is built on the Ford E-450 chassis, and my test model came equipped with the 6.8-liter Triton V-10 gasoline engine; the Ford Power Stroke 6.0-liter turbodiesel V-8 also is available. The coach carried a manufacturer’s base suggested retail price of $126,965. As equipped with the Glacier LE package and several other options, the suggested retail price of this unit came to $156,959.
I asked the folks at Chinook RV what the market is for this coach, and why it has a higher price tag than many type Cs. Paul Comiskey, vice president and general manager, provided some interesting insights in response.
First, Paul explained that the majority of the Glacier 2500 units that have been built and shipped to Chinook’s 42 dealers across North America already have been sold. A look at the demographics of those clients quickly reveals a common denominator: 60 percent are motorhome enthusiasts who have downsized from large, high-end luxury units. These folks have enjoyed the luxury motorhome lifestyle for a number of years and want to continue traveling, but they now need to do so in a coach they feel is more manageable to navigate. At the same time, they don’t want to compromise the quality and luxury to which they have grown accustomed. Chinook has successfully identified this niche and responded accordingly.
To answer the second question — what contributes to the Glacier 2500's price tag — Paul referred me to Jeff Gaskell, Chinook's Fiberglass Division manager, who went into great detail about the construction process. According to Jeff, no other manufacturer in the industry creates a coach in the same way that Chinook RV builds this motorhome. The molded fiberglass construction process used is both labor- and material-intensive, but the end product possesses distinct characteristics and features.
The process is most easily understood by noting that the finished product presents an uninterrupted, continuous shell made of resin, fiberglass, and reinforcement pieces that are unitized (chemically bonded together) into a single structure. The complete shell structure is markedly strong and provides an unyielding surface that’s impervious to moisture and dust. It is attached to the chassis rails and rail extensions (the latter added by Chinook) on the truck frame using vibration-absorbing dampers and mechanical fasteners.
First, two large clamshell half-molds are created, and the interior side of each mold is sprayed with a 30-mil-thick layer of gel coat. This gel coat becomes the outside surface of the finished coach. After the gel coat has cured, fiberglass chop and resin are applied via a high-volume/low-pressure (HVLP) spray device, with sheets of fiberglass fabric and resin layered to build up those areas where additional structural strength is needed.
Once the chop has cured, the interior sidewalls are sprayed with a putty-type compound. A prefitted, premanufactured half-inch piece of structural PVC foam insulation is imbedded into the putty. The puttied foam is then covered with airtight, heavy-gauge plastic, and a machine is attached that removes the air and imbeds the PVC foam into the putty. When the putty has dried, the inside of the foam is skin-coated with resin and chop. The result is foam insulation that is sandwiched between the gel coat/vinyl resin shell on the outside and the polyester resin skin on the inside. The roof is then glassed the same way, forming one solid composite shell. The seam that runs down the centerline of the roof is filled and trimmed with resin — a purely cosmetic touch. In addition to the two parts for the body mold, approximately 150 other individual parts molds are used to form the shower, wheel wells, generator box, steps, etc.
While the shell is being built, the headliner is being fabricated separately. The headliner, a single piece of chopped fiberglass that is identical in shape to the roof, fits into the underside of the roof portion of the shell. The foam behind the headliner has been routed to create raceways for the conduits that carry the electrical wiring to the ceiling fans, air conditioner, lights, etc.
While this process is taking place, a premanufactured "cored floor" has been built, incorporating a new technology. The base of the floor is a sheet of 100-inch-wide, four-ply (laid on the bias), 36-ounce quadraxial woven fiberglass fabric. On top of this, a single piece of 1½-inch-thick balsa is placed; the balsa has been infused under heat and a vacuum with resin and allowed to cure. An identical piece of fiberglass fabric is laid on top, and the entire floor structure is placed on a vacuum table. While the vacuum is drawn, resin is infused into the composite and allowed to cure. The end result is a floor structure that has a tensile strength of 20,000 pounds, compared to the previous state of this technology, which yielded a tensile strength of about 4,500 pounds. The weight also has been reduced by 30 percent, and the thermal and acoustic insulating qualities have been improved as well.
Chinook Glacier 2500 interiorThe floor is now set in place and secured by six floor irons that connect to the bottom outside of the mold. A process called bridging (the same process that is used in the marine industry for floor and bulkhead attachments) now begins to attach the floor and walls together. Fiberglass fabric that has been saturated with liquid resin is tucked from the inside and the outside into the existing space, around the entire perimeter where the floor and walls come into contact with each other. The glass and resin have an affinity for the fiberglass in the walls and floor, and a chemical bond occurs. Like two pieces of metal that have been welded together, this seam becomes at least as strong as the structure surrounding it, if not stronger. The finished fiberglass shell and the metal cab are mechanically fastened to each other and then chemically bonded and sealed.
The slideout, which measures 14 inches deep by 79 inches long, deserves special mention, because, like the rest of the coach, it boasts a first-rate design. The slideout is hydraulically actuated and incorporates two steel locking pins that are automatically inserted into the slide structure when the slide is cycled to the retracted position. Great safety feature! It also features a pneumatic seal that inflates to close off the inside from the outside when the slide is in the extended and the retracted position. In my experience, this feature is typically found only in ultra-high-end custom coaches.
On the road I found the Glacier 2500 to be friendly and responsive. With the Triton V-10 engine, going from zero to 60 mph was quick, and accelerating around slower traffic, climbing hills, and entering freeways also was easily achieved. The Chinook handles every bit as well as a large sedan, both at interstate speeds and in city driving. The Ford cockpit is user-friendly and ergonomically correct. And because this is a type C on a light truck chassis, it yields the same visibility as a half-ton or ¾-ton pickup.
The fuel economy I experienced during the review involved grabbing two different sets of computations. The first calculation came in at 8 mpg. I thought this to be a respectable number, considering the coach had charged up the freeway at 70 mph while engaging in a modest elevation rise. However, the second set of figures calculated out at 11.6 mpg, which was based on traveling the same route, but in the opposite direction.
The test vehicle weighed 12,780 pounds, which left 1,270 pounds of cargo carrying capacity available for passengers and gear. The weight included a full fuel tank (55 gallons) and a filled fresh water tank (40 gallons).
The fit and finish throughout the Glacier is superb. Chinook has paid close attention to the choice of materials that dress the walls, floor, counter, shower, and cabinets; the furniture and interior appointments; and the clever, very livable floor plan. Unlike previous models in which the main entrance was located at the rear of the coach, the Glacier 2500 entry is immediately behind the cockpit passenger seat. And because the 2500 has a sofa bed inside the living area slideout, all of the space that otherwise would be occupied by a bed has been used to create a spacious rear unit galley and a dry-bath that is exceptionally large. (In previous years, Chinook motorhomes featured a wet-bath.)
Chinook Glacier 2500 interior living areaIt was easy to relax when a stop was made or a campground reached. The interior of the Glacier 2500 is commodious and pleasing, perhaps in part because it is not divided up by walls. Upon stopping, I instantly felt as though I had checked into a luxury hotel. However, this also leads to what some might consider a critique item: there is no separate bedroom area. The sofa is also the foldout bed. If having separate sleeping quarters is important to you, you may want to consider the Glacier 2700, which comes with a second slideout in a rear bedroom.
Immediately aft of the curbside main entry is a bench-style dinette or two swivel lounge chairs, depending on the owner’s choice. The unit reviewed featured the chairs, which are mounted on pedestals. I noticed that with the chairs mounted this way, there appears to be more floor space available for living purposes. This arrangement is not only functional but also very attractive. A pull-up and fold-down utility/dining table made of solid wood is positioned out of the way against the wall between the two chairs until it’s needed. With this configuration, the best of all worlds is achieved: additional lounge chairs and a dedicated dining area.
The rear galley is well-equipped and includes solid-surface countertops, a microwave-convection oven, and a cooktop. Furthermore, because of its out-of-the-way location, its presence is minimized when it is not being used.
The optional 4-kw LP-gas-fueled generator powers everything in the coach nicely, all at the same time (air conditioner, entertainment center, 120-volt outlets, and microwave). This unit would be a joy to park in a primitive camp setting for several days. Features that underscore this capability include not only the gen set and the 13,500-Btu centrally ducted roof air conditioner (with heat strip), but three deep-cycle house batteries, a 2,000-watt inverter, a 50-watt solar charging system, and the optional 12-volt heater that winterizes the holding tanks. The Glacier 2500 also features thermal-pane windows.
Chinook Glacier 2500 interiorAs mentioned earlier, my test coach was outfitted with the Glacier LE package, which includes a number of conveniences and cosmetic additions. The long list of features includes a three-door keyless remote entry, stainless-steel wheel liners, heated power side mirrors, two Fan-Tastic Vent fans with thermostats and rain sensors, a central vacuum system, a coffeemaker, a water filter, and an exterior shower.
As the motorhome industry continues to grow, more and more RV enthusiasts are demanding quality, innovation, and luxury — and are willing to pay for them. The Glacier 2500 fills this niche nicely in the type C motorhome category.
Manufacturer … Chinook RV, 607 E. "R" St., Yakima, WA 98907; (800) 552-8886, (509) 248-6095; www.chinookrv.com
Model ... Glacier 2500
Floor plan ... Club
Chassis ... Ford E-450
Engine ... 6.8-liter Triton V-10
Transmission ... four-speed automatic with overdrive
Axle ratio ... 4.10:1 limited slip axle
Tires ... LT 225/75R16
Wheelbase ... 176 inches
Brakes ... four-wheel antilock
Suspension ... MAXLOADER Suspension System
Alternator ... 130-amp heavy-duty
Batteries ... house — (3) deep-cycle; chassis — (3) Group 29
Steering ... Ford E-450 power steering
Inverter ... 2,000-watt/100-amp charger
Electrical service ... 30 amps
Auxiliary generator ... 4,000 watts; LP gas
Exterior length ... 25 feet
Exterior width ... 8 feet 6 inches
Interior height ... 6 feet 5 inches
Exterior height ... 9 feet 6 inches standard; with roof air, 10 feet 3 inches
Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) ... 20,000 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ... 14,050 pounds
Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) ... front — 4,600 pounds; rear — 9,450 pounds
Wet weight as tested ... front axle — 4,020 pounds; rear axle — 8,740 pounds; total — 12,780 pounds
Payload as tested ... 1,270 pounds
Frame construction ... bonded fiberglass
Insulation ... R-14
Fresh water capacity ... 40 gallons
Holding tank capacities ... gray water — 35 gallons; black water — 20 gallons
Fuel capacity ... 55 gallons
Fuel requirements ... gasoline
Propane capacity ... 19 gallons
Water heater ... 6-gallon electric/LP-gas with automatic ignition
Heating system ... propane furnace, 12-volt DC/120-volt AC, Dometic heat pump
Water system ... pump-assisted, 2.8 gallons per minute
Air conditioner ... cab — factory air; coach — Duo-Therm 13,500-Btu heat pump with air
Refrigerator ... three-way (120-volt AC, 12-volt DC, LP gas) two-door 6-cubic-foot, flush-mount
Toilet ... marine style
Warranty ... chassis — 36 months/36,000 miles; Chinook fiberglass body — limited lifetime warranty
Base suggested retail price ... $126,965
Price as tested ... $156,959