Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. introduces a full wall slideout in this gas-powered motorhome constructed on a Workhorse chassis.
By Jim Brightly, F358406, Technical Editor
"Wow!" is usually the response one hears from folks who step inside the 36-foot-long Pace Arrow 36D for the first time. They are reacting to the 36D's new concept in space: a full wall slideout that measures 23 feet 6 inches long and 30 inches wide and truly opens whole new vistas. It's definitely overwhelming.
This amazing feature is a patent-pending structural design created by Fleetwood, which utilizes Power Gear slide technology. But this streetside slideout is not the only one — the coach has a second slideout in the bedroom. Speaking from experience, though, it's easy to get used to so much extra space.
Another phrase comes to mind when I look at the Pace Arrow 36D: "classy chassis." After all, it sports diesel-pusher looks on gas-powered Workhorse rails, and it is a joy to drive (more on that later). The Workhorse W-22 chassis has a 22,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and forms the foundation over a huge basement storage area in this newly designed coach. The W-22 chassis is one of the strongest frames for this size motorhome; however, the 36D also is available on the heavier W-24 chassis (24,000-pound GVWR).
The W-22 and W-24 chassis feature the same Vortec 8.1-liter V-8 engine, which develops 340 horsepower at 4,200 rpm and 455 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm. The engine is equipped with a rev limiter that will not allow it to exceed 5,000 rpm under load and 3,000 rpm under no-load conditions. The W-22 and W-24 do have different transmissions, however: the W-22 comes with the Allison 1000 Series five-speed automatic transmission with two overdrive gears and a park pawl feature that securely locks the drivetrain when the transmission is in "park." The W-24 chassis is equipped with an Allison 2100 Series transmission, which has the same basic design but is stronger, allowing for the heavier weight rating. Gross combination weight ratings (GCWR) for the two Pace Arrow chassis are 26,000 pounds and 30,000 pounds, respectively. Each has a 75-gallon fuel tank.
My test coach weighed in at 20,200 pounds with full fuel and water tanks, giving this specific unit a cargo capacity of 1,800 pounds. Those of you who plan to tow a large vehicle or boat or have the need for additional storage capacity may wish to consider a coach built on the W-24 chassis.
The Pace Arrow benefits from Workhorse's Stabil-Ride suspension, which consists of an auxiliary spring called Like-Air, and single-stage, constant-rate, two-leaf parabolic springs on both the front and the rear axle, with Bilstein shock absorbers and rectangular stabilizer bars (a 2-inch bar in front and a 2½-inch bar on the rear axle). Standard tires are Michelin XRV 235/80R 22.5 (load range G). The chassis' steering is a variable-ratio (15.7-18.5:1) hydraulic assist, with a 50-degree wheel cut angle.
Originally I decided to head to Death Valley, California, with this test unit. I figured all the late winter rains surely had filled it with wildflowers that would form a colorful contrast to the Pace Arrow's paint design, making photos of the coach phenomenal. However, I found out too late in the trip that an alternate route was necessary, because the highway to the park had been washed out the previous August. Instead I backtracked to Pahrump, Nevada, for an enjoyable stay at Terrible's Lakeside RV Resort.
The test route took me over Southern California and southern Nevada freeways, through mountain passes, and along narrow desert byways. Over all of the varying road surfaces, speeds, and traffic patterns, the Pace Arrow performed flawlessly. It took an average of 29.9 seconds to travel from 0 to 60 mph and served as a very stable and comfortable platform from which to savor excellent views of the southern Nevada desert.
The first mileage test resulted in a 5.8 mpg fuel economy figure, starting with less than 2,000 miles on the odometer. It increased to 6.5 mpg during the second test. Better fuel economy should be expected as more miles are added to the odometer.
On the dashboard you'll find a rocker switch marked "Grade Brake." This switch operates a system that's very similar to a Jake brake or engine retarder on a diesel pusher. A driver can use it on long downgrades to hold the coach back so that the service brakes won't overheat. The system doesn't kick in until the driver activates it with the service brakes, and then it will automatically downshift the Allison transmission and hold it in fourth or third gear (straight drive), depending upon speed, until the throttle is again depressed. The throttle disengages the Grade Brake until the service brakes are used again.
The Pace Arrow's Power Platform utilizes ladder-frame-type construction with two 10-inch, 50,000-psi steel I beams that extend the full length of the coach for more strength, greater stability, and structural integrity. From the I beams, steel outriggers support the Vacu-Bonded walls and create a basement for storage and holding tanks. The holding tanks are located in the lower center portion of the platform and are enclosed between the upper and lower basement floors, which allows them to be heated in cold weather.
Fleetwood's platform design creates a huge amount of basement storage — 150 cubic feet in three compartments along each side. On the street side, all three doors conceal one compartment suitable for long items such as flagpoles. The compartment, called EZ Store, deploys with the slideout to simplify access. In total, the Pace Arrow 36D incorporates seven separate basement storage compartments, accessible via 10 doors.
Fleetwood's exclusive Tuff-Coat exterior fiberglass sidewalls are bonded into a strong composite structure. The patented Tuff-Ply roof is said to be resistant to ultraviolet light, as well as scratch-resistant and easy to clean. Stylish fiberglass front and rear caps seal the sidewalls and roof. Fleetwood uses a two-stage DuPont paint design (full body paint is optional) that reportedly increases the fiberglass' durability, quality, and appearance. And although they add to the motorhome's weight and initial expense, the dual-pane windows offer increased insulation that cuts down on heating and cooling expenses and adds value to the coach.
The manufacturer's TuffPex plumbing runs throughout the coach and assures that water keeps flowing even in the coldest weather. Plumbing design features include a full-coach water filtration system, an Atwood 10-gallon water heater, an 80-gallon fresh water tank, a 58-gallon gray water tank, and a 42-gallon black water tank — sufficient capacity to enable a family of four to spend several days dry camping with conservative use. The utility compartment includes an external shower system.
Because of the slideout configurations, the Pace Arrow 36D's hallway water closet — toilet, sink, and small medicine cabinet — is separate from the bath area, which is in the rear of the coach. With the toilet in this location, it and a sink are accessible even with the slideouts closed.
The toilet comes from Thetford Inc.'s Tecma marine subsidiary. Its macerator design gives Fleetwood engineers more options when determining the location of the holding tank. Its automatic-cycle turbine pump can push the waste water to a distance of 90 meters horizontally and up to 11 meters vertically. Waste products are fragmented completely, eliminating the possibility of clogging. Pushing the electronic flush button causes an initial flush to place the bowl's contents in the turbine. Seconds later, the automatic secondary flush will move the macerated waste products on into the holding tank. The double flush uses only 2.5 liters of water with each operation.
Fleetwood strongly recommends that the coach be leveled before the slideouts are deployed. The engine should be running, the transmission placed in "park," and the parking brake engaged. The full wall slideout is equipped with two automatic locking levers — one at each top corner — that secure the slideout for travel. They take approximately 5 to 10 seconds extra to operate but give occupants a warm and secure feeling once they're in place. Three 12-volt-DC gear motors are synchronized to move the living area slideout along three rail assemblies. The 85-inch-long bedroom slideout moves on two rails with the help of one motor. Each slideout includes a full-length awning that automatically deploys with the slideout to protect its roof from exterior debris.
Because of the way the two slideouts mirror each other in the bedroom (the end of the bed slides beneath the wardrobe's overhang), the bedroom has no full-length coat closets. It does offer plenty of other storage space, however, including the double-wide bedroom closet, which is equipped with an anti-moisture bar. When plugged in, the bar maintains a steady 90 degrees of dry heat to ward off mold.
Working counterclockwise, let's take a tour around the interior of the Pace Arrow, starting with the side entrance door (located beneath the remote-controlled Dometic WeatherPro awning). Just forward of the door is a freestanding recliner that is mounted on a wide circle of steel. This heavy steel band is secured by a screw-down clamp during travel and can be released while the coach is parked for comfortable conversation or television viewing. The swivel lounger can be used while still locked in place, too, by turning the navigator's chair around and using the recliner as a footrest. (Both captains chairs swivel and recline, and the driver's seat is powered.)
A cabinet on the curbside wall above the recliner and navigator's chair contains the slideout controls, the tank monitors, and the automatic two-zone electronic climate control (ECC). The latter enables the front and rear of the coach to be set at different temperatures. Two ducted roof air-conditioning units (13,000 Btus in the front and 11,000 Btus in the rear) and two Atwood furnaces (a 34,000-Btu unit in the living area and a 20,000-Btu unit in the rear) help to keep the elements at bay.
As you step forward to the navigator's chair, look up. On the forward air conditioner you'll notice a red LED light labeled "Solar Monitor." This LED lets coach occupants know that the solar panel that is part of the roof air-conditioning unit is busy maintaining the house batteries with a trickle charge. It does not create enough of a charge to make up for heavy usage, but enough to maintain the batteries while in storage.
Near the floor on the forward bulkhead is a telephone connection and 120-volt-AC and 12-volt-DC power outlets. A pullout tray for computer use is situated in this area also; below it is a shallow drawer for office supplies. The combination makes a great space for a workstation or to hold a laptop computer used for navigation.
The dashboard is clean and uncluttered and has all the requisite gauges for monitoring the Pace Arrow's engine and speed. It includes a rear monitor with one-way audio to help your partner guide you into a campsite without awakening the entire campground. An AM-FM-cassette-CD entertainment center with MX electronic tuning — we used to just call it a radio — sits below the monitor, and the dash air-conditioning controls are mounted to the left of the monitor.
Above the split windshield is a Panasonic RV entertainment center, which includes a five-disc DVD home theater system, a Panasonic 27-inch flat-screen TV, and a satellite receiver with a manually controlled roof-mounted dish (a Panasonic 20-inch flat-screen TV entertains bedroom viewers).
Just below the overhead TV is something I've been lobbying for in coaches for quite some time — an outside temperature and compass readout located in a small suspended enclosure where the rearview mirror normally is found. This is something I think nearly every RVer would enjoy. Now if only it could be used without the need to engage the ignition switch.
The controls for the four-point automatic levelers are on the dash just to the left of the tilt steering wheel, next to the headlight controls and overdrive "off" button. The Pace Arrow even has a button marked "ICC," so you can flash your "thanks" to courteous fellow drivers. And along with the outside mirrors' heating and movement controls, the driver's door includes controls for the power window. Rather than having two separate sun visors, my test coach was equipped with a single sun visor — with power controls on the driver's-side door — that had a very dark opaque bottom border and see-through mesh above.
Continuing our counterclockwise tour, just aft of the driver's chair is an Ultraleather "jackknife" sofa bed, which is equipped with three seat belts. The jackknife phrase refers to the way the sofa is converted into a bed. The Pace Arrow I reviewed also had the optional dinette to add sleeping quarters, so the coach could sleep up to six — two in the queen-size bed, two on the fold-down sofa bed, and one adult (or two children) on the dinette when converted. The dinette also offers storage beneath the seats. Bedding could be stored in the sofa and beneath the bed. (A mini ironing board is stowed in a special bracket beneath the bed; it fits into the galley's cutting board slot for use.) The optional dinette and sofa are more compatible with family travel. In fact, Steve Pierce, Fleetwood's RV Group product development manager, told me that the company is receiving more and more requests for larger family-style coaches, especially on gas chassis.
Opposite the galley, just aft of the dinette and still on the driver's side, Fleetwood has placed a 12-cubic-foot Dometic stainless-steel side-by-side refrigerator with standard ice maker. RVers need not worry about the ice cubes retaining a bad taste from city water, because of the whole-coach water filter system noted earlier; in addition, a Shurflo Flow-matic high-output variable-flow water pump keeps the fluid flowing to the ice maker from the onboard tank. Adjacent to the refrigerator, to the left, is a pantry with rubber-dipped wire baskets for holding foodstuffs. Just above the fridge is a wide but short cabinet for linens, magazines, newspapers, etc.
The final items inside the full wall slideout are in the bedroom: the aforementioned 20-inch TV, and double-wide shirt closets with drawers beneath. All of the Pace Arrow's drawers are equipped with ball-bearing roller guides for quiet and extended service life.
Situated in the rear cap area of the bedroom is a very large corner shower. Although the test coach sported clear glass on the shower enclosure, those wishing more privacy may opt for etched-glass panels. The three-product dispenser in the shower is a standard item. This area also includes a wraparound chest of drawers with an open linen cupboard above, a medicine cabinet, several mirrors, and a sink.
Moving forward along the curbside wall, you'll find the queen-size bed. The head of the bed, as well as matching nightstands and magazine racks, are located in the curbside slideout. Also in the slideout's alcove are decorative wall light sconces and efficient reading lights. The Restonic Deluxe Pillow Top innerspring mattress is well balanced and can be lifted with one hand. It is truly luxurious: soft and snuggly on top with a firm foundation below.
Stepping around the aforementioned toilet room, we are now in the galley. Corian countertops are used in the galley and lavatories. Matching covers create extra space over the double stainless-steel sink and above the large burners on the stove. The coach has a recessed two-burner stove top with a Sharp microwave-convection oven mounted overhead. Beneath the stove top are two oversized drawers for pots and pans. As in the pantry, several of the galley's cabinets contain storage baskets that pull out, increasing usable space a great deal. A pull-down spice tray is situated in front of the sink — an excellent fixture. A faucet with a stainless-steel sprayer on a retractable hose finishes off the galley.
Several campground neighbors who saw the Pace Arrow had to stop by to talk about the coach and its design. They loved being invited to see the slideout from the inside. More than one also commented on the excellent quality control apparent in the finer points of the coach's construction. In their opinion, the use of stainless-steel appliances and fixtures and brushed-chrome cabinet and drawer handles lends a quiet, refined air of elegance to the Pace Arrow without being gaudy. Speaking of which, Pace Arrow offers four interior décor selections (sand, slate, pewter, and bronze), three different wood finishes (cherry, maple, and birch), and six exterior full paint options (warm shadow, estate green, harvest beige, platinum, shalestone, and white pearl).
The coach's Flexsteel furniture features Ultraleather with Ultrasuede inserts. The coach is illuminated by a combination of well-placed fluorescent panels and incandescent light fixtures, including several very well-located reading or map lights. And indirect lights under the cabinets lend a comfortable air for TV watching or reading. The fluorescent lights give near-daylight visibility for working in the galley or entertaining guests.
Mention should be made of the hood offset. When the windshield is cleaned, dirty fluid does not drip down over the grille; it drains down behind the hood instead. Although this is a nice design, unfortunately, it also means the wipers cannot be extended away from the windshield.
Another coach critique pertains to my experience with the 50-amp service cable. As most motorhome owners know, by nature this cable is very heavy. It must be threaded up through an access hole and plugged into the covered female outside receptacle. This task can be difficult and frustrating on the 36D, because of the angles involved; however, it probably would be less of an issue for an owner familiar with the process.
All in all, I found that the Pace Arrow's design, quality, and diesel-pusher appearance should appeal to a great many motorhome buyers.
The manufacturer's base suggested retail price of the 2005 36D is $141,372. My test coach came to $151,977 with the following options: driver-passenger shades with electronic sun visor; full body paint; fixed dinette with solid wood table and Ultraleather cushions; dual air-conditioning systems with heat pump and solar charger.
Manufacturer: Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., 3125 Myers St., Riverside, CA 92513; (877) 308-7644, (951) 351-3500; www.fleetwoodrv.com
Model tested ... Pace Arrow 36D
Chassis manufacturer ... Workhorse
Engine ... GM Vortec 8.1-liter V-8, 455 pound-feet torque at 3,200 rpm, 340 horsepower @ 4,200 rpm
Transmission ... Allison 1000 Series 5-speed automatic with overdrive
Axle ratio ... 5.38:1
Tires ... Michelin XRV 235x80R 22.5G
Wheels ... 22.5 inches by 6.75 inches
Wheelbase ... 228 inches
Brakes ... Hydraulic power four-wheel discs with ABS
Suspension ... single-stage constant-rate parabolic with auxiliary spring, rectangular stabilizer bar, and Bilstein gas-charged shock absorbers
Alternator ... 145 amps
Batteries ... chassis — (1) Delco, 690 cca; house — dual Trojan 6-volt, deep cycle, 217 amps
Inverter/convertor ... 120-volt/12-volt AC/DC convertor, central electrical panel
Steering ... ZF variable-ratio steering with 50-degree wheel cut
Electrical service ... 50 amps
Auxiliary generator ... 5.5-kilowatt Onan, gasoline
Exterior width ... 102 inches
Exterior height ... 12 feet 10 inches
Interior height ... 7 feet
Exterior length ... 36 feet 2 inches
Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) ... 26,000 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ... 22,000 pounds
Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) ... front — 8,000 pounds; rear — 14,500 pounds
Wet weight as tested ... front — 6,740 pounds; rear — 13,460 pounds; total — 20,200 pounds
Payload ... 1,800 pounds
Frame construction ... Power Platform; Vacu-Bond with aluminum tube framing
Insulation ... 3-pound-density beadboard
Fresh water capacity ... 80 gallons
Holding tank capacities ... gray water, 58 gallons; black water, 42 gallons
Fuel capacity ... 75 gallons
Fuel requirements ... gasoline
Propane capacity ... 25 gallons
Water heater ... Atwood, 10 gallons
Water delivery system ... demand; three-way water pump switch
Furnace ... (1) 30,000-Btu and (1) 20,000-Btu, Atwood
Air conditioner ... two ducted RVP high-efficiency units with solar panel and Chill Grilles; (1) 13,000 Btus front, (1) 11,000 Btus rear
Refrigerator ... 12-cubic-foot stainless-steel Dometic with ice maker
Toilet ... Tecma, Silence Plus
Warranty ... coach — 12 months/15,000 miles limited; structural — three years/50,000 miles; chassis — 12 months/15,000 miles limited
Base price (MSRP) ... $141,372
Price as tested (MSRP) ... $151,977