Fine road-handling characteristics and luxurious details help make this diesel pusher from Mandalay Luxury Division a worthy destination in itself.
By Lazelle Jones
When a 2005 Mandalay arrived on the West Coast this past November, I jumped at the chance to take my turn behind the wheel of this luxurious, diesel-powered motorhome. For a week, the 41-foot coach — model 40B — took me across a broad range of driving scenarios and Southern California landscapes.
Fully appointed, including a host of options that for all intents and purposes make this a custom coach, the quad-slideout diesel pusher came with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of less than $240,000. I decided that the Mandalay Luxury Division, a subsidiary of Thor Industries Inc., has taken the affordable luxury motorhome lifestyle to a new level.
The Mandalay was introduced three years ago and has become quite a success. Today the coach is offered in four floor plans. Three of them come with four slideouts, and the other has three slideouts. I asked Carter Yoder, national sales manager for the Mandalay Luxury Division, based in northern Indiana, what market segment this coach targets and how the Mandalay had achieved success. Mr. Yoder's reply underscored the many pluses I noted with this unit. He commented that after much study of the luxury coach industry, company designers began with a clean sheet of paper and designed the Mandalay to meet the mandates of owners.
The road manners and driving characteristics of the Mandalay are more than just acceptable — they are very good. This coach is a pleasure to navigate through traffic, on the interstate at high speeds, and along the winding mountain roads of Southern California.
The galley of the tested Mandalay model features cherry cabinetry (optional).To begin with, road and wind noise levels are kept to a minimum. Some of this can be attributed to the airtight seals that surround the driver and passenger windows and the windshield itself. However, the laminated floor and subfloor construction, the choice of materials, and the thickness of the floor also factor into the equation.
When it comes to driver comfort, I found that I could tailor the controls to fit my individual body mechanics, not only via the power-adjustable driver seat and the tilting-telescoping steering wheel, but also with the power-adjustable pedals (accelerator and foot brake).
The standard single-stage exhaust brake, which runs off of the Caterpillar engine's exhaust system, performs well. The air brakes also are excellent at stopping the unit "right now." When hard braking was called for, the coach did not deviate in the least from a straight-ahead direction. It quickly comes to a stop in a very uniform and controlled manner.
Independent front suspension enables the Mandalay to deliver a turning radius that, as far as I know, is among the best in the motorhome industry. A full 56-degree wheel cut (left or right) is available to the driver. Furthermore, because each front wheel acts independently when it meets a road surface irregularity, the force is not transmitted to the opposite front wheel. Four high-volume, low-pressure air bags (one at each corner of the coach) also play into the success of the suspension system.
I calculated fuel economy while the Mandalay was operated at a steady 55 mph on a flat stretch of freeway. It achieved 8.3 mpg. I did have a bit of a concern during refueling, however, because the pump at the fuel station shut off several times before the tank was full. This may have been caused by a problem with the fuel nozzle, and not with the coach.
Large, user-friendly instruments on the dash feature a white background and large, legible numerals and icons, which make them easy to read both at night and during the day. The dash is not cluttered. The minimum number of gauges are used, and they are positioned so as to immediately provide information to the driver.
Controls for the exhaust brake, power side mirrors (the upper portion of the split mirrors is heated), foot pedals, etc. are located on the left arm panel below the driver's window. And just like a luxury automobile, the Mandalay features a "Smart" brand steering wheel. This wheel contains push-button controls for the wipers/windshield washers, headlights, ICC lights, and cruise control.
In cold-weather driving, two adjustable fans situated along either side of the windshield help to circulate air delivered by the defroster; these same fans mitigate heat buildup around the windshield when it's warm outside. The backup monitor (with audio support) and the optional GPS system function well.
Perhaps the first thing a passenger riding in the cockpit will notice is the innovative design of the stairwell and stairwell cover. This is not a sliding stairwell cover. Touch the button adjacent to the passenger seat, and the electric steps rotate out of sight. In their place appears a flat surface that is flush with the rest of the interior floor. This proactive design by Mandalay precludes any trip hazard created by the stairwell cover itself.
Livability and design
The entry and cockpit areas are covered with an attractive, low-maintenance ceramic tile. Aft of this and back through the living area, sculptured carpet beautifies the floor. Ceramic tile returns in the galley and center-aisle bath. Sculptured carpet resumes aft of the bath, flowing throughout the rear bedroom.
The curbside slideout contains the galley and a second sofa.Two of the Mandalay's four slideouts are in the living area. A street-side slideout houses the sleeper sofa and dinette; an opposing curbside slideout contains the galley and a second sofa. With the front two slideouts extended, this area of the coach becomes downright palatial. The galley is a first-rate setting that presents broad appeal for everyone from the master chef to those who raid the fridge at bedtime. The demand water system that supports the galley and bath is augmented in the galley with a water filtration system. In addition to a three-burner cooktop, a double sink, and a microwave oven, the unit reviewed featured an optional 12-cubic-foot refrigerator-freezer with ice maker, with door fronts accented by raised-panel inserts. The galley also featured a conventional pantry and a curio cabinet as standard features.
A freestanding Corian-topped table with four chairs (two fixed and two folding) sit opposite the galley and immediately aft of a second sleeper sofa that is ensconced in the street-side slideout. The coach reviewed was outfitted with cherry cabinetry (optional) and graced by hardware that was "drop dead gorgeous." The fascia that surrounded the leading edge of the street-side slideout complemented the noted woodwork.
Another interesting thing I discovered in the Mandalay is how privacy and safety are creatively addressed in the bedroom. When I first entered this room, I noted that the only windows appeared to be two small ones positioned on either side of the queen bed slideout. This seemed like a great idea for privacy. It makes you feel as though you can remove yourself from the world and escape to a very private venue.
Then it dawned on me: what about the emergency exit? In other motorhomes, one of the rear windows typically serves as an exit; so, what is the story in the Mandalay?
Mandalay bedroomThe answer is both functional and visually acceptable. A double-mirrored panel is located above the vanity/dresser on the curbside wall. When this panel is folded back, it reveals a large window. This window can be used for ventilation and to enjoy the world outside, and it provides the necessary emergency exit should one ever be needed. What a nice touch.
Oak cabinetry is standard in the Mandalay, and optional wood choices are cherry and maple. As noted earlier, my test coach featured cherry cabinetry. Day-night shades are standard in the living area, while blackout shades are standard in the bedroom. Countertop surfaces throughout the Mandalay are solid-surface Corian.
The Mandalay uses the Freightliner XC raised-rail chassis as its foundation, which has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 34,320 pounds. It is powered by a 350-horsepower Caterpillar turbocharged diesel engine. A 400-horsepower Cummins ISL diesel is available as an option. The power meets the road via an Allison 3000 MH six-speed automatic transmission.
The XC raised-rail chassis features welded tubular steel bridge-type construction and enables the Mandalay to offer a total of 190 cubic feet of exterior basement cargo space.
The floor is a vacuum-laminated structure consisting of 3-inch welded tubular steel framing, 3-inch block foam insulation, lauan decking, and a Darco underbelly. (Darco is a product that provides a moisture and dust barrier between the coach and the road below.) As mentioned earlier, the floor's configuration of materials and thickness helps to abate noise.
The walls also are vacuum-bonded, incorporating welded 1.5-inch tubular aluminum framing that yields strength while reducing unit weight. A smooth gel-coat fiberglass dresses the exterior, backed by lauan panel. Steel backing is located behind the interior lauan décor board to serve as an anchor point for interior fixtures.
The exterior of the roof consists of one-piece gel-coat fiberglass. The structure itself is made with aluminum rafters, block foam insulation, and steel backers that are vacuum-bonded together. Padded vinyl dresses the interior of the ceiling.
The Mandalay comes with full-body paint and graphics. This is not an option, but a standard feature. Buyers have their choice of one of five exterior paint and graphic schemes. They can select from one of five interior décor packages (Silk Beige, Chiffon, Eclipse, Midnight Blue, or Sage Leaf), regardless of which exterior they have picked. My test coach featured the Saber full-body paint exterior and Eclipse interior décor.
Under this heading we first must mention the Mandalay's HWH hydraulic system. It powers the leveling system, the four slideout mechanisms, and the front slideout tray for the diesel generator. (All are standard equipment on the Mandalay.)
Mandalay bathroomNow let's discuss the slideouts themselves. The front living area slideouts are controlled by two lockout keys and control switches located up front. The bedroom slideouts, which contain the head of the queen-size bed and, opposite of that, a television and the vanity/wardrobe, are controlled by lockout keys and control switches in the rear.
After turning the lockout keys to the "on" position, you toggle the extend/retract switches to actuate the slideout. A moment's delay occurs before the slideout extends, during which time the mechanical locking devices retract. Then the slideout moves outward. When it's time to close the slideout, you hold down the same switch in the retract position until the electrically powered locking devices are again extended and the slideout room moves inward and is secured against the exterior wall. It's a foolproof system — a great idea.
The Mandalay 40B includes two forced-air furnaces — one is rated at 25,000 Btus; the other, 20,000 Btus. The coach is cooled by dual roof air-conditioning units — a 15,000-Btu unit with a heat pump up front and a 13,500-Btu unit at the rear. The 8-kilowatt Onan Quiet Diesel generator (also standard) is but one key component in an electrical system that includes 50-amp shore power, a 2,000-watt inverter, and four deep-cycle batteries. The auto-start feature on the Onan means you never have to be concerned about draining the house batteries, for the system senses low voltage and automatically starts the gen set. The coach I reviewed included an optional energy management system and an optional power cord reel.
On the road with bumper-to-bumper coverage
Also notable is the Mandalay's warranty, one of the best in the industry. To quote from company literature, "We’re so confident in the design and construction of the Mandalay that we offer an exclusive full three-year, 36,000-mile warranty with bumper-to-bumper coverage to protect your valuable investment." The coach also comes with an additional five-year, 60,000-mile limited structural warranty.
The base suggested retail price of the 40B model Mandalay is $218,120. The price tag for my test coach came to $238,652 with the following options: GPS with color backup camera; home theater system with DVD player; AM-FM stereo with six-disc CD changer; spotlight with remote; central vacuum system; 3M film front mask; extra-wide copilot seat with power footrest; fabric Magic Bed sofa; Ultraleather Magic Bed sofa; energy management system; 50-amp power cord reel; bedroom window awning; 12-volt galley vent fan; hardwood cherry cabinetry; digital satellite system; CB radio with antenna; 12-cubic-foot refrigerator with ice maker and raised-panel inserts; full-length mud flap; pass-through storage tray; power sun visors; cold-weather package; One Touch automatic patio awning; driver's-side slideout living room window awning; solar panel for front 15,000-Btu roof air conditioner with heat pump.
The Mandalay is a classy diesel pusher. Its independent front suspension delivers excellent handling characteristics, and its warranty gives the impression that it could serve as a solid, long-term investment.
Manufacturer … Mandalay Luxury Division, P.O. Box 1486, Elkhart, IN 46515-1486; (866) 919-4444; (574) 522-4276; www.mandalaycoach.com
Model ... 40B
Floor plan ... 40B Quadruple Living Room and Bedroom Slide
Chassis ... Freightliner XC raised-rail
Engine ... 350-horsepower Caterpillar diesel; 2,400 rpm; 860 pound-feet torque @ 1,440 rpm (400-horsepower Cummins ISL optional)
Transmission ... Allison 3000 MH six-speed automatic
Axle ratio ... 4.63 to 1
Tires ... 275/80R 22.5 radials
Wheelbase ... 276 inches
Brakes ... front — 17-inch air disc; rear — 16.5-inch S-cam air drum
Suspension ... independent front suspension with 56-degree wheel cut
Steering ... 18-inch leather-wrapped "Smart" steering wheel; tilt and telescoping steering column
Alternator ... 160 amps
Batteries ... chassis — (2) 12-volt Alliance; coach — (4) 6-volt Interstate
Inverter ... 2,000-watt with 100-amp charger
Electrical service ... 50 amps; 120-volt distribution panel and cord
Auxiliary generator ... 8-kw Onan Quiet Diesel with auto start
Exterior length ... 41 feet 5 inches
Exterior width ... 100½ inches
Exterior height ... 12 feet 1½ inches
Interior height ... 6 feet 8 inches
Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) ... 44,320 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ... 34,320 pounds
Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) ... front — 14,320 pounds; rear — 20,000 pounds
Wet weight as tested ... front — 11,680 pounds; rear — 18,420 pounds; total — 30,140 pounds
Payload ... 4,180 pounds
Frame construction ... lightweight aluminum framing in sidewall and roof; 3-inch tubular steel framing in floor
Insulation ... block foam
Fresh water capacity ... 110 gallons
Holding tank capacities ... gray water — 66 gallons; black water — 55 gallons
Fuel capacity ... 100 gallons
Fuel requirements ... diesel
Propane capacity ... 121½ pounds
Water heater ... 10-gallon LP-gas/electric with DSI
Water delivery system ... demand
Furnace ... front — 20,000 Btus; rear — 25,000 Btus
Air conditioner ... front — 15,000 Btus with heat pump; rear — 13,500 Btus, low-profile
Refrigerator ... 12-cubic-foot refrigerator-freezer with ice maker, optional (8-cubic-foot two-way, standard)
Toilet ... push-button electric, porcelain
Warranty ... coach — 3 years/36,000 miles limited bumper to bumper; chassis — 5 years/60,000 miles limited structural
Base suggested retail price ... $218,120
Price as tested ... $238,652