Diesel engine power comes in a smaller package with this bright new type C from Winnebago Industries Inc. that is built on the Dodge Sprinter chassis.
By Lazelle Jones
The all-new type C Itasca Navion from Winnebago Industries Inc. is a departure from other motorhomes made by this company. It's manufactured using a Dodge Sprinter cutaway chassis that is built in Germany and powered by a Mercedes-Benz five-cylinder, 2.7-liter, turbocharged diesel engine. For that matter, so is the Winnebago View, the Navion's sister coach. The whole concept of using the smaller diesel engine to power a type C may just be the newest innovation in the smaller-coach market, considering the rising costs of fuel today.
My wife and I picked up the 24-foot-long test unit at Mike Thompson’s RV in Fountain Valley, California, and began an odyssey that would take us through Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks in Utah. We soon learned that the Navion offers comfortable accommodations — and spunk.
I pushed the Navion to the maximum speed limit, which often was posted at 75 mph in desert areas. We ran the dash air conditioner all the way (outside it was well above 100 degrees) and charged up Cajon Pass to the high desert. The estimated fuel economy for the Navion is 17 to 19 miles per gallon. The best we recorded was 14 mpg, which was very good, considering our circumstances — in addition to the fact that we were above 10,000 feet in elevation near Cedar City, Utah.
However, one of the pluses associated with a turbo-diesel engine is that elevation gains do not result in a loss of power. The turbo-diesel engine develops the same horsepower and torque at 10,000 feet as it does at sea level. This is not so with a gasoline-powered engine, where a drop in power occurs as elevation increases.
I found the driving characteristics and road manners of the Navion to be very good. The independent front suspension yields a comfortable ride, good cornering, and over-the-road stability. We decided that the cockpit was not quite as cushy as those in an American-built chassis, but it is comfortable. Even with the diesel engine beneath us, it was quiet.
Diesel engine technology is light-years ahead of what it was even 10 years ago, and exponentially better than it was in the 1980s. Electronically controlled fuel injection and an ultra-high-pressure single-rail fuel delivery system permit the timing and the configuration of the combustion in the cylinder to be such that the noise associated with the compression (diesel) ignition has almost been eliminated.
Itasca Navion living areaThe five-speed fully automatic transmission shifter is located on a center console and features what can be called "bump or tap" shifting. Put it in "drive" and everything is fully automatic. However, should you want to use the engine as a brake on a downhill grade, you simply tap the shifter to the left, and the transmission shifts to the next lower gear. It can be tapped again to bring it down to an even lower gear. The transmission's electronics protect the engine from being over-revved and prevent downshifting to the next lower gear if you are going too fast for that gear. You also can tap or bump the shifter to the right to bring the transmission up to the next higher gear.
The Navion came with a rearview monitor and included standard side mirrors that we would augment with fish-eye mirrors if this coach were ours.
The Sprinter chassis is made in Dusseldorf, Germany, and, in at least one way, its German craftsmanship shows. Clever mechanisms are used to adjust the position of the cockpit seats for comfort and personal use, as opposed to electrical means. Four mechanical releases (push-pull levers) are used to move the seats up or down, fore and aft, and to tilt the seat bottoms or recline the backs. The seat is pretensioned so it rises by itself when the lever is released. At first this takes a little getting used to, but after a short time, it feels natural. The steering column doesn’t tilt or telescope, but with the many different positions available for the driver's seat, it doesn't need to.
When each Dodge Sprinter chassis arrives at Winnebago Industries from Daimler/Chrysler, it already has openings cut out for the cab-over bed and the entry between the cab and the cabin. Steel body mounts are used to attach aluminum risers to the rail frame, to which the structures that make up the cabin are attached. As with all Winnebago Industries motorhomes, the Itasca Navion features the company's patented Thermo-Panel technology to form the walls and roof. A precision-engineered, pin-rolled lamination process sandwiches together the fiberglass exterior, lauan panel interior, and block foam insulation to the tubular aluminum infrastructure.
Itasca Navion interiorThe Itasca Navion is a small type C motorhome, with an exterior length of 23 feet 6 inches and an exterior width of 7 feet 6 inches, a dimension that makes navigating about town very doable. It features an exterior height of 10 feet 9 inches, with contemporary graphics that include uncomplicated, short bursts of color. This is the Navion's first model year, and it's available in two floor plans — the 23H, which I tested, and the 23J. The 23J has a bedroom in the rear and is available with an optional storage cabinet in the cab-over bed area.
With its compact size, you might wonder whether the Navion is comfortable to dwell in once a destination is reached. The answer to this is an unequivocal "Yes." This is a very accommodating unit, especially for two people. Winnebago Industries has done an excellent job of creating the maximum amount of interior living space in the coach.
To begin with, the Itasca Navion features a living area slideout that measures 20 inches deep and 6 feet 2 inches long. Inside the slideout is a sleeper sofa. The slideout moves on an electric motor and is secured during travel by a safety strap that fastens to an anchor point in the floor.
The coach can sleep three adults: one on the dinette, one on the sofa, and one in the overhead bunk. The cab-over bed measures 49 inches by 75 inches, and we will bear testimony to the fact that this venue offers an exceptionally comfortable sleeping quarter. The conventional sleeper sofa quickly lifts up and folds out to provide a bed that comfortably sleeps one adult or a couple of children. The same goes for the bench-style dinette — it sleeps one adult or a couple of kids. It’s amusing when one considers that even the smallest type C motorhomes can be configured to sleep more people (sometimes twice as many) than some 45-foot-long diesel pushers.
The galley is immediately aft of the streetside slideout and dinette. A dynamite-looking round stainless-steel sink, a cook top, and a microwave-convection oven are on the driver's side of the unit. On the curb side is a 6.3-cubic-foot, two-door refrigerator-freezer that operates on AC power or LP gas. Dial in the auto feature, and the refrigerator seeks an available power source. Immediately aft of the refrigerator is a sizable pantry that will hold plenty of provisions.
Itasca Navion: shower accompanied by a roller-style shower curtainThe back of the Itasca Navion is occupied by a coach-wide bath area. In the curbside corner of the bath is a very large wardrobe, and against the back wall are the commode and a sink with a cabinet beneath and a window above. In the streetside corner is a shower accompanied by a roller-style shower curtain that works very well, plus a skylight above. My test coach also was equipped with the optional power ventilator fan in the bathroom. This entire area offers a surprising amount of space in which to move.
The television in the Navion is conveniently located; it is situated above the dinette, where it can be enjoyed from both the sofa and the cab-over bed. This flat-screen unit takes up almost zero room, so it is unobtrusive, even when it’s not being used.
Storage space is plentiful, with overhead cabinets lining the walls above both the dinette and the sofa. The galley countertop cabinet features pull-out drawers and deep cabinets. Storage space is found under the bench seats of the dinette as well.
We especially liked the way Winnebago Industries designed the cab-over bed. It is hinged against the front wall, so it can be folded up and out of the way when not in use. A couple of straps keep it latched in the closed position. With the bed out of the way, you don’t have to lean over and you will not bump your head when moving between the cab and the rest of the coach. It's similar to being in a type A motorhome.
In the ceiling above the cab-over bed is a large hatch that can be opened for ventilation. It’s big enough to climb through, in case you need to make an exit onto the roof — a good safety feature. The hatch also comes with a screen to prevent unwanted critters from entering the coach when ventilation is desired, and an accordion-style pull shade to block out light.
We also liked the way the pull-down privacy blind is built right into the main entry door. Thus, you won't have to wrestle with the shade when opening the door.
Exterior storage consists of three compartments that yield 12 cubic feet of space. This is a low-profile vehicle, and it doesn't have a raised floor for basement storage compartments. However, don’t let the exterior height fool you, for the interior floor-to-ceiling dimension is a full 6 feet 8 inches, plenty sufficient for 95 percent of the population.
Our test coach featured the optional 3.6-kilowatt Onan MicroQuiet LP-gas generator. It provides full electrical service for all 110-volt needs for stand-alone camping. The coach has a 28-gallon fresh water holding tank and gray water and black water tank capacities of 32 and 33 gallons, respectively. The LP-gas tank holds 18 gallons or 14.4 gallons at 80 percent to fill capacity, a feature that permits the gas to safely expand if it needs to. Through careful management of fresh water resources and the capacities available in the holding tanks, several days of primitive RV camping would be possible.
With a full tank of diesel fuel on board (26.4 gallons), a full tank of fresh water, and LP gas, plus two adults and their personal gear inside — and provisions to last a week — the test coach tipped the scales at 9,820 pounds. The coach's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 10,200 pounds, so we had 380 pounds leftover for more gear, if we needed it. This relatively small carrying capacity is something that needs to be taken into consideration when packing for vacation and/or when hauling additional passengers.
Itasca Navion: A large hatch in the cab can be opened for ventilation.The Navion comes with a 25-foot 30-amp shore power cable and a 45-amp electronic convertor-charger. The two Group 24 deep-cycle house batteries provide ample power.
The high-efficiency, low-profile 13,500-Btu roof air conditioner did an excellent job at quickly knocking down the desert heat and maintaining a comfortable temperature thereafter. Had we been in colder climes, the 25,000-Btu forced-air furnace would have stepped up to the plate.
The Navion's base suggested retail price is $78,872, and with the options on the unit tested, its cost came to $85,518. Options included roof vent, rearview monitor system, Onan MicroQuiet generator, patio awning, Sirius Satellite Radio, and exterior wash station.
The Navion is worth a look if you're downsizing, concerned about fuel economy, or simply wish to own a coach that's easy to handle and maneuver. Perhaps best of all, it has the Winnebago Itasca brand name.
Manufacturer … Winnebago Industries Inc., 605 W. Crystal Lake Road, Forest City, IA 50436; (800) 643-4892, ext. 3; fax: (641) 585-6966; www.winnebagoind.com
Model tested ... 2006 Itasca Navion
Floor Plan ... 23H
Chassis ... Dodge Sprinter
Engine ... Mercedes-Benz 2.7-liter, 154 horsepower @ 3,800 rpm; 243 pound-feet torque @ 1,600-2,400 rpm
Transmission ... 5-speed automatic with tip shift
Axle ratio ... 3.72:1
Tires ... Steel-belted radial, all-season
Wheelbase ... 159 inches
Brakes ... hydraulic with four-wheel ABS
Suspension ... front — independent with transverse mono-leaf spring and stabilizer; rear — leaf spring with stabilizer bar
Alternator ... 150 amps, 100 AH battery
Batteries ... house — (2) Group 24 deep-cycle; chassis — (1) 100 AH, 760 cca
Steering ... power rack and pinion
Electrical service ... 30 amps
Auxiliary generator ... 3.6-kilowatt Onan MicroQuiet, LP-gas powered (optional)
Convertor/charger ... 45-amp electronic
Exterior width ... 7 feet 6 inches
Exterior height ... 10 feet 9 inches
Interior height ... 6 feet 8 inches
Exterior length ... 23 feet 6 inches
Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) ... 13,700 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ... 10,200 pounds
Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) ... front — 3,859 pounds; rear — 7,056 pounds
Wet weight as tested ... front — 3,240 pounds; rear — 6,580 pounds; total — 9,820 pounds
Payload ... 380 pounds
Frame construction ... aluminum and steel
Insulation ... bead foam
Fresh water capacity ... 28 gallons
Holding tank capacities ... gray water, 32 gallons; black water, 33 gallons
Fuel capacity ... 26.4 gallons
Fuel requirements ... diesel
Propane capacity ... 18 gallons; 14.4 gallons at 80 percent full
Water heater ... 6 gallons, electric ignition, LP gas
Water delivery system ... demand
Furnace ... 25,000-Btu Suburban floor-ducted, low-profile
Air conditioner ... Coleman Polarmach 13,000-Btu low-profile high-efficiency, ceiling-ducted
Refrigerator ... 6.3 cubic-foot Norcold
Toilet ... Aqua Magic V with foot pedal and sprayer
Warranty ... 12-month/15,000-mile basic warranty; 36-month/36,000-mile warranty on structure; 10-year limited parts and labor warranty on roof skin
Base price (MSRP) ... $78,872
Price as tested (MSRP) ... $85,518