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Itasca Impulse from Winnebago Print Email

The Itasca Impulse from Winnebago Industries Inc. is a gas-powered type C with ample, innovative storage space and family-size sleeping accommodations.

By Lazelle Jones
November 2006

The name "Impulse" conveys excitement and spontaneity, a perfect way to describe a motorhome and the adventures it offers. At the same time, this breezy moniker belies the engineering, effort, and forethought that designers at Winnebago Industries have put into the company's new Itasca Impulse product line, one that opens up the RV lifestyle to many.

Offered at a base suggested retail price of $68,174, the Impulse 31C I reviewed is a motorhome that many families can afford. Winnebago Industries worked to reduce the cost per unit of this type C by carefully scrutinizing the materials and processes associated with its construction. Project engineer Bob Arenholz estimated that the company was able to reduce the per-unit cost without compromising quality and livability.

When I picked up my test unit from Mike Thompson's RV Superstore in Fountain Valley, California, I immediately was impressed with the amount of quality and quantity buyers get for their money. This motorhome may be just the ticket for those who want to enjoy the RV lifestyle but don’t want to give up the farm to do so.

A spare tire in the Itasca Impulse's Smart Storage compartmentI tested the 31C floor plan, which has a street-side slideout in the living area that houses the sofa bed and dinette. The coach is 31 feet 5 inches long, the longest of a family of floor plans that begin at a length of 23 feet. All are 101.5 inches wide.

The three largest units, among them my test coach floor plan, have a huge rear "garage" storage area called Smart Storage. The compartment runs the entire width of the coach and measures 47 inches deep and 27 inches high. It's accessible through two very large, insulated doors, one at the rear and one on the rear curb side.

In the compartment are two large plastic tubs that are molded into the floor and have drain plugs in the bottom. They have lids, so the floor of this storage area remains flat until access to the tubs is needed. Now consider the possibilities. Folks who enjoy outdoor activities — and that can mean anything from ATV/motorcycle riding and motor sports events, to tailgating or a day at the beach — may want to use these tubs for icing down large quantities of beverages or keeping perishables cool. The "cooler" also is handy for stowing your daily catch of salmon, bass, perch, etc. Throw your prizes into these tubs along with some ice, and that's it. No mess or smell inside the coach to deal with, and the tubs can be rinsed out and left to drain and dry for the next use. The Smart Storage area and the floor tubs are both excellent features, in my opinion.

Mounts attached to the interior bulkhead of this compartment secure the spare tire, as well as tools that extend and retract the patio awning and manually retract the slideout (should that ever be required), plus the chassis jack and tire wrench. I was told by a Winnebago Industries official that the garage can accommodate approximately 72 cubic feet of cargo. I would advise that owners be aware of the actual rear axle weight when loading this storage area, so that the rear gross axle weight rating (GAWR) of 9,450 pounds (Ford E-450 chassis) is not exceeded.

Itasca Impulse cockpitMy test coach was built on the standard Ford E-450 chassis; a Chevrolet/Workhorse chassis is available as an option. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the Ford E-450 platform is 14,050 pounds. With a full tank of fuel (55 gallons) and a full tank of water (41 gallons, which also includes a 6-gallon water heater), the Impulse test unit tipped the scales at 12,000 pounds, leaving 2,000-plus pounds of cargo-carrying capacity at our disposal. With the Triton V-10 gasoline engine (which develops 420 pound feet of torque), this unit has a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 20,000 pounds, sufficient to accommodate most towed cars, trailers, boats, and toys.

Winnebago Industries builders use what the company calls SuperStructure construction for the house or coach portion of the vehicle. A tubular steel truss design is erected atop the chassis. The basement storage compartments are a molded composite material. The floor is a laminated structure made of upper plywood, high-density block foam insulation, and another layer of plywood, with the bottom being an aluminum sheet. This is laminated into a single structure using hot adhesive and pressure.

The walls, from the outside in, consist of high-gloss exterior fiberglass, interlocking aluminum joints that are also mechanically fastened together, and an interior decorative lauan wall panel. All of this material is bonded together under pressure using a hot adhesive.

Itasca Impulse type C interiorThe roof includes a centrally ducted air-conditioning system with adjustable vents that lace the ceiling from front to rear. The standard roof AC is a 13,500-Btu unit, and a 14,800-Btu unit is available as an option. The coach is heated with a 30,000-Btu forced-air furnace that is ducted fore and aft.

Winnebago Industries designers elected to go the extra mile and cap the roof with a single sheet of fiberglass, in lieu of the typical rubber-type surface often found on motorhomes.

As mentioned, the 31C has one slideout, located in the living-dining area, which houses a foldout sofa bed and a bench-style dinette. Overhead storage cabinets line the entire length of the slideout, which measures 11 feet 4 inches long and 20 inches deep. It is extended and retracted using power from the house battery.

I liked the way the 31C handles out on the road. It’s responsive when called upon to accelerate. Even novice drivers will feel instantly comfortable behind the wheel, for the controls are automotive-familiar. If you can drive a full-size car, you can acclimate quickly to this motorhome. In terms of fuel economy, I calculated that the Impulse achieved 7.2 miles per gallon during our test.

The Impulse has good road manners, and good visibility via the side mirror system. On top of that, the unit I tested was equipped with the optional rearview camera and monitor, which really empower the driver with more visual information when backing up. As far as I'm concerned, a coach this long really needs a rear monitoring system.

Concerning livability, I found the Impulse comfortable, a feature that will be especially appreciated by a growing family that might bring along friends for the weekend. Case in point is the enormous living, galley, and dining area made available when the slideout is extended. However, there is plenty of room to move around inside the Impulse even when the slide is not extended. Cabin seatbelts can accommodate five passengers, in addition to the driver and copilot.

Itasca Impulse type C interiorAccording to the official RVIA definition for sleeping space, the 31C Impulse sleeps five. I estimated that the coach is capable of sleeping four adults and four children. Two adults can use the rear queen bed. Next, sleeping quarters can be made using the sleeper sofa and the dinette. Even more room is available on the queen bed that is positioned above the cab. This mattress is split into two sections and can be pushed and stacked forward against the front bulkhead. When stowed in this manner, it lends ample room for the driver and passenger to move between the cab and the living area. The cab-over bed comes with an aluminum ladder.

The large galley provides sufficient countertop area for food preparation and service. The galley area starts just aft of the main entry door. One feature we especially liked were the three very deep pots-and-pans-type pull-out drawers in the galley cabinet. Anyone who has dealt with the issue of storage in a motorhome will appreciate the utility these drawers offer.

The galley includes a split acrylic sink, a microwave oven, and a 6.3-cubic-foot refrigerator/freezer that uses LP-gas or electricity and seeks the power source available. The optional 20-inch television is cradled above the galley counter, between the microwave and the refrigerator. The television can be viewed from the dinette and the sofa.

The interior surfaces are dressed with practical, low-maintenance materials that clean up easily. The Impulse has vinyl flooring throughout except in the rear bedroom, which has soil-resistant carpet. The vinyl-covered interior wall panel is also low-maintenance. A laminate surface dresses the galley counter and the bathroom lavatory countertop.

To create the large storage area in the rear of the coach, Winnebago Industries designers raised the level of the interior floor about 6 inches, starting at the point where the center-aisle bath begins. The ceiling height from this point back to the rear of the coach is 6 feet 4 inches (it's 6 feet 10 inches in the front part of the coach), which still leaves plenty of head clearance for all but the very tallest campers. The only caveat here is that you must remember to step up and down when walking through.

Itasca Impulse type C bathroomThe water closet is located on the driver's side of the coach. Inside are a sink, a mirror, a medicine cabinet, and a marine-style toilet. The shower is positioned directly opposite the water closet, across the center aisle.

The Impulse has a generous 41-gallon fresh water capacity, a total that includes six gallons for the water heater. Its gray and waste tanks each have a 41-gallon capacity. With prudent fluid management, a long weekend of stand-alone RV camping can be enjoyed in this motorhome.

Regarding coach utilities, the Impulse is available with an optional 4-kilowatt Onan gasoline-powered auxiliary generator, which my test unit included. The coach runs on 30-amp shore power and has a 25-foot-long cable for hookups. Interior lighting is DC-powered; the lights, along with the water pump and electric slideout mechanism, were powered by a Group 24 deep-cycle house battery. (A second house battery is optional.)

The bedroom occupies the back portion of the coach. The head of the island-style queen-size bed is positioned along the back wall; to its left is a nightstand, and to the right is a large, three-quarter-length wardrobe. A shelf for a second television is positioned in the curbside corner at the foot of the bed. Below the TV shelf is a three-quarter-length shirt-size wardrobe. Above the head of the bed is a large cabinet with two lift-up doors. As evident elsewhere in the coach, the bedroom of the Impulse 31C offers substantial storage space, the kind that’s needed for a long weekend getaway or an extended (multiple-day) road trip. By the way, you can sequester the bedroom from the center-aisle bath by shutting the accordion-style door.

Throughout the coach, the windows are covered with pull-down day-night shades that are accented by fabric-covered valances. The fabric complements the wood in the unit; my test coach featured the optional Sierra Maple cabinets, but Portsmouth Oak is standard. Buyers can choose from two different interior décor packages: Toffee (beige tones) and Mineral (green and gray tones). The white exterior boasts a dark-green metallic graphic design.

The Itasca Impulse features spacious cabinetry.As noted, the base suggested retail price of the Itasca Impulse is $68,174. My test unit had a final price of $74,355 and contained the following options: rearview monitor system; 20-inch TV with DVD (12-volt); 14,800-Btu air conditioner; exterior mirrors with defrost; patio awning; 4-kilowatt Onan MicroQuiet generator; exterior accessory package; three-burner range with oven; electric entrance door step; Toffee interior with Sierra Maple cabinets.

We liked the appointments and the livability the Itasca Impulse offers, as well as the fact that it is available at a price point that many families can fit into their budget. Overall its road manners are fine, and with the innovative rear storage area and spacious interior cabinetry, it can carry a good amount of cargo. The Impulse is a good place to begin a search for a starter coach — and quite possibly the place to end the search, too.


Manufacturer ... Winnebago Industries Inc., 605 W. Crystal Lake Road, Forest City, IA 50436; (641) 585-3535;
Model ... Itasca Impulse
Floor plan ... 31C
Chassis ... Ford E-450 (Chevy/Workhorse optional)
Engine ... 6.8-liter SOHC Triton V-10, 305 horsepower @ 4,250 rpm, 420 pound feet torque @ 3,250 rpm
Transmission ... 5R110: TorqShift 5-speed automatic with tow/haul feature
Axle ratio ... 4.56:1
Tires ... steel-belted radial, all-season, LT225/75R-16E
Wheelbase ... 220 inches
Brakes ... hydraulic self-adjusting disc with four-wheel antilock
Suspension ... front — coil springs with twin I-beam; rear — multileaf (11-E450)
Alternator ... 130 amps
Batteries ... chassis — maintenance-free 72AH (650 cca); house — (1) Group 24 deep-cycle (second coach battery optional)
Steering ... power
Electrical service ... 30 amps
Auxiliary generator ... 4-kilowatt Onan MicroQuiet, gas (optional)
Exterior length ... 31 feet 5 inches
Exterior width ... 101.5 inches
Interior height ... 6 feet 10 inches
Exterior height ... 11 feet 1 inch
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 — 3,940 pounds; rear — 8,040 pounds; total — 12,000 pounds
Payload as tested ... 2,050 pounds
Construction ... steel and aluminum
Insulation ... polystyrene foam
Fresh water capacity ... 41 gallons (including 6-gallon water heater)
Holding tank capacities ... black water — 41 gallons; gray water — 41 gallons
Fuel capacity ... 55 gallons
Fuel requirements ... gasoline
LP-gas capacity
... 18 gallons
Water heater ... Atwood 6-gallon with electric ignition, LP gas
Heating system ... 30,000-Btu low-profile with wall thermostat
Water system ... 35-gallon tank with 6-gallon water heater, water pump demand, city water hookup, winterization package
Air-conditioning ... (1) 13,500-Btu, ceiling ducted (14,800-Btu optional)
Refrigerator ... 6.3-cubic-foot Norcold
Toilet ... Aqua Magic V with hand lever
Warranty ... coach — limited 12 months/15,000 miles; structure — limited 36 months/36,000 miles; roof skin — limited 10 years parts and labor; chassis (Ford) — three years/36,000 miles limited
Base suggested retail price ... $68,174
Price as tested ... $74,355


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