A full-wall slideout, plus a new look inside and out, help to make this luxurious diesel pusher from Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. stand out among the crowd.
By Guy and Pamela Selbert
The 2008 American Eagle motorhome, 42 feet long, 13-plus feet high, stood waiting for us, sporting an impressive new look for the 2008 model year. We were in Decatur, Indiana, home of the American Coach division of Fleetwood Enterprises, to pick up this prototype for an on-the-road review. On the outside, we noted its newly designed end caps, paint scheme, and logo, not to mention the smooth lines created by its fully integrated roof-mounted awnings. Inside awaited elegant porcelain tile flooring, Venetian-style glass accents, and real leather furniture.
Another big item distinguishing this coach — model 42F — is its full-wall, streetside slideout. It encompasses the living-dining area, the lavatory, and part of the bedroom. It's amazing to watch as the entire wall slideout extends a full 30 inches, opening nearly the entire length of the living quarters.
The other two slideouts in this coach, on the curb side, are in the galley and bedroom. When the slideouts are open, the effect is most impressive, as the coach's living space expands to more than 350 square feet.
Starting from the bottom. The American Eagle is built on Fleetwood's own Liberty chassis, a frame system developed by Fleetwood in partnership with Spartan Chassis. The chassis provides a strong, rigid frame for the driving platform, and structural integrity for the full-wall slideout. We drove the coach more than 1,600 miles on various types of roads, and found it to be as sturdy as any quad-slideout unit we have tested.
This chassis is powered by a rear-mounted 500-horsepower Cummins ISM 10.8-liter electronic, turbocharged six-cylinder diesel engine, which develops 1,550 pound-feet of torque at 1,200 rpm. The power is delivered through a Meritor Quiet Gear differential with a 4.30-to-1 ratio. Furthermore, the new engine produces significantly fewer pollutants than earlier engines. Accordingly, exhaust from this engine has far less of that distinctive diesel smell.
With its 302-inch wheelbase, you may think the coach would be tough to move out of a tight spot. But such is not the case, as the 55-degree steering angle allows the American Eagle to turn on the proverbial dime. We found out how it behaves the hard way, after we drove into an inappropriate campground long after dark.
A recent rain had softened the ground on the grassy sites, too soft for us to wish to try them with a 40,000-plus-pound coach. We had to exit, but the road was one-lane blacktop and the only paved turnaround was a narrow boat ramp. We were obliged to turn around there, back out, or call a wrecker. We opted to back out. When put in reverse, the American Eagle’s 10,000-pound-rated tag axle dumps its air automatically, and with the aid of the rear camera monitor and four serious Hella docking lights, we maneuvered our way out of the campground with ease.
The rearview monitor is part of the Navion R5000 information and entertainment center that comes standard with the coach. It includes three cameras (at the rear and on both sides), plus an AM-FM/CD and Sirius satellite radio; a weather band radio; a Garmin global positioning system interface; MP3 and USB ports; and a complete engine telemetry readout.
Concerning power, the Cummins engine is up to the task. We negotiated some steep mountain roads and had sufficient strength for the biggest climbs. As with all the Spartan chassis units we have tested, we found the American Eagle to ride and drive well. This coach comes with big 295/80R x 22.5 Goodyear radial rear tires.
In the Appalachian Mountains through which we traveled, going is not as important as stopping or slowing. At this point the American Eagle really excelled. The coach is equipped with a most welcome two-stage engine brake, with the result that we were never ill at ease on long, twisting downhill stretches. It is also equipped with massive air brakes (16.5-inch-by-5-inch front and 16.5-inch-by-7-inch rear self-adjusting drums).
Driver comfort and ride. While rolling down the road in the American Eagle, you hear barely a rattle, and only the retracted power visors chatter from time to time on more serious bumps. Driver and copilot luxuriate in six-way heated power seats, each with power lumbar supports — part of an optional Villa furniture package with which the coach was equipped. The seats are covered with soft, aromatic leather and have integrated seat belts. The copilot seat includes a power footrest, and the stairwell at the copilot’s feet can be covered with a power step well cover.
The dash design is new for 2008, and is accompanied by a single-piece windshield that provides better-than-average visibility. The driver's dash display is straightforward and simple, with round, retro-looking gauges. The most commonly used switches are closest to the driver’s right hand, with the notable exception of the stairwell cover toggle. This switch is curiously placed in the electronic control cabinet high over the copilot’s head — a bit uncomfortable to reach. Company officials later verified our suspicion that the switch is located there for safety reasons, including keeping it out of reach of curious children.
To the driver’s left are the electronic command buttons for the smooth Allison 4000 MH six-speed automatic transmission, with which we were favorably impressed. We also appreciated the transmission readout. The driver presses the “D” button and the command readout is “6.” The transmission, however, goes into first gear, so its neighboring readout is “1.” This information is valuable when using the engine brake as the transmission gears down from 6 to 5, 4, and 3. It's hard to gauge speed when the driver sits so high, so it is extremely helpful to have all information possible when transitioning from highway speed to stop. We did notice that the readout's green LED numbers against the black background are difficult to see in bright sunlight. We learned later that Fleetwood has attempted to mitigate this transmission design issue by adding a gear readout on the Actia gauge cluster.
The American Eagle is outfitted with a power window on the driver's side, a longstanding feature on American Coach motorhomes.
Switches for the engine brake are behind the transmission controls, along with the tag axle air dump, air horn, and ATC (automatic traction control) switch. The American Eagle comes with automatic four-point levelers, which work via both air or hydraulic power. The levelers performed moderately well in the air setting, but in the hydraulic setting, we encountered difficulty getting the coach on kilter. Company officials later noted that the levelers were tested upon the coach's return to the factory and appeared to be in working order.
One of the main advantages of having the Liberty-Spartan chassis is that it includes the Smart Wheel steering wheel. The most frequently used switches, such as headlight flash, clearance light flash, wiper controls, and cruise control, are located right on the steering wheel itself. This engenders not just a higher level of operational safety, but increases driver confidence as well.
The cockpit of our test coach included an optional Sony 40-inch LCD HDTV (an upgrade of the standard 32-inch unit), which works in concert with a surround-sound speaker system, a DirectTV receiver, and a Bose Lifestyle 18 Home Entertainment System to make watching a show in this coach seem like a theater experience.
Several small storage cabinets complete the cockpit area; the two on the curb side contain the house controls. Small, flexible map lights are located above the driver and copilot seats. Our test coach included an optional Sony GPS monitor near the copilot seat, which displayed the same information shown on the Navion screen near the driver.
Between the seats at the dash is a small shelf atop a two-drawer console, which contains a sliding cup holder and storage space. Next to these is a map rack. At the copilot's right hand is a cup holder. The copilot has access to a 12-volt connection for charging a cell phone, a 110-volt outlet, and a standard phone jack. (The entire coach is wired for phones.) We would like to have seen some kind of storage area or drawer for the copilot. With seatbelts fastened, the copilot’s movement is limited and the central storage console is out of reach.
The copilot has access to the pneumatic air latch on the coach's entry door, which pulls the door tight against the seals to eliminate wind noise in much the same way as an aircraft door operates. It has a heavy hinge and closes snugly.
Inside information. The 42F American Eagle is one of four floor plans available on the 42-foot chassis and the only one with the full-body slideout. It also has a master bath at the rear of the coach, which, because of the slideouts, is not reachable when the coach is in traveling mode. However, a half-bath just off the curbside rear of the living area makes this a non-issue.
A leather-covered sofa bed behind the driver’s seat features an easily inflated air mattress that is quite comfortable. A palm-sized air pump locks onto a valve in the corner of the mattress and plugs into an outlet near the sofa. When the mattress is not needed, the valve snaps open to let the air escape quickly.
Opposite is a matching, curved love seat. Aft of the sofa is the dinette, made up of a legless table that cantileveres from the wall and two separate fabric-covered chairs. We noted that a spill on one of the chairs was easily wiped away with nary a reminder. (The rest of the coach’s interior was easy to maintain, too.) The table can be extended an additional eight inches, creating enough space to accommodate two more diners when two extra folding chairs are retrieved from their storage place under the bed.
The curbside galley, housed in a slideout opposite the dinette, is simple and well-appointed, with all appliances within comfortable reach. The countertops there and throughout the coach are made of attractive Mystera solid-surface material, which has the appearance of natural stone and is easy to clean. A double-bowl solid-surface sink is served by a fine Moen single-handle residential-style faucet-sprayer with a soap dispenser. Our test coach came with the optional Fisher & Paykel Dishdrawer dishwasher. A GE Profile Advantium 120 microwave-convection oven can do most of the cooking, although a two-burner Princess Gourmet cooktop also comes with the coach. The galley backsplash, as well as the backsplash area behind both bathroom sinks, is made up of beautiful gold- and silver-colored pieces of handcrafted Venetian glass.
The coach was equipped with an optional Dometic 14-cubic-foot SideWise refrigerator, with an ice maker and water dispenser integrated into the door. A 12-cubic-foot Norcold refrigerator is offered as standard equipment.
A fine wardrobe is situated on the street side of the coach across from the hallway lavatory. It lets you reach items without having to walk all the way back to the bedroom. This hallway wardrobe is fitted with removable shelving, and two enormous drawers are located below. Plenty of additional clothing storage is available in the bedroom, and a large, cedar-lined hanging closet is located in the rear master bath.
The head of the king-sized bed rests in a curbside slideout that opens the room an additional 30 inches. Its Select Comfort mattress has Sleep Number remotes for both sides, and is very comfortable. The bed lifts to reveal a spacious compartment, providing nearly 13 cubic feet of storage, which is partially filled by the folding dinette chairs.
Opposite the bed is a vanity counter over a chest of drawers. Two cabinets bracket the drawers, with the one on the left containing the electronic gear for the bedroom entertainment center array, which consists of a Sony 26-inch LCD-panel TV aided by a Bose 3-2-1 home theater system.
The bedroom can be separated from the living area by two attractive six-panel pocket doors made of solid wood. A similar pair of pocket doors cordon off the rear bath, and a single six-panel pocket door provides privacy for the half-bath. The coach owner might want to close these doors now and then just to admire them!
The rear master bath includes a sink, a cabinet, a medicine cabinet, and a toilet identical to those in the half-bath, plus a quarter-round shower stall with a sliding door. The shower enclosure door is a zero-clearance style, meaning that it does not swing out into the room and take up space in the bath area. The shower stall finish is called Grani-coat, and resembles a granite finish. The shower fixtures, also Moen, are elegant.
The very back wall of this bath area — the back wall of the coach — is occupied by the cedar-lined wardrobe and space for the optional washer-dryer.
Just a few more comments about the American Eagle's interior. What strikes you most as you enter this coach is its incredible high-polished porcelain tile floor. This optional feature consists of foot-square mottled off-white tiles, diagonally laid diamond-fashion, and accented by two-inch-square dark gold metal décor accent tiles at every other point. It is sheer elegance, and even better, this portion of the floor is heated from below — an option in our test coach. The tile continues through the living, dining, and bath areas. The balance of the area is covered with Toccare carpet, and the coach comes equipped with three matching, dark-bordered area rugs that really dress it up. Buyers can choose to continue the tile in the rear bath (with a throw rug to match) as an option.
The ceilings are faced with padded vinyl, except where a decorative ceiling plenum makes up the ceiling area from just behind the front seats to the back of the galley. It measures 12 feet by 9 1/2 feet by 40 inches wide. This comely accent also cleverly forms the cold air return for the air-conditioning system.
Systems and options. Heat for the coach is supplied by two sources. First is the standard (with this floor plan) Aqua-Hot unit, which occupies one of the basement storage bays. The Aqua-Hot is a diesel fuel burner that warms the coach through radiators and heats domestic hot water. It also warms the engine block on cold days. The second source is a heat pump located in the coach's rear roof air-conditioning unit.
Coach cooling is provided by three low-profile, roof-mounted Coleman 15,000-Btu air conditioners, also standard.
Sliding windows are featured for normal ventilation, with small single-hung sash-type windows located at the ends of the slideout sections. The breeze can be increased by using one or more of the three Fan-Tastic Vent ceiling fans, located in the galley and in each of the baths. These are covered on the inside by attractive wood louvers that match the cabinetry and swing down to allow access to the fan controls.
Conveniently placed switches control the lights in the coach. Two panels include All-Lights buttons, which turn on or off all lights in the unit. In addition, a multiplex system provides multiple switches for the water pump and single switches for each of the Fan-Tastic Vent fans.
During our test the American Eagle averaged 5.6 miles per gallon. This fuel economy figure was achieved while using the new 500-horsepower Cummins diesel engine only; we did not access the Aqua-Hot system or the Onan 10-kilowatt generator.
Final thoughts. Inside, we found the finishes on the woodwork to be uniform and satisfactory. However, many of the plastic cabinet latches that keep drawers and cabinets from opening during transit appeared to need adjustment. The issue could be attributed to this being the American Eagle's shake-down cruise.
Beyond the few critique items noted above, we came away from our test outing with the opinion that the American Eagle is a good value — definitely a luxury coach anyone would be proud to own.
The base suggested retail price of the American Eagle 42F is $482,860. The as-tested price of our unit came to $511,357 with the following options: Liberty Chassis with 500-horsepower Cummins engine; exterior entertainment center; Garmin navigation system; dishwasher; Dometic 14-cubic-foot refrigerator; front flat-panel TV; bedroom flat-panel TV; Villa furniture package; passenger GPS monitor; White Shadow - Wingspan (2) exterior paint scheme; Sani-Con waste pump; central vacuum system; power water hose reel; air and hydraulic leveling system; Select Comfort king air mattress; heated tile floor; galley-to-entry tile floor; first full bay, 36-inch-by-54-inch slideout tray; second full bay, 54-inch tray with Aqua-Hot system.
American Coach, division of Fleetwood Enterprises Inc., 1031 U.S. 224 E., P.O. Box 31, Decatur, IN 46733; (800) 435-7345; www.americancoach.com, www.fleetwood.com
42F (full-wall slide)
Cummins 10.8-liter ISM, 500 horsepower @ 2,000 rpm, 1,550 pound-feet torque at 1,200 rpm, optional
Allison 4000 MH
4.30 to 1
Goodyear G670 RV, 295/80R X 22.5
full air brakes with automatic slack adjusters; ABS; Jake Compression Brake; air parking brake
front — Tuthill IFS, front stabilizer bar; drive — Reyco, electric air dump
chassis — (2) Group 31, 1,185 cca; house — (4) 6-volt AGM, 400 cca
Smart Wheel with Douglas tilt and telescoping column, 55-degree max steering angle
2,800-watt pure sine wave inverter/charger
Onan 10-kilowatt Quiet Diesel
42 feet 11.5 inches
13 feet 1.5 inches
Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)
front — 14,600 pounds
rear/tag — 30,000 pounds
Wet Weight (Company-Supplied)
front — 14,145 pounds
rear/tag — 25,075 pounds
total — 39,220 pounds
Carrying Capacity (Company-Supplied)
Welded steel chassis, welded aluminum box, interlocking aluminum extrusions, E-coated
Fresh Water Capacity
Holding Tank Capacities
black water — 40 gallons;
gray water — 70 gallons
38 gallons @ 4.5 pounds per gallon
Aqua-Hot, 50,000-Btu (standard on this floor plan)
(3) 15,000-Btu low-profile Coleman roof units
14-cubic-foot Dometic 2-way with ice maker (optional)
Base Suggested Retail Price
Price As Tested
basic — chassis/house, 12 months/15,000 miles; structural — 36 months/50,000 miles