Looking for that pot of gold — or the next attraction or campground — will be pleasurable aboard this type C produced by Coachmen RV.
By Guy and Pamela Selbert
The Leprechaun, a sprightly type C motorhome manufactured by Coachmen RV for three decades, continues to chase the pot o' gold. This venerable model has been given a fresh look and a new floor plan by its builders in Middlebury, Indiana. During a recent test outing in the Leprechaun 318 DS, one of two Leprechaun floor plans currently available, we noticed a number of passersby admiring its good looks, and we even gave tours to several interested campers.
Coachmen RV has re-engineered this motorhome, transforming its interior into a roomy, pleasantly livable space. With two slideouts (living room and bedroom), the 32-foot unit contains many of the features and advantages of larger, more expensive motorhomes. Its interior is filled with attractive cabinetry and woodwork, and its new exterior is sleek and eye-catching.
Based on the redoubtable Ford E-450 cutaway chassis, and powered by a Triton V-10 gas engine that develops an ample 305 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, the new Leprechaun both drives and rides well. The chassis provides plenty of power for the job, and braking is better than average. Our test stop — 60 mph to zero — was performed without excessive dip at the end. The unit handled satisfactorily in turns and also climbed well.
We've noticed a tendency for motorhome manufacturers to "overbuild" on the Ford E-450, and, in our opinion, Coachmen falls into this category with the Leprechaun. For example, the coach has a rear axle overhang of nearly a dozen feet. Coachmen engineers have opted to install a set of air shock absorbers to establish proper driving characteristics, but, in our view, the shocks achieve only moderate success. The "roll test" we perform during test drives, in which we angle the vehicle off a steep curb cut to allow each wheel to move off separately, achieved just passable results with the Leprechaun. Although the roll did not continue for more than one-and-one half-cycles (right, left, right, and back to center), we felt that the angle of roll was somewhat excessive. This tendency could be reduced somewhat by increasing air pressure in the shocks. According to company officials, Coachmen performs four-corner weight analysis and tests the center of gravity on every unit to ensure that they are built within the weight and center of gravity requirements of the Ford E-450 chassis. We also were told that Coachmen is one of the few manufacturers that include air-assist suspension, and this can easily be adjusted to accommodate RVers' load setup for a smoother ride.
The Leprechaun's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 14,050 pounds — 4,600 pounds on the front axle and 9,450 pounds on the rear axle. When we measured our test unit on certified scales, the front axle registered 4,220 pounds and the rear axle weighed 9,260 pounds. With fuel and water tanks full, cargo containers empty, and two people on board, our test unit had a remaining cargo capacity of 570 pounds. With these ratings, the coach may be best suited for those who travel lightly.
Good looks. The newly revised Leprechaun sports attractive exterior graphics, such as well-designed "swooshes" and appliqués. The main design features are painted on for an interesting three-color, multi-wave effect over white gel-coat fiberglass. Appliques of the fanciful profile of a smiling elf, that mischievous character from Irish folklore, complete the pattern.
The body design is standard type C, but with a somewhat lower profile, which gives the Leprechaun good aerodynamic characteristics. In terms of fuel economy, the mileage we achieved — a bit more than 7.5 miles per gallon — seemed acceptable for a unit this size.
One of the new design features we appreciated most were the Leprechaun's wide running boards. They begin at the front fender flair and angle back straight to the step-out between the truck body and the house, resulting in generous platforms that make entering and exiting the cockpit of the coach quick and easy.
Coachmen's No-Mess sewer drain system: a hose holder swings out for dumping.More exterior features. Now for a look at some of the Leprechaun's other exterior attributes. This motorhome contains four generous exterior storage compartments that together encompass 143 cubic feet, nearly the total storage space in a standard pickup truck bed. One of them is a pass-through bay in the rear, which facilitates storage of long items. Outside equipment also includes a built-in propane tank with an 85-pound capacity, a full-perimeter rear cap, high-intensity LED running lights, and a small door that opens to reveal a pair of exterior speakers.
The coach is equipped with Coachmen's exclusive Water Works Utility Panel. This is an impressive water manifold, a simple set of four small levers that can be set for "normal service," "fill the water tank," "drain," and "winterize." In our opinion, a system like this has been needed for years; now it's here and most welcome.
Another first-rate feature, also a Coachmen exclusive, is the No-Mess sewer drain system. (See photo above.) An undercarriage drain hose holder, made of PVC pipe, swings out for dumping. The large 5-inch pipe is the repository for the drain hose and stays in place via a screw-in plug attached by a short cable to the underside of the house portion of the coach. Two large knife valves vent the gray and black sewage through this ingenious system.
The Leprechaun we tested was not outfitted with leveling jacks, which, in our opinion, would be a terrific addition.
Coachmen Leprechaun interiorInterior features. Once the driver and passenger are settled inside the Leprechaun, they sit on comfortable captain's chairs from Scope Technologies. These chairs feature popular faux-leather surfaces, which we find to be more comfortable and easier to care for than real leather. They include fold-down armrests on the inboard sides, a welcome addition however long the drive.
The cockpit is standard Ford, offering easily read analog gauges, tilt wheel, cruise control, and power windows. Coachmen has included a Jensen AM/FM/CD radio equipped with an integrated backup monitor. A retractable 7-inch screen displays what the rearview camera sees for added driving security. The benefit of this feature cannot be overstated. The screen, when up, blocks easy access to the heater and air-conditioning controls, but a touch of a button quickly retracts it.
The Leprechaun includes a cab-over bed, but it does not impede movement between the cockpit and house portion of the motorhome. The center section of it slides forward under the entertainment cluster and can be snapped in place. Thus, driver and passenger can stand up between the cockpit seats — without bumping heads — and step up roughly 7 inches into the living quarters.
A detachable privacy curtain that is held in place with hook-and-loop fastening material divides the cab area from the house. A Fan-Tastic Vent exhaust fan is located over the cockpit, and just behind it, over the living area, is a skylight. It provides extra light during the day, but with a thin, white pleated blind for coverage, it does the same at night. A more opaque curtain might assist with room darkening.
The Leprechaun's living area is well-appointed and unexpectedly roomy. The street-side slideout pushes the wall out 24 inches, expanding the room by a dozen square feet.
A large convertible sofa on the coach's curb side and a standard dinette in the slideout section provide ample seating. The dinette also converts to a bed. According to the manufacturer, this coach sleeps six.
Coachmen Leprechaun interiorIn addition to its extra living and storage space, the Leprechaun offers adequate food storage in the form of a 6-cubic-foot, two-door Dometic three-way (electric, LP-gas, and 12-volt) refrigerator. Generous tank capacities (55 gallons fuel, 33 gallons gray water, 35 gallons black water, 36.5 gallons fresh water), plus an Onan 4.0-kw generator, help to make the Leprechaun a first-rate "dry camper."
We did detect a problem with the position of the generator. It's located on the street side of the coach just behind the cab, which puts it underneath the slideout when that section is extended. Rerouting the generator exhaust would solve this issue. When brought to the attention of Coachmen officials, they noted that the generator exhaust is designed in accordance with ANSI/NFPA 6.4.3 and that on the Leprechaun 318 DS, the generator exhaust is routed out past the vertical plane of the slideout room’s front end wall, which meets the safety standards.
The small galley is functional, albeit with limited counter space. Even so, the area is well-appointed with a fine Apollo combination microwave-convection oven, which is integral with the three-burner cooktop. An effective ventilated hood and light are positioned over the stove. The galley ceiling vent (plus a second vent in the bedroom) has no fan. We would have preferred that this convenience be added.
Storage in the galley is somewhat limited, but basement bays can handle the overflow. A cabinet hangs over a small sink, and two canned-goods cabinets are adjacent to the refrigerator. Below the counter is a triangular-shaped cabinet for holding a plastic trash can — an excellent galley feature. It's just the right size to hold plastic grocery bags, providing a handy way to reuse them.
We have nothing but high praise for the woodwork in this coach. The excellent craftsmanship and fine finish, more than any other aspects of the coach, give the interior its rich look.
This side-aisle floor plan includes a hallway from the galley to the bedroom. The interior wall of the hallway encloses the bath, which, in our view, steals desirable square footage from that room. The small lavatory contains an oversized cabinet, and, combined with the small sink, makes face washing and teeth brushing somewhat challenging. Eliminating the hall might result in additional room for the bath area and for entering or exiting the rear bedroom.
Coachmen Leprechaun interiorOn the plus side, we thought the shower was convenient and comfortable, and the cabinetry in the bath was on par with the rest of the unit, i.e. excellent. No towel rack is provided, but the bath includes a generous-size tilt-out clothes hamper, which we found handy.
The Thetford Bravura porcelain toilet is an excellent appliance. It occupies a small corner formed by the hallway wall and rear wall. Each wall has a door, with the toilet in between. The toilet paper holder is located on the small section of open wall directly behind the toilet — somewhat awkward to access. One solution might be to move it inside the sink cabinet door. The bath does have a small powered ceiling vent, although it seemed a bit noisy.
The Leprechaun's bedroom is small but well-arranged. The head of the bed moves out to the curb side when the slideout is extended. This allows for a queen-size island bed that's comfortable and roomy. A wardrobe at the foot of the bed contains plenty of drawer space, plus two large cedar-backed hanging closets, each with an interior light that turns on when the door is opened. The wardrobe also contains a dedicated space for a small television. Here, too, the cabinetry work is first-rate, with drawers and doors that operate well.
We found the Leprechaun's entertainment system particularly pleasing: an excellent 27-inch Samsung flat-screen TV with a liquid crystal display, which can work off the standard retractable antenna, a cable, or the fine Coby DVD player. The front entertainment array is housed in another piece of nicely crafted cabinetry that contains cubbyholes for the DVD player and a Bose Wave radio above the passenger side. On the driver's side of the overhead cabinet, a door opens into a large storage closet.
Interior walls are covered with vinyl wallpaper, and the ceiling is dressed with soft-touch vinyl. Primary lighting is provided via 12-volt incandescent fixtures, with an attractive three-bulb chandelier over the dinette table and high-intensity reading lights above the sofa and the bed. The galley is well-lit with a fluorescent fixture over the sink and a light in the oven hood.
Several ceiling-mount fixtures are operated with large, easy-to-locate black toggle switches. The electrical panel, situated in the hall below the house control panel, contains switches for the slideout controls, the water pump and heater (gas and electric), and the status panel. All are simple to work and self-explanatory.
The manufacturer's base suggested price of the Leprechaun 318 DS is $87,393. The as-tested price of our review unit came to $88,506 with the following options: overhead entertainment center with 26-inch LCD TV, Bose Wave Radio, and DVD player.
Overall, we found the Leprechaun to be well-constructed, easy to operate, convenient, and comfortable. This coach could fit easily into the budget of those seeking a moderately priced motorhome that will provide years of service as they follow their dreams... or the nearest rainbow.
Manufacturer ... Coachmen RV, P.O. Box 30, Middlebury, IN 46540; (574) 825-5821; www.coachmenrv.com
Model ... Leprechaun
Floor plan... 318 DS
Chassis ... Ford E-450
Engine ... Triton V-10, 6.8 liter; 305 horsepower at 4,250 rpm; 420 pound-feet torque @ 3,250 rpm
Transmission ... five-speed Torqshift
Axle ratio ... 4.56 to 1
Tires ... LT225/75R16E radials; stainless-steel wheel inserts
Wheelbase ... 208 inches
Brakes... 4-wheel disc
Suspension ... Firestone Ride Rite Air Assist suspension with Ford OEM shocks (twin I-beam front suspension)
Alternator ... 130 amps
Batteries ... coach — (1) 12-volt deep-cycle, 525 cca; chassis — (1) 12-volt deep-cycle, 650 cca
Steering ... power
Electrical service ... 55 amps
Auxiliary generator ... 4-kw Onan
Exterior length ... 32 feet
Exterior width ... 96 inches
Interior height ... 6 feet 6 inches
Exterior height ... 11 feet 2 inches
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 — 4,220 pounds; rear — 9,260 pounds; total — 13,480 pounds (weighed with full fuel and fresh water tanks and two people aboard)
Payload as tested ... 570 pounds
Construction ... steel-framed floor; aluminum-framed roof and sidewalls
Insulation ... rigid 1-1/2-inch foam; 3-1/2-inch foam on roof
Fresh water capacity ... 36.5 gallons
Holding tank capacities ... gray water — 33 gallons; black water — 35 gallons
Fuel capacity ... 55 gallons
Fuel requirements... unleaded gasoline
LP-gas capacity ... 85 gallons
Water heater ... 6 gallons, electronic ignition
Water system ... demand
Heating system ... 30,000-Btu electronic-ignition furnace
Air-conditioning... (1) 15,000-Btu ducted roof unit
Refrigerator ... Dometic 6-cubic-foot three-way (electric, LP-gas, and 12-volt)
Toilet ... Thetford porcelain
Warranty ... coach — 2 years structural and major components; chassis — 3 years/36,000 miles
Base suggested retail price ... $87,393
Price as tested ... $88,506