Winnebago’s revolutionary gas pusher provides diesel looks and diesel storage and a cozy, contemporary interior.
By Jim Brightly, F358406,
“Man, that’s the quietest diesel I’ve ever heard!” exclaimed the fuel station attendant as I pulled up to the pump. Since we were in Oregon for FMCA's 78th International Convention (state law does not allow self-service in gas stations), I already had my window open to hand over my credit card.
“It’s not a diesel,” I told him. “It’s a brand-new gas-pusher chassis.”
“Doesn’t it overheat? I’ve always heard that’s the reason there haven’t been any gas pushers since the old FMC motorhomes from the Seventies.”
“Nope!” I said as I watched him clean the windshield. “The gauge doesn’t move after it reaches normal running temperature. And this is August, and I’ve climbed some long hills while towing the Jeep and the needle hasn’t twitched.”
“That’s cool,” he said appropriately. “Want me to check the oil and water?" (It's so nice that in Oregon, you actually get service at service stations.)
I had similar conversations with other RV-savvy people I encountered during my test of the 2008 Winnebago Destination 37G.
The rear-gas-engine configuration is available on the Workhorse Universal Fuel Option (UFO) chassis, which gives motorhome manufacturers the choice of using either a rear diesel or rear gas engine. Winnebago Industries has opted to use the UFO chassis for its gas-powered Destinations. (Diesel-powered Destinations are offered on a Freightliner chassis.) The GM Vortec 340-horsepower engine that comes with the UFO chassis is coupled with an Allison World 2000 six-speed transmission.
An Inside Look
Décor in the Winnebago Destination has a fun, "retro" feel.
Décor in the Destination has a fun, "retro" feel.
Many of the people we encountered during our test wanted a tour of the coach, which we always accommodated, even when the two slideouts were not open. The folks seemed to like what they saw, nonetheless.
First to impress is the smooth, solid wood cabinetry with curved doors — rather than square corners — and indirect mood lighting above the cabinets that reflected off the domed ceiling (which measures 84 inches at the sidewall junction and 86½ inches in the center of the coach). The indirect lighting is over the driver’s compartment cabinets, over the galley cabinets, and over the TV cabinet, which allows occupants to watch TV without glare and yet still have more than enough light to walk around, make popcorn, etc. (The overhead cabinet on the back wall of the bedroom also has indirect lighting.)
I guess those of us who are avid readers have been heard by the Destination's designers. This coach has a reading light at virtually every seat. It was wonderful to know that no matter where I sat, I could flip on a directional overhead light without bothering the other occupants. Except for the dinette, which has a double light fixture directly overhead (also good for reading and map checking), nearly every overhead cabinet was equipped with one or more reading lights.
But let us now take a written stroll through the Destination. There’s plenty of room to move around, even when the slideouts are not deployed. Directly behind the driver, Winnebago designers placed a 153-inch-long, 30-inch-wide slideout with a 75-inch-high ceiling. Inside it on a flat floor are a sofa/sleeper and a dinette. On the wall above the sofa is a four-door cabinet.
The sofa is equipped with three seat belts. The forward-facing bench seat in the dinette is also equipped with two seat belts and a child seat tether anchor; the rear-facing seat has none. Both dinette seats have storage for the bedclothes, etc., for the dinette makes into a bed. A freestanding table option is available in place of the dinette.
One of the few things I would have liked to change about the Destination was the lack of end windows in the front slideout. Artwork is mounted on these spots instead. I prefer slideouts that have small windows in the fore and aft, for safety and scenic reasons.
Opening up the front slideout reveals a 30-inch flat-screen television and entertainment center. It includes a surround-sound system with AM/FM radio, CD, and DVD player, plus five speakers that are distributed around the living area. It's also wired to be satellite-ready. Additional cabinets are situated above and below the TV, but they, like the entertainment center, are inaccessible when the slideout is not deployed.
Directly across the aisle from the dinette is the galley, in which we had the optional four-door 12-cubic-foot Norcold refrigerator with ice maker. The refrigerator is quite tall and deep; shorter folks may need assistance to see all the way to the back of the freezer compartments.
Winnebago Destination 37G - galley
Form and function come together in the sleek-looking yet well-equipped galley.
Left of the fridge is a very commercial-looking stove. The Apollo range incorporates a combination convection and microwave oven, which can cook in half the usual time by using convection heat and microwave energy simultaneously. It can brown food like a gas oven, and do so rapidly, like a microwave. Its vent cover, which contains a hood light and exhaust fan, is very sleek. The hood light, two under-cabinet lights, plus a direct reading light give more than enough illumination for the chef’s duties without turning on the ceiling lights.
Also aiding the chef are dual sinks with a single faucet. Sufficient counter space exists between the stove and sinks for a coffee maker and toaster. A cabinet between the sink and stove houses four drawers of varying sizes; a deep drawer beneath the stove and another below the fridge provide additional storage.
Toward the front of the coach, on the curb side, is a Euro chair with an ottoman. Next is the entry door, which is equipped with a pull-down night shade. Just forward of the door is a deep end table cabinet with a rounded triangle shape. It has a hinged top and is perfect for stowing shoes, umbrellas, and light jackets — anything that you'd like to grab at the last minute as you’re leaving and want to let go of as soon as you’re back inside. The controls for the automatic levelers also are located on this cabinet.
In the cockpit, 11 separate doors open onto one continuous cabinet that curves completely around the top of the windshield and side windows. Like other cabinets in this coach, two different colors of wood are used. Borrowing from days gone by, designers juxtaposed light-colored wood and darker, warm-toned pieces to create a pleasant retro feel. A drawer below the backup monitor holds CDs, notebooks, etc. In fact, it was just the right size to hold the laptop computer I use for navigating. I just twisted the screen backward, folded it flat against the base, and propped the unit into a 45-degree angle against the dash; this setup enabled me or the passenger to monitor our trip’s progress with a quick glance. About the only clear wall space in the living room without a cabinet is that directly over the entry door, and it would be an excellent place to mount a small tray or shelf for keys, books, etc.
Next to the passenger seat is a long, narrow rectangular-shaped cabinet with a hinged top that makes an excellent spot for securing magazines, maps, and makeup kits. More nice touches are the low switches next to each front seat for the overhead directional reading lamps (switches are on the fixtures themselves also). The passenger’s seat rotates so its occupant can join the festivities in the living room, but the driver’s seat can’t be rotated fully to the rear because it contacts the steering wheel.
Winnebago Destination 37G - bath area
The bath area includes an angled sink topped by one of the two lighted mirrors in the room.
Aft of the galley is the bathroom area, which occupies both sides of the aisle and can be closed off, front and rear, for privacy. On the curbside wall is a large, tall shower enclosure and a pair of wall cabinets. A toilet and two large storage cabinets are sequestered in a separate closet on the street side. (An optional washer-dryer unit goes in this area if desired.) There are two makeup mirrors in the bathroom/hallway, one over the street-side angled sink and one over the cabinet on the curbside wall. We traveled with two preteen girls, and they used the extra mirror and drawers for all their daily needs. Two things we would add back here, though, are a built-in soap dish next to the bathroom sink and a magazine rack in the toilet closet.
The rear bedroom welcomes with a queen-size bed with storage below (its mattress is very firm but comfortable). The head of the bed is positioned on the back wall. Three cabinets are located over the bed, and it is flanked by nightstands. Opposite the bed near the street side is a shelving unit that houses a 20-inch TV and radio; this unit also offers plumbing access for the washer-dryer, if the coach is so equipped.
The coach's other slideout is on the curbside wall. It's occupied by a 60-inch-by-69-inch wardrobe, as well as the storage cabinet next to the shower.
Overall, we found the interior of the Destination top-notch in the fit-and-finish department.
A quick look at the specifications list will tell you that this coach would be excellent for extended boondocking. It has an 82-gallon fresh water tank, a 66-gallon gray-water tank, a 62-gallon black-water tank, and a 28-gallon LP-gas tank. And with the slideouts deployed, there’s plenty of room for everyone to spread out and relax.
The Destination 37G offers one large pass-through storage compartment and two smaller compartments (accessed by six doors on either side of the coach), which provide 111.2 cubic feet of storage space. The Destination has Winnebago Industries' own Smart Storage feature, which provides pass-through compartments accessible from either side of the coach.
Other compartments on the driver's side house the circuit breaker panel and a wash station with an outside shower wand. Along the passenger side are six compartments, which, in addition to the Smart Storage area, include one for the LP-gas tank, and another for the two house batteries and the engine battery.
But without weight-carrying capacity, all of this storage space would need to remain empty. Not so with the Destination. Its gross vehicle weight rating is 26,000 pounds, and at the scales, it weighed 22,060 pounds with full fresh water and fuel tanks. This left 3,940 pounds of carrying capacity split almost exactly in half for each axle. So, you can load almost two tons of “stuff” aboard.
The Destination comes with a 19-foot-6-inch manual awning. It also boasts several 120-volt-AC outlets positioned around the coach — even in the toilet closet. However, not all are wired through the inverter. You’ll have to find the outlets wired to the inverter (the one next to the passenger seat is connected to the inverter, so you can plug your laptop in there). Next to both the driver’s and the passenger’s seats is a 12-volt-DC plug.
The UFO Chassis
UFO chassis of Winnebago Destination 37G
The UFO chassis incorporates a proprietary suspension system that contributes to coach ride and handling.
The UFO chassis features a lowered engine compartment in the rear, creating a flat floor, which enhances floor plan options. (This is also accomplished with the Freightliner chassis.) As with diesel pushers, the rear gas engine reduces cabin noise, heat, and coach vibration.
The UFO chassis also features a proprietary front and back suspension. The front features a monoleaf assembly that is said to enhance roll stability. When paired with Bilstein monotube shocks, the monoleaf springs provide an excellent ride. At the same time, a 55-degree wheel cut offers exceptional maneuverability in tight spaces. The rear suspension has a patented, maintenance-free torque box system that improves stability and control, and large coil springs to help cushion the entire load.
The Allison Series 2000 six-speed automatic transmission includes transmission grade braking, ultra-protective synthetic transmission fluid, a standard push-button shifter, and a five-year, 200,000-mile transmission warranty. The new cool pack configuration developed by Workhorse has been successfully tested on a UFO chassis in 116-degree-Fahrenheit conditions in Death Valley.
The gas-pusher concept of the UFO, which hasn’t been tried for several decades, prompted me to plan a more extensive test than usual. I wanted to try it in every situation I could think of: heavy city traffic; narrow, two-lane scenic roadways; interstates, etc. Winnebago Industries officials were kind enough to allow me to drive the Destination from Southern California to the FMCA convention in Redmond, Oregon, and back. And believe me, some of the situations I found myself in tested me and the Destination, and only I was found wanting — not the coach.
I started off on a very narrow, curvy road: the infamous Highway 1 (California State Route 1), between Morro Bay and San Francisco. I then would cross into Marin County on the Golden Gate Bridge and continue north. Highway 1 was an excellent test for the 37-foot Destination, and the coach performed very well. However, I must warn you: this route isn't for everyone, thanks to its rock outcroppings, extreme curves, 200-foot drops to the Pacific Ocean, narrow bridges, and steep slopes — plus bicyclists. All that said, we wouldn't even attempt it going south, as that places you outside near the drop-offs.
Driving up and down the hills of Highway 1, I engaged the Allison transmission’s grade brake to assist me in controlling the coach and to reduce the need to continually apply the service brakes on the hills. The grade brake works really well. When you depress the brake pedal on a downhill slope, the six-speed transmission will shift down a gear. If that gear is still too high, another depression of the pedal will again cause the transmission to drop down a gear. Continue this until you reach the gear you need for the speed you desire. At the speeds I was driving, the transmission never dropped below third, which was perfect for holding between 50 and 55 mph on grades up to 7 percent. But don’t be alarmed; the engine and transmission computers have to be in full agreement and will not allow the transmission to drop into a gear that will over-rev the engine. But they will hold in a gear until a certain rpm is reached and will then upshift (it never upshifted with me, but I also kept the speed down with the service brakes when necessary). A little green gear icon illuminates in the lower left corner of the dash panel when the grade brake is engaged. I used the grade brake for virtually the entire road test, and it worked well in traffic and on any downhill situations I encountered. However, be sure to switch off the grade brake anytime you are driving on wet or icy roads (it could cause you traction problems if left on). The parking brake sets automatically when the transmission is shifted to "park," but the driver must release the parking brake manually.
Eventually we found a campground near San Francisco. There’s no “large motorhome” option in our mapping program, and I wish there were, because it took us through some narrow, hilly, streets. The Destination handled them all in stride, but I’ll never tackle the streets of San Francisco again with a large motorhome.
Once we hit the freeways north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Destination came into its own. Like any large pusher, the coach takes to the interstates like a funny car takes to a drag strip. Bring it up to speed, set the cruise control at 55 mph (mandated by California for vehicles towing trailers or cars), drop the armrests on the driver’s seat, grab a cup of coffee, lean back, and you’re in motorhome nirvana. The Destination drives like a dream on the interstates.
Fuel consumption figures also improved on the interstates. The Destination’s lowest fuel average during the test was on Highway 1, and it came in at 4.73 mpg. On the interstates, mileage peaked at 6.47 mpg. The remaining fuel stops revealed mileages of 5.2 mpg, 5.15 mpg, and 5.16 mpg, which provided an overall fuel economy figure for the entire trip of 5.3 mpg. All of this included towing a 4,900-pound Jeep. On the 0-to-55 mph acceleration test, the Destination averaged 28.22 seconds. (This test did not include the Jeep.)
In addition to holding the coach to 55 mph on the interstates, I also turned off the engine air conditioning. It has been said that using the generator and house A/C may actually give better fuel mileage, more highway power, and more efficient cooling than the engine A/C. We found using the TrueAir system provided more comfort for all four occupants. According to Winnebago Industries, the TrueAir Residential Central Air Conditioning is a high-efficiency air-conditioning system that distributes cool air throughout the entire motorhome from its location below the floor. TrueAir, controlled by a wall-mounted thermostat, has two large residential-style blowers that, when combined with high-tech ducting, deliver a constant flow of cool air.
I want to compliment the Destination's brake light design. Just as the third brake light on a car or pickup truck adds to its safety, the four brake lights on the back of the Destination make driving it much safer. And if you’re towing, the two upper lights really grab the attention of drivers behind you.
The suggested retail price of the 2008 Winnebago Destination 37G is $164,752. The as-tested price of my review coach came to $173,159 with the following options: rear stereo system with CD/DVD player; sofa sleeper; four-door Norcold refrigerator/freezer with ice maker; front protective mask; TrueAir residential air conditioning with heat pump; video camera system; full body paint (Silver Sky).
If you’re used to big and tall coaches, you’ll love the Destination 37G. Just walking around the gas-pusher version in particular will give you the impression that it’s about as close to a diesel pusher in design as a chassis manufacturer can get without including a diesel engine. And if you’re not accustomed to driving a big motorhome, don't worry; you’ll get used to it very quickly in the Destination 37G. It gives you smooth, quiet, seamless power; turns very well for a 37-foot coach; tows a car easily; and is so quiet you’ll keep checking the gauges to make sure the engine is running.
Winnebago Industries Inc., 605 W. Crystal Lake Road, Forest City, IA 50436; (641) 585-3535; www.winnebagoind.com
GM Vortec 8.1-liter V-8, 340 horsepower @ 4,200 rpm, 455 pound-feet torque @ 3,200 rpm
Allison World 2000 six-speed
6.17 to 1
Michelin 255/80R 22.5, load range G
four-wheel antilock hydraulic disc
front — monoleaf, parabolic spring;
rear — coil springs with torque box and trailing arm ridge design
power-assisted variable speed with tilt wheel (up to 55-degree wheel cut)
NAPA Group 24; chassis — (1) 690 cca; coach — (2) 400 cca
Dimensions Unlimited Inc., 600 watts
Cummins Onan 5.5-kilowatt Marquis Gold
37 feet 7 inches
8 feet 5.5 inches
12 feet 4 inches
7 feet 2.5 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 9,500 pounds; rear — 17,500 pounds
WET WEIGHT AS TESTED
front axle — 7,500 pounds
rear axle — 14,560 pounds
total — 22,060 pounds
(includes full fresh water, fuel tanks)
PAYLOAD AS TESTED
steel and aluminum
polystyrene foam; R ratings: roof 14.83, sidewalls 7.17, floor 13.82, back wall 6.15
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 66 gallons
black water — 62 gallons
Suburban, 40,000 Btus
TrueAir Residential Central Air Conditioning, 24,000 Btus with heat pump, optional (TrueAir 24,000-Btu unit without heat pump, standard)
Norcold 12-cubic-foot four-door with ice maker, optional (Norcold 8-cubic foot two-way, standard)
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED
12 months/15,000 miles basic warranty; 36-month/36,000-mile limited warranty on structure; 10-year limited parts and labor warranty on roof skin