This luxurious diesel pusher features a 400-horsepower Cummins engine and a midentry floor plan.
By Lazelle Jones
Several niches within the RV market beg to be served. For example, some motorhome buyers prefer a vehicle that has a midcoach entry instead of a front bus-style entry. Those who do will want to take a look at the 36 MDDS Alpine Coach Limited SE from Western RV. But that's not the only reason to check out this coach, as I learned during a recent test. It has many other positive attributes as well.
Western RV, based in Yakima, Washington, has been making luxury diesel-pusher motorhomes for 10 years. These are high-end units that typically vie for the $250,000 to $500,000 market. By taking the Alpine Coach Limited SE product line and adding a midship entry, Western RV joins ultra-high-end coach builders that offer this configuration, too.
Designers at Western RV say that enthusiasts who enjoy the luxury motorhome lifestyle will not settle for less than the high level of prowess that’s associated with a diesel pusher. The unit I reviewed (as is true for all Limited SEs) features, as standard equipment, a 400-horsepower turbocharged Cummins diesel engine that delivers 1,200 pound-feet of torque. It can tow 10,000 pounds and comes equipped with the necessary hitch receiver to prove it.
One benefit of a midcoach entry is that items being loaded and offloaded don't have to be carted as far, as most of the gear carried into the coach winds up in the galley, bath, or rear bedroom. Also, when the traffic pattern avoids the living area, so does any dirt that may be brought in on shoes. Some motorhomers are ultra-sensitive to even the most minuscule amounts of noise, and this includes the sound of any potential air seepage around a bus-style door while the coach is in motion.
The midship entry of the Alpine Coach Limited SE
The midship entry creates a well-defined living
area in the front of the coach.
Furthermore, without a front entry, floor space near the cockpit passenger seat is increased, and the passenger doesn't have to contend with opening and closing a stairwell cover above the entry steps. And, too, some people just prefer the way a midentry coach looks. These are important considerations, and Western RV has recognized that. So, motorhome buyers now have a choice.
The Alpine I reviewed featured two slideout rooms; both are on the driver's side of the coach. This design accommodates those who desire full use of the passenger-side patio area — on both sides of the midentry door. The one in the rear encompasses the bathroom sink as well as a large bedroom wardrobe with a double layer of stacked drawers along the bottom. This slideout is 100 inches long by 22 inches deep. The front slideout, which measures 174 inches long and 31 inches deep, houses the L-shaped galley and a sofa bed.
The configuration made me curious. While I had the coach on the scales, I decided to find out how much more the side with both slideouts weighed, compared with the curb side. The driver's side of the coach was 700 pounds heavier than the passenger (non-slideout) side. Owners will want to keep this in mind when loading cargo. When asked about this later, company officials stated that the weight differential is minimal and represents only 2.6 percent of the coach's maximum gross vehicle weight, a factor not affecting handling and drivability.
Overall, the Alpine weighed 27,200 pounds with a full fuel tank (115 gallons) and a half-tank of fresh water (54 gallons). Since its gross vehicle weight rating is 33,000 pounds, 5,800 pounds of cargo carrying capacity remained — and that’s a bunch.
So how were the road manners and driving characteristics of this motorhome? It rides, accelerates, and brakes quietly and with eagerness. And with the single-piece windshield, driver and passenger visibility is excellent. At the touch of a switch the brake and accelerator pedals are adjustable and can be precisely tailored to fit the needs of each driver. This, along with the power-adjustable seat and tilt-telescoping steering wheel, gives the unit a custom feel whether the driver is short, tall, thin, or portly, and everything in between.
I did experience one moment of panic when I began to worry that there was no driver's-side cup holder. It turns out one is housed inside the dash; it pivots out with the touch of a button.
The mirror system does its job very well, and the power-adjustable sun shades can be raised and lowered with one-button operation. The mirrors are fully articulating, adjustable, and remote-controlled to suit seemingly any driver's preference for increased rearward visibility. They also are heated to provide frost-free visibility during winter trips.
With its 400 horses and six-speed Allison transmission, this coach responded quickly when told to accelerate. It moved effortlessly between lanes when a lane change was needed. I also liked the maneuverability (turning and backing) that is associated with this shorter (37-foot-long) diesel pusher. The two-stage Jacobs engine compression brake toggles easily from no brake to low brake to high engine compression braking, making it possible to tailor performance to changing driver requirements.
One critique item I had pertained to fueling. To refuel the Alpine, the front cap must be extended (the generator skid also rests here). In addition, the coach can be refueled only from the driver's side. I'd prefer being able to access the fuel tank from either side, which is useful when stopping at unfamiliar service stations. This obviously is a personal preference on our part, for the Alpine folks have been building their coaches like this for quite some time.
The dash instrument cluster has been kept simple, and the gauges are easily readable. I appreciated that this unit was equipped with the optional SmarTire monitor system. It checks the pressure and temperature of each tire and alerts the driver to possible low inflation, loss of air pressure, or unacceptable heat buildup; this information is transmitted to a display on the dash. The system also can be used to monitor the tires on a trailer or towed vehicle. And, of course, as a luxury coach should, the Alpine Limited SE has a Smart Wheel steering wheel, where a number of functions are controlled at the touch of a button (windshield wipers, cruise control, etc.).
Galley of the Alpine Coach Limited SE
Ample work area is created in the galley when the
front slideout is extended.
The SmartBed system is a new, patented, and exclusive feature on the Alpine Coach Limited SE. It's not for sleeping, though; the SmartBed actually is a roll-out basement storage tray. The system works on all storage areas, even those directly below one of the slideout rooms. Your cargo comes to you; you don't have to bend over, open an access door, or stoop below an extended slideout. The storage trays extend or retract at the touch of a button.
Another push-button feature is the power patio awning, which also includes a wind sensor. When the device senses that the wind velocity has exceeded a set specific point, the awning automatically retracts to avoid being damaged.
Western RV has been designing and building its own Peak Custom Chassis since 1997. From the very beginning, the company opted to rely on huck bolting, which is used in the heavy shipping, railroad, and cargo transport industries. The huck fastening "gun" passes the threaded mechanical fastener through the steel chassis members, applies torque to the huck nut on the end of the fastener, and then shears off the remainder of the fastener before relaxing the tension on the fastener. The result is a very strong bond. The only welded points on the chassis are where the two slideout mechanisms interface with the frame rails.
The air-ride suspension includes the use of very large low-pressure/high-volume air bladders that continuously respond to changing road conditions and changing ride heights by adding or subtracting compressed air from these air bags. The bladders are augmented in their function by self-adjusting gas shock absorbers and a front antisway bar. The braking system features 15-inch antilock hydraulic disc brakes on all wheels. The Peak chassis also includes a four-point hydraulic leveling system.
The Alpine Limited comes with a 42,000-Btu forced-air furnace as standard equipment. However, the motorhome I reviewed included the optional Aqua-Hot system, which sips diesel fuel or runs on 110-volt shore power to heat the house, the basement, and the holding tanks, as well as the house water, and functions as an engine preheater. Engine heat also can be used to warm the house water and as a heat source for the heating zones as you motor along to your next destination. The two 15,000-Btu roof air conditioners on my test unit included optional heat pumps.
Electrical power on this motorhome involves an 8-kilowatt diesel generator, 50-amp shore power, and a power cable reel. Also standard is a 2,000-watt inverter with an auto-start feature that brings the diesel generator online when voltage on the house battery pack falls below a specific set point. However, with the optional 100-watt solar panel (which provides a continuous charge even when it’s cloudy), the auto-start may never be needed. The inverter and house batteries can power everything on board with the exception of the roof AC units. Another nice touch on the Alpine is the standard automatic battery fill system.
The Alpine also comes with the Vagabond whole-house fresh water prefilter as standard equipment. This device delivers cleaner water throughout the coach and helps minimize mineral buildup on bath fixtures, showers, and galley surfaces.
The exterior of the vacuum-laminated walls and roof are gel-coat fiberglass finished with full-body paint and graphics. The thermal-pane windows include a reflective solar material that minimizes outside glare while protecting the interior décor from sun damage.
My test coach was accessorized with standard and optional features that make the luxury coach lifestyle a real joy. For example, the galley has dual sinks, a microwave-convection oven, a three-burner cooktop, and a 14-cubic-foot side-by-side refrigerator-freezer. This full-service venue just begs to be used. Solid-surface countertops (throughout the coach) and the optional natural cherry cabinetry make this galley as elegant as it is functional. If you really want to spoil yourself, you can add the optional Fisher & Paykel DishDrawer dishwasher and do even less "housework."
Bedroom slideout of the Alpine Coach Limited SE
The 100-inch-long bedroom slideout includes a large, mirrored wardrobe complex.
The split-aisle bath has the toilet on the curb side and a large shower and sink on the street side. The center hallway is configured with a slight dogleg between the shower and toilet area, which hinders the view into the rear bedroom, and thus adds some privacy. The bath and bed area together form a giant suite that features a queen-size bed with a Bodyrest pillow-top mattress. As in the living area up front, the bedroom has its own flat-screen television with integrated DVD player and separate satellite receiver.
The sofa sleeper and rocker recliner in the living area are dressed with optional Ultraleather simulated leather. To the right of the midcoach entry is a two-person dinette with two upholstered chairs, and the recliner. The dinette comes with a leaf and two folding chairs, which increase dining space to four people when needed; they are stored in a designated area in a closet at the rear of the coach. The décor flows nicely from front to rear, with ceramic tile in the cockpit, carpet in the sofa area, more ceramic tile in the galley and bath, and then more carpet in the rear stateroom. The liberal use of mirrors throughout the coach augments the spacious feeling this coach already exhibits because of its interior dimensions and slideouts.
I tested a 2007 Alpine Coach Limited SE. At press time I learned that 2008 models are now available. The 2008 coaches incorporate all-new designer-created interiors that feature upgraded solid hardwood window valance treatments, hand-laid tile backsplashes in the bath and galley, and stagger-pattern tile flooring with copper accents. In addition, interior height has changed from 6 feet 7 inches to 7 feet; exterior height, originally 12 feet, is now 12 feet 5 inches. Otherwise, the Alpine's essential features remain the same. Western RV also has made some updates to the engine horsepower and cooling configuration of the Peak chassis to comply with new emissions standards.
The suggested retail price of the Alpine Coach Limited SE is $315,271. Its as-tested price came to $342,904 with the following options: SmarTire monitoring system; Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system; Power Pro sensor awning; 100-watt solar panel (house); 14-cubic-foot refrigerator upgrade; Ultraleather furniture upgrade; ceramic tile; natural cherry cabinetry; three-point integrated seat belts with buddy seat and power footrest; Surge-Guard system; GE Advantium oven upgrade; two folding dinette chairs; universal entertainment remote control; 10-watt solar panel (chassis); (2) 15,000-Btu air conditioners with heat pump upgrade; fold-up shower seat.
As a diesel pusher that offers a side-entry floor plan, the Alpine 36 MDDS, with its dual slideout rooms, luxury appointments, and excellent finish, yields a level of livability that is equaled only by its elegance and functionality.
Western Recreational Vehicles Inc., P.O. Box 9547, Yakima, WA 98909 (800) 777-4133; fax (509) 457-8184; www.wrv.com
Alpine Coach Limited SE
MDDS 36-foot, mid entry, double slide
Peak Custom Chassis
Cummins 8.9-liter ISL turbo-diesel, 400 horsepower 1,200 pound-feet torque @ 1,300 rpm
Allison 3000 MH 6-speed push-button with lockup
4.63 to 1
22.5-inch 16-ply high-performance steel-belted radials
four-wheel four-piston hydraulic disc with 4-channel ABS
Neway custom-tuned "active" air ride
R.H. Sheppard M100; gear rating 14,000 pounds; ratio 18.9 to 1
Leece-Neville, 185 amps
chassis — (2) Interstate 31 MHD heavy-duty 12-volt; coach — (6) Interstate 6-volt
Onan Cummins 8-kilowatt Quiet Diesel
6 feet 7 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 13,000 pounds; rear — 20,000 pounds
WET WEIGHT AS TESTED
front axle — 10,040 pounds; rear axle — 16,980 pounds; total — 27,200 pounds (includes 115 gallons fuel, 54 gallons fresh water)
PAYLOAD AS TESTED
Walls, ceiling, and floor: laminated/vacubonded 6005 T-5 aluminum tube construction, one-piece fiberglass roof
2-pound-density polystyrene block foam
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 104 gallons; black water — 84 gallons
Aqua-Hot hydronic, optional
demand; Shurflo high-volume pump
Aqua-Hot hydronic with engine preheat, optional
(2) 15,000-Btu ducted, heat pumps optional
Dometic 14-cubic-foot side-by-side with water and ice in door
SeaLand porcelain with spray wand
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED
chassis — 3 years/36,000 miles, limited; coach — 5 years/36,000 miles, limited