Move up to a Monaco with this entry-level type A on a Workhorse chassis.
By Jim Brightly, F358406, Technical Editor
I was introduced to the Monaco Monarch motorhome in the coach display area at FMCA's 79th International Convention in Pomona, California, this past February. Nestled among the other and larger Monaco offerings, the classic lines of the Monarch and its traditional graphics caught my eye. The display coach was a 30-footer with a single full-length driver’s-side slideout, and the amount of features Monaco had packed into its relatively short length really intrigued me, so I immediately talked with a company representative about arranging a road test of this model.
Unfortunately, a 30 SFS was not available for testing, but Beaudry’s RV in Chandler, Arizona, had a Monarch 33 SFS (for full length slide) available. I made plans to visit Beaudry’s facility just south of Phoenix to pick up the coach.
When my wife and I rolled into Beaudry’s a few weeks later, we found an absolutely beautiful, brand-new — so new its street wasn’t in our GPS — 75-acre, state-of-the-art campus that offers everything a person could want in the way of RVing. There’s even a full-blown Love’s truck stop next door for fueling, weighing, and dumping.
And sitting beside the guard shack at Beaudry’s entrance was a warmed-up Monarch 33 SFS full of fuel and water, its generator and air conditioner operating, and a dealer license plate already attached. Doug Snyder, inventory supervisor, gave me a walk-through to familiarize me with the coach’s features.
As unlikely as it may seem that a 34-foot-3-inch coach could be considered an entry-level unit, the Monarch is a "basic" motorhome model aimed at introducing the RVing community to Monaco’s products. The Monarch may well be bell-less and whistle-less, but it isn’t feature-less, as I was informed during my walk-through. According to Doug, the Monarch’s watchword is comfort: comfortable to drive, comfortable to live in, and comfortable on the eyes. And as I was about to find out, it has all the features a family of four needs to enjoy comfortable camping and carefree cruising.
The Monarch is available in four lengths ranging from 30 feet to 35 feet; five floor plans; and four chassis options — the Ford F-53, with 20,500-pound and 22,000-pound gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR); the Workhorse W20, with a 20,700-pound GVWR; and the Workhorse W22, with a 22,000-pound GVWR. Obviously, the shorter models are on the lighter-rated chassis, and the longer models are on the heavier-rated chassis.
The Monarch 33 SFS that I tested is based on the Workhorse W22, which is equipped with the GM Vortec 8100 V-8 gasoline engine and Allison World 1000 transmission. The engine is rated at 340 horsepower at 4,200 rpm. The six-speed transmission includes two overdrive gears, a grade brake, and a park pawl feature that securely locks the drivetrain when the transmission is in park. The gross combination weight rating (GCWR) for the W22 chassis is 26,000 pounds.
The W-series’ ladder-type frame is built from 50,000-psi steel, and the ¼-inch-thick, 9.6-inch channel rails extend the full length of the coach for more weight capacity and greater stability and structural integrity. Adding to driving stability, Workhorse’s Stabil-Ride suspension consists of an auxiliary spring called Like-Air, and single-stage, constant-rate, two-leaf parabolic springs on both the front and the rear axle, with Bilstein shock absorbers and rectangular stabilizer bars (a 2-inch bar in front and a 2 1/2-inch bar on the rear axle). Tires are Michelin XRV 235/80 R22.5 LRG on Alcoa aluminum wheels. Steering is controlled by an 18-inch four-spoke steering wheel; it’s a variable-ratio (16.6-19.6:1) design with hydraulic assist and a 50-degree wheel cut angle.
Our first stop after leaving Beaudry’s was the CAT scale at the Love’s truck stop for the weighing-in ceremony. And then we headed out on the test drive. (Author’s note: If you wish to weigh your coach, CAT scales — recognizable by the silhouette of a cat’s head — at many truck stops, are a good option. The scales are segmented so that you can weigh each individual axle, including your towable, simultaneously.)
While driving from Chandler to the historic hamlet of Wickenburg, Arizona, I engaged the Allison transmission’s grade brake to assist me in controlling the coach and to reduce use of the service brakes on the downhills and in Phoenix-area traffic. It worked really well. When the brake pedal is depressed, the Allison transmission will either hold its current gear or shift down a gear, depending on how long the driver actuates the pedal. If the new gear is still too high, another depression of the pedal will cause the transmission to drop down one more gear. Continue this until the gear you need for the speed you desire is reached. At the speeds I was driving, the transmission never dropped below third, which was perfect for holding the coach between 50 and 55 mph on downgrades up to 7 percent. And a driver needn’t be concerned about over-revving either the engine or the transmission; engine and transmission computers have to be in full agreement and will not allow the transmission to drop into a gear that will cause damage to the engine. The computers 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.)
I used the grade brake for virtually the entire road test, and it worked well in traffic and on any downhills I encountered. I do have a caution, however. To avoid any traction problems, switch the grade brake off anytime you are driving on wet or icy roads. The parking brake sets automatically when the transmission is shifted to "park," but the driver must release the parking brake manually.
Two things became readily apparent during the initial stages of the test drive: the Monarch’s steering is virtually effortless, and the driver’s seat is fairly tight when the slideout is in. Even at campsite parking speeds, steering takes almost no work at all. At freeway speeds, until a driver becomes used to the steering and its characteristics, he or she must be very careful not to oversteer. But after becoming accustomed to its ease of movement, a driver will enjoy the experience.
Although the driver’s seat is somewhat tight, it still was a very comfortable spot for this 6-foot-2-inch test driver. While we were showing the coach to fellow campers, however, a shorter driver tried the captain’s chair and found it a bit too low for easy viewing of close-in traffic (the chair swiveled and reclined but had no vertical adjustment).
During the 170-mile road test, the Monarch averaged 5.0 mpg. That’s while towing a 5,000-pound Jeep in city traffic and traversing several long and gradual hills. Mileage should improve significantly on long, over-the-highway drives and without a heavy towable.
Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending upon your outlook), I never hit any temperature extremes during the test, so although the Monarch does enjoy dual-zone heating and cooling controls, I can’t verify its temperature insulation. But I can verify its sound insulation. The coach is very quiet while driving — even at freeway speeds — with little engine noise penetrating the passenger compartment. Throughout the test, no matter what speed we traveled, we were able to hold conversations at a normal sound level.
I did manage to put some miles on the Monarch without the towable, and it proved to be quite peppy to drive and responsive to throttle. The six-speed Allison transmission applied just the correct amount of power to the wheels in all situations. Acceleration tests of the 19,100-pound coach resulted in a 0-to-55 mph average of 21.43 seconds.
I did notice that although the engine temperature and gas gauges are readily visible, the voltmeter and oil pressure gauges cannot be quickly viewed by a typical driver because of the position of the steering wheel. Another thing I noticed was the locked fuel filler door. With today’s gas prices, this is a good thing.
A typical driver will enjoy the powered sun screens for the windshield, as well as the Monarch’s optional side cameras. While on the highway, activating a turn signal — either side — will actuate the side camera on that side to help make lane changes safer (the camera's wide-angle lens adds extra-safe lane coverage to the double, heated side mirrors). The side cameras also can be used while slipping into a tight campsite as long as the coach is moving forward. As soon as the shift lever goes into reverse, the monitor automatically switches to the rear camera.
Speaking of sliding into camp, once the Monarch is hooked up and leveled out with the Power Gear automatic hydraulic leveling system, it’s time to deploy the full-length (23 feet 11 inches) slide. Just make sure there’s enough clearance; pull the chairs out of the side-opening storage bins; and roll out the Eclipse automatic patio awning.
Once we were in camp and had time to relax, I took note of the Monarch’s abundance of storage, both inside and out. As I mentioned, even with the slideout deployed, the side-opening storage bins were easily accessed. The side-swinging doors are a fine improvement to the usual lift-up doors, and even stowing long items in the pass-through bays was easy.
The Monarch is filled with plenty of drawers, cabinets, and cupboards, and even a double closet in the bedroom. The closet will supply enough clothing storage for sartorial splendor regardless of the campground. It is very deep (34 inches) with adjustable shelves along its back wall (33 inches wide) and sufficient height (47 1/2 inches) for anything but a full-length mink coat. The oversized closet would have been improved with the addition of an interior light, for we found it difficult to see inside, even during the day. Next to the closet is a large storage compartment under the lift-up bed.
With the bed lowered into place, you’ll notice that it’s very tight against the passenger-side wall. I would have preferred a bit more room between the bed and the wall for nighttime excursions and when making the bed, but I can understand that this configuration is necessary to allow room for the street-side slideout when it is retracted.
One of the last things we do when preparing for bed in a motorhome is to pull the security curtain across the windshield for the night. I know many people cover the windshield from the time they connect until they disconnect when in a campground, but we enjoy people watching and meeting fellow RVers, and how can you people watch with the security curtains in place? Because we close them each night and open them each morning, we notice the easy or the not-so-easy deployment of the curtains. In the Monarch, the security curtains for the huge one-piece windshield were the easiest we’ve ever used without being powered — no hang-ups, catches, or lost tracks. They worked great!
My favorite spot in the coach was the lounge chair with footstool, located right behind the navigator’s chair. It rotates and reclines and is very comfortable, with one caveat: it’s sleep inducing! Almost every time I sat in the lounge chair, I slept in the lounge chair; it is that comfortable. I even tried writing my test notes while sitting in the chair, but I was unable to complete them because I kept getting drowsy. I finally used the couch for note taking, because even though it is comfortable, it’s not narcotic.
From the couch I noticed the classic material patterns used for the couch and carpet, with a little more flair introduced on the dining table chairs. There are also plenty of well-placed, well-designed lights throughout the coach.
The distaff side of the testing team really enjoyed the galley and commented several times about the excellent layout, good working space, and plentitude of drawers and cupboards. For cleanup, she used the built-in vacuum cleaner.
Located in the classic spot, above the windshield, the 26-inch LCD TV is awesome, even with over-the-air transmission (the campground in Wickenburg did not have cable or satellite TV coverage). An occasional motorhome or trailer would temporarily block the signal, and the picture would pixelize. However, the digital signals provided more channels than analog signals.
The bathroom is good-sized and well-designed, with no wasted space and a roomy shower. A sliding door closes off the bedroom from this area. We did find that the bathroom faucet spout is a bit short, leaving very little room between it and the back of the sink, and that there is no plug or drain protection for the sink. The bathroom is equipped with an excellent porcelain toilet with sprayer.
When breaking camp, make sure the bathroom door is shut before bringing in the slideout, or damage could occur. This task should be easy, though, because the slide’s switch and monitor panel are right next to the bathroom door.
Speaking of the bathroom, an option on the Monarch improved the sometimes unpleasant task of dumping the holding tanks: the RV Sani-Con 2 holding tank flushing system. This unit, which includes a macerator that chews up the solid wastes in the black tank, also flushes the tank. A 12-volt-DC pump and motor quickly empties the tanks through a 3/4-inch hose, and backwashes and rinses the black tank with gray water; this system also makes it possible to store the gray water in the black tank when dry camping to provide more fluids if needed. The unit can pump up to 20 feet high as well as 250 feet away through the aforementioned 3/4-inch hose.
The base suggested retail price of the Monarch 33 SFS is $116,021. The price of my test coach came to $134,641, including these options: patio awning, RV Sani-Con 2 sewer macerator, three-camera monitor system, exterior entertainment center, Power Gear leveling system, and full body paint.
To recap, when I first took a tour through the Monarch at the Pomona convention, I remember thinking that it seemed to be an ideal introduction type A for folks upsizing from a type C or downsizing from a larger diesel pusher or gas chassis. The road test did not change my mind. Although the coach would be an excellent choice for a family of four (with four seat belts) for vacations and weekend campouts, I would say that the 33-foot Monarch might be somewhat tight quarters for a full-timing family. A pair of full-timers, however, would find it to be an excellent choice.
Monaco Coach Corporation., 91320 Coburg Industrial Way, Coburg, OR 97408; (800) 634-0855; www.monacocoach.com
GM Vortec 8.1L (496-cid), 340 horsepower @ 4,200 rpm, 455 pound-feet torque @ 3,200 rpm
Allison World 1000 6-speed automatic with two overdrive gears
5.86 to 1
Michelin XRV 235/80 R22.5 LRG
22.5-inch Alcoa aluminum
Hydraulic four-wheel antilock disc
Single-stage constant-rate parabolic leaf springs with auxiliary Like-Air spring; 2.5-inch stabilizer bar; Westport double drop mono beam (front); Dana S130 (rear)
Bilstein monotube gas-charged
Power-assisted variable speed with tilt wheel
chassis — (1) 690 cca; coach — (2) 6-volt DC
Cummins Onan 5.5-kilowatt Gold Advantage
34 feet 3 inches
12 feet 9 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 8,000 pounds;
rear — 14,500 pounds
WET WEIGHT AS TESTED
front axle — 6,680 pounds;
rear axle — 12,420 pounds;
total — 19,100 pounds
PAYLOAD AS TESTED
chassis — 9.6-inch-by-3-inch C channel 50,000-psi steel;
coach — welded C-channel aluminum superstructure with steel cage around cockpit
½-inch bead foam (roof); 1.5-inch fiberglass with bead foam and vapor barrier (walls); blue foam insulation (floor)
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 54 gallons;
black water — 45 gallons
Atwood, 35,000 Btus
AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEM
(2) standard 15,000-Btu units with heat pumps
Norcold 10-cubic-foot two-way (AC and LP gas)
coach — 1 year/24,000 miles basic limited warranty;
chassis — 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain, 3 years/36,000 miles full warranty
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED