This powerful diesel puller is long on style and performance.
By Guy and Pamela Selbert
Several years ago, when we road-tested the brand-new Dynamax Grand Sport motorhome, we often noted admiring looks directed its way. One gentleman standing on a street corner stared at the coach, then at us, then gave us a grinning “thumbs up.”
Our first reaction to the Dynamax DynaQuest 340 XL Touring Cruiser, which we recently reviewed, was much the same — and though it wouldn’t do for a couple of old, jaded road testers to make such a public display, we did exchange quick nods of approval. The creations of DeWayne Creighton, Dynamax Corporation president, have that effect, for several reasons.
First, there’s his strategy of building a massive Type C motorhome based on a Freightliner diesel tractor. Then there’s the striking finish work and paint job that Dynamax has been known for since Mr. Creighton originated the marque in 1997. And, finally, there are the details. Dynamax gives careful attention to every detail in the building of its coaches.
With the original Grand Sport, Dynamax created a subtle fabrication. Engineers removed the front fenders from the Freightliner chassis and grafted on rounder, sleeker fenders. Then they added swept-back headlights from a Dodge pickup truck. Interestingly, Freightliner has since incorporated similar styling in its newer models in an effort to create better airflow over its trucks. Now Dynamax no longer needs to alter the styling, with the exception of modifying the front bumper cover, adding the transition sections between the cab and house, and fashioning the three-tiered stairs that adroitly cover the twin 50-gallon aluminum fuel tanks.
The 340 XL we tested — 35 feet 1 inch long with a rear bed and two street-side slideouts — was painted and decorated, inside and out, in the mocha (tan) color scheme, one of five décor options available. As with all Dynamax coaches, exterior decoration is painted on, then clear coated and hand rubbed. The paint is seamless. Although this was a 2008 model, Mr. Creighton noted that other than one small change in the bedroom slideout, the 2009 DynaQuest is identical.
The DynaQuest is based on a Freightliner M2 heavy-duty straight-truck chassis with a Cummins ISC 8.3-liter diesel engine that produces 330 horsepower at 2,000 rpm and 1,000 pound-feet of torque at 1,400 rpm.
Everyone likes to talk about horsepower, but as Mr. Creighton pointed out, the true statistic one should consider in a diesel is torque. A big-bore diesel such as the 8.3-liter Cummins doesn’t have to work as hard as a smaller engine would to move this coach down the road. Thus, the bigger engine with more torque can achieve better fuel economy than a smaller engine with a higher horsepower rating. Our test tank netted 13 miles per gallon.
The Cummins engine is equipped with a two-stage engine brake for added deceleration capacity. As many RVers know, engine brakes utilize a diesel engine’s high compression to slow the vehicle and are more than welcome on long downhill stretches. Although we drove the DynaQuest mostly in the flatlands, we employed its engine brake several times when exiting the interstate, and it worked well. We also used it in our test stop — slowing from 60 to zero mph — along with the four-wheel ABS air brakes, and the big coach sat down with no dip or sway.
The 330 horses gallop through an Allison 3200 TRV six-speed automatic transmission and back to a 4.88-to-1 Meritor rear axle. The rubber that meets the road is a set of Goodyear 275/70R22.5 16-ply steel radials. They are mounted on Freightliner Bevel Turbo 22.5 x 8.25 polished aluminum wheels.
We traveled in the DynaQuest for 10 days and covered approximately 1,000 miles. Our verdict: the coach’s drive is excellent, with firm, positive ride and handling. Although it does have a little more roll than we would like when coming off an uneven surface, the roll is well-contained, lasting less than a full cycle. On the highway, the coach really shines. Our drive included stormy, windy weather. But even while being passed by semis in stiff breezes, the coach showed little sway. Further, even after long days on the road, driver fatigue was minimal. The driver never feels less than in complete control of the vehicle and, using the engine brake or only the air brakes, has no doubts about managing a stop.
The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the unit is an ample 33,000 pounds. With fuel and fresh water tanks full, and four people aboard, it weighed 25,980 pounds. This gave the DynaQuest more than 6,800 pounds of carrying capacity. And with a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 54,000 pounds, the coach can tow more than 20,000 pounds!
The test coach was outfitted with natural cherry cabinetry and woodwork. The inviting dash features easy-to-read gauges.
Dynamax has made a dramatic improvement in the ride with a pair of fine Lexington captains chairs. The chairs feature Bostrom air-ride seat pedestals with air triggers on the sides that allow the seats to be adjusted to the weight of the occupant, and they are very comfortable. Ultraleather upholstery covers the seats, and both of them swivel.
The polished wood dash is home to easy-to-read gauges, with an overlapping tachometer (left) and speedometer (right) occupying the center section. These are flanked by oil pressure, engine, and transmission temperature gauges on the left, and fuel and dual air pressure gauges on the right.
In a central field above the gauges are indicator lights to warn of open doors, low air, and other issues. To the left of the wheel are switches for cruise control, headlights, and running lights. To the right are switches for the electric windows, engine brake, door locks, and other functions.
The gauges and switches are laid out in a convenient, if unorthodox, fashion. After a few days on the road, they become familiar, including the window controls, door locks, and cruise control on the dash. In the center of the dash is the integral Kenwood AM/FM/CD/NAV radio that displays on the rearview camera screen. The DynaQuest also was equipped with optional side-view cameras that work when the turn indicator is on.
Above the windshield are several small compartments, some covered with elastic netting, for storing items such as maps, sunglasses, and cell phones. Another compartment is over the driver’s window. These compensate for the paucity of storage in the cab, in that no door pockets or center console are included. However, two well-placed cup holders are situated on the dash.
Mounted in a polished-wood center section above the windshield is a useful set of map lights. Regular white lights are mounted toward the center, and on either end is a red light that can be used at night so as not to distract the driver. Another set of four small compartments in this center area can be accessed easily from the cockpit even when wearing one's seat belt.
Between two of these high storage compartments, centered in the cab, is one of the switch panels for the Intellitec multiplex lighting system. Each of these panels, strategically located throughout the coach, controls numerous (usually six) lighting or power options.
The ceiling lights are flush-mounted halogens grouped by area rather than evenly spaced. There are also low-mounted rope lights and outside lights, along with a lighted entry hand-hold.
The Dynamax 340 XL test coach featured hardwood flooring in the kitchen and bath area.
All in all, we found the living areas of the coach to be well-appointed and comfortable. The cabinetry and woodwork in our test coach were natural cherry. Two other options are also offered: natural maple and stained cherry. As for the cabinet work, we found it first-rate. Solid wood with a rich appearance is used throughout. The cabinets, as well as the drawers, are equipped with Posi-Lock latches, which are highly effective in preventing anything from popping open as the motorhome rolls down the road.
The living room slideout measures 78-3/8 inches by 34-3/4 inches and contains a good-looking and comfortable Flexsteel sofa bed. This and other upholstered surfaces are covered in Ultraleather, which is attractive, comfortable, easily maintained, and durable. The ceiling throughout is padded, and walls are graced with decorative wallboard. Hardwood flooring covers the kitchen and bath areas, and carpet runs throughout the rest of the coach.
The front slideout, almost 79 inches long, lends spaciousness to the living area.
Behind the slideout is the galley, which features a large Amana microwave-convection oven. A small two-bowl sink is located in a corner with a cabinet above it. The work space, though small, is adequate. By judiciously employing the sink covers, we were able to keep enough open counter space for cooking and cleanup. The sink is served by a single-handle faucet with pull-out sprayer. A double-burner gas cooktop completes the area. One improvement we would suggest is adding a countertop extension that would provide extra workspace but could be folded away when not in use.
Across from the sink is a Norcold 10-cubic-foot two-way refrigerator (110-volt AC and LP-gas). The refrigerator and microwave both have stainless-steel fronts, adding a rich look to the galley. A narrow door next to the refrigerator opens to reveal a clever pull-out pantry, which comes standard on all but one of the DynaQuest floor plans.
The standard dinette in our test coach was comfortable and convenient. Like most dinettes, this one converts into a small bed.
Of the DynaQuest's many fine features, one in particular deserves special praise: the entertainment array. Mounted at a good viewing angle aft of the copilot’s seat is a 26-inch LCD television; an optional 19-inch LCD TV is available in the rear bedroom. A Bose 3-2-1 AM/FM/DVD surround-sound system, and a Super Dome in-motion satellite receiver augment these units. To test the system, we played one of our favorite films, Gettysburg. Never before had we heard the cannon boom or seen Pickett’s charge as we did in the DynaQuest. In addition, an outside entertainment center housed in the forward curbside storage bay features an excellent AM/FM/CD player.
The shower and sink are on the street side of the coach-wide bathroom.
A door opens off the galley and swings into a very well-appointed bathroom. As elsewhere throughout the coach, the craftsmanship is matchless. The fine Thetford Tecma macerator toilet is all porcelain and has two flushing modes. It is comfortable and works well.
One small item concerning this area is the water pump. It seemed rather noisy and perhaps could have benefited from more insulation.
The bath, as well as the kitchen and bedroom, are equipped with Fan-Tastic Vent fans mounted in the ceiling. These devices really do live up to their name.
The bedroom includes a headboard slideout that measures 60 inches by 24 5/8 inches. One issue with the 2008 DynaQuest we tested is that the bed and the slideout were exactly the same width, which made tucking in sheets and blankets at the head difficult. However, when we pointed this out to Dynamax engineer Rick LaCount, he explained that the bedroom slide has since been widened by three inches, providing ample space for bedding — the only change made to the 340 XL for the 2009 model year.
Plentiful bedroom storage covers the curbside wall opposite the queen-size bed, the head of which is located in the rear street-side slideout.
Two identical wardrobes flank the bedroom window on the curb side, opposite the headboard. Each wardrobe provides ample room for hanging garments, with a generous locking drawer underneath. Below the left (forward) wardrobe is a set of three drawers that provide plenty of room for additional attire. The deep sill in front of the side window can serve as a desk or makeup table; simply move the slide in a foot or so and use the bed for seating.
On The Outside
The optional four-point HWH automatic leveling system works quickly, and well. The slideout mechanisms are hydraulic, compact, and fast. The combination of the two systems makes setting up into camp mode quick and easy.
This brings us to the hookups. Both the 50-amp shore line and the water line are on motorized reels that work easily. The cargo doors on the street side operate on parallelogram hinges that pop the door up and out of the way when opened. The curbside doors swing open to stay out of the way of the slides. We do recommend hooking up before opening the bedroom slideout to save on head knocking.
Apertures in the bottom of the service compartment allowed the lines to run through the floor and let us close the door while in camp. A tank-fill valve on the control panel in this compartment facilitates filling the fresh water tank. Just hook up and turn the valve. A compartment heater prevents the tanks from freezing.
The first of the compartments on the street side contains the house and the chassis batteries. The second compartment houses the electrical service bay. Here, Dynamax has shown some ingenuity by organizing the wiring into harnesses for various sections of the coach, and the harnesses come together in a series of easily accessed plugs at bulkheads that fit into a dual vehicle electric center (DVEC). Cooper Bussmann worked with Dynamax to custom design this plug-and-play device, which greatly simplifies the electrical system. It greatly simplifies service as well. The bay also is home to the inverter; our test coach had the optional 3,000-watt inverter, but a 1,000-watt unit is standard.
The next bay is dedicated to the Onan 6-kilowatt diesel generator (an 8-kw model is available as an option). We used this unit often and liked its quiet running and economy.
The DynaQuest, with its inverter, gen set, and large-capacity holding tanks, acquits itself well for dry camping. The coach is also well-equipped for hot or cold weather, with two RV Products low-profile air conditioner units on the roof and a 42,000-Btu LP-gas furnace.
Last in line, at the rear of the coach is a pass-through storage bay. All four bays on the curb side are dedicated to ample storage.
An optional remote-controlled Girard box awning can be extended to shade the curb side of the coach on demand. Other welcome features include six docking lights, a power step at the entry door, day/night pleated shades, lighted compartments, a rear trunk, an entry door grab handle, and tank covers with rotating fuel doors.
The manufacturer's suggested retail price of the DynaQuest DQ 340 XL is $270,889. The price of our test coach came to $291,326 and contained a long list of options. Here are just a few: automatic hydraulic leveling jacks; 20,000-pound hitch capacity; exterior-mounted LP-gas grill; AC/DC portable refrigerator-freezer; in-motion satellite system; Bose AM/FM/DVD surround-sound system; electric two-burner cooktop; Norcold 10-cubic-foot stainless-steel refrigerator with ice maker; combination washer-dryer; two side-view cameras; GPS navigation system; DynaPower package (8-kw generator with auto start, 3,000-watt inverter, three 4D AGM batteries, 50-amp power cord reel).
The DynaQuest has a magnetic appeal that elicits interest in campgrounds, parking lots, and elsewhere. It draws people who stop, admire, and tell you what a fabulous coach you’re driving — as if you didn’t know!
Dynamax Corporation, 2745 Northland Drive, P.O. Box 1948, Elkhart, IN 46515; (888) 295-7859, (574) 262-3474; www.dynamaxcorp.com
Dynaquest 340 XL
340 Rear Queen Bed Double Slide
Freightliner M2 HD
Cummins ISC 8.3 diesel, 330 horsepower @ 2,000 rpm, 1,000 pound-feet torque @ 1,400 rpm
Allison 3200 TRV 6-speed automatic
4.88 to 1
Goodyear 275/70R22.5, 16-ply steel radials
Freightliner Bevel Turbo 22.5 x 8.25 polished aluminum
air, with four-wheel ABS
front — Taperleaf; rear — AirLiner with leveling valves, dual instant response
Power, 55-degree wheel cut
chassis — (2) Alliance Model 1031, Group 31, 1,520 cca; coach — (3) Group 31 AGM, 315 amp-hour 12-volt
1,000-watt ATT, standard (3,000-watt, optional)
6.0-kilowatt Onan (8.0-kilowatt, optional)
35 feet 1 inch
11 feet 11 inches
6 feet 6 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 12,000 pounds; rear — 21,000 pounds
WET WEIGHT AS TESTED
front axle — 8,820 pounds; rear axle — 17,160 pounds; total — 25,980 pounds (weighed with four people and full fuel and fresh water tanks)
PAYLOAD AS TESTED
high-strength steel, 3½ inches by 10 15/16 inches by 11/32 inches
1-1/2-inch EPS solid block foam, vacuum bag laminated
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 44 gallons; black water — 44 gallons
(2) 15,000-Btu Polar Mach ducted, optional; (2) 13,500-Btu Polar Mach ducted, standard
Norcold, 10 cubic foot two-way (110-volt AC and LP gas)
Thetford porcelain, macerator
coach — 3 years/36,000 miles; chassis — 2 years/unlimited miles; transmission – 2 years/unlimited miles; engine – 2 years/250,000 miles
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED