Winnebago Industries adds a tag-axle floor plan to this popular upscale motorhome model.
By Jim Brightly, F358406
If you’re a full-timer — or are considering becoming one — and you’re looking for a larger diesel-powered motorhome, you’ll want to consider the 2010 Itasca Ellipse 42AD. Filled with amenities and storage possibilities, this Type A manufactured by Winnebago Industries features a forward combination dining and galley area, a midcoach living area, and a rear bedroom, along with a split bath.
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to review a 2010 Ellipse 42AD. Introduced in the 2006 model year, the Ellipse is the flagship of the Itasca line. The 42AD tag axle floor plan (where the tag axle air bags can be deflated for very tight, low-speed maneuvering to avoid tire tread scrubbing) was added in 2010. It has been joined by the 42QD tag axle floor plan for 2011.
The Ellipse is built on the Freightliner Maxum lowered-rail chassis, which also is used on the Winnebago Tour and Journey, and the Itasca Meridian models.
My road test took place in the deserts of the tri-state area of southern Nevada, southeastern California, and southwestern Arizona during early spring. Spring in the desert can mean sudden and sometimes severe weather changes, which was certainly the case here, in the form of high winds.
After picking up the motorhome at Wheeler’s RV in Las Vegas, I traveled to Quartzsite, Arizona. I chose to take a somewhat roundabout route so that freeways could be used for the 42-foot-11-inch coach rather than the more direct route involving four-lane and two-lane easy-access roads. In my opinion, full-timers in a coach of this size are more likely to tour via the interstates rather than using the narrower and twisty state routes.
As it turned out, this was a good choice, because I drove through sustained winds in the 30- to 40-mph range, with gusts above 50 mph. The wind generators along Interstate 10 north of Palm Springs were going so fast, I began to think they were just about ready to take off and leave the earth, or overload their circuits! Other than a few tugs on the wheel when the wind changed directions or gusted more vigorously, the Ellipse held steady and smooth. (This is also because of the lower center of gravity created with the lowered-rail chassis.) If I were driving a lighter, smaller motorhome, I might have had to pull over and wait it out as many along the path had done. I’m sure it played havoc with the Ellipse’s fuel mileage, even though the final results were surprisingly good for a 34,700-pound (44,320-pound GVWR) motorhome, registering 7.2 mpg for a 718-mile loop.
While the coach was lightly loaded except for towing a 4,500-pound Jeep Wrangler, I suspect that its fuel economy figures would increase as the 400-horsepower Cummins ISL 8.9-liter engine became more used to its home in the Freightliner Maxum chassis. This in turn would increase the coach’s 1,000-mile-plus range. With such a generous range, an owner could pick and choose fuel prices while touring the continent.
The Ellipse’s cargo-carrying capacity approaches five tons (9,620 pounds when I weighed the coach), and with approximately 220 cubic feet of exterior storage — not to mention the humongous amount of interior storage — an owner could load up with everything needed for weeks on the road.
The abundance of storage can be attributed to the Maxum chassis’ lowered-rail design. This repositions the chassis frame rail, increasing the cross-coach storage height for a more efficient use of space. Combined with Winnebago Industries’ SmartStorage philosophy, an owner gets taller compartment openings, bigger pass-through compartments, and, as mentioned, a very large storage capacity. The Maxum chassis also is said to eliminate much of the road vibration because of its innovative structural design.
The Freightliner Maxum chassis delivered a very smooth ride, and the handling of the coach was comfortable, steady, and reassuring. The Cummins engine’s 400 horses are more than sufficient to roll over hill and dale. Although this large coach wasn’t a tire burner off the line, with a bit of patience and prudence it reached cruising speed easily and traveled up hills of less than 6 percent with ease. Ascents exceeding 6 percent would lower the speed to between 45 and 50 mph and pull the six-speed Allison 3000 MH electronic transmission (equipped with two overdrive gears) down into fourth gear, which is its straight-through 1:1 gear ratio.
The Cummins-Allison combination also has a two-speed engine brake system, which worked very well in the Las Vegas and Southern California traffic to slow the Ellipse down without my having to use the service (air) brakes in most situations.
While on the highway, I used the Garmin GPS extensively. Its nicely detailed 7-inch Sony HD screen was easy to see and follow, even while I was busy countering the side gusts, and its sound level was just right and easily understood in the quiet cockpit. The GPS’ calculating time was very quick — almost instantaneous.
Residing on the dashboard just below the Sony monitor for the Garmin GPS is another 7-inch Sony HD monitor, this one wired to the three outside cameras. The external monitoring system defaults to the rear camera and then changes to each side camera whenever the turn signal for that side is activated. When changing lanes, I became accustomed to carefully watching the images from the rear camera and all four side mirrors (two large, flat mirrors and the two convex mirrors below them) until it was safe; then I quickly flicked the turn signal lever to warn oncoming drivers and turned on the side-view camera for the final close-in inspection to make sure a compact car or a motorcycle wasn’t hiding in the Ellipse’s blind spot. Finally, I completed the lane change.
Once I became comfortable behind the wheel, I realized how at-home full-timers would feel in this impressive coach. Folks who plan on spending more than six months a year in a motorhome — such as retired couples, vendors, convention/rally attendees, snowbirds, desert denizens, and ski bums — will embrace the Ellipse.
When you first sit in the driver’s seat, look closely at the floorboards. You’ll see a foot pedal beside the steering column that adjusts the SmartWheel in and out and up and down. Now turn the key to its first position to allow the gauges to run their auto-check and the cylinders to warm up. When the key is turned, a pretrip checklist automatically appears on the dash’s information screen prior to starting the engine: i.e. check jacks, check tire pressure, disconnect water and sewer, ensure slideouts are secured, etc. After the checklist, and/or when the engine is started, a list of odometer readings will appear in the following order: main odometer, today’s distance, leg distance (I used this between fill-ups for fuel mileage figures), trip distance, and engine hours.
Even though our road test took place in the spring, the weather warmed up to above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The dash air worked well for the driving compartment. As the cooler air flowed past the galley/dining area to the double-couch living area, it warmed a bit, but my passengers said they were still comfortable. With the insulation properties of the Itasca Ellipse, we never fired up the three roof air conditioners, because the cabin never became too warm.
When it comes to the galley/dining area, one particular detail illustrates the care taken by Winnebago Industries designers. Once we were in camp with all four slideouts deployed, I noticed a notch in the refrigerator door. I didn’t understand why the door was designed in such a manner until I retracted the slideouts the next day. The Dometic 14-cubic-foot two-way (AC and LP gas) four-door refrigerator-freezer with ice maker and in-door water dispenser is so large — at risk of being called a cliché — it’s the same size or larger than most home refrigerators. The notch in the door is needed to clear the galley’s Corian countertop when the two forward slideouts are retracted in travel mode.
Another galley detail: At first glance, all of the galley cabinets appeared to be normal size (albeit a bit high in some locations) until I began storing foodstuffs in them. They are about half again as deep as most galley cabinets I’ve encountered in other motorhomes. Both the stainless-steel microwave-convection oven (with sensor cook) and the vented range fan sit in the cabinet above the three-burner range top (with glass cover). Below the stovetop, which is mounted in the Corian countertop, is a full-featured dishwasher. A filtered cold-water faucet and a combination Moen faucet flow into a double stainless-steel sink that is mounted to the right of the stovetop.
The under-counter cabinet to the right of the sink is accessible from the front or the side — one more little convenience in the overall design that grows on you the more time you spend in the Ellipse’s galley.
The forward galley/dining area included a freestanding circular table and two freestanding chairs; however, two fold-up leaves make the table fine for four people. A dining table/buffet with chairs is also available.
I have to say that as easy, as comfortable, and as relaxing as the Ellipse 42AD can be to drive, it really comes alive when it’s in a campsite. Hooked up to a 50-amp shore power post, water, and sewer; HWH automatic levelers in place and locked; all four slides deployed; and awnings out, the Itasca Ellipse 42AD felt like home.
Back to the midcoach seating area. In the 1970s, architects were busy designing lowered “conversation pits” into the center of living rooms. That vague memory was brought back to me by the double-couch design in my test unit. When its slideouts are retracted for traveling, and the couches are occupied, it’s a long shout for cockpit occupants who try to converse with couch occupants. Of course, if two or more folks are riding in the couches, they have no problem talking.
With the slides out, the couch area becomes the next best thing to a home theater. On the street side, owners can choose the aforementioned two-couch arrangement; a pair of reclining home-theater lounges; or two reclining chairs with a cocktail table between them. The curbside couch features Winnebago Industries’ Extendable Sectional Sofa, which creates enough seating room for seven. With the two-couch arrangement, a small group can comfortably watch the 40-inch Sony LCD HDTV (which matches the forward overhead Sony in size) and enjoy the home theater sound system with an amplifier, CD-DVD player, receiver, five speakers, and two subwoofers.
Both midcoach couches are pull-outs, each equipped with two seat belts and storage compartments. The street-side straight sofa — Winnebago Industries’ own RestEasy Multi-Position Lounge, a combination sofa, lounger with ottoman, and bed — can be made into a double bed when the slideouts are deployed. On the curb side, the vertical leg of the L-shaped couch pulls out, while the short leg is a recliner with an extension that slides out to make an oversize double bed. (The pair of home theater lounge chairs, if selected instead of the street-side couch, fold down into twin-size beds, although the regular recliners do not.)
Regardless of whether the slideouts are in or out, there’s enough room to walk down the aisle to the bathroom, located directly aft of the living area. Since the two sofas are equipped with seat belts, they could use cup holders for passengers’ convenience. By the way, you also can order an optional fireplace that goes into the cabinet below the 40-inch LCD Sony.
The bathroom sits astride the coach between the bedroom and the living area. A water closet on the street side is outfitted with a residential-size porcelain toilet, a sink/vanity, and a medicine cabinet with a large mirror. Curbside is the oversize shower with a seat (as large as or larger than many residential shower stalls); a second medicine cabinet; and another sink/vanity with a large, freestanding, ultramodern vessel sink — quite attractive. Within this area, you’ll also find the optional stacked washer and dryer, many systems controls, system monitors, and controls for the keyed rear slideouts.
In the bedroom, the 72-inch-by-80-inch king-size bed is equipped with a powered adjustment feature and extends with the street-side slideout. The top third of the patented Ideal Rest memory-foam mattress lifts up to make the bed into a lounger (to avoid cabinet damage, the bed must be in this position when both rear slides are in). On the back wall is a full-width storage area composed of a cedar-lined wardrobe and additional drawers. On the curb side are vanities, overhead storage, and a 32-inch Sony LCD HDTV. With the bed in the lounger position, the bedroom can be a great place for a novel, a nap, or a little “me” time.
Each window throughout the coach has two blinds on rollers: one that acts as a sunscreen (solar screen) through which an occupant can see out but keeps the sun from glaring and fading upholstery, the other a night shade made of an off-white heavy-duty fabric.
Stepping outside to examine the Ellipse’s exterior, it’s apparent that the Freightliner Maxum chassis offers RVers multiple storage configurations. These include storage bins with lids and movable panels in the storage compartments. A 90-inch compartment tray that slides out for access from either side of the coach is available as an option. The storage bins and sliding storage tray helped us to stay organized during our test outing. In addition, electrical and plumbing service centers made setup at campsites quick and easy.
Winnebago Industries offers another patented exclusive in its motorhomes: SuperStructure construction. According to company literature, this construction system combines the company’s Thermo-Panel sidewalls; interlocking joints for strength and durability; and a special “electrodeposition” coating designed to protect critical steel components. The Ellipse also features a crowned, one-piece fiberglass roof that is backed with a 10-year limited parts-and-labor roof skin warranty.
The Ellipse model line offers electronic cargo door locks, which means the driver can flip a switch and lock all the basement doors simultaneously.
My test coach was equipped with an optional entertainment center on the street side, which is encased by its own locking panel when not in use. It includes a 32-inch LCD TV with remote, an AM-FM stereo, a CD-DVD player, iPod input, speakers, and power outlets. This entertainment array was positioned beneath a remote-controlled, electric patio awning with a wind sensor that retracts it should a selectable wind speed be detected.
The Ellipse’s strength becomes very evident at the rear. The tow power package on the 42AD includes a seven-pin trailer wiring and I.P. wiring with a trailer hitch receiver rated at 15,000 pounds (1,500-pound maximum vertical tongue weight). That means that a full-timer could tow a full-size van loaded with product plus carry nearly five tons of product, clothes, equipment, and supplies. (The other three Ellipse models include trailer hitch receivers rated at 10,000 pounds, with a 500-pound maximum vertical tongue weight.)
The 2010 Itasca Ellipse 42AD has a base manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $317,278. My test unit came to $335,212 with these options: exterior entertainment center with TV and DVD player; microwave/speedcook oven; GPS navigation system; stackable washer and dryer; central vacuum cleaner; auto-generator start system; in-motion satellite TV system; heated cab seats, including “queen” passenger cab seat; powered, insulated vent; power cord reel; refrigerator with ice maker and water dispenser; dishwasher; compartment tray slideout; water supply hose with reel; Sirius satellite radio; video camera system with color monitor; UltraLeather Rest Easy with single control; power digital TV antenna.
For 2011 the Ellipse unveils an updated exterior design that is said to improve visibility, function, and aerodynamics. New front cap styling sports stacked headlamps and high-end detail with LED running lamps, while a new rear cap includes four high-visibility LED tail lamps and a chrome exhaust finish. Interior updates have been made to the dash, instrument panel, and furniture styling.
As mentioned earlier, the new 42QD floor plan joins the Ellipse lineup in 2011. This triple-slideout/full-wall-slideout model features a bath and a half; Winnebago Industries’ RestEasy Extendable Sectional Sofa up front; a retractable 32-inch LCD rear bedroom TV; a well-appointed midcoach galley; and a 40-inch LCD TV in the front. The 2011 Ellipse lineup will include two 40-foot floor plans as well.
After my test outing, I’ve concluded that the Ellipse 42AD seems to be an ideal choice for a full-timing family (up to six people) who need power, space, and cargo-carrying capacity. Plus, its comfortable quarters make the living easy.
Winnebago Industries Inc., 605 W. Crystal Lake Road, Forest City, IA 50436; (641) 585-3535; www.winnebagoind.com
2010 Itasca Ellipse
Cummins ISL 6-cylinder, 400-horsepower @ 2,100 rpm, 1,200 pound-feet torque @ 1,300 rpm
Allison World 3000 6-speed automatic with two overdrive gears
4.63 to 1
Michelin XZA3 275/80R 22.5 LRH
279 inches plus tag
Full air brakes with ABS drums
front — NeWay AS-140 air; rear — NeWay ADL-123 air
Sachs tuned shocks
TRW integral hydraulic power gear with 55-degree wheel cut
chassis (2) — 1900-amp; coach (4) — deep-cycle marine/RV
Cummins Onan diesel 10-kilowatt
42 feet 11 inches
12 feet 4 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 14,320 pounds;
rear — 30,000 pounds
(weighed with full water and fuel)
front axle — 13,520 pounds;
rear drive axle — 10,420 pounds;
tag axle — 10,760 pounds;
total — 34,700 pounds
OCCUPANTS AND CARGO
maximum 9,799 pounds
aluminum and steel
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water (2) — 105 gallons;
black water — 53 gallons
Aqua-Hot 450; 59,000-Btu
(3) Coleman 13,500 Btu roof units with heat pumps
Dometic 14-cubic-foot two-way (AC and LP gas) with ice maker and in-door water dispenser
coach — 12-month/15,000-mile limited warranty; 36-month/36,000-mile limited structural warranty
chassis — 36-month/36,000-mile
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED