Monaco RV bounces back with some new twists on a familiar model.
By Ty Adams
In many ways, the motorhome experience can be a lot like a romantic relationship. There’s the stranger stage, imbued with the mystery of imagining what it would be like if you were together; the excitement of the puppy love phase, when you’re enamored with every aspect of your significant other; and then, inevitably, the more familiar stage, where you both get comfortable and see other features and “eccentricities” you might not have noticed at first blush. Having lived and worked aboard a 2007 Monaco Cayman for a year, I am definitely into the familiar stage with this particular model. So, it felt a bit like visiting an old flame when I traveled to Monaco RV headquarters in Coburg, Oregon, to check out the latest 2011 Cayman model.
The motorhome gleamed in rare, early-spring sunshine, showing a few clues that Monaco RV is continuing to push the Cayman up the same trajectory it’s been on since its first year of production. The 2011 Cayman is larger and more intricately painted than previous versions. Over the past 10 years, this model has grown from a near entry-level Type A with no slideouts and a basic paint scheme to a luxury-class motorhome complete with lavish full-body paint and 36-foot and 40-foot floor plans offering double, triple, and quad slideout rooms.
It was good to see that this was the case, even after the recent change in Monaco’s parent company, but not necessarily unexpected. For those who don’t know, in June 2009 Navistar International Corporation purchased certain assets of Monaco Coach Corporation out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. A new company, Monaco RV LLC, was created.
The real surprise came when I sat down in the cockpit of the 2011 Cayman. I immediately realized that the changes went much deeper than I expected. This was not the old Cayman I used to know hiding behind new paint. In fact, I couldn’t even get her to start up. I had to sheepishly walk back into Monaco RV headquarters and look for a tech to help me. It turns out the new Cayman not only has a house battery cutoff switch, but it also has a chassis battery cutoff switch to help owners preserve this battery bank by turning off phantom loads. A minor detail, but it foreshadowed discoveries to come throughout the day.
Monaco marketing director Ryan Lee had told me that the Cayman had been reimagined for this model year.
“We’ve tried to create a product that is the best value for a diesel motor coach available,” he said. “We think the 2011 Cayman could easily be priced into the $400,000 or $500,000 price range when you consider all the features.”
Instead, the Cayman is offered at a base price of $226,350, running up to around $260,000 for a fully tricked-out model. (The 2011 Cayman is offered in two 36-foot and two 40-foot floor plans.) I pulled out of the parking lot for a test drive in a 40-foot 40PBQ with four slideout rooms, priced at $255,270.
On The Road
The first feature that Mr. Lee stressed in his description of the Cayman was the suspension system, noting that the coach rides on eight outboard-mounted air bags and eight shock absorbers. “And the noticeable thing about the ride is that there’s nothing to notice,” he added.
As I approached highway speed, I agreed. The interior of the Cayman was quiet. No rattles or road hum, and bumps were easily absorbed, something that not all motorhome chassis accomplish. Acceleration and deceleration were smooth with the Cummins ISC 360-horsepower engine (36-foot models come equipped with a 340-horsepower version). I did notice that the heavier 40PBQ doesn’t have the same initial pickup I remember from the shorter 34-foot Cayman I’ve piloted. Still, it’s not the zero-to-60 performance that concerns most RVers; it’s the braking and ability to pull up a hill.
The antilock air braking system on the Cayman is almost too good and might take a little getting used to for drivers who are accustomed to applying heavy pressure to brakes. Moderate pressure on the pedal quickly brings the Cayman to a full stop at any speed. As for performance up a grade, I intentionally set a course for the foothills surrounding Eugene, Oregon, with several high ascents and elevation gains of 500 to 1,000 feet, leading to the picturesque wine country. The Cayman handled the hills well, maintaining a consistent speed, and was fairly maneuverable on the twists and turns, considering its size and weight.
The Cayman comes with either a 7,000-pound or 10,000-pound hitch plug, depending on length, and while it won’t be racing up mountains when pulling a large towed vehicle, it will do the job without the embarrassment of a severely underpowered engine.
The cockpit of the Cayman is made comfortable with Ultraleather-covered six-way power pilot and copilot seats; the copilot seat includes a powered footrest. Views out the front are expansive thanks to the Panaview one-piece windshield.
After a comfortable 30-minute drive on the two-lane highway, I pulled into the eye-pleasing King Estate Winery for photos, lunch, and the opportunity to open up the Cayman and investigate the interior living amenities.
I had appreciated the Cayman’s three-camera system as I was traveling the interstate and highway (not every motorhome trip I’ve taken on a narrow highway could be described as comfortable), but I noticed a new feature as I was backing into several different parking spots around the King Estate villa. The rear camera depicts a lighted box on the monitor, giving a sense of depth when all there is to see is blank pavement, and the box changes from green to red when you are within bumping range of an object you probably don’t want to bump.
The Cayman attracted a lot of attention as we tooled around the vineyard back roads, but she really started turning heads once she was parked. Extending the four slideout rooms on the 40PBQ was another reminder that this was not the gal I remembered. She’s had some work done, and when she uncurls, she really uncurls. The spaciousness was impressive with the slideouts extended, and the optional leather sofas and booth dinette made for a clean, classy feel.
Monaco owners seem to appreciate the additional roominess produced by the slideouts. In fact, thanks to customer feedback, the 36-foot 36PFT in the Cayman model line incorporates a full-wall street-side slideout.
Another feature Monaco has incorporated based on customer feedback is the 40-inch midship television. “It lends a residential feel to the space that you don’t get with cab-over TVs,” Mr. Lee noted. But in case you’re still a fan of the cockpit television, the Cayman also has one of those, as well as a 26-inch television in the bedroom. All are LCD flat screens. A few other nice residential touches include the optional full-sized refrigerator, a convection-microwave oven, and ceramic tile floors and backsplash.
Really, my only complaint in the interior is a minor one of personal preference. I’m not a fan of vinyl for the odor and environmental reasons, and as with most RVs these days, the Cayman features a full vinyl ceiling.
The bathroom area in the Cayman 40PBQ layout is midship and smartly features a private water closet with sink on the curb side, separate from the shower and a second sink on the street side; no doubt this split arrangement makes life much easier for a live-aboard couple. Another nice detail worth mentioning is the pair of upgraded sliding doors that close off the bedroom from the rest of the coach. The two sliding doors in this year’s Cayman are sturdier than past versions and come with hardware that keep them firmly in place when locked; no rattling here, either.
The bedroom is spacious once the rear slideout rooms are extended, but as is the case with most slideouts, they require some smart packing, because you won’t be able to access certain drawers and closets with the slides closed. It’s not a new feature, but the optional Select Comfort air mattress queen bed is as comfortable as any bed out there (a king-size bed is also available).
As for the Cayman exterior, pack rats can rejoice in the pass-through storage bays with optional slideout trays, and tailgaters will likely drool over the optional exterior sidewall entertainment center with a 40-inch LCD TV and a DVD player. An Onan 8-kw or 10-kw diesel generator will keep the power flowing when away from shore power. My only nit to pick on the Cayman exterior is the lack of an automatic retract feature for the 50-amp power cord. Experienced RVers know that stashing the thick cord into a small storage compartment can be like wrestling a python.
A New Era
One of the first questions I had for Monaco officials was whether things have changed a great deal since corporate ownership changed hands.
If my test-drive was any indication, minor modifications have been made, but no extreme changes, and Ryan Lee confirmed this theory. He explained that Navistar retained most of the management and production teams and that the 2011 Cayman is the first line of coaches Monaco RV has built with the help of Navistar.
Mr. Lee mentioned that prior to my visit, Monaco RV plant managers had just returned from a trip to Garland, Texas, to see the Navistar facilities, learn from the Navistar team, and share the knowledge that they bring from Monaco’s past. Overall, he noted, the company is hopeful that the RV industry has taken the worst of the economic damage and is now on a path to full recovery. The 2011 Cayman is Monaco RV’s initial attempt at launching into this new upward climb with the highest quality they can deliver.
“We’ve definitely taken the economic downturn into account and have done our best to put a luxury coach on the market for an affordable price,” Mr. Lee said.
As someone who has had the luxury of spending time with the old Cayman and the new Cayman, I’d predict their best will be very well received.
Monaco RV LLC, 91320 Coburg Industrial Way, Coburg, OR 97408; (800) 634-0855, (541) 686-8011; www.monacorv.com
AVAILABLE FLOOR PLANS
Roadmaster RR8R/Cummins ISC 360-horsepower or ISB 340-horsepower diesel, depending on model
36 or 40 feet
12 feet 7 inches
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
31,000 or 33,000 pounds, depending on model
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
38,000 or 43,000 pounds, depending on model
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 62 gallons;
black water — 40 gallons
(1) 40,000-Btu furnace for 36PFT, 36PBD, and 40PBT; (1) 20,000-Btu and (1) 31,000-Btu furnace for 40PBQ
(2) 15,000-Btu air conditioners with heat pumps and ducted air; optional, (3) 15,000-Btu units on 40PBT, 40PBQ
12 months/24,000 miles basic limited; 5 years/50,000 miles limited on aluminum or steel frame structure; 3 years/50,000 miles limited on chassis
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE