This entry-level, bath-and-a-half, gasoline-powered motorhome provides comfortable accommodations for a full-timing couple or a family of four.
By Bob Zagami
You enter the motorhome, and the first thing that captivates you is the incredible view from the pilot or copilot seats up front. What a windshield! Now, you would not expect one of the most exciting things about reviewing a new motorhome to be the view outside, but the 2011 Winnebago Vista by Winnebago Industries will certainly change your thinking about windshields in the future.
It was raining on the day we picked up our test coach — a Winnebago Vista 35F bath-and-a-half model built on the Ford V-10 platform — at Diamond RV in Hatfield, Massachusetts, for an extended product review and livability report. Heading east on the Massachusetts Turnpike, I noticed the impressive view offered by the one-piece windshield, which sits lower than the windshield on many comparable motorhomes; this configuration affords wide and low visibility to the bottom right section of the windshield as the wiper blades sweep the rain off the glass.
It is difficult to imagine this unit as an entry-level gas motorhome, but that is what it is. It likely will attract a lot of attention from knowledgeable consumers looking for a larger coach with a smaller price tag. Winnebago Industries has certainly responded to consumer demand and market conditions with the new Vista product lineup, and I expect the new 35F floor plan to be one of the company’s best sellers in 2011. This is a coach that just screams value, whether you look at it first and can’t believe the window sticker, or you look at the price first and then wonder how the company could offer such an attractive and practical motorhome for slightly more than $100,000. A good trade or average discount will have many buyers paying less than six figures when they drive this motorhome off the dealer’s lot. Even when loaded with a host of optional extras totaling more than $9,500, the sticker price of our test coach was still less than $118,000.
Front To Back
With so many features on this motorhome, it’s difficult to decide where to start my review, but since we are in the cockpit, let’s continue the tour right up here. An excellent evening curtain with two large panels of cloth that sit just behind the seats up front can be positioned to provide privacy. The large, flat area above the dash can hold books and magazines when the coach is not moving.
The dash array is easy to read, as well as simple and functional. I like the layout of the automatic leveling system within easy reach of the driver, just below the multifunction three-camera backup system. To the left of the driver is a large window and screen that facilitates payment of tolls or allows for a cool breeze to flow through the cockpit. The center console houses two cup holders. The front-engine gas motorhome does have a small doghouse, but it didn’t pose an issue when entering either of the cockpit seats. Both seats swivel toward the living area for additional seating space. Our test coach also had the optional six-way power driver’s seat for maximum comfort while driving, especially when coupled with the tilt steering wheel. Both cockpit seats were covered in optional Ultraleather.
Convenient reading lamps behind the front seats allow the passenger to read a book while traveling and the driver to pore over a map at a rest stop or pay a toll during the evening.
A 12-volt receptacle to the left of the driver allows for easy charging of portable devices or plug in of a portable GPS system that can be mounted on the left side of the coach, thus eliminating messy wires up front in the center of the dashboard. The main 12-volt receptacle is in the center of the front dashboard area.
The optional dash-mounted Jensen audiovisual system includes an AM-FM stereo with CD-DVD player, input jacks, a USB port to play MP3s and other video formats, a remote control, and an alarm clock. The DVDs played on the midship 32-inch LCD TV, and the remote control proved beneficial in operating the system from the living room couch.
The 35F has two slideouts. The dinette and expandable couch system are situated in the living room street-side unit, and a queen bed fits in the rear curbside bedroom slide.
The expansive living room slideout opens the interior to domestic proportions and facilitates entertaining or relaxing in comfort when the motorhome is parked. As mentioned above, the cockpit seats swivel to become fully integrated in the living area.
I really liked the cup holders built into the dinette tabletop. When one is working on the table with computers or electronic equipment, they provide another measure of safety from careless spills that can damage your toys! This area functioned quite well as my office on the road, with the additional electrical outlet and 12-volt receptacle on the exterior wall just below the countertop.
Winnebago Industries’ exclusive expandable sectional sofa, also covered in optional Ultraleather, can be extended to accommodate additional guests or left in the closed position to allow more room to move around in the motorhome. When the couch is expanded, a built-in seat cushion and back provide additional seating or can produce an extra sleeping area. This proved to be a very functional system at various times during our trip.
The MCD American Solo blackout roller shades on most interior windows proved very practical for privacy and lighting effects (they are featured on the lounge, dinette, and bedroom windows). The windows in the galley (above the sink) and half-bath featured conventional miniblinds.
The thermostat is located on a wall that is covered when the slide is retracted. This wasn’t a major problem for us, but perhaps a more convenient place could be found so that it is always clearly visible and, thus, easier to operate.
We are big fans of the vinyl flooring throughout the coach, except in the bedroom. I suspect that most RVers like to feel the soft carpet when they get out of bed in the morning. The vinyl flooring does make the motorhome easier to clean, and you certainly can make quick work of any spills without having to worry about staining.
The galley and entertainment center opposite the couch and street-side slideout proved to be very practical for my spouse, as she prepares all of the meals during our motorhome trips. Cooking options abound, with a microwave oven plus the optional built-in range fan, three-burner cooktop, and oven. All countertops in the Vista are made of thermo-formed laminate. Right next to the curbside countertop area is the two-door refrigerator-freezer. Storage is abundant in the beautiful Coffee-Glazed Sierra Maple drawers and wall cabinetry.
The panel just below the refrigerator conceals some of the fuses. All other controls and additional fuses are behind cabinet doors just above the television in this area — equally easy to reach, understand, and operate. The switch for the Cummins Onan Marquis Gold 5,500-watt gas generator is also located on this panel. Two shelves in this area can be used for additional canned goods, spices, or paper products.
The additional midcoach half-bath proved to be an incredible feature and one that we would recommend even for a motorhome occupied by only two people. It certainly was handy when entertaining, but it also was very convenient when we spent a night at a Wal-Mart and didn’t want to extend the bedroom slide. Both of us had access to a bathroom without having to crawl over each other to get out of the bed — now, that’s real convenience! Located opposite the sectional sofa, the half-bath is compact but well-equipped with cabinetry and a mirrored medicine cabinet.
The master bedroom suite in the Vista 35F is terrific. Winnebago Industries engineers have used every square inch of space to provide maximum storage capability in a homelike setting, and topped it off with the master bath that extends across the entire rear of the motorhome. The queen-size bed extends with the slideout and is flanked by nightstands that provide additional storage for magazines in the form of a lift-up shelf.
Opposite the bed is an array of drawers and two closets with door-activated lighting. Between the closets is a vanity top and wall space that in our test coach included the optional 19-inch LCD TV and cable wall outlet, a window and valance, and an overhead light. Additional storage space is available under the bed. Individually controlled reading lamps are in place on the underside of the cabinets above the bed.
The master bath followed, true to form, with an abundant amount of cabinetry and storage space. We appreciated the elevated toilets in both bathrooms. There is even a magazine rack built into the cabinet next to each toilet. The large shower includes a flexible showerhead and individual controls for the hot and cold water faucets. We are not fans of this faucet configuration but can understand it in an entry-level motorhome.
Pocket doors separate the bathroom from the bedroom and the master suite from the rest of the coach.
Conveniently located just inside the entry door are the batteries in the step well and switches on the left wall for easy disconnect of either the coach or the chassis batteries, or both. On the same wall are the electric step switch, compartment light control, electric awning control, and a night light.
On The Outside
We were traveling in cold weather that included ice, snow, and below-freezing temperatures. The wintry elements posed no problems, however, thanks to the Vista’s heated holding tank compartments. We also took along a new type of thermostatically controlled, heated hose (not supplied in the motorhome) that performed exceptionally well in the elements. The Pirit Heated Hose (www.pirithose.com) connects to the electrical box, and its built-in heating elements prevent water from freezing in the exposed portion of the hose.
Outside storage capacity is plentiful, including a pass-through bay. The bay doors swing up and hook during use. Compartments under the slideouts have a built-in hook system that works very well in tight quarters.
The plumbing system service center in the rear compartment on the driver’s side is well-equipped, with a sewer hose and a pressurized city water hookup with diverter valve, as well as a cable TV input, a portable satellite dish hookup, and the power cord. All holding tank release valves are also in this area. The half-bath utilizes a macerator pump that incorporates flexible hosing to move the waste over to this department from the passenger-side bathroom. All valves and controls are clearly marked, and the water hose and sewer hose exit the coach through a secure opening in the bottom of the bay housing. Our test coach included the optional exterior wash station with lighted pump switch, which was also located in this compartment.
On The Road
This Ford-powered Vista 35F exhibited very nice road manners. We frequently encountered mountainous terrain as we traveled from Boston, Massachusetts, to North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and back home through the mountains of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. During most of the trip, the motorhome was fully loaded with water, propane, and gas through multiple fill-ups. Mountain grades of 6 percent to 7 percent were not uncommon, going up or coming down! Over the 2,500-plus-mile journey, the coach averaged a respectable 8.2 mpg.
I was very comfortable using third gear on the downward side of the mountains and seldom had to hit the brakes. Going up the mountains strained the coach a bit, but patience and downshifting allowed me to maintain speeds in the 50-55 mph range without the engine screaming for relief. On the open highway, we were able to travel very comfortably, with minimal interior noise save for the occasional cabinet rattling that occurs when you hit one of those Pennsylvania potholes! Passing slower traffic or 18-wheelers was effortless, and the optional three-camera system was a joy to work with as I monitored all sides and the rear of the coach.
As in my last motorhome review, we were unable to find a scale that could weigh the Vista in the manner I would have liked (all four wheels, both sides, and all axles), but we did stop at a certified CAT scale that weighed our front and rear axles. The front weight (loaded with two people, possessions, and most tanks half-full) came in at 5,920 pounds versus the coach’s 8,000-pound front gross axle weight rating (GAWR). The rear axle weighed 11,720 pounds versus the motorhome’s rear 15,000-pound GAWR. The motorhome’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 22,000 pounds, and its gross combination weight rating (GCWR) is 26,000 pounds. The gross vehicle weight at the scales was 17,640 pounds. Even if we added another 500 pounds of weight to fill up all the tanks, this still would leave an additional 3,860 pounds of carrying capacity.
A couple of final observations. We really liked the electronic information center incorporated into the dash. Specifically, we liked the ability to override the “low mileage” alert by resetting the display to find out “exactly” how many miles we had before running out of gas. Many such systems are not resettable once they hit the “low mileage” notification. As we all know, the next fuel station may not be just around the corner, so having a more accurate assessment of one’s fuel situation is really appreciated here.
The base suggested retail price of the Vista 35F is $108,266. My test unit was priced at $117,877 and contained these options, in addition to items mentioned elsewhere in this article: exterior mirrors with defrost; interior upgrade package; dual-pane windows; paint and graphics (silver); exterior ladder; power vent; electric patio awning; hydraulic leveling jacks; rearview monitor system with audio.
Finally, as with all motorhome reviews, we report on each coach with the understanding that it is designed for a particular audience, price range, and usage. If the tested unit doesn’t meet your particular expectations, rest assured that there are other models, other options, and a wide range of prices offered by most every manufacturer. With a little homework, supplemented by the information we provide in the reviews, you will be able to find the coach of your dreams and start living the dream of RVing or enjoying it more in your new motorhome.
As for the Vista 35F, I believe that the engineering built into this coach would certainly allow it to be used for full-timing couples or a family of four to truly enjoy the lifestyle that motorhomes offer today, and at a very palatable price point.
Winnebago Industries Inc., 605 W. Crystal Lake Drive, Forest City, IA 50436; (641)-585-3535; www.winnebagoind.com
2011 Winnebago Vista
6.8-liter Super Duty V-10 SEFI Triton; 362 horsepower @ 4,750 rpm, 457 pound-feet torque @ 3,250 rpm
TorqShift 5-speed automatic with tow/haul
5.38 to 1
Goodyear G670RV 245/70R 19.5 LRF
19.5 inches x 6.75 inches, 10-bolt
hydraulic with ABS
front — multi-leaf tapered springs, 8,000-pound rating; rear — multi-leaf tapered springs, 15,000-pound rating
Bilstein gas shocks
coach — (2) deep-cycle ;
chassis — 750 cca
1,000 watts (optional)
50 amp (optional); 30-amp standard
5,500-watt Cummins Onan Marquis Gold, gas
35 feet 2 inches
12 feet 3 inches
6 feet 8 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 8,000 pounds;
rear — 15,000 pounds
(weighed with two passengers and gear on board; tanks 1/2-full)
front — 5,920 pounds;
rear — 11,720 pounds;
total — 17,640 pounds
OCCUPANT AND CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY (OCCC)
4,795 to 5,570 pounds
steel and aluminum
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
80 gallons (includes water heater)
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray — 52 gallons;
black — 42 gallons, 22 gallons (bath-and-a-half model; two separate black water tanks)
6-gallon, 110-volt LP with MotorAid (optional)
40,000-Btu low-profile furnace
(2) high-efficiency roof-mount units with energy management system
Norcold 7.5-cubic-foot 2-door
Aqua-Magic V with hand lever
coach — 12 months/15,000 miles basic limited warranty;
structural — 36 months/36,000 miles;
roof skin — 10-year limited parts and labor;
chassis — 36 months/36,000 miles
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED