This new motorhome makes a statement with a bold exterior design and plenty of thoughtful interior touches.
By Gary Bunzer
Among the recent offerings of new exterior designs, floor plans, chassis suspension systems, and drivetrains from a multitude of motorhome manufacturers stands a bold new coach from Monaco RV. With retro-vintage looks, but built with a revolutionary and innovative bottom-to-top, bumper-to-bumper production process, the 2011 Monaco Vesta is being unveiled at numerous RV shows across the United States to oohs and ahhs from all levels of the industry.
The first thing one notices about the Vesta is its distinct front grille. Coupled with a sleek, wind-tunnel-tested exterior that yields an oh-so-subtle aerodynamic efficiency, the 2011 Vesta is more than just a head-turner.
Using design teams employing strategies modeled after the automotive industry, Monaco and Navistar, its parent company, have combined to create the first motorhome totally constructed in a single state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. The chassis, the body, the engine and drivetrain, and all the innards are built by the same manufacturer. I’ve often mentioned how a coach builder may procure the chassis from one vendor, the interior cabinets from another supplier, and the windows from yet another company; build the house portion; and then assemble the puzzle into what we call a motorhome — not always without issues. The significance of Monaco and Navistar’s vertical integration process cannot be overlooked. The motorhome now has perfect synergy, with the parties responsible for the individual puzzle pieces all from the same camp and all on the same page. Imagine that!
Not having driven a front-engine diesel motorhome in a while, I looked forward to jumping behind the wheel of a 2011 Vesta. After arriving at the Monaco RV factory in Coburg, Oregon, I did a quick walk-through of my 32-foot test unit, a 32PBS. (Monaco also offers the Vesta with a 35-foot, double-slideout floor plan.) I then headed down Interstate 5 to State Route 58 and on toward Dexter Lake. I was curious to see how this coach would perform, not only on the freeway, but on a two-lane hilly road as well.
I was immediately taken aback by how comfortable the ride was; it was more like driving an oversized SUV than a 32-foot diesel motorhome. The Vesta handled quite nicely on the freeway. Although the vehicle was unloaded, I experienced no obtrusive or erratic movements such as porpoising or bucking. On the two-lane road, it handled exceptionally well also.
From the Ultraleather six-way power pilot’s seat (the same as the copilot’s perch), the dash panel offered utility as well as aesthetics. Switches and gauges were laid out in a logical pattern that was quite easy to adapt to and utilize. The leather-clad VIP SmartWheel steering wheel also contained handy controls for various functions. A quick review of the dash and wheel components prior to cranking up was all that was required to keep me at ease throughout the test ride.
Driving visibility was impeccable. Slanted side windows in the front and a one-piece windshield yielded a clear view in all directions. The dual-paneled, heated side mirrors reflected all the rearward glances nicely. All windows are flush-mounted, tinted, and double-paned.
The Roadmaster chassis is pulled along by the highly regarded MaxxForce 7, EPA10, 6.4-liter V-8 diesel engine, yielding a healthy 260 horsepower and coupled with an Allison 2500 MH transmission. Touted as a quieter engine without sacrificing power, the MaxxForce 7 reportedly provides greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions due to its advanced EGR design.
One of the common concerns regarding front-engine diesel coaches has been the fear of excessive noise in the cockpit while driving. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of annoying decibels being emitted by the engine on both the interstate and the side roads. This can be attributed primarily to the advanced EGR design of the MaxxForce power plant and a well-insulated engine cavity. EGR stands for “exhaust gas recirculation,” whereby precooled engine exhaust emissions are redirected back into the engine, where the emissions are further reduced prior to exhausting into the atmosphere.
A second concern about having the engine up front is the associated heat transfer from the engine exhaust components to the cockpit area. It is a moot point with the Vesta. I did not notice any engine heat entering the driver’s or the copilot’s space throughout the entire test drive.
Additional perks to this Roadmaster chassis include antilock air brakes and an air leveling suspension system with four air bags for a comfortable ride. The Vesta also ships with a 7,000-pound receiver hitch. A healthy 160-amp alternator spins fast enough to charge both the twin Group 31 chassis batteries and the two UL16HC house batteries while driving. The house batteries (415-amp capacity) are plumbed with remote fill tubes to enable the coach owner to keep the electrolyte topped off easily without having to remove the batteries from their side storage compartment — a nice touch. All this rides on six 255/70R 22.5-inch tires equipped with all-aluminum wheels.
After arriving at Dexter Lake, I pulled several tight figure eights in an empty parking lot and was again surprised by the suppleness of the tight turning radius as I maneuvered through the lot. Maybe it was my quasi-erratic driving, but it wasn’t long until a few people gathered around the coach to take a closer look.
The Vesta sports a smartly designed exterior with an integrated patio awning, perfectly melded into the roofline. I found that this design effectively reduced wind noise and improved the airflow over the coach while at highway speeds. The radically slanted tail lamp assemblies also make a bold design statement, as does the overall paint scheme on our test model. As a result of extensive wind tunnel testing (unprecedented in the RV industry), a subtle flare to the rear cap aids in the aerodynamic efficiency of the exterior. Plus it just looks cool!
Cargo storage on the Vesta can be described in one word: outstanding, with a cargo-carrying capacity of more than four tons. Yes, you read that correctly. The large, pass-through storage compartment at the rear coupled with the side compartments accommodates up to 8,000 pounds. Separate side compartments house the auxiliary batteries, the heated plumbing bay, the ASME propane tank, the chassis electrical panel, etc.
There is also side access to the Onan 6.0-kw diesel generator. The fuel fill door is incorporated into a larger access compartment that contains the chassis fuel tank.
The storage bay hinges are what I would term “stout.” These heavy-duty hinges will probably last longer than the motorhome. My Blackberry seemed dwarfed when I held it up to one for a size comparison.
The front “hood” panel provides clear and easy access to the fluid level checkpoints, radiator, and other important components needing periodic attention.
The Vesta’s slightly peaked, one-piece roof is fiberglass, as are the gel-coated exterior walls. Monaco uses tapered bead foam insulation and fiberglass insulation to fill the voids in the all-aluminum double I-beam framework of the superstructure. Under the padded vinyl ceiling, you’ll also find a foam pad for additional insulation as well as ½-inch bead foam and a vapor barrier. Want to use the motorhome in the winter? This coach is well insulated.
High-performance thermal insulation is used extensively in the sidewalls, encapsulating the square-tube-aluminum framework. A decorative board serves as the innermost paneling inside. The exterior fiberglass sides and end caps are gel-coated to a nice sheen.
The flooring is composed of a top wood layer over an aluminum square tube frame filled with high-performance thermal insulation. Lauan paneling, a 3-ply backing panel, and ceramic tile complete the floor assembly.
The interior of the Vesta exudes comfort. Like the cockpit seats, the sofa bed and U-shaped dinette feature customized Ultraleather surfaces. One option I was encouraged to see was the air mattress for the hide-a-bed in the sofa.
The sofa bed and the dinette array are both housed in the single street-side slideout. A 32-inch LCD television is revealed aft of this area when the slide is extended. Additional storage is available under the forward section of the dinette seating behind a removable, upholstered panel. An audio sub-woofer resides under the rear section, so stowing of goods is not encouraged there. Low-voltage soffit lighting graces much of the coach interior, adding a nice touch to the décor.
All of the interior cabinetry features curved hardwood styling, with plenty of space for your stuff! Five overhead storage bins are positioned above the driver and copilot’s heads. One inconvenient aspect I found with these overhead bins is the lack of a mechanical method of keeping them open. As it is, one would have to hold the compartment door open with one hand while stowing or retrieving objects with the other hand. This certainly isn’t a deal breaker, since aftermarket hardware can always be added after purchase if necessary. The four larger storage bins above the sofa and dinette do feature the requisite door-holder-uppers.
The ergonomically designed interior is most pronounced in the galley. With a masterfully curved cabinet under the round, stainless-steel kitchen sink, the amount of storage space is likely to be missed by the casual observer. Small, medium, and large (deep) drawers are positioned next to the sink cabinet under the work surface and cooktop. All drawers feature heavy-duty ball-bearing glides.
The Corian countertops feature decorative backsplashes. A space-saver microwave-convection oven is mounted directly above the cooktop.
An 8-cubic-foot, stainless-steel absorption refrigerator stands just to the right of the high-output three-burner cooktop. One of the things I noticed from a propane safety standpoint: all four of the LP-burning appliances are located on the same side of the motorhome, directly above the ASME propane tank. What this means is that the complete LP system, copper plumbing, fittings, and all the appliances are contained in one small section of the overall design. No long runs of copper tubing or black iron pipe; no excessive use of brass fittings to connect lengthy sections of tubing together — basically, a shorter, safer system for the end-user.
Just past the pantry/linen closet and down the short hallway on the curb side stands the one-piece, fiberglass shower enclosure, outfitted with a dome skylight for additional headroom. The lavatory sink and toilet are located directly across from the shower on the driver’s side of the coach. Continuing the same design theme as in the galley, the lavatory features a round stainless-steel sink, Corian countertop, and decorative backsplash. As in the galley, the lavatory sink features single-lever faucet operation.
Finally, at the rear of the coach, is the inviting bedroom. At first glance, it appears sparse and utilitarian — until one takes a detailed look around. The queen-size bed is centered fore and aft on the rear wall and flanked by tidy nightstands. Aside from the drawers in each nightstand, four huge compartments hang above the bed (these do feature supports that keep the doors open for easy stowage of goods). Additional storage is provided by two small cubbyholes at the foot of the bed on both sides and in two short drawers below the bed casing.
A bed-width mirror graces the area between the bottom of the overhead storage compartments and the headboard of the bed. An optional, wall-hung, 19-inch LCD television is positioned in the corner of the bedroom at the lavatory wall. One suggestion I would proffer for future offerings is TV mounting hardware with a tilt-angle function. As equipped, viewing the monitor from a supine position on the bed was a little uncomfortable.
Our test Vesta came equipped with the optional Sirius satellite radio tuner and antenna. Having Sirius in both my personal vehicles is a testament to my thoughts regarding this add-on. Our test coach also came equipped with other options, including blackout sun screens, the air mattress for the sofa bed, GPS navigation, a home theater system, a 10-gallon gas and electric water heater, and heat pumps on the two ducted roof air conditioners.
Some of the standard features on our test rig included mud flaps, an in-dash AM/FM/CD radio, a rear-mounted color camera with dash monitor, digital satellite system prep, tile flooring in the living section and lavatory, solar screens with blackout screens throughout, a 1,200-watt inverter, bedroom reading lamps, a central water filtration system, a china toilet with spray attachment, powered exhaust fans in the galley and lavatory, and a tank heating pad in the plumbing bay.
A substantial library of documents comes with each Vesta, nicely indexed for easy retrieval, so the owner has all the necessary reference materials on hand at all times.
All the controls for comfort air and heating, the electric awning, the leveling system, the slideout, the monitor panel, etc. are positioned above the entry door and just rearward, making it a convenient central location for keeping an eye on all that needs monitoring.
One nice touch that will find favor with coach owners is the nifty, built-in swivel grab handle for the 50-amp shore cord plug. It can be a struggle to disconnect a heavy cord from a tight electrical pedestal receptacle. This cool feature makes that task much easier. A simple pivot of the handle easily and safely withdraws the plug straight out of the receptacle. When connected, it simply folds down, out of the way.
The AC distribution panel and circuit breakers, as well as the DC fuse box, are located near the floor below the linen/pantry closet, just ahead of the short step that divides the living section from the rear of the coach.
The chassis electrical components are all neatly hidden behind a protective panel in the forward exterior storage bay on the road side of the motorhome. Access is not required for these components.
The twin Group 31 chassis (engine) batteries are conveniently located under the entry step for easy access for maintenance and hydration. Other nice touches include a propane quick-disconnect and valve for portable grill or gas lamp use.
As is often mentioned in motorhome review articles, some coaches are designed to fit a certain demographic, and the Monaco Vesta 32PBS is no exception. As outfitted from the factory, it is clear this coach is designed for seasonal travel by RVers who enjoy a lot of outdoor activities and are attracted to state-of-the-art technology. With up to 8,000 pounds of storage capacity, this model is made to be loaded to the gills with plenty of recreational equipment. Got a bowling ball collection? No problem!
Though it’s doubtful the 32PBS would suffice for full-time living and travel (the 35PBD would be more than sufficient), the comfortable features of our subject coach, along with 21st century, yet retro, touches, guarantees this front-end diesel motorhome a long and healthy future.
Monaco RV, 91320 Coburg Industrial Way, Coburg, OR 97408; (877) 252-4666; www.monacocoach.com
MaxxForce 7 EPA10, 6.4-liter turbo-diesel V-8; 260 horsepower @ 2,600 rpm; 660 pound-feet torque @ 1,600 rpm
Allison 2500 MH
4.78 to 1
Antilock braking system with full air brake
air leveling system, four air bags
Monroe Gas Premium RV
coach — (2) 415-amp
chassis — (2) Group 31
6.0-kw Onan Quiet Diesel
33 feet 9 inches
11 feet 7 inches (with roof A/C)
6 feet 8 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 11,000 pounds;
rear — 18,000 pounds
OCCUPANT AND CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY (OCCC)
bead foam, structure foam, fiberglass
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray — 61 gallons;
black — 46 gallons
10 gallons, electric/LP-gas, optional (6-gallon, standard)
30,000-Btu furnace, electronic ignition
(2) 13,500-Btu air conditioners with heat pumps, optional (without heat pumps, standard)
8 cubic feet, double-door, stainless steel
porcelain with sprayer
coach — 12 months/24,000 miles, basic limited
chassis — 36 months/50,000 miles
structural — 5 years/50,000 miles, limited
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED