Winnebago Industries’ popular Type B motorhome is available in two floor plans for 2013.
By Lazelle Jones
According to Winnebago Industries officials, the company builds more RVs based on the Mercedes-Benz diesel-powered chassis than any other manufacturer. Among these models is the Type B Era, a compact cruising vehicle that incorporates a number of Winnebago Industries’ patented systems and designs.
This past winter, I was given the opportunity to spend some time in the Era 70A, one of two floor plans offered in this line for the 2013 model year. My charge: to inspect its design, livability, and roadworthiness. I came away quite pleased with the experience.
With a full tank of diesel fuel (26.4 gallons), a three-quarter-full tank of fresh water (when filled, it holds 34 gallons), 16 gallons of propane, and one 200-plus-pound adult, the 2013 Winnebago Era 70A I reviewed registered a gross vehicle weight of 8,940 pounds at a certified scale. With a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 11,030 pounds, the Era 70A had a remaining cargo carrying capacity of 2,090 pounds Subtract from this 150 pounds (on average) for a second passenger, and what remains for cargo is an amazing 1,940 pounds.
Taking delivery of the 70A test unit from Mike Thompson RV in Fountain Valley, California, I challenged this new Era to show its strengths and shortcomings. I logged almost 600 miles, which included driving in urban areas, at interstate high speeds, and on backcountry “blue line” byways. During my driving sessions, the coach provided a very respectable fuel economy average of 18 mpg. With the 26-gallon fuel tank, driving long distances between fuel stops (upward of 450 miles) is attainable. A contributing factor is the efficiency of the 3.0-liter V-6 turbocharged Mercedes-Benz diesel engine, which develops 188 horsepower and yields 325 pound-feet of torque. This engine comes married to a 5-speed (bump or tap) automatic transmission.
The Era 70A features sleek exterior lines, which permit the motorhome to part and slip through the air. This is anything but a slab-sided vehicle. Winnebago Industries uses the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis as the foundation for both Era floor plans, which seems to be a very good combination.
With an overall length of 24 feet 1 inch (both floor plans), and an exterior height of 9 feet 11 inches (again both models), the Era 70A handled well in all driving scenarios. Without exception, it is “quick off the line,” which means entering a freeway on-ramp and accelerating to merge into the flow of traffic is immediate. Its responsiveness is reliable.
The single-piece quasi-wraparound windshield brings the outside world into full view. I especially liked the split side-mirror systems, which provided accurate visuals of what was taking place along each side of the coach. Coupled with the rear monitor system, the driver should be aware of everything taking place around the motorhome. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based coach is one most will be able to sit in behind the steering wheel for hours on long travel days, with minimal fatigue.
Road and engine operating noise are negligible. This latest-generation Mercedes-Benz diesel engine does not emit any of the “old world diesel” sounds many of us grew up with. In fact, the engine is very quiet.
One aspect about the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter cab/chassis worth noting is that the seats are not power-adjustable and thus require manual manipulation. However, the windows, door locks, and side mirrors are power-adjustable. The instrument clusters are visually friendly and enhance ease of use. Another feature I noted is the abundance of storage pockets and recessed areas in the interior door panels and the dash, which provide another level of functionality.
I particularly liked the pleated blinds that are employed in the cab area of the Era 70A. Attached to each A-pillar (the vertical posts at each end of the single-piece windshield) are track-mounted accordion-type shades that, when latched open, lay hidden and tucked against the pillar. However, when released and pulled along the track to the center of the windshield, total privacy is instantly available. When the fabric curtains (not quite, but almost blackout) are drawn across each of the cab doors, you are truly sequestered from the world outside.
Each window throughout the Era is equipped with MCD American Solo blackout roller shades that shut out exterior light. They are a light-beige color on the inside. These shades are not translucent, but the lighting system can be used to brighten up the coach interior as desired when the shades are down. When retracted for travel, the shades do not rattle or bang against the walls.
The two captain seats in the cockpit can be swiveled 180 degrees to face the living and galley areas. The flat floor in this area includes a receiver for the movable pedestal table. The living area has a mini sofa (with two seatbelts) that can be folded out into a bed that measures 36 inches wide by 66 inches long.
Entry from the outside patio area is via a sliding door that opens a full 51.2 inches or anywhere in between. Front to rear, the interior of the coach is lined with overhead cabinets that are equipped with pneumatic struts for ease of operation. All of these cabinets are dressed on the inside with an Ozite-type material.
Immediately aft of the sofa is a small residential-style refrigerator/freezer, which features 4.8 cubic feet of interior capacity. It is configured with storage racks on the interior of the door, a removable freezer above, and shelves below. This three-way unit is powered either from propane or 110-volt-AC when the coach is connected to 30-amp shore power. It automatically seeks the power source available and does all of the necessary switching.
The 6-gallon water heater also operates on both propane and 110-volt AC. However, a switch has to be toggled to the 110-volt setting when a campsite is reached and shore power is available. The propane tank holds 16 gallons and is also the fuel source for the 16,000-Btu thermostatically controlled forced-air furnace. It also provides propane for the 2,500-watt Cummins Onan MicroQuiet auxiliary generator. With prudent management, days on end of stand-alone motorhome camping can be enjoyed.
The roof-mounted direct-delivery 13,500-Btu air conditioner operates off the generator or 30-amp shore power. A powered roof vent in the Era’s living area can be adjusted to several levels of airflow.
The galley is compact yet full-service. When the cooktop and the brushed-aluminum sink are not being used, their foldable glass covers can be closed to create additional countertop surface area. The faucet on the oval-shaped designer sink folds down so the glass cover can be closed and pivots up into place for use. This is part of what Winnebago Industries calls its SmartSpace design philosophy. All drawers feature full-extension drawer slides.
The 64-inch-long-by-18-inch-deep countertop is fashioned from Corian solid-surface material that resembles black granite, as elegant looking as that found in any upscale residential home.
A 22-inch flat-screen LCD television is attached to a brushed-metal pole that rises out of the countertop. It swivels in whatever direction is required for viewing. For those times when sitting outside is desirable, the television can be rotated 180 degrees to face the patio area.
Every Era motorhome comes standard with a 13-foot-long retractable patio awning that can be extended a full 98 inches. The box or housing the awning calls home blends nicely with the roof lines of the coach and the exterior color of the Era, which can be either Saddle or Silverstone.
As with all the interior wood in the Era, the cabinet doors and drawer fronts are finished in Café Cherry. One of the cabinet doors swings open on the inside of the coach; a door that acts as the back of the cabinet opens to the outside when the sliding side entry/exit door is open. What this does is provide an opening for loading these cabinets without having to enter the coach. This is super-functional when you are preparing for a travel adventure.
On the driver’s side of the coach is a permanent/fixed wet bath. It does not require configuring a catch basin in the center aisle of the coach in order to use the shower; it is ready to go all the time. The wet bath also houses a lavatory; an Aqua Magic marine-style toilet with a 10-gallon waste holding tank; a handheld shower head; and a three-compartment dispenser for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Bi-fold doors open wide for access to the bathroom yet keep the aisle clear even when open. Between the refrigerator and the wet bath is another storage pocket where bed cushions can be stowed.
The rear living area of the Era can be configured in one of two ways. The 70X floor plan has a rear bench-style seat that sits crossways and folds down into a 70-inch-by-80-inch bed. The 70A I reviewed features two permanent twin beds in this area, with an aisle between them for ease of access. However, when a queen-size bed is wanted, a separate section is inserted over the aisle, like a giant puzzle, to create a larger single sleeping quarter. The insert consists of 4-inch-thick foam padding to match the twin beds. Winnebago Industries calls this the Flex Bed system. A second 22-inch flat-screen television is mounted on the wall for occupants’ viewing pleasure. The CD player and AM/FM/satellite radio located upfront are also wired for enjoyment in this rear stateroom.
Winnebago Industries begins with the high-roof Sprinter van. These van bodies are built to the company’s specifications and are shipped directly from the Mercedes-Benz plant in Dusseldorf, Germany, to the Era production facility in Charles City, Iowa. It is a window van with temporary plastic inserts instead of windows. The original body supports and reinforcements are not compromised when the windows are installed. Winnebago Industries also maintains all of the original Sprinter roof structure, placing elements such as an antenna or roof air-conditioning unit in such a way as to optimize performance and maintain roof strength.
The Era is insulated using a variety of materials selected to optimize sound and temperature control and to conform to the available space between the van’s structural elements.
The original-equipment Mercedes-Benz cab seats with factory swivel mechanisms and platforms are used. The original-equipment swing-away parking brake handle permits owners to use the swivel seats without disengaging the brake.
The generator and holding tanks are installed from the bottom side of the van and attached with heavy-duty steel brackets. Their installation position allows routine service and even replacement from the outside of the coach.
Regardless of the Era floor plan one chooses, a cavernous storage area that is accessible from the rear of the coach comes standard. The center-latching doors at the rear of the motorhome open out and fold back about 270 degrees to rest flat against the sides of the unit. For ease of access, a roll-out storage tray in the 70A that measures 22 inches by 55 inches can be unlatched and pulled out. Large objects can be stowed there, for the distance from the floor of the tray to the underside of the fixed bed above measures 21 inches.
The base suggested retail price of the Era 70A is $100,965. The suggested retail price as equipped for this review is $105,998. Options on my test coach included a second battery; stainless-steel valance panel trim; Sirius satellite radio; the Infotainment Center/GPS with turn-by-turn voice directions and an interactive touch screen with compass, exterior temperature, and Bluetooth capability; and stylized aluminum wheels.
Winnebago Industries literature describes the Type B Era as “ahead of its class.” After my test drive and tour in the 70A, I second that statement.
Winnebago Industries Inc., 605 W. Crystal Lake Road, Forest City, IA 50436; (641) 585-3535; www.winnebagoind.com or www.erarv.com
Mercedes-Benz 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder turbo diesel; 188 horsepower @ 3,800 rpm; 325 pound-feet torque @ 1,200-2,400 rpm
electronically controlled five-speed automatic with “tip-shift” technology to allow manual shifting
3.92 to 1
Continental LT215/85R 16 LRE
16 inch x 5.5-inch, 6-bolt
front and rear — disc; hydraulic with ABS
front — independent with transverse mono-leaf spring and stabilizer;
rear — leaf spring with stabilizer bar
power steering with tilt wheel
coach— Group 31 deep-cycle battery (AGM maintenance-free);
additional Group 31 deep-cycle battery, optional (also AGM maintenance-free)
chassis — 12-volt/100Ah
2,500-watt Cummins Onan MicroQuiet LP
24 feet 1 inch
9 feet 11 inches
6 feet 3 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 4,410 pounds;
rear — 7,720 pounds
(weighed with full fuel tank, three-quarter-full fresh water tank, 16 gallons propane, and one adult)
front axle — 3,460 pounds;
rear axle — 5,460 pounds;
total — 8,940 pounds
OCCUPANT & CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY (OCCC)
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
34 gallons (includes 6-gallon water heater)
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 26 gallons;
black water — 10 gallons
13,500-Btu high-efficiency roof unit with heat pump
Dometic 4.8-cubic-foot, three-way with removable freezer
Aqua Magic V with foot pedal and sprayer
coach — 12-month/15,000–mile basic warranty;
chassis — 36-month/36,000-mile
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED