By Gary Bunzer
Holiday Rambler has a long and storied history. Today Holiday Rambler motorhomes are manufactured by REV Recreation Group. The company’s 2017 lineup should have both dealers and potential buyers taking notice.
Take the Holiday Rambler Vacationer XE. This gas-powered motorhome aligns with the current trend of coach owners who wish to downsize without giving up features they’ve long expected and enjoyed in a larger motorhome. The Vacationer XE 32A, which I recently reviewed, reconciles that expectation — especially if travel habits include the need for ample onboard storage.
Since cargo storage is vital to most motorhome owners, I was amazed to learn that storage in this 34-foot floor plan is almost 300 cubic feet. This may be attractive for those searching for abundant space to stow gear.
I began my review of the Vacationer XE 32A by investigating the surfeit of compartments on both sides and inspecting the components within. I discovered six side-hinged,
luggage-style bay doors equipped with hydraulic-style assist springs on the passenger side alone!
All exterior storage compartments are constructed of durable, easy-to-clean, roto-molded polyethylene plastic. Each features at least one lamp, all controlled by a master switch so the owner cannot inadvertently drain the battery bank by leaving a bay lamp on. Hung on industrial-grade, bus-style, corrosion-resistant steel hinges, all bay doors are fully insulated, sealed, and lockable.
Just rear of the forward-mounted entry door, on the passenger side, sits the battery compartment, along with a deep storage bay. Two 6-volt deep-cycle batteries are located inside the entry step; two others are in the compartment behind the entry door. Next are two full-width, pass-through bays just ahead of the rear axle. The second bay allows access to twin fresh-water tanks. An abundance of storage between the axles, along with the two parallel water tanks positioned amidships, helps balance the payload.
The first bay behind the drive axle provides more storage, as well as access to the waste-water holding tanks. Immediately behind that bay are two more full-width pass-through bays.
Above the floor line, to the rear of the entry door, sits the water heater: an optional Atwood tankless on-demand model, which replaces the standard 10-gallon propane-fired water heater. The fresh-water gravity fill and a 34,000-Btu forced-air furnace are also located on the passenger side.
An exterior entertainment center, which includes a 32-inch LED television and stereo system, is mounted between the water heater and the furnace behind an insulated, lockable door. It resides in the shade of an 18-foot, legless patio awning equipped with LED lights and a wind sensor.
Walking past the stylized fiberglass rear cap, with its high-mounted tail lamps, around to the driver’s side reveals additional storage — seven bay doors on this side — which house normal motorhome utilities and storage. The two rearmost bay doors are the opposing pairs to the pass-through bays on the curb side. The rear compartment also houses the 50-amp shore cable and automatic transfer switch.
The plumbing bay sits just behind the rear axle. I love the fact that both waste-water holding tanks empty from the very bottom; however, instead of the smaller outlet, I would have preferred a full-size, 3-inch outlet and gate valve for a faster, cleaner evacuation of the liquid waste tank.
A Cummins Onan 5.5-kw gas generator is mounted in the next compartment, just behind the steer axle; its position offsets the weight of the battery bank and refrigerator on the other side. The hydraulic pump and manifold assembly for the levelers also reside in this space, providing easy access to its reservoir. For an improved fit-and-finish flair, I would have liked to see the excess cables and harnesses beside the generator trimmed to a more desirable length instead of looped back and forth and tie-wrapped. But this housekeeping oversight is easily remedied during the dealer predelivery inspection.
The Vacationer XE’s attractive front cap features halogen projector-style headlamps with striking LED accents and daytime running lamps. All clearance lamps are LED as well. The front cap’s aerodynamic design is further accented with a seamlessly mounted grille insert. And the iconic Holiday Rambler badge is prominently embedded front and center into the hood.
The tires encircle wheels with stainless-steel simulators; rear duals are equipped with valve extenders for easy pressure checking and airing. Mud flaps guard all tire positions. I can attest that this understated feature is appreciated by any technician or mechanic who performs maintenance on the undercarriage.
This review model showcased the attractive Brickstone four-color, full-body Sikkens exterior paint scheme with contrasting graphic swooshes. The look suggests forward motion even while the coach is standing still. Two additional exterior paint schemes, Cobalt Edge and Sonic Streak, are offered.
Holiday Rambler’s trademarked Five-Point Build System solidifies the entire coach into an interlocked structure. This construction method mitigates factors that can lead to future air and water leaks.
Interlocking members in the floor and roof mate with each vacu-bonded sidewall, creating a seamless fit. Vacu-bonding sandwiches the welded extruded-aluminum wall members and bead-foam insulation between the premium fiberglass gel skin exterior and the paneling in the interior.
Rather than attach molding to cover the joint between the sidewall and the basement sections at the floor line, Holiday Rambler designers incorporate a seamless belt trim, which easily sheds rain and moisture. The result? No rusting screws, loosened molding, leaks, or dirt.
The roof is covered with a white reflective TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin) membrane. Its arched design accommodates 5 inches of insulation down the center of the roof, right where the air conditioner ducting is routed, making the 32A applicable to any climate or destination. Despite the arched roof, the ceiling remains flat.
Two 13,500-Btu air conditioners with Coleman-Mach ChillGrille ceiling assemblies are mounted on the roof and feed the central cooling ductwork. (The A/C unit in the bedroom features a heat pump to take the early morning chill out of the air without having to fire up the furnace.) A Fan-Tastic brand exhaust fan, shower skylight bubble, holding tank sewer vents, and a King Jack television antenna round out the roof accoutrements.
The Vacationer XE is powered by Ford’s 6.8-liter Triton V-10 engine and mated to a six-speed transmission, producing 320 horsepower at 3,900 rpm and providing 460 pound-feet of torque to the drive wheels. So equipped, the test unit proved its salt during my test drive.
At first, I was concerned about the amount of overhang behind the 32A’s rear axle. With a wheelbase measuring just 208 inches, I questioned the motorhome’s road handling and stability with seemingly so much coach behind the drive wheels. My concerns were unfounded. The Ford chassis, with its raised space frame foundation, performed smartly as I traversed all types of roadways and terrains . . . well, as much terrain variables as middle Indiana can offer. Still, I would not shy away from steeper grades.
At the scales following my test drive, with the fuel tank one-quarter full and the coach unloaded, the coach registered 6,060 pounds on the front axle and 12,000 pounds on the rear axle. I wouldn’t hesitate to take this motorhome onto any type of roadway with its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 22,000 pounds (identical to its larger siblings), coupled with its multiple stowage locations. As with any motorhome packed for travel, however, I would recommend having it weighed professionally to verify the weight distribution of the cargo and to determine the correct tire inflation pressures.
The ergonomic simplicity of the Vacationer XE’s cockpit made it easy to overlook some of the cool features in this area. Subtleties such as tinted windows for the driver and copilot, the tilt positioning of the steering wheel, or an automotive-style wiper-washer system can go unnoticed.
The Lexington Soft-Touch pilot chair reclines, swivels, and conforms to various body shapes with its six-way power controls. The copilot’s perch is similar, minus the power controls. Both driver and passenger positions feature reading lamps, magazine racks, visors, manual roller shades, cup holders, and manually operated day-night shades. Power supplies for USB and 12-volt-DC and a 120-volt-AC receptacle are also located in the cockpit.
The copilot’s space features a nicely designed workstation integrated into the dash. A slide-out desk with a pull-out drawer extension accommodates electronic gear.
A centrally mounted convenience tray between the seats serves both the driver and passenger. The review unit also included an optional center table between these seats.
My review coach featured Kona Grove interior décor, a slightly darker accent than the other choice, Linen Retreat. The hardwood cabinetry hue was a light, airy Glazed Italian Sienna; a darker wood tone, Glazed Dark Cherry, is also available. Manual day-night roller shades and 12-inch-by-24-inch composite tile flooring appeared throughout the coach.
As one enters the 32A, the first thing that catches the eye is the luxurious white Lexington Soft-Touch furniture positioned on the street side of the motorhome, the same as in the cockpit. The Soft-Touch Dream dinette, which becomes a sleeping berth when converted, is nestled into the forward end of the street-side slideout, directly behind the pilot’s seat. It’s followed by a sumptuous Lexington L-style sofa with a retractable footrest. This 82-inch sofa also converts to a comfy air bed for more guests. Deep drawers are mounted below the dinette seats and the sofa extension.
If even more sleeping space is needed, the cockpit’s Hide-a-Loft drop-down queen-size bed can be utilized. Press a switch and it lowers into place above the driver and copilot seats. Protective netting attached to the bed secures little ones, and a detachable ladder provides access. For unencumbered sleeping space, cabinets above the cockpit are attached to the underside of the bed platform and actually lower with it.
Directly across the aisle from the Lexington furnishings stands a typical yet accommodating galley. Amenities include an 11-cubic-foot residential-style, stainless-steel refrigerator with ice maker; a deep double-basin under-mounted stainless-steel sink; a 1,000-watt convection/microwave oven; a three-burner range; polished solid-surface countertops and appliance covers; and satin nickel hardware. The galley is accented by an attractive glass-tiled backsplash. Pantry cabinets feature adjustable shelving, and each floor-mounted cabinet has plenty of toe-kick space below.
Immediately aft of the curbside refrigerator, an angled 40-inch flat-screen television, mounted above an electric fireplace, extends into the living area for comfortable viewing from the sofa and dinette. With a double cabinet above and a nook sandwiched between, all available cubic inches appear to have been utilized in this structure.
The bathroom is just aft of the TV-fireplace combo. Amenities include a residential-style, porcelain water-saver toilet with VacuFlush. The fiberglass shower surround is entered via a rainwater-glass door.
But it’s what’s across the aisle that truly impresses: a deep pantry with a unique Holiday Rambler design. At first glance, it looks like a simple wardrobe closet or pantry. But upon opening the doors, which include carpeted, pantry-style shelving on the inside, one sees a set of translucent interior panel doors that hide even more pantry space deeper within the cavity. It’s a nicely designed and unusual storage feature that takes advantage of just about every cubic inch possible.
Entering the rear bedroom, one encounters a row of cabinets stretching back from the pantry to the motorhome’s rear wall. This storage cluster includes a cedar-lined wardrobe, a six-drawer vanity, and a louvered wardrobe that also houses an optional washer-dryer, among other pieces.
Above the dresser window, Holiday Rambler designers mounted a 32-inch LED television. Additional storage is available behind the hinged, swing-out TV, along with room for electronic gear for satellite reception or a DVD player, should the buyer opt for those devices. The power control center containing the AC panel distribution box and the 12-volt DC fuses also is placed conveniently inside one of the lower cabinets.
In this shorter Type A motorhome, it was refreshing to see so many storage areas in the bedroom, with yet more space under the lift-up king-size bed across the aisle on the passenger side. Neatly ensconced within its own slideout and bookended with solid-surface-topped nightstands, the bed, with its Dream Easy mattress, looks as inviting as those found in more expensive motorhomes. Its bedspread is enhanced by integrated shams, accent pillows, and a designer headboard. The elegant window treatments throughout the coach really stand out in this room.
Two large cabinets hang from the ceiling over the bed, and one of the nightstands is conveniently outfitted with a remote generator start-stop switch.
Another interior nicety is a safety feature I found commendable: the Vacationer XE has not one, but two separate emergency escape windows. One is in the bedroom at the very rear of the coach; the other is above the L-sofa in the living room.
As reviewed, the price tag for the Vacationer XE 32A test coach came to $152,815, with the following options: Atwood tankless water heater; three-burner drop-in range; pilot and copilot center table; satellite radio; Brickstone exterior; dual-glazed windows; neutral loss protection on Surge Guard.
Other than a couple of minor fit-and-finish discrepancies, all of which would be taken care of by the selling dealer, I found the 2017 Holiday Rambler Vacationer XE to be an exceptional value for this price point within the Type A gasoline niche. With a 22,000-pound GVWR and plentiful storage, this motorhome would be a good choice for most any motorhoming family or couple, especially if they remember that RVing is more than a hobby; it’s a lifestyle!
REV Recreation Group, 1031 U.S. 224 E., Decatur, IN 46733; (800) 854-1344; www.holidayrambler.com
2017 Vacationer XE
Ford 6.8-liter Triton V-10; 320 horsepower @ 3,900 rpm; 460 pound-feet torque @ 3,000 rpm
Ford 6-speed automatic with overdrive
5.38 to 1
power four-wheel disc (hydro-boost); four-wheel antilock
front and rear — tapered multileaf spring; stabilizer bars
chassis — (1) 6-volt deep-cycle;
house — (4) 6-volt deep-cycle
Cummins Onan 5.5-kw gas
34 feet 8 inches
12 feet with A/C
6 feet 10 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 8,000 pounds;
rear — 15,000 pounds
AS-TESTED WEIGHT (weighed unloaded with 1/4-full fuel tank)
front axle — 6,060 pounds;
rear axle — 12,000 pounds;
total — 18,060 pounds
OCCUPANT & CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY (OCCC)
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 37 gallons;
black water — 37 gallons
(2) 13,500-Btu with ChillGrille
11-cubic-foot residential-style, stainless steel, with ice maker
(1) residential-style, porcelain, water-saver with Vacu-Flush
coach — 1 year/15,000 miles limited;
structural — 3 years/45,000 miles;
chassis — 3 years/36,000 miles
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED