On our trips across the ditch to Australia we have travelled far and wide, and it has been a wee bit amusing at times when talking to locals as the majority refer to any motorhome as a Winnebago, regardless of the brand/model or name of the motorhome right in front of them – it is almost as if many Australians believe that the word for motorhome is ‘Winnebago.’
To be fair that could be because Winnebago has, in one form or another, been a major player on the Australian market since 1965, although not under the American company banner as such. I don’t want to explain the whole situation in detail but, in a nutshell, the Australian company used the Winnebago name brand on all its models very happily from 1965 with no legal agreement. Then, around 2009/2010, the US-Winnebago company commenced legal proceedings based around the unlicensed use of its intellectual property. The long and short of it was the Aussie company rebranded and moved forward. Some manner of financial settlement occurred more recently.
In 2014 the Apollo Motorhome Holidays group became the official Winnebago licensee in Australia and New Zealand, and the Australian Winnebago motorhome range was to be produced out of the Brisbane factory where the Apollo Talvor rental market motorhomes are manufactured.
The DeLuxe Group here in New Zealand were very well placed with Apollo Motorhome Holidays at that time, as they were purchasers of second-hand Apollo motorhomes that they refurbished and put into the New Zealand marketplace. As a result, following a period of negotiation they became the official New Zealand distributor largely due to their great existing relationship.
With so much growth in the RV market at the time – and projected growth to 2023 – adding a tier of carefully chosen stock to the brands already being promoted and backed by the DeLuxe business was a well-considered move. A decision was made to bring in models that met known customer preferences – these included a fixed bed, preferably island, separate shower/toilet, large fridge/freezer and good storage.
The chosen models in the C-Class models are four or six-berth, over 7700mm long with a GVM of 4495kg, meaning that they’re still able to be driven on a car license although they do need a CoF but that is no big deal. However, the extra length to add floor space, liveability and payload weight is noticeable. They also selected a two-berth model to meet that market.
Having reviewed the French range of Pilote motorhomes that DeLuxe Group are the distributor for here in the last issue, we know that they chose this brand of motorhome specifically to compete in the 3500kg category, so these brands are complementing other DeLuxe Group products and their ability to meet customer needs within the motorhome market.
We took the opportunity to view the Winnebago Airlie four-berth motorhome while we were in Blenheim, this particular model had been sold so we appreciated being able to check it prior to it being delivered to the new owners. The latest model has arrived hot off the boat recently so we also got a wee look at the different décor in the latest model as well.
Based on the popular Fiat Ducato Multijet 180 cab, fixed to an AL-KO hot dip galvanized steel chassis, with all the acronyms you could possibly need – ABS, ESP, TCS and EBD, not to mention cruise control and a couple of drink holders – awesome! Seriously though, you do get all the latest technology when it comes to running gear as well as safety, and with a four-cylinder 2999cc, 130kW motor cranking 400 Newton metres of torque, there’s no problem getting up and around New Zealand’s winding, mountainous roads. A real Aussie addition in the cab was a refrigerated compartment housed in the upper dashboard; perfect for drinks and a pretty good option. We also liked the central locking, height adjustable seat-belts, arm rests and the fact the cab seats swivel around so they can be useful in the living area. They even have storage underneath … tick-tick. A five-inch LCD colour monitor is great when coupled to the reversing camera; an absolute must in a long vehicle such as this.
There is plenty of exterior storage with two large side pods to fill up, as well as the full width tunnel storage across the rear of the vehicle. All utilities are on the kerb-side of the vehicle, gas-toilet-water filling plus a handy entertainment portal of sorts.
The construction is of marine grade fiberglass for walls roof and nose cone, with gel coat interior and exterior finish. Windows are acrylic, double glazed items with built-in blinds and fly screens; the rear window has exterior mouldings to finish. The Luton area is of a much lower profile than older model designs, with a window on each side; invaluable if you are sleeping up top. A wind-out awning runs along the four-metre body length and an electric step leads you into the interior with an inset second step upon entry.
The habitation door is right behind the passenger cab seat area, and stepping up and into the vehicle you notice a big design layout difference immediately. Directly to the right of entry is the kitchen bench, with drawers and cupboards below, a full oven with top grill, and three gas hobs, fits in at the end. Overhead there’s a range hood and cupboards. Internal cabinetry and walls are Calico Oak, with Urbinite upholstery.
Opposite the entry and the kitchen unit is a long bench seat running down the side of the vehicle to the big 190-litre three-way fridge/freezer space. Above this is a 25-litre, 900W microwave above, monitors and 12V charging plug along with a further cupboard. Above the seating is a large window for light and views, overhead storage lockers with LED lights, with more storage available under the seats. Then up front we have a long narrow dining table, on two plinth supports that are removable; I love this different use of space.
Now past the sustenance and provision area, we have a concertina pull-out door to separate the front and rear areas. Past this, the one-piece fully enclosed shower measures 780x760mm, and is on the left of the body. On the right, there’s a step up into the en suite. The swivel cassette toilet is fitted with a porcelain china bowl and electric flush. There’s also a separate porcelain bowl vanity plus storage cupboards, a window and roof vent – overall, a good space. The bathroom sits about two-thirds down the unit’s body length.
The last third is taken up with a spacious club lounge entertainment/relaxation TV area, with a large opening view windows on the side, a fixed rear window and a roof vent in the ‘hallway’ to allow for extra ventilation and light. My absolute favourite layout – plenty of room for a few people to sit around, or even lay around chillaxing.
Under the rear seat is a dropdown cabinet front giving direct access to the tunnel storage in the rear. If you know you weren’t got to be putting in long items in this area – for instance, if you’re not a fisherman or paddle boarder – a drawer or pull-out basket would be handy in here as well.
Looking to the ceiling you might notice the LED lights are on the wall, not the ceiling. That is because the ceiling is actually a generous 2003 x 1520mm bed complete with a sturdy chain-driven system that can be activated at the push of a button. The elevated bed drops down to a predetermined height; you do need to drop the lounge cushions down for this, and you have a comfortable bed fully made-up with linen and blankets ready to add pillows and jump into for the night.
There is no overhead cupboard storage in this area; a bench level cupboard that can be a wardrobe or just storage is between the seating and the shower area, with a smaller overhead small storage shelf and cupboard above it. On the other side between the seating and the bathroom area is a further cupboard area that houses the small drop-down step – great if you are shorter and need a bit of height to get into the bed. On the wall is the 19-inch LED TV that is fed signals via the roof-mounted, fully automatic satellite dish. The TV is positioned at a reasonable level for viewing without putting your neck out, and can be watched in bed – nice.
Going back to the front of the vehicle, the Luton is over the cab seating with access via a standard-style hook-on ladder. The bed up there is a good size as well at 2005 x 1400mm, but head height is a bit lower than that offered by older big and bulbous sized Lutons of the past.
So, there we have it in a nutshell. Now, as some of you readers know, I do have a bit of a soft spot for an electric, drop-down bed in the rear. We first experienced this option in an Apollo Talvor Murana rental motorhome in Australia in 2010, then again while on two different Aussie trips. A couple of years back we rented an Apollo here for a weekend with the same layout. I know this vehicle and the layouts that are available in the Winnebago Australia range have the US-Winnebago influence and input, but I am so glad that Apollo has shared some of the tried and true style options that are a feature of their Aussie rental product. They have been beaten to death in the rental fleet and proved their resilience and reliability very well.
There are lots of upgrade options – including high-gloss cabinets, different TV sizes, alternative types of vents, and addition of inverters. All manner of extras are available.
Things that are not extras here in New Zealand, and are already fitted, include the 19-inch LED TV, satellite dish, stereo entertainment system, 150W solar panel and regulator and an extra battery so you have two 130ah deep-cycle batteries rather than just one. Additionally, there are 130-litre fresh and grey tanks on board and an Eberspacher diesel heater is fitted in place of the Aussie air-conditioning unit.
I often say to Bruce that if we traded out of our Mitsubishi Canter RocknRobyn motorhome, I absolutely want this sized floor plan with a separate back area complete with dropdown bed for our next vehicle. Now I have seen these new Winnebago models, with the variety of layouts, long kitchen benches, great features inside and out I am even more tempted. I know I am a boring old kiwi with my likes and wants but for my big boy Rocky and me, a large club lounge, big rear windows to capture all the stunning views to be had, and plenty of floor space to pass each other in the living areas are all pretty important items on our ‘must have’ list. It would have to be a second hand model for us though; lucky DeLuxe bring these in from Apollo Australia as well!