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Old 12-28-2012, 10:05 AM   #1
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Fleetwood and Winnebago chassis improvments

Are the chassis improvements noticable while driving?

What I would like to understand is it worthwhile getting the newer rig because of the chassis.

Fleetwood went to their Power Bridge chassis in 2009. So for example, would a 2009 Discovery drive and ride better than a 2008?

Same for Winnebago - they changed from their Evolution chassis in 2008 to their Maxxum chassis. Does a Winnebago DP with the Maxxum chassis drive / ride better than one on the older Evolution chassis?.

My question is it worth it to pay more for the newer chassis?

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Old 12-28-2012, 10:34 AM   #2
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I could only assume than both made improvements in many ways not just the handleing. Brakes,mileage,technology all have made improvements over the years.

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Old 12-28-2012, 01:11 PM   #3
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I kinda want to hear from anyone that has moved from say a 2003ish DP to 2008 or 2009.

The perfect case study would be someone that moved from a 2004 Winnebago to a 2008 or newer. Or Fleetwood 2004 to a 2009 or newer.

Next best would be someone that knows someone.

From what salesmen tell me (ugh) the newer chassis are much much better. Of course they want to sell me the newer more expensive model.

P.S. When I test drove them I did not notice a difference but 99% of my concentration was keeping the MH between the lines.

Ugh - my thought is you need to be experienced to notice the better chassis.
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Old 12-28-2012, 09:27 PM   #4
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If you're strictly speaking of "drive and ride better" pertaining to a newer chassis, it's more a function of the chassis itself rather than how the coach manufacturer may modify the chassis for their own specifications as those specs usually pertain to space issues and how to integrate certain features into the coach itself. The ride and handling are engineered and executed by the chassis manufacturer unless the coach manufacturer specifies special tweaks.

Both Fleetwood's "Power Bridge" and Winnebago's Maxum are based on a chassis supplied by Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (click here for the different chassis of FCCC).

The Power Bridge front and rear assemblies come from a Freightliner XC-M chassis (click here). The Maxum for the new Journey and Meridian are based on the Freightliner XC-L chassis (click here).

So it's Freightliner who is actually designing the the ride and handling characteristics. The coach manufacturers may modify themselves or dictate to Freightliner what modifications they want to those chassis to better build their coach structure around. Or in the case of Fleetwood, they modularly designed the middle of their Power Bridge chassis around the front and rear components of the Freightliner XC-M.

For instance, Fleetwood wanted more pass-through storage capacity, taller storage bays, space for larger holding tanks, etc. So what they did is work those characteristics into their final design.

But anyway, the major handling and ride characteristics remain in the hands of Freightliner. Just like any vehicle, the later the model, the more technological improvements will be or might be made. So yes, in general terms, a newer model is probably going to ride and handle better. Whether the differences will be noticeable to you or not is another question. Our opinion is that in some applications they may be subtle. There's also the factor that older vehicles will inherently be "looser" in some cases and compared to a brand new vehicle will sometimes not feel as precise in its handling nor as smooth in its ride to a brand new vehicle with the same components and tolerances.

We are both former transit operators and drove buses produced by a variety of manufactures and varying lengths up to the articulated 61-footers. Therefore we feel that we are more perceptive to subtle changes in ride and handling characteristics of motorhomes because of our experience driving different types of buses, i.e., long, short, wide, old, new, and those made by different manufacturers every day or sometimes even the same day.

To answer your question, we don't' think you'll notice a lot of difference in an older chassis and a newer one of the same model. We recently test drove a brand new Winnebago Journey as we were thinking we might want to upgrade. Yes, it did have a nice ride and handled well but not exceptionally better than the ones we drove back when we bought ours in 2006. In fact, we both came away thinking that our 35' Meridian wasn't that much worse in ride and handling and that's why we are thinking of just keeping it a few more years.

But again, inherently, the newer one is probably going to feel better to you both in handling and in ride. But if you're asking if you should spend an extra 100k to buy a new one as opposed to a five year old model, our answer is no, it's probably not worth it for the price.

Let's say you drive a 2006 39' Winnebago Journey and then jump into a 40' 2013 Journey with a Maxum chassis, which one is going to have the better ride and handling characteristics? Sure, the 2013 model will have but it's also going to cost you close to $200k more. All other things remaining relatively equal, is the improvement in ride and handling worth $200k? I guess that's a question only you can answer.

As always, this is only our opinion. I'm sure others will disagree but at least we appreciate your letting us express what we think.
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Old 12-29-2012, 10:42 AM   #5
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I've gone from a 2004 to a 2007 but the improvements were more related to the product differences rather than the years. I went from a Freightliner 40' single axle chassis to a Spartan 42' tag axle chassis so it's not apples to apples.

That said, I prefer the Spartan chassis and like the mods that Entegra did to theirs. But I wrote a couple of road test articles for RV Magazine and FMC Magazine and got a real good look at the American Coach Liberty and Fleetwood Power Bridge chassis. They both use a trussed bridge design mid section that is laminated in key areas for additional strength. They then added Spartan front and rear clips to that bridge, although they have now switched over to Freightliner. The brakes, engine, suspension, etc are all standard Freightliner or Spartan stuff. But, any coach will need a stable platform in order to minimize the squeeks and rattles that come from twisting and racking of the body during normal operation.

In that regard I consider the Fleetwood/American Coach trussed bridge design to be the best chassis out there. Entegra comes in a close second with the X bracing mods and other tweaks they've done to the Spartan Mountain Master GT or K3 chassis but my personal choice would be the Entegra right now due to their use of the Spartan chassis versus Freighliner on the Fleetwood coaches. If you are looking at an older coach, an American Coach with the Liberty bridge chassis and Spartan clips would probably be at the top of anyone's list.
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