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.