Winnebago Chieftain: PLEASE TUNE IN FOR A COMMERCIAL BREAK!
Sep 22, 2000
Review by djgeiger
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Solid, beautiful design, nice colors, employee pride, safety features, high testing standards
Cons:The entire rear clip needs to be removed to repair the new TrueAir Air Conditioner
Shopping around and comparison shopping can keep you from making huge mistakes. We are in the market for a Class A Motor Home. We found a Fleetwood that we came very close to purchasing on the spot. It had been a very hot day and we decided to put off the paper work nonsense for a cooler day. I am so glad we did. In French Camp, California we ran across a Winnebago dealership and thought it couldn't hurt to take a look. As we walked in my husband George remarks, if a pushy salesman starts in, we're out of here! Thankfully the salesperson was kind, helpful and not pushy! The RV Consultant was Matt Jones from Pan Pacific RV Center in French Camp, California.
Recommend this product?
The weather is of course, hot again. The RV's inside on the showroom floor looked mighty good simply because they are in a air conditioned room. We were soon forced to head outside since that was where the Class A motor homes are located. The first motor home we came to we noticed a difference between the Fleetwood we originally intended on purchasing. Not something that jumped right out flashing, I'm different, but something subtle, yet significant.
We opened the bathroom door. It had an actual handle. When the door was opened and closed it felt stable. The wall the door was attached to was solid. It didn't move when the door was opened and closed. Maybe this doesn't sound like a significant difference, but it certainly gave me an impression this motor home might be built more solid than the Fleetwood we looked at. Obviously Winnebago must build their RV's differently. Where do these subtle differences come from? What makes Winnebago stand out?
The facility is located in a Midwestern town in Iowa named Forest City. The building where the motor homes are built is call Big Bertha because of it's size. A well organized building the size of eight football fields. The employees speak with a sense of pride in their company and the work they do. Frequently using the words, us, we, and our, showing a since of belonging.
What does make them stand out? Little things like building 12,000 lb. clay models. Winnebago creates and refines their design concepts with full-size clay models! That is one enormous piece of pottery! When the cab structure is created they use steel instead of wood in the area that separates the engine from the cab, the steel cab structure is part of their Super Structure design The windshield is mounted with a fiberglass front cap, bonded in steel with a non-hardening sealant. Some motor couches mount their windshields with simple rubber gaskets. The major steel components used to build the motor home is treated with electrodeposition (e-coat) process to resist rust and corrosion. The Winnebago has beautiful cabinetry that is actually built right in the factory by woodworkers incorporating old world craftsmanship. Their testing standards and methods are pretty impressive but this warrants it's own section a bit later.
One other thing that I noticed when I first walked into the 2000 Winnebago Chieftain is that the fabrics in the drapes, couches and bedspreads match and coordinate beautifully with the other accessories. Some of the interior choices are Barbados with Waterford Oak or Salem Cherry, Calypso with Waterford Oak or Salem Cherry and Oasis with Waterford Oak or Salem Cherry. The Oak was very pretty, but I personally rather like the darker woods. The exterior colors are Forest Green or Sahara Grey over white.
One of that standard features I thought was a terrific concept at least until we did a bit of additional research is the new TrueAir Residential Central AC which is located below the floor instead of on top of the motor home. The idea behind having the air underneath was to eliminate AC condensation on the roof, another reason was to eliminate the double ugly air conditioner on top of the roof. It is a bit of an eye sore. Maybe in a couple years when Winnebago gets the bugs out of this new system. An officer of the Winnebago Club had his new air conditioner go on the fritz. The entire rear clip needs to be removed in order to repair his motor home. Not a good thing.
Because I am disabled, I have a back and neck spine injury that affects one arm and both of my legs, I have to investigate carefully certain features. In many of the motor homes we have looked at the toilets are very low. This would not work for me. The Winnebago has a regular residential-height toilet. One thing I did not like about the Fleetwood is the stairs going up into the motor home were very difficult for me. The first step was very high off the ground. George offered me his standard, do you need a tow truck as he offers me his hand. I can't quite see having to depend on George the thousands of miles we intend on traveling, to pull me up into our motor home. There was also an exterior acrylic assist handle to assist in climbing up into the motor home.
The 34' 11' Chieftain has two pull outs to increase living space. The two pull outs are located in the galley/living room area, the other is located in the bedroom You'd be amazed at the increased space this creates.
The Winnebago uses a hydraulic system on their pull outs where the Fleetwood used an electric motor with a rack-and-pinion mechanism on a Dura Glide System. The glides were visible inside the motor home. On the Winnebago's hydraulic system, you can't see where the pull outs, pull out.
The galley, or kitchen area is angled. This makes the space more functional as well as pleasing to the eye. The refrigerator and freezer was nice and large with double doors. The Chieftain we looked at also had an ice maker. Another standard item is the microwave/convection oven. There is a pantry area that slides out with adjustable shelves. You have a choice of an optional coffee maker, but I just as soon take along my Braun. I have gotten very spoiled when it comes to the incredible coffee that comes from my Braun. Storage is always a problem, there is a decent amount of storage availability in the galley. One thing I like that was optional on the Fleetwood is a water purification system. Winnebago comes standard with a Everpure water purification system.
The interior is beautifully laid out. There is optional leather furniture that is very nice. But, I believe you can do much better cost wise purchasing what you want else where. The carpet seems a little plusher. Maybe it has a bit thicker padding. The colors were more coordinated and all around prettier. Over the door leading outside was a pretty gold clock. It happened to be on the right time too! The bedroom had a privacy door to the bathroom. We are finding that many of the motor homes don't have a privacy door which wouldn't be very convenient for guest that you might have along on your trip. The bedroom had a reasonably, comfortable queen size bed. There is an option of a TV in the bedroom. The living room has a standard 25 inch color TV with remote. There are several options available to make this a very comfortable and livable motor home.
As I mentioned in a previous review on a Fleetwood motor home I am pretty picky when it comes to safety features. The Chieftains safety features were pretty impressive. There was a carbon monoxide detector with an alarm, an LP leak detector with an alarm and also a smoke detector with an alarm. There was also an escape window available. The windshields are laminated safety glass.
The fresh water tank is 75 gallons. The holding tank capacity is 58 gallons. The motor home has 69 cubic feet of exterior storage One option that is pretty nice is the automatic water winterizing system.
This beautiful motor home is powered by a Ford 6.8L 275 horse V10 Ford engine. The braking system is Anti-Lock. I can not figure out why the motor coaches we've seen don't have air bags. Other than the fact the whole drivers area would have to be totally redesigned. In my mind, it would be worth it though.
The testing standards are pretty high at the factory. They put the motor homes through a water test, not a LITTLE water, but is equivalent to 50 inches per hour. They also have a shaker machines that subjects the motor home to 100,000 miles of road wear in a week's time. At the very end before the motor home ships out the motor home has to pass a thorough 113-point final exam. It also receives a very comprehensive front wheel alignment using a computer-monitored system. You know it is ready for the open road when it leaves Winnebago.
If you ever get a chance the factory tour is pretty interesting and impressive. The one thing we are learning though, there is over 100 different manufactures of motor homes. I doubt if we get to see them all, but there is an RV show coming up and we well be sure to be there!
The price of the 34 ft Chieftain is on a reduced price of $103,997 it was $119,750. The Fleetwood Expedition was $134,736.05, though it did have a diesel in it. We would prefer the Chieftain with it's Cummings Turbo diesel, but they didn't have one on the lot.
The warranty could be better for such an expensive purchase. There is a 12 month/15,000 mile basic warranty. Plus a 36,000 mile warranty on the structure. What is impressive is the 10 year limited parts and labor warranty on the roof.
Both the Fleetwood and the Winnebago are pretty nice motor homes. But Winnebago seems to put a little more into it. It appears to me to be made more solid. I like the looks of the hydraulic pull out system better than the system that Fleetwood uses. But who's to know how they will both function in 5 years. More research to do! We've had an opportunity to talk with several RV owners. I really think you learn as much talking with owners as looking at various RV's at dealerships. We had pretty much talked our selves into buying this Winnebago until we learned of the problems with the new air condition systems. The Winnebago Chieftain is a very impressive motor home and we well certainly keep in in our minds as we are looking at other motor homes. One word of advise, don't look at too many on one day. Really take each and everyone in. It quickly becomes very confusing which motor home had what! As we learned from a seasoned motor home owner, take your time if your a first time buyer looking for your first motor home. If you don't, within 18 months you will be trading it off for something else. We found this to be the case with the number of used models available that were only 12 months or less old that had been traded off because it just wasn't what they had wanted.
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