Family Motor Coaching Profiles Itasca’s Soleil
Editor’s Note: The following article, authored by Lazelle Jones for the August 2014 issue of Family Motor Coaching magazine, offers an inside look at the Itasca Solei by Winnebago industries Inc. The magazine is published by Cincinnati-based Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA). To read the entire article click here.
The Solei, a Type A diesel-powered motorhome in Winnebago Industries’ Itasca product line, is loosely named after the French word for “sun.” And appropriately so, because the coach exudes a warm, inviting feeling. During a recent examination of the 2015 Solei 34T, one of two floor plans available, I concluded that the name seems quite suitable. The motorhome struck me as the perfect mobile residential option for snowbirds, full-timers, and other RV enthusiasts who spend their leisure time following the sun.
After picking up a test unit from Mike Thompson RV in Fountain Valley, California, I immediately began assessing how this luxury motorhome performs out on the road (freeways; urban roadways; and winding, hilly byways); how it functions residentially; and the fit and finish Winnebago Industries employees have incorporated into this $210,000 coach.
During the ride-and-drive part of my assignment, I found that the Solei 34T yields an exceptionally quiet and smooth ride. Southern California freeways span a broad spectrum of road surfaces (from smooth to rough, to just plain blunt), where the behavior of a vehicle is immediately apparent. Winnebago designers have done a great job of anchoring all of the appliances, interior structures, surfaces, appointments, and the massive slideout rooms to prevent nuisance rattles. Very little if any wind leakage or noise was noticed around the window seals, windshield, slideouts, or side entry door when proceeding at steady freeway speeds, which reached 65 and 70 mph.
The suspension system that is engineered into the Freightliner XCS chassis (the platform on which the Solei 34T is created) features the 340-horsepower Cummins ISB 6.7-liter turbocharged engine, Allison 6-speed automatic 2100 MH transmission, and NeWay front and rear air suspension. These components help “get the job done” when it comes to intercepting and mitigating road trauma generated from irregular road surfaces.
Though I didn’t perform 0-to-60 acceleration tests or power braking scenarios, I did experience getting quickly up to speed upon entering freeway on-ramps, as well as slowing down (including use of an engine exhaust brake) and braking (utilizing ABS air brakes). I was completely satisfied with these operations.
The actual gross weight of my test coach, which included 90 gallons of fuel, a full fresh-water tank (84 gallons), and a full propane tank (23.5 gallons), registered 22,360 pounds at the scales. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is listed at 26,000 pounds, which means that even with full water and fuel, the unit reviewed could accommodate another 3,640 pounds of passengers and cargo — sufficient to support a snowbird lifestyle or other type of extended trip. In addition, this coach can tow 4,000 pounds.
The Solei has a mirror system that can be adjusted to give the driver good views along both sides of the motorhome. When either turn signal is activated, the dash-mounted monitor shows objects that might potentially be in conflict with turning or moving the coach in that direction. During normal operation, the monitor displays activity behind the coach.
The instrumentation and driver and passenger controls feature large knobs and large rocker switches, which are exceptionally user-friendly. Only the radio requires adjusting the band, stations, and volume with push-button digital controls. In my opinion, coach instrumentation does not need to look as though it has been borrowed from the starship Enterprise, and in the Solei, it doesn’t. This motorhome offers a friendly, easily readable presentation.
Dual pull-down shades provide protection on both the driver and passenger sides; one is made of a woven fabric that breaks up the effects of the direct sun yet permits occupants to see outside. The second pull-down shade provides total privacy when parked. The MCD blackout shade, which runs the width of the windshield, raises and lowers via an electric motor by pushing a large finger switch. Because the shade can be lowered incrementally, it works nicely as a visor when one is driving directly into a late-afternoon sun. It also serves as the privacy/blackout shade when camp has been set up.
The Solei 34T comes with two slideouts, each featuring a topper awning. The one on the curb side expands the galley and the rear bedroom. The street-side slideout houses the living area sofa. Winnebago Industries now incorporates electric motors along the tops of each slideout. The slideout rooms are easily operated with the touch of a button. Company literature recommends that the automatic four-point hydraulic leveling jacks be lowered prior to extending the slides.
The continuity and flow from front to rear of the motorhome is achieved in several ways, one being the use of 16-inch-by-16-inch vinyl tiles fore and aft that are laid in a diagonal pattern. I liked this look a lot, not only for the continuity, but for its low-maintenance functionality.