While attending the FMCA Southeast Rally in Brooksville, FL, I met Brett Howard from Alliance Coach out of Wildwood. Brett is well known in the Industry having come over from Monaco Coach Corporation quite some time ago and helping bring Alliance Coach into the forefront as a quality dealership in the mid-Florida region. Alliance recently was awarded the line of Monaco and Holiday Rambler brand of motorized and towables coaches. In recent News, Bill Osborne from Navistar announced that Alliance Coach was named the First Platinum Premier Service Center in the country. The 42 service bay Alliance Coach building is located on Monaco Way and was the former Monaco Coach Corporation service center until it was privately purchased by Alan and Judy Shapiro.
Alliance has over 50 employees and offers upscale services on all makes or motorized and towables coaches. Alliance Coach is described as a full service RV dealership providing a custom paint and collision center, cabinet fabrication, upholstery shop and chassis area. Alliance has Master Certified RVIA technicians that are factory trained and experienced in all types of RV service. Alliance performs the difficult repairs that are not routinely attempted by typical service facilities. Alliance also provides convenient on site camping when customers come in for repairs or want to break in their new RVs.
During our month-long Florida trip I wanted to see if I could test drive one of the new Monaco or Holiday Rambler coaches that are equipped with the new Maxxforce series of engines. Brett was the person that opened up this opportunity for me and when the FMCA rally came to a close on Saturday afternoon, Brett asked me if I would be interested in driving a motorhome back to the dealership. I thought about this for a whole 10 seconds and immediately said that I would be pleased to do so. Given a choice of coaches, I picked the 2012 Holiday Rambler Endeavor 43DFT.
The HR 43DFT is a 44 foot long tag axle coach that is built on the Roadmaster RR10R chassis. The 3/8” 50,000 psi tensile strength C channel chassis features 8 outboard mounted air bags that distributes the weight of the coach evenly across the chassis. The coach has a 3 sensor automatic leveling system that provides continuous air pressure adjustment to the air bags maintaining a level ride – reduce nose diving, weight transfer and floating on curved road surfaces. The 2012, 43DFT is powered by the MaxxForce10 and has 405HP and 1,250lb/ft of torque which is output to an Allison World 3000MH series transmission. The MaxxForce 10 also has a 3 stage Jacobs Engine Brake which is controlled from the right side control pad on the Smart Wheel.
The Endeavor’s cockpit features tile floors, leather seating surfaces, Smart Wheel technology. ergonomically positioned controls and a wrap around instrument cluster. When seated and driving the motorhome, the “A” pillar does not obstruct the driver’s view to any significant degree. The flow from the air conditioning registers needed to be redirected a bit because it was definitely cold.
My initial impression was that the coach was quite handsome in its exterior color called Fiji however there was an HR Ambassador in the display that was painted in a scheme called Hemingway that presents with a lighter color more to my liking. At this point I did a walk around pre-check and looked over the body for anything out of the ordinary and made sure the doors were closed.
The forty-three is equipped with a tag axle and for as long as this coach looks on the outside, once sitting on the inside, the difference between my 39 foot coach and this 44 foot long coach disappeared. Looking out of the greenhouse expanse of front window from the driver’s seat, the visibility is excellent. I inserted the key into the ignition and with a flick of the wrist brought the coach to life. Virtually quiet in the front of the coach one scans the instrument cluster for signs of life. The quiet diesel generator and air conditioning provide the majority of the ambient sound as well as the LCD faced multi channel multi-function sound system. The coach’s backup camera also displays on the color LCD as well as the side turning cameras. The power forward mounted rear view mirrors provide and excellent view down the sides of the coach and are virtually vibration free. The leather faced power seat allowed me to set up for a comfortable driving position and a large lever was used on the left side of the steering column to allow for the steering wheel tilt angle to be set.
The layout of the console switches are positioned to allow the driver to clearly see the descriptions. An on-board trip computer is commanded from the horizontal keypad. Power mirrors are controlled easily from the toggle and paddle switch. The transmission shift pad is tilted slight back for ease of view and access. A conventional light switch is seen on the lower dash as is the brake release push button.
New to me was the addition of a 3rd large pedal on the left side of center on the firewall. I was thinking this can’t be a clutch pedal although it did look like it but I soon realized that is was a foot rest. I did find that while underway the foot rest helped square my body in the seat and it helped me assume a comfortable driving position. The black leather wrapped Smart Wheel is outfitted with a full set of features. While driving the coach I found that I was accidentally toggling some of the radio functions which were behind the spokes causing the sound system to change channels. I did quickly adapt to that and was able to keep from toggling the buttons as soon as I became aware of the locations. I found the sound system’s menu button a big help to restore the channel I was previously listening to.
Once we were ready to go, I reached down to the back of the left console and pushed the “Travel” button on the leveling panel. I could feel the vehicle air up as it as it rose on its bags within just a few seconds. With my foot on the service brake, I pushed in the park button. I pushed the “D” on the dash mounted shift panel and quite smoothly transitioned from neutral to drive. I slowly let off of the brake pedal however the vehicle didn’t initially move. Over the course of a few days the vehicle settled in the grass I expect and I believe that the tires may have dug it a bit. A little throttle pressure increased the RPM however the vehicle was still reluctant to move until a bit more pressure was applied and the tires broke free of the ground. With a firm but gentle hold of the large steering wheel I began to turn out of the display area. Stopping for a moment we gathered up our party of 5 coaches and nose to tail departed the Hernando County Airport.
The Valid Manufacturing Ltd. panel allows the driver to set up the vehicle for road use by pressing the travel button. Air is also dumped from this panel. The coach’s leveling system is activated from here and is completely automatic or may be manually operated.
Driving this rig right from the onset quickly felt comfortable even though I had not quite gotten up to speed. The traffic leaving the airport was of course bumper to bumper but when it came time for me to take to the highway I did so with a pretty big smile on my face. Once the traffic had cleared enough for me to make my way through a large sweeping left hand turn out from Runway Drive, I stepped on the throttle and put the hammer down. Slowly at first, like the large vehicle that it is, it took a few moments to react to the throttle input. Once the RPM came up and the vehicle completed the turn, the steering gear centered itself quite nicely and I lifted at about 45mph. On the straightaway, I throttled up a bit more adding 10 more mph and engaged the cruise at 55 MPH. I wanted to settle in a bit and get acclimated before trying to keep up with the flow of traffic.
It didn’t take long at all to become confident with the ride and handling of this vehicle. The steering was true and the comfort was outstanding. The sound system’s volume filled the cabin and along with a little karaoke session from the DriVer, the ride was even more pleasurable. Coming up to my first traffic light at speed was a non-event. In applying the brakes, this vehicle slowed down pretty much along the same performance curve that you would expect from a large luxury automobile. The brakes did not grab at all as the motorhome came to a full stop. An upward push on the signal light leveler changed the display on the LCD and gave me a wide angle color side view. As the mode changes from radio to the camera display, the sound is briefly interrupted however the program shortly came back on the speakers. Once the right hand turn was completed the signal lever canceled itself and the radio display returned to its XM radio screen.
The right side of the dash cluster presents the HVAC controls and the LCD Touch Screen sound and camera monitor system. The LCD is bright and easily see at all times. The touch screen functions work very well and respond quickly. The generator start switch is located just left of the display. Speakers for the sound system are positioned directly overhead and fire downward. The amplifier is quite powerful and provides excellent sound quality while traveling.
With a casual glance, I passed the Country Kitchen Restaurant and kept motoring, rising up a slight crest in the road. Cortez Blvd continues for about 2 miles where a right turns places you on 50 eastbound to the I-75 Interstate. At this time I am feeling more comfortable and I’m slightly increasing my speed and beginning to match speed with the other vehicles on the road. Road surface irregularities were not objectionable however a pavement change issued a distinct jolt to the steering gear. Continuing down the road a Jersey barrier came up on the right side reducing the road width to a single line. Undaunted, the vehicle tracked perfectly straight as the construction fell behind me. Route 50 continues out to the 301 exit on I75 and approaching I took the left hand lane and came to a stop. With high expectations and adrenaline pumping up in anticipation of now achieving highway speeds, the light turned green for a left hand turn and I entered the on ramp.
The lead vehicle in our convoy, the Ambassador, got up on the ramp and quickly accelerated out on the highway. Following, I went to throttle “ON” and almost as if watching a space shuttle take-off, slow at first, but after a little distance had passed, the forty-three got up to the speed limit and I continued accelerating up to 75mph and slowly closed the gap on the Ambassador. The ride comfort at speed was remarkable. The tracking was perfectly straight the steering effort was zero. The wind noise was nil. The only thing that was rocking the boat was the Classic Rewind channel on the XM radio! At speed, I engaged the cruise control and got out of the throttle. Quite relaxed, I sat back and enjoyed the ride. One thing that I noticed about the cruise was how well the speed adjustments happened. If I clicked up the cruise the vehicle would change speed 1 mph pretty quickly and stabilize. Going the other way called for the vehicle to coast a bit so slowing was compromised by inertia however once the speed was satisfied cruise resumed. I could do this all day long – what a ride!
The instrument cluster is uncluttered and provides the driver with analog gauges for quick reference. In left pod are indications for temperatures and fuel quantity. In the right pod RPMs are seen in the top half while the air tank pressures are displayed in the lower half. The center pod indicates vehicle speed and odometer readings. At the top of the cluster is the travel computer. When I started the engine the display indicated 8.5MPG. When I arrived in Wildwood the MPG remained at 8.5 MPG average. Instantaneous MPGs are seen on line 1 and total fuel consumed is seen on line 3.
Unlike other air ride chassis I have driven, there wasn’t what I would call a magic carpet float sensation. This vehicle was always glued to the road and it issued a lot of confidence because I never felt disconnected from the road surface. Approaching our exit location which I believe was at the 321 mile marker, we turned right on 470 and went east to Sumpterville. The roads here narrowed somewhat however I was not intimated because I knew I had excellent directional control. We turned north on route 301 and began making our way up to Wildwood. Closing on 18 wheelers coming from the opposite direction there was absolutely no push that I felt in the steering wheel. We continued on and took a right turn on Clay Drain Road. Clay Drain Road looked like a driveway for all practical purposes. As we made our way up the street, the peak of the dealership building caught my attention and then I noticed several motorhomes parked in the Alliance campground.
While driving the motorhome I kept my driver training in the back of my mind and this helped me quite a bit to transition to this larger vehicle. Setting up the forty-three for a sharp turn is quite easy once you know how to do it. I was taught early on to use visual reference points and to pull the vehicle straight out into the intersection to where I could see the curb stone just line up with my seat. One then turns the steering hard over in the direction of travel and from this point the vehicle will cut through the turn exactly where you need it to be. Looking at the side view mirror confirmed the track that I took and it never came close to the curb. Although I looked for the steering cut degrees in the literature I could not find it in print. The vehicle in my opinion has a close to or greater than 55° wheel cut.
The Endeavor is seen on the left and the Ambassador is seen on the right. The lighting on the front of the motorhomes are seen mounted vertically and the signal and parking lamps are LEDs. The lighting trim on the upscale Endeavor is framed in chrome. Endeavor’s wiper cover is also full width chrome. Tires are 295/80R/22.5.
The ride was all too soon over. I turned the key to the off position and I shut down the generator. The vehicle assumed a church like ambiance on Tuesday and reluctantly I got up out of the seat and exited the vehicle. What a nice ride and I had a blast. The 405 HP Maxxforce 10 engine was impressive and exceeded my expectations. There always seemed to plenty of power available and achieving a nice cruising speed was effortless. I did not find anything that I have take exception to other than the steering wheel radio buttons. I want to thank Brett for allowing me to take the Endeavor back to Wildwood for this brief one-way trip and it will be a ride and drive that I will not soon forget. I now have a keen sense of why RV owners grow attached to the Roadmaster Chassis on their Monaco and Holiday Rambler motorhomes.
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Not often seen in print, here’s what the inside of the motorhome looks like with the slideouts inboard and ready for travel. The narrowest point is in front of the refrigerator however it’s not difficult to get to the bathroom.
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