With Recent Updates and an All-New Floorplan, Fleetwood’s Popular Diesel Pusher is Better Than Ever
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Regardless of how you interpret this time-honored expression, there’s no denying its simple truth. We can all remember the days when we called our parents old because they didn’t understand us, and now we must endure the snickering that ensues when we appear puzzled by the smartphones and social media that have become an integral part of our children’s (and grandchildren’s) lives. We all appreciate modern conveniences like GPS-enabled navigation units and the Internet, but hold in high regard a hamburger stand or general store that still does things the old-fashioned way. Indeed, change is inevitable — but perhaps some things stay the same simply because we want them to.
In the RV industry, change can be a slippery slope. Stay conservative, and you run the risk of being overtaken by the competition; go overboard, and you could lose your audience altogether. Retaining the original message of a product, while affecting incremental improvements, is a proven formula — one that Fleetwood skillfully applied to its 2014 Discovery model lineup earlier this year. Representing the first major redesign since 2007, Fleetwood’s focus was creating greater driver appeal with a new dashboard layout and a more contemporary interior design, without changing the Discovery’s position as a value leader in the diesel-pusher market. Now, only a few months into production, Fleetwood has upped the ante again with an all-new 2015 floorplan called the 37R — and the company provided us with a preproduction model for evaluation and testing.
Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of this floorplan is the honesty of its approach; it’s not trying to be the latest and greatest, nor cutting edge — in fact, in a lot of ways you might say that it’s old-school. It features opposing slides in the living and bedroom areas, a two-place dinette, and is even available with a TV above the cockpit. But look closer, and you’ll see subtle improvements have made this an exceptional motorhome, especially when you consider its sub-$300,000 price tag. Tile flooring is not uncommon, but the Discovery uses 24-by-24-inch porcelain tile that gives it a palatial feel. The countertops, which look like granite, are actually solid-surface, accented by decorative backsplashes. Stainless-steel appliances, dark woods and warm fabrics top off the look, which is contemporary and elegant, not overdone and garish.
It seems as though many coach manufacturers don’t put a lot of thought into how their customers actually use the coach, which is why we appreciated the thoughtful details that went into the 37R. For example, all of the coach system controls are located in one place above the passenger seat, and there’s only one panel to control the living-room slideouts, both awnings and the entry-step cover. Simply press the select button until the desired function is displayed, then push the deploy or retract button. Above the passenger seat, there’s a small light on a flexible stalk that can be aimed at the panel for better visibility in low-light conditions, or it can simply be used as a reading light. Over the driver’s-side window is a cabinet door that hides an erasable whiteboard that can be used for checklists, route details, etc. … and it can be illuminated as well.
The cockpit itself is also logically laid out. The new dashboard is “driver-centric,” meaning it is angled toward the driver for easier viewing. We loved the fact that the radio/navigation display and backup camera/side camera display are on two separate screens, which makes operating either one a lot easier. Someone finally realized that it’s not convenient, or safe, to work your way through multiple screens while driving. Switches for the power windshield shades, docking lights and parking brake are all located within easy reach, are clearly labeled and are illuminated at night.
As we departed for our destination at Emerald Desert RV Resort in Palm Desert, Calif., we found that the seats were comfortable and supportive. They feature fore/aft adjustment and reclining functions and are even heated, but the armrests were awkward to adjust, particularly when driving. Most armrests we’ve encountered have a manual adjustment wheel or lever near your hand; on these seats, the wheel is hidden underneath the armrest near your elbow, and is accessed via a slot in the upholstery. Also, the passenger seat features a power footrest, but it does not come up all the way, making it less supportive for those with long legs.
Driving the Discovery was a mostly relaxing experience; the engine is almost inaudible from the passenger seat, and there were few rattles emanating from the appliances, furniture or cabinets. However, the two sliding pocket doors that separate the bedroom/bath areas from the living area were secured by magnets on the test coach, which evidently were not strong enough to hold the doors open — and they couldn’t be latched closed. So that meant that with every corner, and even some lane changes, the doors slammed with a startling “bang!” Happily, Fleetwood tells us this design has been replaced in favor of a dual-bolt latch system in production models that solves this problem.
Likewise, the door for the optional dishwasher also opened and closed maddeningly, but we’ve since learned that the dishwasher features a built-in electronic lock that is activated by turning on the dishwasher (via shorepower, generator or inverter), closing the door and holding the lock button for five seconds.
Once at our site, setting up was a breeze; the Discovery is equipped with a Power Gear one-touch hydraulic leveling system that put the coach on the straight and narrow in about 30 seconds. After that, we deployed the living-area slides, door and patio awnings from the main control panel, then walked back to the bedroom, where those slideout controls are located. Everything worked flawlessly by our estimation, but one thing that we found annoying was that the engine must be running to operate the slides, jacks and even the stairwell cover. Fleetwood tells us this is to prevent low voltage to the electric slide mechanisms and hydraulic leveling system, but that’s of no consolation to neighbors that have to listen to diesel clatter for several minutes while you set up or break camp. Considering this coach is well-equipped with six, 6-volt house batteries, there should be sufficient power to run four slides and the jacks unless the batteries had been depleted over a long period. In this case, it would be easy enough to start the engine to recharge them.
Outside, Fleetwood did a great job from both aesthetic and functional standpoints. The standard full-body paint with deluxe exterior graphics is striking, especially when paired with the frameless windows and polished aluminum wheels. There are two massive basement storage bays, the largest of which is available with roll-out trays on either side that make it a lot easier to reach your gear. All of the compartments have side-hinge doors, and Fleetwood provided for easy access to the things that require the most attention, such as the batteries and diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). The 8-kW Cummins Onan generator is in a slideout compartment up front, and there’s even a smaller compartment on the front street side that features a handy compressed air fitting.
The living area is a great place to entertain, with comfortable seating for four provided by the optional L-shaped, extendable sofa. It is perfectly situated across from the 40-inch flat-screen TV and available electric fireplace, but we found the footrest to be sticky to deploy and stubborn to fold down. Also, bear in mind that this couch does not convert into a bed, so if you expect overnight guests, you’ll want the standard sofa with queen sofa bed. The test coach was also equipped with a movable, Euro-style recliner, which no one saw the point of. It’s heavy, and the only place it’s not in the way is next to the TV and fireplace — which is why it was removed for our interior photos.
The rear bedroom and bath area are a little on the tight side, but again, are thoughtfully laid out. The small, streetside bath houses a neo-angle shower with sliding glass door, porcelain toilet with sprayer and vanity with sink. There’s enough room here to accomplish the business at hand, and Fleetwood placed the switches for the water pump and overhead powered roof vent within easy reach. Just outside of the bathroom is another vanity with sink, mirror, small cabinet and drawers, so there’s a place to wash up or primp when someone else is using the bathroom. There’s even a handy nightlight in this area, located near the floor.
Like many contemporary coaches, the 37R is available with a king bed, and the test coach was so equipped. Frankly, we wish it wasn’t, because the bed takes up nearly the entire width of the room, leaving little walk-around space. There’s also no room for nightstands, so you’ll have to find another place to put your water or book before going to sleep. On the positive side, the memory-foam mattress was among the most comfortable we’ve ever slept on. We found it perfect for our tastes, and there’s a window on either side of the slideout that allowed the cool desert breeze to flow through. At the foot of the bed is a roomy dresser and a standard 32-inch flat-screen TV that is prewired for a Blu-ray player or other device.
The closet space at the rear of the coach is also a bit on the tight side, but this is due to the standard stackable washer/dryer, which is a great feature for a coach in this price range. We think most owners will be happy to make do with a smaller closet in exchange for such a great convenience on the road.
The next morning, we prepared breakfast. The galley is well-equipped with a large convection microwave, stainless three-burner cooktop with sealed burners, solid-surface sink and a residential faucet with pullout sprayer. The test coach was also equipped with the available residential refrigerator with icemaker and the aforementioned dishwasher. There’s adequate room to cut and chop, and more space is available with the standard sink/stove covers. If you need even more room, there’s a countertop extension that is positioned so it does not get in the way of walking traffic. Again, we appreciated that the switches for the task/overhead LED lighting are logically placed just below the kitchen counter, and are equipped with a dimmer function. There’s even space for a trashcan under the sink, something far too many coaches don’t make provision for. In fact, about the only thing that didn’t make sense to us was the pantry/spice rack, which was located closer to the bedroom than it was to the galley.
Palm Desert is hot even in the spring, so not long after breakfast, we pulled down the dual MCD shades and turned on the excellent ducted air-conditioning system. Plugged into 50-amp power, the system kept the coach at a very comfortable 75 degrees all day, and was exceptionally quiet — especially outside. We spent the majority of our days outside underneath the power patio awning, enjoying conversation with the available outdoor entertainment system providing either music or television when desired.
The 37R floorplan may be all-new, but it still carries on the Discovery’s tradition of providing luxury features at an exceptional value — and we hope that’s something that never changes.