The B Side
With a sofa-bed slideout and plenty of drawers and cabinets, Winnebago’s Era 70C is a comfortable Class B for two
I admit to being a chronic over-packer. When it’s time to load up the RV for a trip, my theory is “Why not bring it?” — especially when there’s space — because it could very well come in handy. Or a neighboring fellow RVer may just want to borrow that salad spinner. And if we don’t need it, well, then, what’s the harm? So when Winnebago’s latest Touring Coach, the Era 70C, which boasts a wall brimming with cabinets and deep pullout drawers next to the refrigerator, arrived at our offices, my wheels — and the Era’s — were turning. Try as I might, even I couldn’t fill up the drawers with a variety-pack of kitchen gadgets, enough food to feed a KOA, clothing for an assortment of temperatures and bedding for a three-day meander up the California coast. And souvenirs picked up along the way.
This Class B motorhome is built on a Sprinter chassis with a Mercedes-Benz 3.0-liter 6-cylinder turbodiesel engine and a five-speed automatic that uses Tip Shift technology to allow manual shifting. The Era is equipped with ABS brakes, dual rear wheels and a hitch receiver for towing up to 5,000 pounds. The Era was introduced to Winnebago dealers in 2007 as a 2009 unit and produced in the last half of 2008. The 70C, one of three Eras in the 2015 Touring Coach lineup, is the first to have a slideout. It also has the largest freshwater capacity at 45 gallons.
The Era’s chassis sports a BlueEfficiency badge — essentially, it’s a term Mercedes-Benz coined to encompass the fuel-saving and emission-reducing efforts used on the rig. Our test vehicle averaged 17.05 mpg.
The Era is smooth and easy to drive — at an inch longer than 24 feet, it’s like maneuvering an oversized van where you monitor the mirrors and pay attention to height restrictions. With its 9-foot 7-inch height, enclosed parking structures are off-limits. The Era’s integrated running boards are great for stepping into and out of the motorhome.
We found the cockpit’s setup well laid out and efficient. There’s plenty of room to store sunglasses, maps, road-trip munchies and music CDs/DVDs. Just watch your noggin when climbing into the cockpit from the living area, as large, practical shelves are at head level. The Ultraleather driver and copilot chairs are super comfortable and have adjustable lumbar support. They rotate and recline — great for use when in camp because they offer the soothing feel of a La-Z-Boy-type chair.
Armrests are height-adjustable but on the short side. While driving, I had to consciously move my right arm back from what would be a natural position because the armrest’s edge fell at the nerve of my funny bone. Armrests are incorporated into the cockpit doors, and keyless entry is offered on all doors. The Infotainment Center ($1,533 option) with Rand McNally RV GPS has a 6-inch touch-screen, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio pairing with a smartphone or tablet, AM/FM stereo, CD/DVD player, iPod direct and USB connection, an outdoor thermometer and a color rearview camera display. While driving, we were impressed with how we could carry on a normal-volume conversation, though there was the occasional squeak from the slideout and other sources, and the rattle of the bathroom’s pocket door in the rear. The pocket door would benefit from a second hook-and-loop strap at its base.
In contrast to a plethora of inside storage — someone commented that there was enough drawer space for 25 people but room to sleep just two — there is no outside storage. In back, cargo doors can be folded back flush against the body. Large tinted windows, as opposed to solid walls of metal, are attractive and go with the Era’s Brilliant Silver color. A spare tire, attached to the left cargo door, is standard on the 70C model only and needs to be swiveled out of the way to open the door.
Behind the back doors is storage where we stowed two camp chairs, two Quik-Fold tables, a large mat, a water hose and the shorepower cord. Winnebago added an access door to the shower from the storage area and provides a carpeted piece of plywood that protects the shower pan, should it be needed to store additional supplies. If you’re using the shower for storage, take care how things are packed because during travel items can shift and block the inward-opening shower door.
At the RV park, we settled in and started preparing dinner. We liked the way the kitchen is laid out so that, while cooking, we were facing the sliding door, which we kept open. With the slider open, we felt like we were working in a large kitchen while watching the goings on outside, plus this inviting look encouraged folks who were curious about the Era to walk up and chat. The accordion-style screen door in the slider was quite a hit.
The 52-inch-long Ultraleather couch is housed in a streetside slide that adds 25 inches of living space. The no-fuss 16¾- x 35½-inch dinette table (the slide must be out to set up the table) was assembled in a flash. It does not lock into place — a nice feature, on the one hand, because it can be turned out of the way when you sit down or get up from the couch. However, it doesn’t remain level and was unsteady, so we avoided using it for placing cups filled with hot liquid or tipsy wine glasses.
A three-burner stove with a glass top that serves as a backsplash and a stainless-steel sink are housed in an attractive curved Corian countertop. During cleanup, with the range’s glass top down, there was not much of a barrier to keep objects from falling behind the cabinet, which is spaced away from the wall to allow room for the Alde convector that heats the living area. Plus, the backside of the cabinet could use a makeover. We’ll explain: When the slider door is closed and you’re looking through the glass window from the outside, you’re viewing unfinished wood and an assortment of pipes, hardware and other stuff that’s generally hidden behind a cabinet. Yes, the window is tinted, so that helps hide it, but this unfinished look is a contradiction to the caliber of this motorhome.
Two colors of Italian-style cabinets are used in the Era — dark High-Gloss Marbella Cherry over the couch and in the kitchen, and a cream-colored Sand Back for the rest, which nicely complement each other. Naturally, fingerprints showed up prominently on the high-gloss cherry.
A 20½- x 8¾-inch countertop extension flips up, and we left it up to serve two purposes: as a needed countertop space and to divert people from the TV above, which protrudes into the side entrance. Virtually everyone who stepped up into the RV before we deployed the extension bumped their head on the TV. The extension is also useful for keeping utensils within reach while prepping a meal, but for zealous chopping the surface was too wobbly. Standard is a microwave/convection oven, which can be powered by a 2.5-kilowatt Cummins Onan MicroQuiet LP-gas generator when dry camping.
A 16¼- x 3-inch metal shelf over the sink served well as a spice rack once we added Grip-It shelf liner, and it is a good place to drape a dish towel, since there is no towel rack. Four electrical outlets are within easy reach, and the area is well-lit (as it is throughout the rest of the interior) with LED lighting.
Two buttons inside the RV (one in the galley, one by the passenger door) operate the 13-foot electric awning with integrated LED lighting. Some designer wasn’t thinking clearly, in our opinion, when it was decided to place an awning switch in the galley of this coach. It’s an accident waiting to happen, because your natural inclination is to stand inside with the slider open and push that button to deploy the awning. But the awning will not clear the slider door when it’s open, and if you’re trigger-happy and don’t get your finger off that switch soon, damage will be done. The best way to open the awning is to close the slider, stand outside the passenger door and use the switch at the base of the seat so you can watch what’s going on.
Additionally, the awning’s arms were wedged into the rafter assembly so tightly that we had to use a flat-blade screwdriver to get them out. Once the large awning was set up, however, we relaxed in our chairs and listened to music playing through the superb outdoor speakers of the Jensen stereo system, which is located just inside the sliding door. The system includes an AM/FM radio, Bluetooth capability, a CD/DVD player and surround sound.
A 22-inch HDTV with a rooftop antenna swivels for viewing from pretty much every angle inside the RV, with an especially good view when reclining in bed. During travel, it stayed securely in place.
Below the TV is a touch-screen panel for the Alde Compact 3010 hydronic radiant heating and continuous hot-water system. Nighttime and morning temperatures can be programmed in, and the furnace was so quiet we weren’t quite sure if it was on at first. The system uses a network of convectors located on interior walls: Air warmed by the convectors flows up the walls and around furniture to heat the interior while forming a barrier in front of the windows that prevents cold air from entering. The Alde system also heats the water, supplying what is claimed to be the equivalent of a 6-gallon water heater.
The Ultraleather Flexsteel couch makes into a 52- x 75-inch sofa bed. Brace yourself — tugging the bed out of the frame takes some muscle. The thick cushions made for an impressive, comfortable mattress sectioned into three parts — although our spare blanket kept sliding off because of the slick Ultraleather on the lower portion of the bed (the rest is cloth). Smooth-retracting roller shades, accordion-style windshield shades and side curtains do a marvelous job keeping in privacy and keeping out light. Walk-around space is limited, and one must use care when walking around the foot of the bed to prevent falling down the sliding-door step, especially in the dark.
A pocket door with full-length mirrors on each side separates a surprisingly large bathroom from the galley. Like in the kitchen, the countertop is curved to give it an elegant look, and there’s lots of space for stowing toiletries, etc., including a commodious deep drawer to the right of the sink. There’s a porcelain toilet (an upgrade from prior years’ plastic ones), a Fan-Tastic vent and a hanging rod in the shower. The showerhead had a shut-off valve and good water pressure, and the shower was spacious enough.
We like the straightforward approach to the Era. About the only thing we found to grumble about is that the bed has to be made up and put away every day. For as much storage as there is, our bulky bedding took up a good portion of the wardrobe, and this was the only one with a hanging rod for clothing. Aisle space is narrow, so depending on the size of the people, if one person is cooking, for instance, he or she might have to move out of the way to allow someone else to get to the bathroom.
This is an RV that doesn’t have to sit when you’re not exploring the country — it’s a convenient vehicle for parking at your kids’ sporting events, for example, where you’d have a pleasant place to relax and assemble sandwiches and have a not-so-public bathroom. Curiously, the sofa is wide enough to seat two — even three, if they’re small people — but there’s only one seat belt.
The Era 70C keeps it simple for one or two people to travel in luxury in a motorhome that offers more storage than the average Class B, chic styling inside and out, and fuel economy equivalent to an SUV.
641-585-3535 | www.winnebagotouring.com