In Australia, A class motorhomes aren’t all that common, especially those that are built from the chassis up, as opposed to a coach conversion. There are several reasons for that. Relatively higher cost (when compared to a C or B class) is one of them and another is that there are very few local manufacturers.
Imports, therefore, tend to fill this gap and they are usually from the US of A. That does bring a few problems, like a left to right-hand drive conversion and also the sometimes thorny issue of compliance.
In Batemans Bay, NSW, Coachmen Recreational Vehicles (formerly called RVOZ), under the direction of Alan Imrie, is one company which has grasped the compliance issue very firmly over the past few years. The importer diligently resolves various issues and has vehicles ready for the Australian market.
So when I heard that Coachmen RV’s new 10.2m (33ft 8in) Mirada was ready for our inspection, I didn’t take too long to pack my overnight bag and head south to a very pleasant Batemans Bay to look over the new motorhome.
One of the first questions asked (by me at least) is indeed regarding compliance. When I arrived at Coachmen’s new premises, Alan and his operations manager, Peter Wyer, were very quick to produce the relevant paperwork. They not only showed me over our review motorhome, but also others in the workshop in various stages of fitting out. All the appliances are fitted locally and items like electrical cabling are sent to the US for factory fitting.
An issue for many importers is, because of relatively minor order numbers, getting a vehicle to suit Australian tastes and requirements on a US production line has not always been easy.
“Curiously,” Alan told me with a grin, “since US economic conditions have taken a considerable downturn, our US manufacturer has taken much more interest in what we might want.”
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Built on a Ford F-Series Super Duty chassis, which is purpose-built for motorhomes, the Mirada has a 6.8L V10 petrol engine. Oil-burner lovers might blanch, but it’s a dual-fuel vehicle with the LP on auto changeover when the engine is warm. Attached to the engine is a five-speed torque shift auto gearbox.
On the road, the Mirada is a very smooth performer. The 270kW engine delivers plenty of grunt and the auto gearbox works very smoothly, even when pushed hard – not always a characteristic of auto boxes in motorhomes. Changeover from petrol to LPG is indiscernible. Steering in some A class motorhomes, particularly those which have had a left to right-hand drive conversion can sometimes be a bit vague, but the Mirada’s was positive and quite direct. Another casualty of the left to right-hand drive conversion can sometimes be foot space for the driver, but again the Mirada came up trumps. There was not enough time to do a proper fuel economy test, but Peter told us customers were reporting fuel economy figures of about 27.7L/100km for petrol and 32.33L/100km for LPG.
Called Black Pearl, the colour and decal scheme on the Mirada is very striking. Being a US-sourced motorhome, the main entry door is on the offside, as is one of the slide-outs, the awning and entertainment unit. To comply with Australian regulations, there is a second entry door in the rear bedroom and it’s a proper door that can be used very easily. However, only a short awning could be fitted because the slide-out takes up much of the wall area. There’s a plentiful supply of external storage bins. Some are dedicated for items such as gas cylinders, the Onan 6kVA generator and water/waste control panel, but many bins are empty.
Once parked, setting up the Mirada takes minimal time. The hydraulic jacks have to be lowered and there’s no guessing about getting the motorhome level – that happens automatically.
Once level the lounge/dining slide-out can be opened, as can the rear bedroom slide-out. Incidentally, the motorhome can be used without too much trouble with both slide-outs closed up.
Inside the Mirada, the general layout consists of a front and nearside
lounge/dining area, an offside kitchen, mid-rear bathroom area and rear bedroom. The decor is what I might describe as ‘toned down’ American, and therefore reasonably acceptable to Australian eyes. Some motorhomers may find the window area a little less than they would like but, with both doors, all hatches and windows open, the cross-flow ventilation wasn’t too bad.
With this design, the lounge/dining area is quite extensive. Both driver and passenger seats (captain’s chair style) swivel around and there is an “ergo recliner” and leather foot rest behind the driver’s seat. Along the nearside, the entire slide-out has a four-person dinette and a two-person lounge, so everything is very comfortably laid out. Fitted to the rear wall of the living area is a cabinet that contains the electrical control panel, DVD player, surround sound system and a large flatscreen TV. It’s good the latter is so large because although it can be seen from the front dinette seat, undoubtedly the most comfortable viewing seats are at the front end of the motorhome.
Catering is handled ably by the kitchen bench, which comes equipped with a Spinflo Caprice cooktop/grill/oven, stainless steel sink with drainer, Dometic 225L fridge and a LG microwave.
Like many a large motorhome, benchtop area is not overly abundant, but can be extended by a hinged flap at the end of the bench. A twin tub sink is also available. Between the fridge and kitchen bench is a full-height slide-out pantry and in the cupboard under the sink is that so-often-missing essential, a garbage bin.
Between the living area and bedroom is a full-width bathroom, with shower cubicle and linen cupboard on the nearside, and toilet and washbasin in their own cubicle on the offside. The washbasin is fitted into a cabinet with cupboard underneath and shaving cabinet above.
In the rear, the queen-size bed is built in with the bedhead in the slide-out. With the slide-out open, there is plenty of walkaround room. The only limitation with this arrangement is that even though there are overhead lockers, the bedside shelves are small, but better than nothing I might add. At the foot of the bed is a large double wardrobe with drawers below.
Alongside the wardrobe is the nearside entry door. In addition to giving nearside motorhome entry, it can be left open at night to admit a cool breeze. Security doors are not fitted but are available as an option. Above the door is a second flatscreen TV for night time viewing and there is also a flap to cover the steps when they are not being used.
There are, of course, a host of features (but not enough room to mention). The Mirada does come with a 6kVA generator, ducted roof air-conditioning and heating, inverter and an entertainment system.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I’m not always a fan of big US-style motorhomes for various reasons, but when looking over the Mirada, it’s clear that the team at Coachmen RV have taken some considerable strides to get it ready for the Australian market. Yes, the offside door is not always desirable, but the bedroom entry door offsets that to some degree.
The Mirada, with its purpose-built motorhome chassis, is packed with features and although it’s quite long, on the road it is a very easy drive and comfortable long-term touring proposition.
Coachmen Recreational Vehicles, 30 Cranbrook Road, Batemans Bay, NSW 2536, 1300 769 330, www.rvoz.com.au.