This type A gasoline-powered coach may come in a compact size, but it goes to great lengths to provide ample living comfort and drivability.
By Lazelle D. Jones
For some motorhome enthusiasts, a bigger coach is not necessarily better. Yet they still want the style, comfort, and livability that have become the standard in today's type As. Enter the 2003 26-foot Land Yacht.
This coach represents a step into the future with its appointments, equipment, design, and construction, even though its diminutive length may remind some motorhomers of the 1980s, when production models were typically 30 feet long or less. Airstream also uses the words "low profile" to describe its gas-powered Land Yacht line, and with good reason: this motorhome's exterior height is 10 feet 2 inches (to the top of the roof air conditioner).
The 26-foot Land Yacht has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 15,000 pounds. With a full tank of fresh water (44 gallons), a full tank of fuel (60 gallons), and a full tank of LP gas (82 pounds), the unit I reviewed weighed 13,580 pounds. So, it was capable of accommodating another 1,420 pounds of passengers and cargo.
My test coach achieved a fuel economy figure of 9 miles per gallon, which is reasonable for a motorhome with a big eight-cylinder gasoline engine. The fuel tank is large enough to accommodate a driving range of approximately 540 miles at 9 mpg.
I picked up the Land Yacht in the Los Angeles area and proceeded north up Interstate 405 and the Sepulveda Pass. The coach either led or kept pace with the flow of traffic along the way. The monster 8.1-liter Chevrolet Vortec engine that comes with the P32 Workhorse chassis is the heart and soul of the Land Yacht. The big-block V-8 develops 340 horsepower and yields 455 pound-feet of torque. The four-speed automatic transmission, also a General Motors product, completes a powertrain that is capable of towing another 4,000 pounds.
Airstream provides the following statement concerning towing a vehicle behind this unit: "The towing vehicle's braking system is rated for operation at GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating), not at GCWR (gross combined weight rating). A separate functioning braking system is required for any towed vehicles or trailers weighing more than 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) when fully loaded."
The Land Yacht was very good in passing scenarios, such as when accelerating from 50 mph to 70 mph, as well as when entering a freeway and merging into traffic. With the Land Yacht's reduced length, changing lanes on the interstate during rush hour was relatively uncomplicated. The coach's shorter length and low-profile exterior height made it easy to maneuver into fuel stations and alongside the gas pump.
I liked the optional keyless entry. A touch of a button on the key fob unlocks the main entry door; two touches, and the driver's-side door also unlocks. Touch the button three times, and the patio light and interior lights illuminate for several seconds. This feature is a great help when returning to the coach after dark.
After manually adjusting the bottom half of the split-side mirror system and using the power-adjust feature to tailor the top half to meet my needs, I had good visibility along both sides of the coach. (The exterior mirrors are also heated.) The optional backup monitor has two adjustments, one for distance and another that focuses down toward the rear bumper.
I appreciated the power window in the driver's-side door, and the fact that the step for this door is recessed into the side of the coach; it keeps you from worrying about bumping your shins on a protruding step. I also was impressed by the placement of the hood release below the dash; this is a good security feature.
Overall, driving this motorhome was similar to handling a giant sport utility vehicle. The power-adjustable driver's seat quickly creates a zone of comfort that accommodates the body dimensions of the pilot.
Since I'm accustomed to type A motorhomes that are at least 34 feet long, I was initially skeptical about the livability of this 26-foot coach. That skepticism was compounded when I heard it was 96 inches wide. However, I was in for a surprise.
The Land Yacht's designers floored me with their use of interior space. A high amount of livability -- a level that many RVers will find to be totally sufficient -- has been gleaned. This coach includes all of the comforts demanded by today's discerning motorhome client.
Let's take a tour of the unit. The main entry door is on the curb side, immediately aft of the copilot's seat. Airstream has equipped it with a tension-type device that is mounted into the entry step and connected to the bottom of the entry door. This device controls the door when it is being opened and closed; it precludes the need to physically hold the door or to attach the door to the side of the coach when one wishes to leave it open.
A single entry step lined with a nonskid mat leads into the coach. The interior floor is conveniently closer to the ground than in other coaches, because this unit does not have coach-wide basement storage. Yet this motorhome's interior height is 6 feet 7 inches. Only a very few will find themselves brushing their heads up against the ceiling.
Immediately aft of the entry door is the in-line galley. First comes a double sink, followed by a three-burner cook top with a foldable Corian cover. Next is an 8-cubic-foot two-way refrigerator-freezer. A 10-cubic-foot unit with an ice maker is available as an option. My test coach had the optional oak facing on the refrigerator, so it blended in with the cabinetry.
Behind the driver's seat on the street side of the coach is a sleeper sofa. Aft of that is a private bath with a marine-style porcelain toilet and a molded fiberglass shower.
You may have noticed by now that I have not mentioned a dinette. A booth-style dinette is standard on this model, but my test coach had an optional sleeper sofa in the dinette's place. When it's time to eat, occupants can quickly set up a portable table that is supported by two stainless-steel posts; the bottoms of the posts are mounted into floor inserts and the tops connect underneath the table.
The dining table has a laminate top and measures 48 inches long and 22 inches wide. It offers ample room for enjoying a meal, taking on some paperwork, or enjoying a favorite craft. Its portability means that the living area can offer a more commodious space.
Speaking of, the designers of this coach truly employed "creative space planning." The clever use of space can be further seen in the rear bedroom configuration. This area not only has eye appeal, but plenty of utility and livability. Along the curbside wall is a cabinet and a sink complex with a Corian countertop. Drawers and storage are located below the lavatory. Aft of this is a large wardrobe that can help keep a large selection of clothing wrinkle-free.
The full-size bed (54 inches by 74 inches) is positioned in the right (streetside) rear corner of the bedroom with its head on the back wall. Near the foot of the bed on the streetside wall is a high cabinet with stacked drawers. On the top of this cabinet is a standard 13-inch television. A headset with a volume control, which plugs in above the headboard, lets folks who enjoy television and those who want to sleep both feel like winners.
The right side of the bed abuts the streetside wall. A carpeted passageway runs along the left side of the bed to the rear wall, and a partial passageway along the foot of the bed provides access to the lavatory, wardrobe, and stack of drawers, and facilitates making the bed. To further augment ease of movement in this area, the bottom outside corner of the mattress is angled.
Plush carpet covers the floor of the bedroom -- and the entire coach. Windows throughout the Land Yacht feature fabric-covered shadow boxes and pleated day-night shades, except in the bedroom, where night shades are used. All cabinets feature an oak finish.
Airstream builds this coach on a straight-rail Workhorse chassis. A series of 12 outriggers (six on each side) are welded to the chassis, making it ready to receive the floor. The heated, rotocast holding tanks are located below the floor, perpendicular to the chassis rails. The fresh water tank is actually placed inside the coach, below the rear bed, where it is winterized by the interior environment. The LP-gas tank is mounted on the rear streetside corner; the 5.5-kilowatt Onan LP-gas-powered generator (which is standard) is situated on the opposing rear corner.
The optional four-point PowerGear hydraulic leveling jack system is attached to the chassis.
The floor, walls, and roof are vacuum-laminated. This method literally sucks the air out of the structure and draws and holds the constituent parts together while the adhesive cures.
The floor is made of welded tubular steel members anchored with steel mechanical fasteners to the outriggers; polystyrene foam insulation is cut to fit in between. The floor is based on galvanized steel, with a plywood interior facing. An all-steel driver platform and firewall are welded to and integrated with the chassis.
The walls and roof are formed with welded tubular aluminum structural members. The walls are permanently anchored to the floor with huck rivets. This is the same technology that is used to guarantee the structural integrity of vehicles such as railroad cars.
Located along the sides of the roof and along the tops of the walls are interconnecting aluminum members. Once the roof and walls are joined, mechanical fasteners hold them together. A single piece of fiberglass forms the roof exterior. Shaped bead-foam insulation is used to create the roof crown and promote runoff. A silicone-type caulk is used to seal all seams.
The interior of the roof and walls is covered by a low-maintenance vinyl that can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.
The exterior storage bay doors are made of insulated aluminum. The bays themselves are carpet-lined, metal structures. The 26-foot Land Yacht features one storage bay that almost runs the width of the coach. It is accessible from the rear of the vehicle and is long enough for skis. It's also high enough that you don't have to squat or bend over to see what's inside.
The Land Yacht's exterior treatment consists of gelcoat fiberglass with approximately half the body being painted, which is standard, but full body paint is available as an option. When the latter is chosen, a base coat is applied, followed by a top coat featuring the color scheme. A clear coat is applied over painted areas, and a clear plastic protective film is applied to the nose of the unit.
This motorhome's front nose style is more rounded than many on the market today, which makes it more aerodynamic -- and good-looking.
The 26-foot Land Yacht is cooled by a 13,500-Btu roof air conditioner that also features a heat strip; an 11,000-Btu bedroom air conditioner is available as an option. A standard Fan-Tastic Vent fan with a rain sensor is mounted in the living area; a second one is available in the bedroom as an option. The coach is heated by a 30,000-Btu furnace.
Other standard electric features include an Intellitec mini battery management system; 30-amp service; and a 55-amp converter. A 5-watt solar panel provides a trickle charge to the chassis battery.
An optional 130-watt inverter is available to power the front entertainment center. As noted, a 5.5-kilowatt generator is standard.
The only potential sticking point I found with this unit was the size of its holding tanks -- 24 gallons for black water, and 23 gallons for gray water. However, this would likely affect only occupants who were involved in stand-alone camping for a period of days. Being mindful of water usage in such situations can mitigate it.
My test coach's base suggested retail price was $93,162, and the final price as tested came to $104,776 with the following options: side lounge with pedestal table; auxiliary defrost fans; keyless entry; Fan-Tastic Vent fan in bedroom; inverter; power passenger seat; DVD player; 12-disc CD changer; power patio awning; dual-pane windows; docking lights; hardwood raised-panel inserts in refrigerator door; rearview backup camera and monitor; leveling jacks; full body exterior paint.
The bottom line: Although the Airstream 26-foot Land Yacht is shorter than most motorhomes, it is long on everything else.
Manufacturer ... Airstream Inc., 520 W. Pike St., Jackson Center, OH 43311; (937) 596-6111; fax: (937) 596-8140; www.airstream.com
Model ... Land Yacht
Floor plan ... 26 foot
Chassis ... Workhorse
Engine ... Chevrolet Vortec V-8, 8.1-liter; 340 horsepower @ 4,200 rpm, 455 pound-feet torque @ 3,200 rpm
Transmission ... Hydra-Matic 4L80E
Axle ratio ... 4.63 to 1
Tires ... Michelin XRV 225/70R 19.5F
Wheelbase ... 158.5 inches
Brakes ... four-wheel antilock disc
Suspension ... front -- independent coil with auxiliary springs; rear -- parabolic taper multileaf
Alternator ... 130 amps
Batteries ... chassis -- (1) group 24, 690 cca; house -- (2) group 27 deep cycle, 600 cca each
Steering ... 14.1 Saginaw 710
Inverter ... 130 watts
Electrical service ... 30 amps
Auxiliary generator ... 5.5-kilowatt
Exterior length ... 26 feet
Exterior width ... 96 inches
Interior height ... 6 feet 7 inches
Exterior height ... 10 feet 2 inches (with roof air conditioner)
Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) ... 19,000 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ... 15,000 pounds
Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) ... front -- 6,000 pounds; rear -- 10,000 pounds
Wet weight as tested ... (weighed with full water and fuel tanks) front axle -- 4,700 pounds; rear axle -- 8,860 pounds; total -- 13,580 pounds
Payload ... 1,420 pounds
Frame construction ... welded tubular aluminum
Insulation ... 1.5-inch expanded polystyrene
Fresh water capacity ... 44 gallons
Holding tank capacities ... gray water -- 23 gallons; black water -- 24 gallons
Fuel capacity ... 60 gallons
Fuel requirements ... unleaded gasoline
Propane capacity ... 82 pounds
Water heater ... 6-gallon LP-gas/110-volt DSI, with motor aid
Water system ... demand
Furnace ... 30,000 Btus
Air conditioner ... (1) 13,500-Btu roof unit with heat strip; additional 11,000-Btu unit with heat strip optional
Refrigerator ... 8-cubic-foot two-way; 10-cubic-foot two-way with ice maker, optional
Toilet ... Porcelain with water-saver sprayer
Warranty ... Workhorse chassis -- 3 years/36,000 miles; Airstream coach -- 2 years/30,000 miles
Base suggested retail price ... $93,162
Price as tested ... $104,776