If you miss your deck or patio at home, you still can have one as you roam.
By Lazelle Jones
Creativity is the mother’s milk upon which innovation feeds. It is the force that enables some to take a product to new levels. Such is the case with the all-new Country Coach 45-foot Veranda diesel pusher, heralded as an entire new product line for the company.
For the first time ever in a luxury motor coach, this vehicle includes a patio/veranda that is incorporated into the curb side of the unit and lowers to create a unique outdoor living space.
Many attendees witnessed the Veranda's debut at FMCA's 80th International Convention this past July in St. Paul, Minnesota. My opportunity to personally examine this unit came a bit later as a Veranda 400 Mt. Rainier became available in Southern California for a test outing. After taking delivery of the coach, my wife and I promptly loaded it up for a trip to Bryce Canyon, Utah, where we visited with Clint and Lori Mecham. The Mechams host Scenic Rim Trail Rides at Ruby’s Inn (800-679-5859; www.brycecanyonhorseback.com), just outside the entrance to Bryce Canyon.
Riding out to where we were dry camping in the Veranda and enjoying the beauty of the Canyonlands, Clint and Lori met us on a high-timbered landscape in the Dixie National Forest. This seemed the perfect venue in which to enjoy the charms of Country Coach's newest innovation.
When weighed, the test coach — including a full load of fuel (135 gallons), a full fresh water tank (95 gallons), gear for two, and two adults — registered 44,520 pounds. The Veranda 400 Mt. Rainier has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 47,600 pounds. With its two enormous coach-wide exterior storage bays (74 cubic feet each) and the two optional powered dual-directional slide trays that articulate full-out on either side of the coach, we could have brought along another 3,000 pounds of cargo.
The unit I reviewed measured 45 feet long and 102 inches wide. It included three slideout rooms, in addition to the new patio/veranda located on the curb side, which I'll tell you more about in a bit.
I found driving this 45-footer to be effortless. Because of its sheer mass and its state-of-the-art suspension system, the coach intercepted and mitigated any road forces that emanated from the roads on which we traveled. The engine computer for our entire 1,000-mile journey (which encompassed urban, mountain, and interstate driving) indicated an average fuel economy of 6.7 miles per gallon, which seemed respectable for a coach this size.
After we crested the top of Cedar Mountain on State Route 14 (east of Cedar City, Utah), the two-stage exhaust brake totally controlled our descent, even with downgrades ranging between 6 and 8 percent. The Veranda's handling characteristics and road manners were very good, and the coach remained consistently stable in its forward progress, which included cruising at 75 mph and passing when required.
The bus-style, front-door Veranda is built on Country Coach's own welded high-yield-steel DynoMax semi-monocoque chassis. It features independent front suspension; hydraulic shock absorbers; and an air suspension system that includes four large-volume, low-pressure air springs and a retractable tag axle.
Because of the potential for direct movement (foot traffic) back and forth between the living room area and the veranda, Country Coach designers dressed the interior floor from the front stairwell all the way to the rear bedroom with a beautiful and low-maintenance Luxor porcelain tile (optional). The tile can flex with the interior floor as the coach moves down the road. Radiant floor heating (with thermostat) is installed throughout the coach.
The very rear of the coach features a 96 1/4-inch-wide-by-103-inch-long bath area, and midway is a half-bath. Both of these areas feature the same tile floor treatments.
Of course, the most unique attribute of this coach is the veranda itself. This feature can best be characterized as a large steel deck with railings that is created when a section of the coach sidewall is lowered. Safety glass between the rails and the floor provides an unobstructed view. The veranda deck measures 4 feet 6 inches deep by 13 feet long. The side rails rise 34 1/4 inches above the deck.
Between the interior living area and the veranda are three floor-to-ceiling patio doors made of hurricane-rated safety glass that together measure 77 1/8 inches high and 127 1/2 inches long. These doors provide ease of movement and unimpeded visibility between the interior living area and the outside veranda. All three glass patio doors are sliders, making it possible to create a passageway between the coach interior and the veranda that measures 45 1/2 inches wide. Sliding veranda screen doors allow the patio doors to remain open without inviting in insects.
This innovative design suggests a variety of benefits. For example, folks can savor the outdoors in privacy. Bugs, snakes, dirt, and more found on the ground become a non-issue. Handicapped RVers can easily venture out onto the veranda if they'd rather not contend with the coach entry steps. Views are enjoyable from this higher perspective, including dramatic lunch stops in beautiful places. Smokers and early-risers can linger outside without disturbing other travelers. And that's the short list.
So how is the veranda lowered for use and raised for travel? Just how much effort goes into actually using this innovative feature? The answer is simple. No more effort is associated with lowering and raising the veranda than when extending or retracting any of the coach's three slideout rooms. The only caveat is that because the veranda extends a full 4½ feet out from the side of the unit, care must be taken to ensure that adequate clearance exists on the curb side (no trees, etc.). Once this is established, the user turns on the key control/lockout; selects the switch position that says "Veranda" (the other direction activates the galley slide); and pushes the extend switch. It’s a done deal. When opened and lowered for use, the deck of the veranda sits perpendicular to the coach, 48½ inches off the ground.
Raising and stowing the veranda to make the coach road-ready is equally simple.
The sliding patio doors are equipped with two interior electric shades that can be lowered and raised as required. One is a privacy shade that permits some visibility outside. The second is a blackout shade that creates total privacy. Both shades cover the entire glass patio door system. We found that these shades yield yet another benefit. When both are lowered for travel, they create an additional thermal barrier that helps keep the interior temperature at the desired level. This was especially noticeable while crossing the Mojave Desert in July, where outside temperatures hovered at 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The thermal-pane windows throughout the coach; the R-16 insulation through the roof, walls, and floor; the three 15,000-Btu low-profile roof air conditioners (one optional); and these huge patio door shades all helped insulate us from the insidious temperatures outside. Furthermore, by shutting the ceiling registers in the rear of the coach and closing the pocket doors to those areas, we were further oblivious to the heat outside.
The only trade-off associated with the Veranda floor plan (because it incorporates three slideouts, not four) is that the interior square footage in the living area is less than if the coach were equipped with a fourth slide in lieu of the veranda. This will be a judgment call on the end-user's part, for the veranda and the three glass sliding doors provide such unique lifestyle opportunities. However, with the 13-foot-8-inch-long galley slide extended, we had more than sufficient forward galley and living space for our needs.
A pedestal dining table is anchored to the interior floor adjacent to the sliding glass doors. From here a full, unobstructed view of the world outside can be enjoyed while dining or simply having a cup of coffee and gazing out the windows. The table can be lifted off the floor mount and moved outside on the veranda for dining. It comes with two handcrafted upholstered wood chairs; two matching folding chairs are stowed in the rear wardrobe for use when company comes to dinner.
A double-door 22-cubic-foot residential refrigerator-freezer, equipped with dispensers for ice and chilled water, sits immediately aft of the copilot seat. Behind the refrigerator is a leather Euro recliner with a matching footstool that can be moved about the interior or taken outside on the veranda as desired. Aft of the dining table is a huge storage complex that houses a plethora of electronic audiovisual components. It features a solid-surface countertop with a 42-inch flat-screen television above, which can be swiveled, adjusted, and viewed from anywhere in the forward end of the coach.
Outside on the veranda, a fully enclosed 37-inch LCD high-definition flat-screen television (optional) on a power switchblade lift is housed behind a weatherproof panel. At the touch of a button, its door opens and the television articulates out. The veranda also featured an optional two-burner LP-gas stainless-steel grill, mounted on a side rail.
One more appointment merits recognition: a 19-foot-long, automatic remote-controlled patio awning that extends a full 8 feet to provide shade from the sun or protection from the rain.
Floor plan details
The galley, immediately aft of the cockpit, is an elegant creation appointed with a solid-surface countertop, oil-rubbed bronze fixtures, and light cherry wood cabinets (four interior décor schemes and six wood cabinet choices are offered). The two-burner cooktop and conventional oven are fueled by LP gas. Below the counter are cabinets with roll-out drawers. A floor-to-ceiling pantry sits on the opposite side adjacent to the refrigerator, out of the way but still handy when something is required during food preparation.
The beauty of having a half bath midway in the coach is that it’s immediately available for guests to use, and it keeps the luxury bath at the rear exclusively for use by the coach owners. The half bath includes a Tecma porcelain toilet and a sink that in our test coach featured the optional solid-surface countertop and bowl. The toilet actually includes some programmable features that permit the fluid level in the bowl to be raised or lowered as needed and is equipped with a touch-button (electronic) flush mechanism.
Outside the half bath door is a street-side aisle. This aisleway contains a "sideboard" storage complex that includes a solid-surface countertop with custom-crafted, stained, and lacquered wood cabinetry below. A window above allows light into this area. The side aisle provides passage between the front of the coach and the rear bedroom, the latter of which has a pocket door that can be closed for privacy.
Two opposing slideouts enlarge the rear bedroom. The curbside slide houses the head of the bed. Our test coach featured the optional king-size bed; queen-size is standard. The street-side slideout contains a massive floor-to-ceiling complex of drawers, wardrobes, cabinets, a solid-surface countertop, and an optional 32-inch LCD high-definition television. When only the curbside slideout is extended, sufficient room exists to move past the foot of the bed to the full bath area, aft of the bedroom. With the street-side slide extended as well, a generous amount of navigable room is created. The one heads-up is that when both bedroom slideouts are closed, the only way to reach the very back of the coach is to climb over the bed. However, the number of occasions when this would occur should be minimal, especially with the half bath up front and a modest amount of planning before heading down the road.
The rear bath in this coach is phenomenal — the kind of palatial venue one might find in the presidential suite at a Ritz-Carlton. It yields 69 square feet of space overall, and 22 1/2 square feet of floor space. One of the floor-to-ceiling cabinets houses the optional stacked washer-dryer. A huge wardrobe is also located in this area, separated from the bedroom by a pocket door.
Systems. Air-conditioning in the coach includes three roof-mounted 15,000-Btu low-profile units, each of which delivers chilled air through a central plenum (the third unit is optional). Heating is provided by a three-zone Aqua-Hot system. A 3,000-watt inverter powers all 110-volt devices (with the exception of the roof air conditioners) from a formidable house battery bank. The auto-start function on the 10-kilowatt auxiliary diesel generator will ensure that the batteries automatically get recharged when battery voltage falls below a certain set point.
The Veranda option is one that Country Coach intends to offer in several of the company's product lines. It will be available in coaches ranging from 37 feet up to 45 feet in length. Full body exterior paint and graphics are offered in four different schemes.
The Veranda 400 Mt. Rainier was outfitted with the following options, among others, in addition to those mentioned above: side-view cameras with dash display; Garmin GPS navigation system with XM Smart Antenna and Bluetooth interface; SmarTire II tire monitoring system; SilverLeaf VMS 240 CL digital engine monitor/travel information center with auto generator start and auto temperature control; stationary automatic satellite system and DIRECTV high-definition receiver in living room (MotoSAT), with additional receiver in bedroom; Blu-ray disc DVD player; Advantium Speedcook microwave-convection oven with power hood; RV Sani-Con tank drain system; 3M nose and entry door area protectant.
In our estimation, the Country Coach Veranda holds great possibilities for further innovation. As for now in this luxurious vehicle, added enjoyment of the outdoors is only a sliding door away.
Country Coach LLC, 135 E. First Ave., Junction City, OR 97448; (541) 998-3720; www.countrycoach.com
2009 Veranda 400
Cummins ISM, 500 horsepower @ 2,000 rpm, 1,550 pound-feet torque @ 1,200 rpm
Allison 4000 MH with PTO (Power Take-Off)
4.3 to 1
315/80R X 22.5
full air disc (17 inches by 1.75 inches), ABS, automatic traction control
Front — Reyco Granning IFS; drive and tag — Ridewell
chassis — (2) Group 31; house — (4) AGM 8D
fully integral, full-time hydraulic power steering gear with tilt and telescoping steering column
50-amp shore chord with surge protector
7 feet 1 inch
12 feet 10 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 16,600 pounds;
rear — 20,000 pounds;
tag — 11,000 pounds
WET WEIGHT AS TESTED
(including full fuel and water tanks, two passengers, and gear)
front axle – 16,420 pounds;
rear axle — 19,460 pounds;
tag axle — 8,460 pounds;
total — 44,520 pounds
PAYLOAD AS TESTED
steel-tube cage structure
1½ inches expanded polystyrene
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 65 gallons;
black water — 45 gallons
Aqua-Hot hydronic system; unlimited capacity (recirculation)
(2) 15,000-Btu low-profile roof units, standard; (1) additional 15,000-Btu unit, optional
Jenn-Air 22-cubic–foot electric
chassis — 24 months/unlimited mileage;
house — 12 months/unlimited mileage
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
PRICE AS TESTED