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2000 Winnebago Journey 36L - The Ultimate Tow Vehicle

Posted in Project Vehicles on July 1, 2000
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I admit it, not long ago I despised the idea of owning a motorhome. I enjoy driving and I like being in command of the road. If I'm going to drive for hours, I want it to be in something fun, something fast, and something that performs. I never thought that motorhomes could be any of that, and for the most part, they aren't. Except for the fun part.

Over the past year I've been lured into using a motorhome for several off-road events. Call me a wimp, say I'm getting old, or just plain thumb your nose at me. But several events I go to are in miserable, blowing dust bowls. Pitching a tent can be dangerous, and cooking over a flame is out of the question. Combine that with the fact that I often need a tow vehicle, and a motorhome starts to look appealing.

The Journey offers all the conveniences of home. A range with an oven sits under a residential microwave. The coffee maker is built into the cabinets over the dinette, and the large refrigerator and freezer actually hold a decent amount of food and fluids. There's plenty of lighting and storage, and the central A/C and heating keep the climate comfy inside the coach.

Recently, I got to road-test a 2000 Winnebago Journey 36L. The Journey is built on a Freightliner chassis with air suspension, air brakes, and a diesel pusher engine. The air suspension gives this Class A motorhome a better than average ride, it works to keep the motorhome level, and it lowers itself when you activate the on-board jacks to give you more control over leveling the motorhome. The air brakes work incredibly well, especially considering the Journey's empty weight of 19,468 pounds. If your trailer has brakes, the motorhome is rated for a gross combined weight of 29,850 pounds, which is when you'll really appreciate the air suspension and brakes.

The Journey is the first diesel pusher motorhome I've driven so I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of pulling power. The motorhome uses the same 5.9L Cummins Turbodiesel used in Dodge trucks, except it's turned up to produce 275 hp. It's backed by an Allison automatic transmission and drives the rear axle from the rear (hence the name pusher). Without a trailer hooked up, the motorhome still isn't blisteringly quick, but it's plenty tolerable. With a trailer, the off-the-line performance is dismal, but I was impressed with its pulling power at just about any speed above 30 mph. In fact, I forgot the trailer was there on the highway, and the Journey was able to maintain 65 mph up all but the nastiest hills. I was also able to safely pass just about anything I wanted to. The test vehicle was equipped with an exhaust brake, which helped take a considerable load off the brakes.

It's quite easy to get comfortable in the Journey on the open road. The coach offers great visibility with enormous forward windows, matching side mirrors, and a video-cam rear-view system. The dash controls are easy to find. The only real complaint from the driver seat is that the shifter was hard to smoothly manipulate. I would prefer either a better manual shifter or a pushbutton shifter to make it easier to downshift for speed control on grades.

In addition to being a tow rig, though, the Journey is one heck of a home away from home. The interior of the test vehicle was well-built with good fit and finish. There was never a cramped feeling during the road test. The Journey offers generous interior space, loads of cabinets, and carnivorous under-floor storage compartments. All current-model Journeys are equipped with a slide-out, which expands the main section of the motorhome considerably. The floor plan of the model I drove included a dinette, a couch and bed combo, a lounge chair, and a nice galley area in the front half of the coach. The rear contained a corner shower, bathroom, wardrobe, linen closet and a bedroom containing a queen-sized bed, plenty of storage cabinets, and a second TV that's connected to the satellite dish, VCR, and roof-mounted antenna. When land-locked, you can connect the motorhome to household electrical current, city water, and a conventional phone line. When you're more self-sufficient, the OnePlace Systems Center makes it easy to control and monitor all of the motorhome's systems, such as the generator, power consumption, water pump, climate-control thermostat, and holding tanks.

Looking from the bedroom forward, you can see the sliding door that gives you privacy in the rear of the motorhome and the spacious bathroom area. The shower is a corner design. This model has a large linen cabinet to the right of the sink, but an optional washer and dryer can be housed here.

After only a few weekends using a motorhome as a tow vehicle and home base in the middle of nowhere, I can see why people load up the RV for weekends, weeks, and months on the road.

Manufacturer Winnebago
Model 2000 Journey 36L
Base Price $128,661
Price as Tested $137,537
Options Tested coach dual-pane windows, AM/FM/CD, auxiliary defroster fans, CB radio preparation, solid-surface galley counter, fluorescent lights, patio awning with metal wrap, passenger-seat foot rest, rear-view monitor system, entertainment center, 10-gallon multi-power-source water heater, refrigerator and freezer with ice maker, washer and dryer preparation, 10-watt solar panel, 130-watt AC/DC inverter, power roof vent, satellite dish and elevation sensor, stylized aluminum wheels, VCR, leather cab seats, accessory package.
Engine 275hp, 5.9L Cummins Turbodiesel I-6
Transmission Allison MT643 four-speed transmission
Front Suspension air suspension, nondriven solid axle
Rear Suspension air suspension, solid axle

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