Driving any RV, whether motorcoach or towable is a completely different experience than driving a car or SUV. And with the high demand for LTVs combined with the COVID RV Boom and shortage of parts for manufacturing, it’s almost impossible to find a unit to test drive.
When I purchased my 2020 Unity FX, I was fortunate to get the new updated Sprinter chassis that has many upgrades from the previous model, such as adaptive cruise, electronic steering, LED headlights, and a brand new interior that resembles Mercedes’ luxury cars.
The Driving Experience is Part of the RV Experience
Let’s talk about the drivability of a Leisure Travel Van, as the driving experience is an important aspect of the RV experience. Many seasoned RV owners will tell you that driving an RV can be a stressful, tiring situation. Whereas I’d say, with the Leisure Travel Van on the well thought-out Sprinter chassis, it’s the complete opposite.
In fact, Janet and I just returned from an impromptu, four-day, 1,600-mile round trip to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, from Dallas, Texas. Even though we had limited time, we wanted to get the LTV out on the road and spend a few nights in the cool Colorado mountain air.
So this meant making a beeline to Colorado with as few stops as possible. I drove for 8 hours on the first day, and I can tell you I enjoyed every moment of it. With the electronic steering, adaptive cruise control, and comfortable Ultra Leather seats, I could have kept going even longer. It’s not always a good idea to drive that distance at one time, but totally doable in the LTV. (Fellow Leisure Explorers Mike and Jennifer Wendland have a fantastic suggestion of the “330 Rule” – stop after 330 miles or at 3:30pm, which ever comes first.)
Deep Dive: What It’s Really Like to Drive a Leisure Travel Van
Power and Miles Per Gallon
The LTV Unity comes with the Mercedes-Benz 188-horse power 3.0 liter turbo-diesel V6 engine with direct injection, and a turbocharger intercooler that produces 325 pounds of torque. This may seem relatively small for a Class C (B+) motorhome, but it’s more than adequate power to confidently merge onto a highway and move the 11,000 pound motorhome with ease.
I’ve never felt it was underpowered, and with the unheard of motorhome highway miles per gallon (mpg) of 17 that I average, it’s not an enemy of your wallet. My only complaint is that I wish it had a bit larger of a fuel tank, as the 24.5 gallon tank gives you about 370 miles of real range when you factor in combined mpg.
For ultimate efficiency and safety, we travel at a max of 65 miles per hour (mph), that gives us that 17 mpg (sometimes up to 19 mpg on flat highways). Jumping up to 70 mph drops the milage to 15 – 16 mpg in my experience, as well as making the coach a bit more susceptible to feeling cross winds and such. We try to never be in a hurry and I definitely recommend the sweet spot of 65 mph for a comfortable drive.
So what’s it like to drive an 11,000 pound, 10-foot-tall house? Actually, very unintimidating. While much larger than an SUV, such as a Suburban or Escalade, the electronic steering makes turning and highway control very much an SUV experience. Once you master not having a rear view mirror and really have an awareness of your blind spots and turning radius, it’s a breeze to drive, even in urban settings.
Adaptive Cruise: A Game Changer for RVs
You may have adaptive cruise in your vehicle, as the technology is being put into more automobiles, but having it in an RV makes driving virtually stress free.
My daily driver is a Tesla Model S, and I have become so spoiled with the autopilot feature that it was absolute serendipitous when I took my first trip in the LTV and turned on the adaptive cruise. It takes the white knuckle effect of driving in heavy traffic away, knowing the RV is actually helping you maintain a safe following distance. And driving on open highways is like a walk in the park, knowing the coach will self adjust the speed for the slower vehicle you are approaching ahead.
You should still always be completely aware and prepared to take over just in case, but the peace of mind it gives you is priceless. I will never own another vehicle without this amazing feature.
One of my favorite features of my LTV is the giant panoramic front windshield. Driving through the mountains or desert is like watching a movie screen with the landscape unfolding before you. It’s hard to explain, but the large windshield makes the viewing experience so different from a regular automobile.
Like I said earlier, it takes some getting used to not having the rear visibility you have in an automobile. The large side mirrors with the lower concave mirrors will be your best friend once you get familiar with what you are looking at and where cars are in your blindspots.
The Sprinter chassis does have a backup camera, but unfortunately it is not available for driving. There are several after-market solutions you can purchase, and I opted for a wireless camera that requires no difficult installation or running of wires.
Navigation and Entertainment
The team at Leisure Travel Vans doesn’t scrimp when it comes to ordering their chassis, giving you just about every feature Mercedes offers. The beautiful 10-inch screen with navigation, satellite radio, Bluetooth, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, and “Hey Mercedes” voice assistant is spectacular.
There is no shortage of audio options as Sirius XM satellite radio gives you virtually every music, talk, and sports programming imaginable to keep you entertained as you enjoy your road trip (this is invaluable when you are in remote areas with no radio signal).
“Hey Mercedes” is a voice assistant much like “Alexa”, in that it can control your audio and navigation as well as answer questions such as time, date, temperature, etc.
Climate and Comfort
The downside to the big, picturesque window is how much heat it enhances during sunny days. The Sprinter AC is more than up to the task of keeping you cool, and you will most certainly want it doing its job during the summer. When in really hot conditions, we will run our diesel generator to power the coach rooftop air to keep the entire coach cool while driving, to help the dash AC.
The heated seats are a luxury my wife, Janet, refuses to live without. She will even turn it on in the summer! While I can’t fathom doing that, I also can’t imagine life without them in the winter. While the Ultra Leather does stay relatively ambient in the winter, the heated seats are a welcome feature.
Stability and Sway
I’ve read many posts on forums of the pre-2019 chassis having the absolute need to add a beefed-up sway bar and something like Sumo Springs to control the rocking and sway of the motor-coach.
In the 2019 upgrade, Mercedes includes a beefed-up sway bar from the factory, and I’ve found it to be adequate. With that being said, I do think Sumo Springs would help when turning out of steep driveways or turning into parking lots that have un-level pavement.
But I’ve found that normal driving conditions are fine with what the coach comes from the factory with.
At the end of the day, I absolutely love driving my Leisure Travel Van. In fact, I look forward to travel days sitting behind the wheel of my Unity FX as much as I enjoy camping in the luxury of the LTV.