Frankly, this little diesel engine is a marvel. It has an aluminum crankcase, two overhead camshafts per cylinder bank, and a balancer shaft. This smoothes out vibration, whether at idle or running at 80 mph. Also part of this new diesel powertrain is a diesel particulate filter that makes it compliant with new environmental regulations. That means no smoke or smell. And, of course, the big upside is the mileage. Fleetwood says the Icon can get 20 mpg, but our numbers over my 1600-mile trip averaged closer to 16 mpg.
A qualifier is that we drove the Icon at or over the limit including having the cruise set to 70 or 75 mph for hours on end. Our fuel bill for the entire circle tour of Arizona was 350 bucks. The standard transmission coupled to the diesel is a five-speed automatic that can also be operated like a manual by simply tipping the gearshift lever left or right.
Working with the engine braking, this manual feature is particularly handy on long downhill grades. That saves the brakes, which are discs all around that bite hard when needed.
Driving north from Phoenix, into Red Rock country, we had several chances to let the engine-braking hold the Icon’s speed, getting us down the mountains safely. But once we arrived in this tourist area, things got interesting. That night in Sedona, a rain and lightning storm rocked the Icon, slashing at its sides and flooding the nearby creek. We huddled inside, warmed by the efficient propane heater and lit by the soft glow of a series of rope lights tucked above the cabinets. Three strings, each with separate switches, created enough mood light to do our evening chores by.
It was cozy and weathertight, and we were happy we were experiencing rain and not snow. All afternoon, we had heard weather forecasts saying snow was expected at 6000 feet. Heading out of town, we started to climb and, sure enough, at 6000 feet, the rain turned to snow and above that altitude there was a decent accumulation. Our progress slowed to around 25 mph on the switchbacks (many without guardrails), reaching the plateau near Flagstaff. Even in the snow the Icon carried enough weight to give it good traction and the diesel moves it evenly without spinning the tires. Our progress up the valley was slow, but once we got on the Interstate again we had no problem running at the speed limit. Even in the blizzard, the Icon was stable and slush had minimal effect on its steering. Steering is in fact quite easy; the RV uses a small pickup-truck-like wheel connected to the rack-and-pinion gear that makes negotiating winding roads and highways all the same. Controls are simple and well placed. The cab is comfortable and entertainment is offered in the form of AM/FM/CD stereo with plugs for iPod, MP3, and a USB slot. There’s also surround sound, two flatscreen TVs, and a DVD player. Hook-ups include satellite, cable, and antenna.