The Icon is part of a new breed of North American motorhome that flies in the face of traditional North American RV design. It takes most of its design cues from European motorhomes that are compact and space efficient by necessity, being built on a continent where the transportation infrastructure is best suited to walking. Of course, this is the opposite of typical American motorhome design, which seems inspired by the huge landscapes of this country.

The Icon, by Fleetwood, follows none of these geographic biases; its design is a choice. At a length of just 25 feet, it is small, but inside its layout and amenities bring a third concept into the mix: yachtlike features, shown off in the choice of softly curved cabinetry doors throughout the interior in a rich cherry wood color. These radius accents also grace the bathroom door, the dinette seats, and the rear queen bed pedestal. Brushed nickel hardware throughout is a nice contrast. Add these features in with the use of space and weight-saving designs and further benefits emerge: increased fuel economy and maneuvering ease. The other difference is its engine. The Icon uses the midsize 3.0-liter Mercedes-Benz diesel engine, which gives the Icon good low-end torque for accelerating and offers a decent cruising range.

We recently took the Icon on a tour of Arizona. From below sea level near Yuma in the south, up to over 7000 feet at the Grand Canyon in the north, and back around to Lake Havasu, we drove the Icon through a sandstorm and a snowstorm, in temperatures that fluctuated between freezing and over 85 degrees. We drove over 1600 miles on Interstates and dirt cow paths.

The Fleetwood-built Icon here makes use of the one-ton Sprinter cutaway platform with the standard 3.0-liter diesel engine pushing power to the dual rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. This diesel makes 154 horsepower and has a torque rating of 280 pound-feet. This figure is key, because torque is what gets the weight moving off the line.

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.

The wide, raked windshield and the dropped nose of the Icon also offer excellent visibility, a welcome asset in rush-hour traffic in Phoenix. And that is a key feature of the Icon—it drives small. We had no problem getting it in and out of anywhere. With large heated mirrors and a backup camera, maneuvering was a question of patience, not sweat. On any given day, we were in and out of our campsite several times, whether to pick up groceries, see the sights, or go to dinner. The Icon went everywhere and it fit wherever. This fact alone may well convince some potential buyers who currently run a larger RV and tow a car to downsize and simplify their travels.

The compact galley offers an Apollo half-time convection oven, which also functions as a microwave. The three-burner cooktop is just below, directly across the aisle from the three-way refrigerator/freezer. The Corian countertop space is limited, but can be expanded by popping in the oval sink cover. The single gooseneck faucet also swivels out of the way when not in use. Having a window right at the counter is a bright touch.

For a small unit, bedding down is still a question of choice. The overhead 49x74-inch bunk will sleep two, as will the fold-down dinette and the rear 52x72-inch pedestal bed. There’s sleeping for six in all, though most often two would be normal (or two adults with kids). There is a ladder for the bunk, but most grownups will opt for the dinette, which has a fold-down mechanism that can be released with one hand. This setup also does away with the support leg that is so much fun to bash an ankle against. The one downside to the tight fit of the rear bed is it requires crawling in and rolling out.

The exterior storage is a pass-through design with the center section being quite narrow. The total storage is 45 cubic feet while the interior storage is actually more like 49. The bulk of this is under the dinette seats and under the lift portion of the pedestal bed. But in addition there are multiple small spaces to stash items. Two of us had ample space for all the items we brought for the 10-day trip.

The Icon is small, but its clever package design makes excellent use of the floor space. With plenty of room for two, a small family could easily use this RV for a vacation. And the Sprinter platform makes it easy to drive around town and park, plus the diesel engine offers impressive fuel economy. For those who want to go RVing but don’t have the space for a Class A motorhome, this is one worth considering.


2009 Fleetwood Icon*
ChassisDodge Sprinter
Engine3.0L/154-hp/280-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC V-6
Transmission5-speed automatic
Fuel capacity26.4 gal
Wheelbase170.0 in
GVWR11,030 lb
GCWR14,530 lb
Towing capacity3500 lb
Length25.2 ft
Height (with A/C)11.3 ft
Width7.6 ft
Interior height80.0 in
Interior width88.0 in
Fresh water29.0 gal
Gray water33.0 gal
Black water33.0 gal
Water heater6.0 gal
Propane81.4 lb
Base price$97,566
*No changes are planned for 2010.

SOURCE
Fleetwood RV
PO. Box 1007
Decatur
IN  46733
800-322-8216
http://www.fleetwoodrv.com
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