Tiffin’s impressive Allegro Breeze A-class just gets better…
by Richard Robertson
Download a full PDF of this roadtest HERE.
Despite steadily rising RV sales new A-class motorhomes continue to be almost as rare in Australia as unicorns. In fact as far as I'm aware, unless you want a custom coach conversion, this rarefied end of the market is now owned by Tiffin Motorhomes Australia.
In case you're not familiar with the brand, Tiffin is a highly regarded American manufacturer that exclusively makes A-class motorhomes. Compared to the major brands family-owned Tiffin is a minnow, but it's the sort of ‘small fish’ you’d want to buy from in the large and often very average American market ‘pond’. The company is based in Red Bay Alabama, which ironically is about 300 miles and as far away from the ocean as you can get in that famous Southern State. Tiffin prides itself on quality over quantity and in its lineup the Allegro Breeze is the baby. It’s also the smallest ‘diesel pusher’ – the American term for a rear-engined motorhome – in the US market and in the few short years since being released has carved out an enthusiastic and loyal following.
Murray Robertson, the man behind Tiffin in Australia, began importing Allegro Breezes (let’s just call it the Breeze from now on) in 2011. America’s smallest diesel-pusher A-class is surprisingly well suited to Australia, not only in length (10.1 m or 33’ 2”) but also in features and economy. With opposing slideouts in the front living area – one for the U-shaped dinette and fridge, and the other for the sofa bed and kitchen – it transforms into a spacious single bedroom apartment with more than enough room for a couple to comfortably live full-time. Tiffin calls it “roughing it smoothly” and I think that describes it perfectly.
I first reviewed a Breeze in Issue 69 in April 2015 and came away impressed. You should download and read that review because I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here or go into as much detail. Rather, I’m going to concentrate on what makes the 2017 Breeze different and better, as better it is.
Like all good manufacturers Tiffin doesn’t release new models every year; instead choosing to refine and develop its line-up. Think of it as evolutionary development rather than revolutionary. Because Tiffin is still a comparatively small family-owned business, Murray and his very-able assistant Alex have been able to establish a genuine working relationship with the factory that must be the envy of every other low-volume vehicle importer. Treated more like family and despite the small numbers they order, they have effectively been given the keys to the factory and are able to influence the design and build, and even work-on Australian-bound Breezes.
While Murray is aiming for a full right-hand drive (RHD) build and it seems the factory is amenable to the concept, that ideal is still some way off. In the mean time each vehicle undergoes RHD conversion of both chassis and body at Tiffin Australia’s Gold Coast factory and they do an impressive job. In fact I challenge anybody to pick the finished job as not being factory original, such is the quality and attention to detail.
Back to Basics
Before continuing let me give you some basic facts and figures. Aside from being 10.1 m long and with opposing front slideouts, as mentioned, the Breeze rides on full air suspension and is 3.5 m tall, 2.5 meters wide, has a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 10,660 kg and a towing capacity of 3500 kg. Apart from anything these weights mean you'll need a Medium Rigid (MR) drivers licence, but it’s worth the effort.
Fresh water capacity is 275-litres, grey water 208-litres and black water 125-litres (it has a toilet holding tank instead of a cassette); all of which are a small but valuable increase on the previous model. With an 8660 kg tare weight and potential maximum payload of 2000 kg you'd think the factory would have increased fresh and grey water capacities even further. But of course this vehicle is still design for the American market, where freedom camping – they call it Boondocking – in big vehicles is relatively rare. And so the capacities are more than adequate for a few nights in Walmart car parks between leaving home and the destination RV park. Having said that, 275-litres of fresh water is still considerable in a production vehicle in Australia and should provide more than adequate freedom camping abilities for most people.
Those abilities are greatly enhanced by the Breeze’s electrical independence. No fewer than 4 x 216 AH deep cycle house batteries backed by 400 watts of solar panels, a remote-start 5 kVa diesel Onan generator and a 4000 watt pure sine-wave inverter are provided; proof how much Americans like their air conditioners, TVs, toasters, coffee makers and washing machines – even in Walmart car parks!
One more thing to know, or remember if you read my original review, is that Tiffin makes its own chassis for the Breeze. That’s right, it’s a custom chassis solely designed to fit and work with the body mounted on it. Not only is that possibly unique, it means that as a unit the Breeze is one very well set-up and integrated motorhome. What’s new in 2017? Plenty, so read on...
A new engine is the most obvious mechanical change. Gone is the Navistar MaxxForce 6.4-litre V8 twin-turbo diesel. In its place is a next-generation Cummins ISV5.0 275; a 5-litre V8 single-turbo diesel that produces 205 kW and 760 Nm while delivering claimed fuel savings Cummins says of between 20 and 40%. However, to meet emissions standards the new engine requires AdBlue, but the 30-litre tank is said to be good for about 5000 km. Drive is still through a six-speed Allison automatic, which has become the default transmission choice for a generation of vehicles in this class.
Also new and a significant improvement is fully independent front suspension, which I’ll talk more about later. For the 2017 model year the floor height has been raised six inches and this has a two-fold effect. Firstly, it eliminates internal wheel arch intrusion in the living area and bedroom, while secondly it allows for deeper storage bins (now with motion-sensing lighting), while bin doors with a simple but effective self-closing mechanism have also been added.
Other body improvements include a remodelled nose with HID headlights and day running lights; a new windscreen, with replacements kept in stock (along with things like suspension airbags, engine filters, awnings and motors, hubcaps, wipers, etc, ready for Australia-wide dispatch); a new rear body moulding and taillights; frameless cab windows, and a deeper entry door with the first step closer to the ground and a stairwell handrail. On the roof is a new Vansat Bluestar satellite system, upgraded air conditioners, and a new 400-watt solar panel system with more efficient cables that matches the old 600-watt system. Also, an external gas bayonet point and outside TV entertainment system are now standard. The body itself, which features an impressive full paint finish available in a number of colours and styles, now also comes with a Super Clear UV protection finish that’s unique to Australian delivered vehicles.
As impressive as all these new features are, they're only half the story. Inside, the Breeze has also come in for some serious attention.
From a driver's perspective the most obvious improvement is a totally new dashboard. Not only does it feature replaceable instruments in case one malfunctions, it's impressively stylish and wouldn't look out of place in an expensive European sports car (well, one with air brakes!). The dash surrounds had a carbon fibre finish that’s mirrored in the all-new centre console plus the shelf under the driver’s window that houses the automatic transmission selector, handbrake button, sundry switchgear and requisite cupholder. Speaking of new instruments, the fuel gauge now also has markings for generator use so you won't run the fuel tank dry. Also new is a more powerful Denso brand dash air conditioning unit that's actually designed in Melbourne and used in all Tiffin motorhomes.
Both captains chairs are new and feature better shaping and inbuilt footrests. There's also new leather trim throughout and a wider sofa cushion that results in a wider bed, should you be carrying extra guests (the Breeze can sleep and carry six). In the living area are new floor tiles plus a new style privacy door to the bathroom and bedroom. A 2.5 kg Camec top-loading washing machine and 5 kW diesel heater are now also standard, although surprisingly the heater has just a single outlet. The bathroom also features new cupboards, while an upgraded shower is coming.
Decor-wise the interior has new options, with lighter timbers for those not enamoured with the American love of dark wood finishes. When I broached the possibility of a more contemporary-style (read European) interior with gloss finishes and slimline, light weight cabinetry, Murray just laughed. “The guys are traditional cabinetmakers and absolutely pride themselves on the craftsmanship of each vehicle’s hand-built interior. A good thing about solid wood construction is that should the interior ever become wet the cabinets won't swell or fall apart.” I guess that means no.
There are new pull-down privacy blinds throughout, while in the bedroom you'll now find USB charging outlets on either side of the bed. The Breeze has an all-new 12 V electrical system and new switch panels, while LED lighting is used throughout and concealed LED strip lights are coming. Also coming soon is iPad control for remote monitoring of the vehicle’s systems, including air conditioning on-off and even the optional Bose home theatre system.
Facts and figures can only tell you so much about a vehicle. When it comes to the crunch there's no substitute for slipping behind the wheel. Being able to compare old and new versions of the same model makes for an even more interesting driving experience, so before I tell you about the new is what I said in my earlier review about the ‘old’ Breeze:
“I only spent a short time behind the wheel, but it took me straight back to my coach driving days. The combination of smooth riding air suspension and the muted growl of an engine 10 m behind reminded me of why a diesel pusher is the most desirable heavy vehicle driving configuration. Engine response was good from the fairly long-throw accelerator and the Allison-auto shifted almost imperceptibly. Body role seemed well contained and manoeuvrability was good, while braking was almost too good, with strong initial response from the pedal that took a bit of getting used to.”
The new Breeze is all that and more, but different.
Firstly, let me say that driving an A-class motorhome is like no other RV driving experience. Clichéd as it sounds, the driving position truly is commanding and the view and visibility through the enormous windscreen unmatched. The Breeze is up there with the best of them, being modern and impressively fitted out, and doesn’t disappoint.
The accelerator still has a fairly long throw and the new, smaller Cummins engine is more eager, although there is some turbo lag off idle when pulling away on inclines. Given it has 26 kW more top end power but 80 Nm less torque, that isn’t surprising. Once underway this engine just wants to rev and you quickly find yourself at the posted speed limit. The new engine is also very smooth and has a distinctly sporty note (for a diesel), while working perfectly with the six-speed Allison auto. Engine response and driveline smoothness, however, are only half the driving story.
Perhaps the most marked difference with the latest model Breeze is the way it steers. If you’ve ever driven a large heavy vehicle like a coach you'll know that the steering is a bit, well, cumbersome. That's because the front end uses a solid axle and ‘old-fashioned’ steering and suspension to cope with the weights and loads imposed. What this means in practice is that driving is often a continuous series of minor steering corrections with a slight delay involved, all of which combine to keep you headed in the right direction. It's something you quickly adapt to and becomes second nature and is part and parcel of the heavy vehicle driving experience. But then there's the new Breeze…
This vehicle almost steers like a sports car. Directional response is immediate; there's no vagueness or kick back through the steering and the front wheels hold a line much longer without the need for continuous corrections. In a nutshell, it now goes (exactly) where you point it. I found it quite a revelation and by far the most enjoyable aspect of driving the new Breeze.
The full air suspension provides a degree of ride comfort and control owners of Longreaches and other large truck-based motorhomes can only dream of. Ditto the muted tones of the distant diesel and the seamless shifts from the Allison automatic. If you're considering test driving the new Breeze here's a tip: Make sure your finances are in good order because the experience will ruin you for your current vehicle!
First time visitors to a parked Breeze can't help but be impressed by the sheer spaciousness of the open plan living area. I have to say it still impresses me after many visits as it's more like walking into a home than a vehicle. The floorplan itself is straightforward, with front-to-mid lounge, dining and kitchen areas, a mid split bathroom and rear bedroom.
Both captains chairs swivel to provide perhaps the ultimate in after hours, feet-up relaxation. The driver’s-side slideout houses the generous U-shaped dinette and large two-door fridge-freezer, while the kerb-side slideout has a three seat sofa bed and the L-shaped kitchen. Lighting is prodigious, with perhaps a couple of dozen individual LEDs in the ceiling and beneath the cabinets, illuminating the vehicle like Disneyland. When the kitchen slides out it reveals a massive forward-facing LED TV on the bathroom wall, which is best viewed from the swivelled captains chairs. Of course, there is a separate TV in the bedroom and it drops down from the ceiling, above the queen sized island bed.
The split bathroom has a domestic size moulded fibreglass shower on the driver’s side, while across the aisle is the main bathroom cubicle with the toilet, vanity and plenty of storage. Speaking of storage, if the huge amount under the floor isn't enough, the interior fairly bristles with cupboards, drawers and wardrobes. It should be enough to satisfy the ‘hoardiest’ traveller.
What I Think
If what I think isn’t obvious you haven't been paying attention. Turn off the cricket, go back to the beginning and start again (no not you, I know you’ve hung on my every written word). But seriously…
There's little not to like – or even love – about the latest Tiffin Allegro Breeze. In Australia’s retail motorhome market it has no rivals, because while a few others might come close in living area none can match the integration of the total package, or rival the driving experience.
If your pockets aren't quite deep enough for a new one, Tiffin Australia Motorhomes is now importing, converting and selling late model, low mileage Breezes at a considerable saving. Either way you're unlikely to be disappointed.
As it stands, if I was in the market for a proven, durable and highly desirable luxury motorhome for longterm travel – one that would easily see out my retirement – the latest Tiffin Allegro Breeze would get my coin. That shouldn't surprise, however, because I'm a great believer in Evolution. Even the American variety…
- Driving enjoyment
- Standard equipment
- Living space
- New front suspension
- New engine
- Engineering improvements
- Storage capacity
- Warranties plus local support
- Bragging rights!
- Potential size and weight limitations
- Water capacity could be better
- I haven't won Lotto…
Supplied thanks to…
Tiffin Motorhomes Australia
8 Energy Drive
Molendinar. Qld. 4214
T: 0411 616 617