BREATH OF FRESH EYRE
Winnebago brings Euro style to the streets...
By Richard Robertson
Australian motorhomes have traditionally been styled along American lines because many early design and engineering influences emanated from US shores. Both our countries enjoy wide open spaces and the emphasis has usually been on vehicle ‘real estate’ and perceived bang-for-your-buck.
European influence is a more recent phenomenon, reflecting increasingly sophisticated consumer tastes and a general downsizing of motor vehicles as roads become more crowded and the cost of fuel soars.
In recent years Australian motorhome manufacturers have begun to embrace Euro-influence in their designs and the Winnebago Eyre is a good example of a vehicle that marks a watershed in design for its maker.
Euro To Go...
The Eyre is a B-Class motorhome that rides on Fiat’s stylish and popular Ducato cab-chassis. Made specifically as a motorhome base vehicle by Fiat in Italy, the Ducato has a low ride height, high load carrying capacity (by class standards) and one of the most powerful turbo-diesel engines available in an Australian-made motorhome.
Typically Italian in looks and performance the Ducato also boasts a high degree of safety, including dual front airbags and anti-lock disc brakes with integrated traction and electronic stability controls. These passive and active safety features work behind the scenes, but in the cab this is no bread-and-butter commercial vehicle.
Remote central locking, power steering, electric windows and mirrors, air-conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, Bluetooth and a trip computer are some of the standard features fitted.
Under the bonnet the Ducato has a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine that is both powerful and fuel efficient. Rated at 115 kW and 400 Nm and mated to a six-speed automated manual transmission – or AMT (basically a manual gearbox with a computer that changes gears for you) – it’s also capable of delivering around 10-litre/100km fuel figures in regular touring conditions.
Facts and figures aside, the Ducato-based Eyre is an enjoyable motorhome to drive. The engine is powerful and smooth and the AMT shift equally smoothly, although it does take a little getting used to, compared with a ‘normal’ full-automatic transmission. The driving position provides excellent visibility and the combination of a long wheelbase, wide track and low ride-height provide secure and predictable handling.
Sleek, long and low, the Eyre is a good looking machine that attracts attention as you travel.
Stepping inside you find the dining table directly ahead and the lounge area to your left. The kitchen is to the right and beyond it, the bathroom and bedroom at the rear. In layout terms this is pretty conventional, but there’s a lot about the Eyre that isn’t.
For starters, there’s an enormous skylight directly above the front cab seats that floods the cab and dinette with sunlight, but can be shaded or closed off as required. Also unusual in this class and vehicle is an extra seat behind the front passenger seat that faces inwards, towards the dinette. The shower and toilet/powder room are separate, which is usually the province of larger vehicles, while the bed is one of the most unusual I’ve come across, but more on that later.
Outside, the Eyre has a large boot that can be accessed from both sides and through a large rear door, as well as a couple of extra storage lockers that can even handle things like fishing rods. And if you’re into the great outdoors you’ll certainly appreciate the external hot-and-cold shower, plus the wind-out awning.
To maximise space the designers at Winnebago have incorporated swivelling front seats into the lounge/dinette design. Combined with a fixed, forward-facing dinette seat that is also seatbelt equipped for two (and the afore-mentioned inwards-facing side seat), up to five people can sit around with a drink at the end of the day. If all five want to stay for dinner it is possible thanks to a highly adjustable dining table, but actual table space would be in short supply.
The Eyre has what is known as a galley-style kitchen, which means it straddles both sides of the vehicle’s central aisle. Because it’s aft of the entry door, people coming or going from the lounge area won’t disturb the cook, unless they want something from the fridge.
Compact but well equipped, the kitchen’s main work area is on the driver’s side, right behind the dinette. Squeezed into quite a small area is a three-burner gas cooktop and a deep bowl sink with lift-up flick-mixer tap; both with heavy-duty glass lids that provide valuable additional workspace when the units aren’t in use. This is just as well, because work bench space is at an absolute premium, although there is also a recessed, circular draining board between the sink and cooker that can also double as work space. There’s also a small rangehood above the cooker.
An under-bench slide-out pantry, a deep corner cupboard and three drawers (plus a single overhead cupboard) provide reasonable storage space; while across the aisle are a tall 150-litre fridge/freezer and a Sharp convection microwave. The Dometic fridge features Automatic Energy Selection (AES), which means it switches itself between 12v electric, LPG and mains power depending on what’s available. Having a convection microwave is a great idea as the Eyre has no oven or grill and at least this allows for more than just one-pot wonders at meal times.
And just so you don’t miss your favourite shows or movies while travelling, in the cupboard above the microwave is a flat-screen TV with inbuilt DVD player. Mounted on an ingenious slide-out-fold-down-and-twist-around arm, it can be easily viewed from the lounge, but only partially viewed from the bedroom.
Immediately aft of the kitchen, two cylindrical towers guard the entry to the Eyre’s bedroom: The one to the left being the shower and the one right housing a ‘powder room’ and loo. The shower is a decent size and has an opaque door to help it feel more spacious, while the powder room is nicely appointed with plenty of lights and mirrors, plus decent storage space. The toilet is a Dometic swivel-head unit and it’s defiantly a plus have the loo separate from the shower.
However, it’s the Eyre’s bedroom that is its eye-popping party trick.
Central to it – literally – is a pedestal bed that seems to float in the air, a metre or more off the floor. Semi-spiral stairs sweep up both sides, providing good access, while small bedside cupboards form something of a recessed bed-head, complete with reading lights and plenty of storage for books, iPods and knickknacks. For easier stair access the mattress has rounded corners at the foot-end. The shape probably won’t suit taller people but you could probably fit a more conventional shaped mattress if desired and still have sufficient side access room.
However, it’s what’s beneath the bed that is one of the most innovative features I’ve seen in any motorhome. Lifting the bed-base on its gas struts reveals, of all things, a walk-in wardrobe complete with hanging space, drawers and shelves! Initially I thought it more gimmick than substance, but my wife quickly dispelled my male-orientated disbelief (and to be honest, what do I know about wardrobes?). It makes good use of available space, provides more hanging space than most and far easier access than trying to reach into the back of a deep wardrobe cupboard. You can also access it quite well without lifting the bed.
I should note that Winnebago offers an Eyre floorplan with high-mounted single beds at the rear and loads of storage beneath, although it loses the walk-in wardrobe in favour of a more conventional set-up between the beds. Also, in both Eyre floorplans the dinette can be converted to a supplementary double bed, so it can sleep four, but it’s probably better suited to kids.
The Eyre marks an interesting departure for Winnebago, which has traditionally been far more American-focused in its designs. It’s long, low and sleek, and is well suited to Fiat’s excellent Ducato cab-chassis.
Inside, the design innovation continues and for the most part it not only looks good, it functions well too. The bed/bathroom set-up is its design focal point and I like the option of single beds for those not quite up to sleeping on a pedestal.
All-in-all it’s a refreshing change from a largely conservative manufacturer and could be the start of a new design trend for them. I guess you could call it a breath of fresh Eyre...
- Excellent Fiat Ducato
- Fuel efficient
- Good looks
- Stylish interior
- Innovative design
- Bed short for tall people
- Limited kitchen bench space
- No reversing camera
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