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Newmar NewAire is luxury-packed despite its rather short 29 feet

By Brent Peterson

The 2001 Newmar NewAire is not a vehicle for the shy or the timid — you will achieve celebrity status in short order. Expect rock star treatment as you descend the steps out from behind the tinted glass and metallic finish. Are those flash bulbs? The minimalist exterior overpowers with simplicity; it's a throw-back and a revolutionary all at the same time. It's NASA meets the Beatnik Generation. The zig-zag windows. The tag axles. The hub caps right out of Spartacus. Send the gathered crowds scurrying as you drop (yes, drop) the six-wheel air suspension down a few notches for an easier exit. Is that applause? Wave to your people. It's hard to be humble,isn't it?

While this Class A's first-impressions are overwhelming — akin to going toe-to-toe with the proverbial 400-pound gorilla — the inside avails itself to some interesting contradictions. Although packing the price of an expensive mega motor home (almost $190,000), the vehicle sits just shy of 29 feet in length, too small for most 24/7 RVers. However, the rear-mounted diesel engine on Newmar's custom chassis rekindles the notion that you are indeed a part of the high-end experience. The lack of overall room and storage doesn't really match the full-timer price tag, making this somewhat of a niche purchase. Sure, you could bang your head against the wall figuring out just who is the market for such a vehicle, but don't — the NewAire is too much fun to drive and camp in for such concerns.

Although the cost rivals many of the 40-foot behemoths out there, it leaves them all in the collective dust as a touring vehicle. Not only is the cockpit ultra comfortable and functional, the NewAire drives like it has been down all of these roads before. Turning is the tightest I've ever experienced in the Class A field. Its reasonable length and low profile (less than 10 feet) should give pause when deciding whether or not one really needs to tow a secondary vehicle. (A Class IV hitch and lots of leftover towing weight are there in case you change you mind). The overall ride and braking power are excellent; acceleration is a little disappointing.

The living area is plush and comfortable, a nice mix of borrowed innovations and new spins on old ideas. The star here is definitely the dinette seating, with two seats that can be altered to face forward, back, or each other, like those on a train. Come nighttime, each folds flat and serves as a surprisingly comfortable bed fit for grown-ups. (The table portion slides in and out of the wall for easy deployment when needed). Best of all, each seat offers seat belts, as does the adjacent pullout sofa. This too converts into a bed, capable of sleeping two adults with little complaint. The 20-inch TV/VCR is well-positioned in the entryway corner for easy viewing throughout the front half of the coach.

Newmar found plenty of clever ways to beef up the rooms' storage, and the lighting is excellent throughout. The room's major flaw -- and a condition guilty throughout the coach — is poor ventilation. Although blessed with an abundance of windows, only a small section of each actually opens. The lack of a screen door also negates the rig's greatest potential fresh air-producer, leaving the interior stuffy and overheated.

Life in the galley is functional, but a little tight. Storage compartments are abundant, but limited to several small, angular cabinets, some of which shared bulky pipes. The fridge and separate freezer are smaller than average, and the pantry-less floor plan might mean food stuffs are spread about the interior. The convection/microwave oven is a valued space saver, and the two-burner electric stove all that is really needed for most meals.

You may be shocked to see a wet bath configuration in a RV of this magnitude. After all, a separate bathroom and shower is probably what deluxe motor home users are used to. However, Newmar pulls it off, with a wrap-around curtain, watertight cabinets, and a handheld shower head all working to create one of the largest showers around.
Newmar gets high marks for designing a smart and comfortable bedroom, something that always seems easier said than done. Again, storage is somewhat limited. The bed is among the most comfortable I've found, a fact — for me — that can't be overstated. Numerous controls — from interior lights, to speakers, to the generator starter -- are found next to the bed for easy access. And, of course, no shortage of mood lighting here as well. A 9-inch color TV is a nice standard.

In the copycat world of innovations, it's nice to see a bona fide original. The NewAire is that — a different take on the Class A mold. Of course, these lofting ratings on the coolness scale arrive with a fairly dramatic price tag — almost two hundred thousands dollars to make the world ooh and ah at your every move.


Copyright 2001 by Out West Newspaper