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Old 10-26-2020, 05:12 PM   #1
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E-Series vs Transit vs Sprinter

Is Ford E-Series chassis that bad compared to Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter?

For the most part, the Ford E-Series has been relegated to larger and heavier Class B+ and Class C motorhomes where the Transit and Sprinter chassis canít handle the weight or size. When there is a choice between the three, the E-Series no longer appears competitive.

Iím not aware of government regulations affecting this decision, so have RV manufacturers shifted away from E-Series when possible because other chassis are that much better when weight isnít a limitation?



P.S. ó I excluded Chevy Express because of much lower market share compared to similar Ford E-Series.
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Old 10-26-2020, 05:30 PM   #2
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I don't think the general public is knowledgable enough to affect the 'whethers' of rv builder frame choice.
That Mercedes badge carries prestige with people who require acknowledgements of that sort, but I don't think anyone uninitiated by previous rv ownership has even an inkling of an idea about frame/suspension differences based on experience.
Old things go away, new things replace them. I think that's all we're seeing.
Transits appear newer on a class B and c and Mercedes carries false emblem need.

I'm sure there are people who lament the old dodge frames and seats and 440 from the 1970's.

While we experienced (I wasn't, now I am) often change our suspensions, I'm going to guess only 1/10,000 do any changes other than slight bolt ons. I'll say 7 in 10 of those who do make changes do it simply for the sake of change/peer input.

(the Mercedes comments were not meant as a slam of any sort. I know their superiority and the benefits. But I also know of, but do not know, people who buy Maserati offroad vehicles and people with hummers who can't find the fwd knob. Mercedes is often similarly bought. I love that Maserati.... )
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Old 10-26-2020, 05:31 PM   #3
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The "E" carries a whole lot more stuff then the other 2 that you mentioned.
I owned a Class C based on it, and I currently have a smaller Class C on the Sprinter chassis.
No direct comparison can be made. They are aimed at different parts of the market...
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Old 10-26-2020, 06:07 PM   #4
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Well, I am a retired engineer so I do pay attention to chassis differences. Over the last year I had the opportunity to compare a coach based on the Mercedes Sprinter stripped chassis, the Winnebago Via which is no longer made and the Thor Axis/Vegas based on the Ford E350/450 stripped chassis.

I looked at the economics of the diesel vs the gasser, reliability of each, weight carrying capability of each and wheelbase/handling differences. Here is what I found:

1. Virtually no difference in fuel mileage and cost between the two. The better mileage of the diesel was almost wiped out by the cost of diesel vs gas. The requirement to add DEF and potential emissions problems with the diesel rounded out the difference.

2. The bare price difference between the two chassis new was something like $20,000 and the RV price difference was almost double that, but maybe part of that was the builders- Thor's approach vs Winnebago's

3. The gasoline chassis has much better reliability at least compared to the Mercedes due to emission system failures.

4. The Ford E350 chassis has 1,500 lbs more GVWR than the Mercedes Sprinter. That gives it a somewhat higher OCC and probably lets Ford/Thor be a little more liberal with construction materials and weight given that the dimensions are about the same.

5. The Thor Axis has a wheelbase of 188" vs the Winnebago Via's 170". Both are essentially the same length, so based on geometry the Thor should be less affected by wind gusts at highway speeds. Of course suspension/steering design also plays a part, but both owners complain about sway underway so I can't see any real difference.

I ended up placing an order for a Thor Axs 24.1 about a month ago.

David
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Old 10-26-2020, 07:04 PM   #5
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A 30-foot Class B+ or C canít be built on a Transit or Sprinter, but Transit and Sprinter motorhome sizes could be built on E-Series. Manufacturers choose not to. Thatís what I find strange.

As an example only, Compass- and Gemini-size B+ motorhomes were once built on E-Series, but have switched to Transit. I suppose availability of Diesel engine made a case for Transit initially so they could get 15~18 MPG, but now that they are gasoline, fuel economy canít be that different if motorhome is similar in size. No doubt Transit is newer and more modern, but is it that much better that it has replaced E-Series when GVWR permits it?

So, why have manufacturers essentially replaced all smaller E-Series motorhomes with Transit and Sprinter? Currently, the smallest B+ I could find built on E-Series is too large for a Sprinter, so manufacturers seem to be sticking with E-Series only when they have no other choice.
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Old 10-26-2020, 07:34 PM   #6
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Can they get the Transit chassis cheaper?
Does it's smaller size allow for "More Coach; and less chassis"?
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Old 10-26-2020, 08:08 PM   #7
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I'm guessing they are using Transit instead of E-Series is because at one point Ford did say "E-Series is going away use Transit instead" and then later on said "oh crap Transit can't handle the weight...er um E-Series will stay around for a bit....sorry my bad"
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Old 10-26-2020, 08:30 PM   #8
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I think there's plenty of room for all three platforms in the RV World.
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Old 10-27-2020, 01:23 PM   #9
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One item not mentioned yet is the cockpit design. I have a 2018 Chateau built on a 2017 E450 chassis, and the interior still looks like it's from the 80's. Ford obviously hasn't done much design updating to the Econoline in a long time. It also has a very intrusive doghouse, especially for the passenger, and has a very high cabin noise level. And the front suspension and steering still use the twin I-beam design that my dad's 1965 Ford pickup did. So I would expect the newer Transit chassis to be a lot better as far ergonomics, infotainment systems, driveability, and noise levels. I know the new E450 chassis made some updates to the information displays, but the overall interior and suspension/steering design is still very outdated. That's why so many of us add steering controllers, swaybars, and sound insulation to our E350/E450 based RVs.
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Old 10-27-2020, 02:01 PM   #10
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It all comes down to weight, length and height. The E-450 with the dually configuration allows for a much bigger motorhome than a Transit or Sprinter. And as Bob pointed out, it's about building models they think will address a target market and choosing the best / most economical chassis for that design.

However, just because the E-Series can handle a bigger motorhome design doesn't mean it's ideal.

I believe that any motorhome 25 feet or larger on the E-Series pushes the limits of the stock suspension and results in poor handling and ride quality. When Ford (or any manufacturers build a stripped / cutaway chassis, they have no idea what the purchaser is going to do with it.

The chassis could be a shuttle bus, cargo truck, ambulance, motorhome, etc. Ford use standard tires, springs, shocks, etc. to meet general and not specific applications. It is up to the purchaser of the chassis to upgrade the suspension as necessary for the application. This is something the RV industry does not do for the most part when they design and build their models.

It was my experience with a 30' Class C that the suspension had to be upgraded to get it to handle and ride properly from my perspective. I had to install Hellwig Heavy Duty Sway Bars, Sumo Spring and Roadmaster Steering Stabilizer to get it where it needed to be based on the weight, length and height of the box. It could have also benefited from better shocks but I had already spent $1500 on parts and did the work myself.
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Old 10-27-2020, 04:24 PM   #11
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That was on your Outlaw: right?
(By the way... I thought that Judges put away Outlaws. They weren't supposed to own them! )
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Old 10-27-2020, 04:56 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Bob Denman View Post
That was on your Outlaw: right?

(By the way... I thought that Judges put away Outlaws. They weren't supposed to own them! )


I have a 3500 Mercedes Sprinter Citation 25 foot. Diesel. Excellent combination. Great ride and Great mileage.
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Old 10-27-2020, 04:58 PM   #13
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I have a 3500 Mercedes Sprinter Citation 25 foot. Diesel. Excellent combination. Great ride and Great mileage.
Great minds think alike...

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Old 10-27-2020, 07:07 PM   #14
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That was on your Outlaw: right?
(By the way... I thought that Judges put away Outlaws. They weren't supposed to own them! )
Good one Bob!

Wyatt Earp was a bit of an Outlaw.... even though he was a lawman....
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Old 10-27-2020, 07:34 PM   #15
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I'm guessing they are using Transit instead of E-Series is because at one point Ford did say "E-Series is going away use Transit instead" and then later on said "oh crap Transit can't handle the weight...er um E-Series will stay around for a bit....sorry my bad"

Agree.

When Ford started building US Transit vans and cutaways back in 2014, they limited the Econoline to cutaway and stripped chassis, and announced E-Series would be phased out by end of decade.

I would love to know what they knew (that may have changed) or thought would happen to commercial and motorhome chassis demand that exceeded the Transitís maximum 10,360 pound GVWR. Had they actually stopped E-Series production as planned, it would have left a huge void in available chassis ratings.

One significant issue I see with E-Series competing with Transit and Sprinter at the low end of GVWR is that the DRW (dual rear wheel) chassis is too wide for the typical Transit- and Sprinter-size motorhome. Most of these smaller motorhomes are narrow at around 90 inches in width, and the DRW E-Series works best for motorhomes at least 94 inches wide like the Axis/Vegas or Coachmen Concord; otherwise rear wheels stick out so much beyond body that they need large fender flares.

The best solution for using E-Series to build smaller and narrower motorhomes is SRW (single rear wheels) chassis which is considerably narrower, but then GVWR is limited to 10,050 pounds. To compete with Sprinter and newest Transit, Ford would need to upgrade SRW E-Series to at least 11,000 pounds. From what I can tell, an upgrade would mostly require new wheels and tires, but why would Ford want to compete with their own Transit in same 11,000-pound cutaway class? Particularly if E-Series is on borrowed time.
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Old 10-27-2020, 07:47 PM   #16
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One item not mentioned yet is the cockpit design. I have a 2018 Chateau built on a 2017 E450 chassis, and the interior still looks like it's from the 80's. Ford obviously hasn't done much design updating to the Econoline in a long time. It also has a very intrusive doghouse, especially for the passenger, and has a very high cabin noise level. And the front suspension and steering still use the twin I-beam design that my dad's 1965 Ford pickup did. So I would expect the newer Transit chassis to be a lot better as far ergonomics, infotainment systems, driveability, and noise levels. I know the new E450 chassis made some updates to the information displays, but the overall interior and suspension/steering design is still very outdated. That's why so many of us add steering controllers, swaybars, and sound insulation to our E350/E450 based RVs.

Intrusive doghouse is to be made better in a few months when 2022 Model Year begins, but I doubt it can be that much of an improvement. Short of relocating engine forward or using a different engine altogether (neither likely at all) the doghouse will remain a real negative for the E-Series.

The Twin I-Beam may be old, and not equal to double A-arm or McPherson front suspension, but itís better than solid beam used on F-53, Freightliner, etc. And itís still used on new 2WD Ford Super Duty pickups priced up to $100,000.
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Old 10-27-2020, 08:20 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Judge View Post

....cut....

However, just because the E-Series can handle a bigger motorhome design doesn't mean it's ideal.

I believe that any motorhome 25 feet or larger on the E-Series pushes the limits of the stock suspension and results in poor handling and ride quality. When Ford (or any manufacturers build a stripped / cutaway chassis, they have no idea what the purchaser is going to do with it.

.....cut......
I agree the E-Series chassis does better in smaller and lighter motorhomes ó itís engineering common sense because the smaller and lighter the rig, the stiffer the frame will be, and thatís the foundation.

However, I believe Ford has a pretty good idea of what builders can do because their specifications are extensive and detailed. Whether they can enforce compliance is another matter.

Talking about specs, I ran across one that shows Ford allows lighter E-Series chassis wheelbase to be stretched up to 170 inches ó coincidentally the same as longer Sprinter. To me it seems extremely odd that they would allow a shop to cut and stretch a 10,050- or 11,500-pound chassis up to 170 inches and just not offer it from factory with standard 176-inch wheelbase length (138, 158, and 176). Whatís another 6Ē?

I know it can be done correctly, but everything else being equal, I prefer the chassis not be stretched.
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Old 10-27-2020, 08:37 PM   #18
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Good one Bob!

Wyatt Earp was a bit of an Outlaw.... even though he was a lawman....
I also had an Outlaw, and carried our Spyder in it... That much bike put us WWWWAAAAAAYYYYYY.... over the limit!
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Old 10-28-2020, 12:25 AM   #19
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I also had an Outlaw, and carried our Spyder in it... That much bike put us WWWWAAAAAAYYYYYY.... over the limit!

As bad as that was, it would have been far worse if your previous Outlaw had been built on a Sprinter or Transit cutaway. A Sprinter or Transit toy hauler that size couldnít have hauled a bicycle; or itself.

On other hand a Wayfarer could be built on an E-Series chassis if Mercedes luxury and diesel fuel economy isnít required. And for what itís worth, when the average motorhome is only driven +/- 5,000 miles per year, I doubt diesel fuel economy justifies added initial cost. If diesels continue to underperform in marketplace, it will be interesting to see what engine Mercedes puts in Sprinter to replace 3.0L V6.
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Old 10-28-2020, 12:45 AM   #20
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I like that little oil burner.
But I think it could be love; with about 100 extra hp, and the same extra dose of torque.
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