We’ve been on the road for over two weeks, so it’s been hard to put together videos, or write the kind of in-depth posts that I like. But we got home last night, and I’ll be getting back to work on my backlog. But before I do all that, a quick update on our new Travato.
After two weeks and two thousand miles living in Lance, Stef and I are getting to know him pretty well. Some things have worked out even better than we thought they would, and some are… well… still works in progress. Here’s a quick rundown.
First off, I’m hoping the mileage gets better. I know it’s only been two thousand miles, but the initial numbers are a little disappointing. Here’s what I mean:
According to the on-board computer, Lance’s lifetime average is 14.8 miles per gallon, and the vast majority of those miles are highway miles. That’s not awful, but it’s also not the mid-fifteen I was hoping for. Not only that, but the mileage I calculated at the pump was consistently 1mpg less than the on-board computer reports. I did spend some time on this trip talking with other Travato owners, and I’m definitely on the lower end of the mileage scale. (I’m also on the lead-footed end of the scale.) But this trip was unusual for us – we were carrying a whole lot of stuff, and we idled a lot. Those probably helped drive the mileage down. By all accounts, once I change the oil and switch to synthetic, mileage should improve a bit. Time will tell.
Coming from a diesel coach, the gas engine in Lance is taking some getting used to. We both LOVE how quiet the engine is. Compared to Das Bus, it’s nearly silent. We also love not having to make sure the gas station we just saw has diesel. But I am noticing that I lack the torque I had gotten used to.
Mainly, I notice that I have to apply more throttle pressure than it seems like I should. This may just be that I’m not used to the feeling of these pedals yet. But the other place this shows up is on grades. I have to downshift more frequently than I did in our diesel coach. The automatic transmission seems to not downshift quickly enough to maintain speed. (Generally, I set the cruise on 68mph and leave it there, if you’re wondering.) Eventually, on our trip back to Utah, I started moving it into Tiptronic mode and managing the shifting myself.
Two points about manually shifting the ProMaster should be noted:
- To shift up, you move the lever down, and shifting down is up. On what planet does this make sense!?!? Don’t even ask me how many times I got that wrong.
- When you knock it out of drive into Tiptronic, it remembers your cruise control and keeps it active. This is AWESOME!
And speaking of cruise control, the one in the ProMaster does the absolutely best job of engine braking of any cruise control I’ve ever used in any vehicle ever. If you don’t have cruise control on, and start going down a grade, it will do some engine braking for you. But if you DO have cruise control engaged, it will find that speed and stick to it regardless. It was a really great feature to have coming down Parley’s canyon on I-80 into Salt Lake City.
So to wrap up, It’s not what I was used to, but don’t get the wrong idea about the power in the gas version of the Travato. Lance was still a great climber – powering up hills and leaving big rigs in the dust. He just seems to spin his engine a little faster to do it. (So, Lance climbs on cadence, not power?)
There were pictures in an earlier post with our bikes out on the rear rack. And we do keep them there from time to time. But that was before we really had the “garage” area figured out. By the time we left Iowa, we had the bike racks in the garage dialed in. This is how we rode them home to Utah, and it was nice to not remove the skewers and use a wheel bag for the front wheels (you can see them mounted on the rack as well.)
And if your weather band radio wakes you up at 4:30am with a hail warning – it takes about 180 seconds to get them from outside to inside, half asleep.
Now, having said all that, it is still pretty convenient to be able to put them out back on the rear rack, because (as you may have guessed) accessing the wardrobes is difficult with the bikes in. Stef and I (and Lance) are still working out storage solutions, and this isn’t the last word on it. But as you can see here, it really is more spacious without bikes inside.
And do you see the mesh bag on the underside of the bed in that picture? We were keeping dirty laundry in there. It actually holds quite a bit. How much?
About that much.
Beware the Update!
So, Winnebago installed a premium JBL sound system with amplifier in our coach. The few times we got to listen to it, we really liked the sound. It was powerful, and rich. But just before we left Iowa, I tried to apply the UConnect update supplied by Fiat/Chrysler. As soon as I did that, all sound from the radio ceased. It was a very quiet drive home.
Winnebago, and the folks from Harman Kardon, have been all over this problem. Here I am on the side of the road by the Mickelson trail in South Dakota, tracing wires from the stereo back to the battery. I’m actually on the phone with engineers from Harman Kardon on a Saturday in this photo.
But basically, all I found is that Winnebago installed a proper fuse (that was well wrapped to keep it from rattling), and that the wiring seemed to be in order. So the thinking now is that it’s a software issue. I wish the support from Fiat/Chrysler was as good as what I got from Winnebago and Harman Kardon – the UConnect support line just rings busy, every time I’ve tried it. So things remain pretty quiet for Lance right now.
The Navigation System
Stef and I got pretty used to the Garmin navigation system in Das Bus. We took an almost instant dislike to the Tom Tom system in the Travato. Probably the main thing we disliked was the inability for the co-pilot to program the system while underway. This is something Stef does all the time (mostly looking for Starbucks). Not being able to do it was a bit of a hangup for us.
OK, it was more than “a bit of a hangup”. We both threw hissy-fits about it.
So, almost immediately, we ordered a Garmin NuviCam LMTHD. In addition to having a familiar interface for us, this unit also has a dash cam built in, which records in a loop, in case of an incident. Further, this unit is removable from its mount, so Stef can program it in her lap, instead of reaching across the dash. And finally, she can transfer locations to it from a smartphone app. Lifetime traffic, lifetime map updates, blah blah blah. I was pretty happy with the directions it provided on the way home.
When we picked up Lance, we were expecting to get the “fur” window coverings for the cab. We were pleasantly surprised when Lance came with some new cab window shades that Winnebago is trying out. They’re a firm-ish cardboard type material that is reflective on the outside and black on the inside. Here they are installed, from the inside:
The ones on the side windows attach with magnets. They go up in about two seconds each. The ones across the front take a bit longer to put up, but once they’re in, you can see that you get a good light and heat barrier around the cab.
Winnebago did give us the “fur” cover as well, but we haven’t opened it. Our feedback to Winnebago is thus: “These things rock! Use them going forward so everyone can experience this awesomeness.”
The Composting Toilet
OK, first, the good news. Stef took it upon herself to pick out new towels and accessories for the bathroom. They look great, and certainly make the composting toilet look less like a space-station appliance.
But now the less-good news. After a brief initial honeymoon period where things were perfect, we discovered it IS possible to have problems with a composting toilet. I don’t want to be the kind of person who points out problems without a solution, so I’m not going to say too much more about it just yet. I am working on a video where we’ll go into some of the problems we’ve had, and what the solutions to the problems ultimately are. And trust me – the video will be entertaining…
Stef and I are reasonably intelligent people, and we’re getting great support from Winnebago and Airhead. I’m confident we’ll get these problems solved in short order. We’re all learning here, and when I’ve got something you could learn from, I’ll post it.
And Lance Has a Ghost
Yes, you read that right. I can’t explain this any other way, so I’m saying Lance is haunted. I’ve named the ghost “Floyd.”
Every so often, at random intervals, I’ll hear a “whoosh” noise while driving. The noise isn’t coming from the vehicle’s ventilation system. And it’s not coming from any detectable wind outside. It happens at different speeds, traveling at different directions, at different times of day. Sometimes it happens twice in succession, sometimes not for several hours. I really haven’t been able to find an explanation for this yet. So I’m calling it a ghost. I’d be curious if anyone else with a ProMaster or Travato has had a similar experience.
Let the Modifications Begin!
As you can imagine, now that I’ve got Lance back to my shop, there are some mods that I’ve got planned. I’ll be providing info about those in the coming weeks.
I also conducted three pretty good experiments while we were on the road, so I’ll be posting about those too. Lots of good stuff coming up. Stay tuned!