We’ve got a fair amount of info on the site about various Leisure Travel Vans models. We’ve toured the factory. And I get frequent questions on LTV’s products, which I can usually answer. But one question that keeps coming up in email and in comments is: “How do they drive?” I haven’t been able to answer that… until now.
When we went to Pomona recently, we convinced Dean to let us take a couple of the Leisure Travel Vans models out for a test drive. This was no easy feat – as we had to navigate the Unity out from inside the show. To cover both ends of the spectrum, we drove a Free Spirit (at the lighter, van end of the product line), and a Unity Murphy Bed (the heaviest and largest RV that Leisure Travel Vans currently makes). We took them over basically the same course, and were driving for about an hour.
OK, So how did they drive?
In short, the Unity drove about like I expected, and the Free Spirit was much better than expected.
The Free Spirit was simply amazing to drive. It drove like a very well mannered car. I had expected it to drive similarly to Das Bus (our 2003 Sprinter), but it was much, much better in both ride and appointments. Dean attributed the smooth ride to continued improvements in suspension and handling by Mercedes Benz since our RV was made. As far as options, Leisure Travel orders the empty Free Spirit vans “loaded” from Mercedes. The Free Spirit has a heavy-duty suspension package (which no doubt helped with the ride), but also comes with lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring (you can hear this beeping at me in the video), headlight washers, and front and rear parking assist (among other options).
The Unity is a bigger and heavier vehicle. It exhibited more body roll (you can see this in the video when we first pull out), and it felt a bit more “insulated” from the road. It was still a very well-mannered coach, mind you, but you definitely get the feel that it’s bigger, and there’s more of it to move around corners. Dean described the Unity as a bigger “kite”, and the analogy is appropriate. There’s simply a lot more square footage to catch the wind, to haul around, and to control. One area where the Unity did not disappoint was in power. The 6-cylinder engine had no trouble in jumping up from a stop or merging onto a freeway, and you can see that in the video. The Unity also features the heavy duty suspension, but overall, there aren’t as many options available on the Unity, because Mercedes Benz doesn’t offer as many on the cut-away chassis.
Now, it wasn’t a windy day, and we had a limited amount of time, so one thing we didn’t get to test out was handling in the high-intensity crosswinds we always find ourselves in. I can’t offer an opinion on that. But there are a number of aftermarket suspension solutions available for Sprinters, so I have to believe any wind issues could be tamed similarly to how I upgraded our current Sprinter.