This review stems from a week-long test drive of a 2013 Winnebago Via 25Q. This new model had fewer than 1,000 miles at the time of my drive, and had a sticker price of approximately $139,000. A more recent model retails for $161,869, and might have slightly different specs than the vehicle for this test drive.
This Class A motor coach is 25.5 ft. in length, with a clearance of 11 ft. This model also has a driver's side door that made frequent stops on scenic roads much more convenient.
The test drive followed a 1,350-mile route that began just north of Denver, and ended in Las Vegas. Much of the route featured mountainous terrain.
This RV is loaded with accessories, including an Infotainment Center GPS with voice navigation, Bluetooth capability, cruise control and a rear-view camera. There are two flat-screen satellite TVs aboard, a stereo system with CD/DVD player, and two power air vents in the kitchen and bathroom areas.
The kitchen has a combination microwave/convection oven, and the refrigerator has a removable freezer unit. There is a two-burner propane stove. The bedroom has an RV queen-sized bed and the bathroom includes a small shower.
Liquid propane powers the 3,200-watt generator (used in places without an electric hookup).
Outside, a power awning extends out to a maximum of 16 ft.
The gasoline tank holds 26 gal. of fuel; the sewage and gray-water tanks each hold 36 gal.
Next, consider the driving experience. It's not what most people would expect in such a large vehicle.
Driving and Parking
The average driver doesn't have much experience maneuvering a 25-foot vehicle, so the initial few minutes behind the wheel can feel intimidating. However, I quickly adjusted to driving the Via. It corners extremely well, making it easy to find a way out of tight parking lots and fueling spaces.
Acceleration is probably the larger adjustment for an inexperienced driver. The Via, naturally, takes longer to reach highway speed and steep grades require more patience than one would need in an automobile. But the Mercedes turbo-diesel engine provides more than adequate power for this vehicle.
A special driver's license is not required to drive a Via, and it is equipped with an automatic transmission.
Cameras on the left, right and rear of the Via provide a measure of safety and convenience. The turn signal automatically activates the appropriate side camera, eliminating what might otherwise be huge blind spots. The camera picture is viewed easily in the middle of the dashboard.
The parking brake must be activated before slide-out sections can move. Our test model had some electrical deficiencies related to the parking brake's alarm system. Even when disengaged, an alarm sounded as if the brake was engaged. A call to the manufacturer revealed wiring under the driver's seat sometimes is bundled too tightly in the factory, a condition that can trigger false alarms.
Winnebago builds the coach on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis. The engine is a 3.0-liter V-6 Mercedes turbo-diesel.
Much of the route for our test drive involved steep mountain grades -- hardly conducive to good gas mileage. But the Via averaged about 12 miles per gallon over the seven days. That might not sound all that impressive to budget travelers who drive smaller cars. But when applied to Class A RVs, it represents superior fuel efficiency. Because of this solid gas mileage, it was possible to drive more than 300 miles between fill-ups.
The dining area directly adjacent to the galley and the bedroom each extend outward about two feet once the vehicle is parked for the night. Two additional feet make a big difference in close quarters, so this is a nice feature, especially for families.
The driver and passenger chairs in front swivel to configure a living room in the evenings, and a curtain pulls across the windshield for privacy. There is 6.5 ft. from floor to ceiling in the coach.
The Via comes with a roof-mounted air conditioner and a 20,000 BTU low-profile furnace.
We found the propane stove difficult to start, but that could have been due to newness of the model. Cookware for any RV should be small and easy to store.
The refrigerator will hold enough food for several days on the road. The freezer worked well. The microwave is a nice feature when you're preparing a meal at the end of a long day on the road. We did not use the convection oven.
Since washing dishes can be awkward (and require lots of water) in such a small space, consider using disposable plates and utensils. That said, the Via had more storage space in the kitchen area than one would expect in an RV of this size.
The bedroom at the back of the vehicle has what is termed as an RV queen-sized bed, which is slightly smaller than a standard queen. The seating area for passengers that is behind the driver doubles as a dining area and converts to a bed.
Bathrooms in RVs and trailers are compact by necessity. The Via comes with a water heating system that is activated shortly before hot water is needed for kitchen or shower. In our experience, it worked quite well -- no cold showers.
The holding tank is large enough (36 gal.) that it doesn't need to be emptied every day. But it is best to keep both this tank and the gray-water (what goes down the sink drains) tanks less than half-full, due to the sheer weight of water. A water pump moves the gray-water through the drainage system to the outflow pipe. There is a freshwater nozzle on the outside to assist with cleanup.
The Via holds about 34 gal. of fresh water, and fill-up is easily done through an entry point at eye-level on the left-rear of the vehicle.
The Winnebago Via delivers the convenience of a smaller RV with the storage capacity and living space usually found only in larger models.
One of the biggest disadvantages of RV travel is the fuel expense. On this 1,350-mile trip, we spent $421 on diesel. That expense could have been doubled in a gas-guzzler.
The Via is packed with features and advanced technology, but novices initially might find operations a bit complicated and confusing. It took several days to become fully acquainted with these features, despite an orientation session before we hit the road. My recommendation: make a recording of the introduction your dealer or rental agency provides. Details are easily forgotten in the excitement of beginning a trip.
As mentioned, this model came with an MSRP of nearly $140,000. The Winnebago Via provided for this test drive represents a serious financial commitment from prospective buyers. But the comfort, convenience and performance it delivers are worth a serious look from someone who already has weighed the pros and cons of RV travel and is shopping for a vehicle in this price range.