Rubin: Trust me with a $740,000 RV? I wouldn’t

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

I fulfilled my goal with the 45-foot-long RV I drove Monday, which is to say, it won’t be deducted from my paycheck.

Considering the sticker price of $740,000, that might have taken awhile.

For reasons Neal Rubin can’t imagine, he was allowed to drive a $740,000 RV, the star of the upcoming MARVAC Fall Detroit Camper and RV Show at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

The American Coach Eagle 45-A is the star of the MARVAC Fall Detroit Camper and RV Show, which runs Wednesday through Sunday at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

Why anybody would let me drive it is a complete mystery, but having survived the experience without a scratch on the recreational vehicle or a scar on my psyche, I can report that it was actually enjoyable — in a nerve-racking, doom-impending, please-let-that-cop-turn-the-other-direction sort of way.

I can see why a large number of my fellow Michiganians do it regularly, even if their humble RVs don’t have a power awning and an outward-facing flat-screen television.

The Eagle is 13 feet high and 8 1/2 feet wide, or 15 with the slideouts extended, and it weighs 45,000 pounds.

It’s five times longer than a Smart car and 25 times heavier, in case you were deciding between the two, and you can buy it at Veurinks’ RV Center in Grand Rapids.

For roughly the same $740,000, you could also buy three seats on a Virgin Galactic rocket into space, assuming that particular taxi ever gets off the ground.

Camping at Yellowstone, or slipping the surly bonds of Earth? It’s a tough call — but if bathrooms matter to you, go with the RV.

It has two: one amidships, opposite the washer and dryer, and the other in back near the cedar closet.

An RV state

RVs are one of those things Michigan tends to favor disproportionately, like craft beer, boats and bowling.

Tim DeWitt, executive director of the Michigan Association of Recreation Vehicles and Campgrounds (MARVAC), says we have 350,000 of them registered, which puts us fourth nationally behind Texas, California and Florida.

A lot of people register their RVs in Texas for tax purposes even though they’ve never seen an armadillo, let alone flattened one with a McMansion on wheels. So Michigan might even be a legitimate third.

From 45-footers to pop-up campers, all seven classes of RV will be plentiful at the fall show. Hours are 2-9 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, with admission pegged at $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and free for under-13s.

Many tires will be kicked. Some people will swoon and write checks. At least a few dolts or their unsupervised children will use a display model’s toilet, which is not set up for that, thank you.

The American Coach Eagle, priced $300,000 higher than anything else in the building, will be the main attraction — a rare combination of brawn, luxury and bragging rights.

The Eagle’s shower features inlaid stone and a rainfall head.

Like home, only better

The Eagle has a 600-horsepower, 15-liter diesel engine the size of a Chevy Sonic. Fuel economy, something of an oxymoron in this case, is 6 or 7 mpg, with a 150-gallon tank.

The steering wheel is about the diameter of a manhole cover, and releasing the air brakes sounds like a gunshot.

Modest little decorative touches include a leather-wrapped dashboard, granite countertops, a full-sized brushed chrome refrigerator with an icemaker and a heated porcelain tile floor.

Driving was actually easier than I expected, though what I expected was something like navigating an aircraft carrier down the Au Sable.

There’s no gearshift; simply press R, N or D on a pad along the left-side wall. Acceleration onto the freeway is ponderous, but cars get out of your way, so who cares?

With coaching from Matt Veurink, 27, whose grandfather founded the dealership, I managed to keep the RV in its lane. On sharper turns, or where impediments like curbs and pedestrians were involved, he had me aim further into an intersection, then crank hard to starboard.

“I’ve been scared for my life sometimes” on test drives, he says, and I only made him flinch once or twice, so I’ll count it as a success.

I figure next, I’ll try driving one of those rockets. But I’ll probably wait until they put in bathrooms.