In this economy, people are enthralled by the virtues of the Class B motorhome because of driveability, fuel economy, and size. However, functionally speaking, not all Class Bs are built the same.

Awhile back, we took an SS-Agile on a trip up the coast of California and were impressed with its stately interior and ease of operation. So when Roadtrek offered a test-drive of its newer SS-Ideal, with the first and only Class B rear slide-out in the industry, it didn't take much for us to pack up the bags again and hit the road.

The problem with some Class B motorhomes is that they are inherently too small for more than two or three, and amenities can be few and far between. It seems like Roadtrek has taken care of some of those issues with the new SS-Ideal, although it still only sleeps two and seats four comfortably.

The biggest difference between the SS-Agile and the SS-Ideal is the rear slide-out feature, which serves up a comfortable and larger-than-expected double-size bed. After opening the two rear doors all the way until they are flush with the sides of the rig (magnets do a good job of holding them in place) all that's needed is a push of a button and your interior space increases exponentially. Cushions are strategically positioned to make up the bed, and it's plenty comfortable.

The dining table can be positioned at the rear of the camper when the bed is not set up, or it can be positioned near the front. With this option you can have someone sleeping while another person enjoys the other area of the van.

The only way to really find out how intelligently a motorhome like this is engineered is to actually use it as it was intended, in a campground. We realize that some reviewers simply set up the rigs in the parking lot and sit in them for a while and that amounts to their test. Not here. We booked two separate weekend trips to test the worthiness of the SS-Ideal and then rated it in all kinds of weather and road conditions.

Unfortunately, the first weekend it snowed and the next weekend it rained. So conditions were not good for hiking and exploring, but they did reveal the intricacies of the Roadtrek's liveability. Here's a list of what it's got: wardrobe, stove, sink, fridge, microwave, TV, toilet and shower.

The onboard bathroom is probably the feature a lot of people point to as "important," and Roadtrek doesn't disappoint in that area of refinement. The bathroom door latches just a little bit "open" when you are inside to ensure there's enough elbowroom for even the largest passengers. The wrap-around shower curtain, too, seals tight enough so that water doesn't splash on the floor. Sounds like common sense, but when you test-drive enough small motorhomes you begin to take careful notes of little flaws in the fit-and-finish department.

The feature that most distinguishes a Roadtrek is space. There's a lot of it. With a lowered floor, the SS-Ideal offers plenty of headroom for taller passengers. The 28-inch aisle width is generous and allows a normal-size person to pass by while another user is cooking. You never feel like one person has to back out of the way of another when you are camping.

If there was a downside it was found when we attempted to set up the dining table at the front of the vehicle: We couldn't get the table to stop wobbling. Also, turning the passenger seat around backward was a big affair and involved opening a door so that the armrest could pass by. We never did figure out how to swing the driver seat around, so we gave up and when it was time to eat we turned the double bed back into a sofa and ate in the back of the vehicle. We might have benefited from reading the owner's manual carefully, something we didn't do before we got to our destination. In the end, none of it diminished an otherwise enjoyable time.

We enjoyed the dynamic picture of the 19-inch flat-screen TV (a $910 option) that slides out of a closet, and the surround-sound system was good if you were seated close by. The audio level from the rear sofa, however, was not as great as we expected.

The SS-Ideal is a fine motorhome for empty-nesters or young couples that want to travel close to home. Once you accept that the Class B is not going to duplicate the convenience that a Class C or Class A offers, you can start to enjoy the other aspects that make one so unique, like its tight turning radius, parking prowess, and convenience for extended storage-even in the driveway of your home!

After seeing 18 miles per gallon on average, we think the Roadtrek SS-Ideal has so much going for it that saving money on fuel is like icing on the cake.

SPECIFICATIONS
ROADTREK SS-IDEAL
BASE MSRP: $97,110
PRICE AS TESTED: $108,036
CHASSIS: Dodge Sprinter 2500
ENGINE: 3.0L V-6 Mercedes turbodiesel
TRANSMISSION: Five-speed automatic
HORSEPOWER: 154
TORQUE: 280 lb-ft
BRAKES: Four-wheel disc
FUEL CAPACITY: 26 gal
TOWING CAPACITY: 5,000 lbs.
RECEIVER TYPE: Class III
WIRING HARNESS: 4/7-way connector
OVERALL LENGTH: 19.5 ft 5 in
OVERALL HEIGHT (WITH A/C): 9 ft 7 in
AISLE WIDTH: 28 in
FRESH WATER: 30 gal
GREY/BLACK WATER: 20 gal
BACKUP CAMERA: On-dash
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