Today I got the pleasure of (again) meeting Bill Goldman, a fellow Tiffin owner and outdoor recreation enthusiast, long-suffering maintainer of the Tiffin Open Roaders Group on Facebook, and incredibly kind and overall awesome guy for a very special “trip”. We’d crossed paths before out at Jordan Lake and have conversed many times about all things RVing. But today was a day I’d been looking forward to for quite a while.
See, there’s one very key difference between Bill’s coach, Rocky, and ours. No, it’s not the model (though they’re different) or the age (his is a year younger)… it’s the suspension. Yes, Bill was one of the first brave souls to get the LiquidSpring CLASS rear suspension installed on his coach. I have been very keen to try the system since I heard of it, and Bill has been very open about his willingness to let us try it in his coach. Yeah, I know! How exceptionally cool is that?
I’ve done almost everything possible to make Qubie ride as well as possible. There’s the Sumo Springs we had installed at the factory, the steering stabilizer I had installed by the dealer (and which I reinstalled myself because it was installed incorrectly, then replaced myself when it went bad), the rear track bar I installed myself to help, and the Koni shocks I installed to replace the stock ones. They were all incremental improvements but nothing was ever “night and day”. Nothing ever stunned me with how much better Qubie rode.
I’m okay with Qubie’s ride and handling. I feel good driving her and she’s mostly comfortable. But “okay”, “good”, and “mostly” are hard to defend when you’re looking toward a future where you want to travel more. And this is me… Cat is a different story. She’s driven Qubie a couple of times, but is definitely not confident in the handling of Qubie. There’s a lot of input required, road swells and dips can raise the pulse a bit as Qubie bounces around and wallows. To me it’s manageable and expected, but for Cat when she’s driving (and, she admits, sometimes even when I am) it’s frankly terrifying. She constantly thinks we’re going to careen off the road into the trees and to our deaths.
The LiquidSpring CLASS (Compressible Liquid Adaptive Suspension System) is a very different beast from the standard, passive shock and spring suspension on the Ford chassis. About the only thing that remains the same in the suspension once they’re done installing is the axle. What you are left with is a system that, to my mind, is actually better in theory than what the diesels are offering.
The only real advantage the higher-priced diesels have over this system is the independent front suspension. The largest claim to fame for diesels’ ride is the “air ride” suspension system. Which, at its root, is really just a bunch of air “pillows” that the house rides on. In practice, they’re static, meaning that once they’re inflated while underway they’re at a static pressure. Sure, they provide cushioning and people have sworn up and down that they’re the epitome of comfort. It was one of the main reasons we’d been considering diesels when looking at our future.
But I think the CLASS system could be better. Why? It’s an active system… the “a” in CLASS is “adaptive”, which is accurate but I still think “active”. There’s a processor and sensors actively monitoring all the variables in the ride and actively modifying the dampening of the system many times a second. Rather than riding on a static balloon you’re riding on a balloon that squishes and expands at varying rates to both increase control and drivability as well as comfort.
I was a believer in the theoretical improvements of the CLASS system ever since I heard of it. But I have not yet pulled the trigger on it. Why? It’s only available for the rear suspension for the Ford F53 platform. You’re still stuck with the stock shocks, springs, and solid axle front F53 suspension everyone knows and loathes.
Also, this is not an inexpensive upgrade. Retail is around $13k. Yeah. Given that we’ve been trying to determine whether Qubie was the right long-term move for us with our traveling plans, that’s a large investment.
I’ve held ever since then that when LiquidSpring gets a solution for the front and rear I’d have to reevaluate.
According to Wayne Wells, the LiquidSpring representative, we are getting very close to that day. While there’s nothing official yet, he has intimated that late Q1, early Q2 could be a very interesting time for F53 owners.
Cat and I tend to think and rethink things quite a bit. We don’t usually jump into things without thinking through every angle and option. With this whole “future plans” thing, one of our top options has always been “stick with Qubie”. We love everything about her, we know her inside and out, I watched her being built from bare chassis to complete RV, she’s a good choice.
But we just aren’t satisfied enough with the ride and handling. That’s literally the one thing that made us look at other options (okay… we’re also almost certainly going to retrofit a washer/drier combo into her, but that’s not the main thing). However, if this CLASS system is all it’s cracked up to be and it’s available as a rear and front solution, we have a huge potential upside here.
I just didn’t know if it really worked like I imagined it would work in theory.
With the impending announcement, I wanted us to get a feel for what the system felt like. Since Bill had so graciously offered to let us drive Rocky around a bit (!), I figured I’d take him up on it. So today the three of us piled in the car and met Bill at Rocky’s storage facility. Unbelievably, Bill had planned out our driving route to feature all the nice things we could traverse to really experience, from bridge expansion joints to rough roads to speed bumps.
(I’ll take a little aside here to again thank Bill for his kindness. You meet a lot of good people RVing, but I don’t know that I’ve met a more genuinely pleasant, cheerful, and gracious one than Bill. If you have the opportunity to “make your manners”, please do so.)
Bill wasted no time and soon was demoing the system’s ability to kneel and raise the rear while stationary (and at very low speed). Very useful for those sites out at Jordan Lake with the sloped rear. After that it was time to head out.
I admit, I had gotten myself very excited about this demo. I was so optimistic that this would be the solution to our handling and comfort problem. But I was also worried that I’d be underwhelmed. Again, I’ve done every other improvement I could think of and had high hopes that I’d be satisfied, only to be brought back down to earth. Was this going to be the same?
I’ll only tease you a little bit. When we got back into the car to leave Bill and Rocky at the storage facility my daughter kind of laughed and said “Dad, you were very entertaining to listen to while you were driving.” Why?
I could not stop exclaiming over the incredible differences in handling! Loudly. With incredulous guffaws and laughter.
Seriously, those of you looking for that “night and day” difference, this is it. I also kept exclaiming “and this is only the rear!” Because the front was identical to Qubie, down to the Koni shocks. Even with that, the suspension felt like a completely different animal.
The two most impressive things I felt, where I literally couldn’t contain my astonishment, were:
And again, that’s with only the rear done! I’m very, very optimistic that when the front suspension solution is available the end result will be even more astonishing. In Rocky, the rear is still “hampered” and impacted by the relatively uncontrolled motion of the front. Frankly, it’s bordering on magical that the rear is able to exert that much influence over the ride of the coach given it only controls half the overall equation. When the front and back are under the control of an active, intelligent system I can’t help but think we’ll have a ride that at least equals if not exceeds the touted and lauded comfort of diesels with their air ride systems.
I actually expressed to Bill and Cat that I feel a little sorry for people that get LiquidSpring suspensions installed as a factory option. They’re missing out on the incredible difference with and without. I think to really appreciate the system it helps to know just how bad it is without it.
I think I want to experience the full system, front and rear, before plunking down the cash. Given the cost of the rear I imagine the full cost of the system will be somewhere between $20k to $24k. That’s a really significant investment and I can’t in good conscience jump the gun without a trial.
But, if it really does do what I think it will do I truly feel it’s the direction we’ll go. Even given the expense it’s still significantly cheaper than it would be to upgrade to even the least expensive diesel pusher with air ride. And we still like Qubie better than those more expensive coaches! It’s literally just the ride and handling! So if I can get ride and handling better than the big, expensive diesels for a fraction of the investment… I’d be a bit silly not to.
So are you going to install the Liquid Springs in the rear at this point? Do you think there will be a discounted price for installing front and rear at the same time?
No I’m not. While it is a fantastic improvement, I’m going to wait and see what the full front and rear system feels like before doing it. I’m hoping there will be some benefit to getting both done at the same time, perhaps in price or simplicity, but I don’t think anyone knows at this time for sure.
Thanks! I have inquired as to the same. I’m thinking there might be a price break for doing both at once. We’ll see what they say.
Brian, thank you for the detailed explanation. Very well put. We have 6000 miles on our 17 32 SA since adding LS & you covered everything we enjoy everyday while driving. We liken the ride to “riding on a marshmallow”.
Thank you for sharing your experience. And thank you to Bill Goldman for his many hours & miles of testing & evaluating LS.
Brian, Is the frame on your Open Road 24k or 26k? Considering the rear Liquid Springs installation on a 36LA with the 24k frame after purchasing the motorhome.
Hi Ed, Qubie is on a 24k chassis like yours.