Forest Riverâ€™s top-drawer Class C, the Forester, returns for the 2013 model year combining the proven utility and function of Class C design with features a large family can enjoy.
The 3171DS is the largest of 10 Forester floorplans designed for the Ford E-450 cutaway chassis. There are also four floorplans available on the Chevy 4500 counterpart.
Inside, the 54-by-80-inch cabover bunk is equipped with a pair of storage cubbies, which have sloped and padded covers for comfortable viewing of the optional ($553) swing-out 24-inch TV. A center mattress cushion section provides headroom to comfortably slide into either of the optional ($413) Ultraleather cockpit captainâ€™s chairs.
In place of the traditional rearview mirror is an optional color backup camera and GPS monitor, part of the â€œSafe and Soundâ€ option bundle ($1,876). The package also includes heated and remote mirrors, 5.1 Dolby home theater surround sound with five ceiling speaker pods and a behind-the-couch subwoofer, and, most importantly, a handy black-tank rinse system. Some options are also available individually. The standard in-dash 7-inch touch screen system handles travel entertainment with AM/FM/CD/DVD/USB/MP3/WX and Bluetooth phone functions. Keyless cockpit entry is available on the Ford chassis.
The main cabin, with its 7-foot-high ceiling and upper surround storage cabinetry, is refreshingly arranged with the facing booth dinette overlooking your campsite rather than your neighborâ€™s. The popular Dream Dinette table used in the Forester quickly and easily converts the dinette into a 44-by-68-inch sleeping space. A 12-volt DC power plug and AC outlet are provided on the rear-facing bench, and a full-extension drawer under each dinette seat provides useful storage space. The forward-facing bench has seat belts for two, and for young family members, a pair of seatback D-ring restraints for car seats are supplied.
The 39-by-61-inch jackknife sofa bed, which is in the 18-inch-by-8-foot driverâ€™s side slide, holds seat belts for three and allows cockpit conversation while traveling. Sharing that slide are the cooking appliances in the efficient L-shaped galley. The Suburban three-burner stove with gas oven and overhead Advent microwave oven are standard. A cookware storage drawer is located under the gas oven. The galley sink is set into the countertop laminate and has a deep stainless steel twin basin. A tall fixed-head swivel faucet is connected to the optional ($119) whole-coach water filtration system.
A sink basin cover and a 19.5-by-15-inch flip-up countertop extension augment countertop space in the galley. Useful task lighting is provided throughout the kitchen and is complemented by a working countertop window between the sink and stove. Cabinet and drawer storage above and below the sink should handle most needs, but thereâ€™s also an additional six-shelf pantry storage cabinet that shares space on the end of the Dometic 6-cubic-foot, two-door refrigerator cabinetry. Matching glazed cherry cabinet door inserts are used on the refrigerator. By the time you read this, a four-door refrigerator will have replaced the two-door unit; a factory representative told us itâ€™s the first four-door fridge in a Class C motorhome.
In addition to the forward sleeping positions, the 3171DS offers what Forest River calls the â€œKids Zone.â€ Unlike any other Class C currently available, the Forester substitutes a 41.5-by-74-inch jackknife sofa bed (without seat belts) in place of the lower bunk. The upper bunk can be latched up at a 45-degree angle for more sofa headroom. And to complete this perfect gaming area, a fixed-mount, 12-volt DC, 19-inch TV is recessed in the passageway wallÂ alcove across from the couch. Media storage with 120-volt AC power outlet and the wall-mounted stereo system controls are located below this TV.
Across the passage from the bunks is the bath. A 24-by-36-inch combo step-in tub and shower stall, with 6 feet of headroom and a 10-inch tub depth, should handle the aftermath of any human or canine outdoor adventure. A family size medicine cabinet and linen storage are provided as well as drawer storage under the large countertop. Laundry can be corralled in a large mesh hamper stowed in the sink base cabinet. Baseboard nightlights are thoughtfully provided both in the bath and entry.
Upon entering the carpeted bedroom, your eyes are drawn to the large rear-wall window, which provides panoramic vistas from the Serta mattress. The walk-around platform queen has nightstands, one with a lower bookrack and both with 120-volt AC outlets on the platform. The expected Jack-and-Jill wardrobes with overhead storage surround the headboard, but larger 15.5-by-17.5-inch cedar-lined wardrobes with 50 inches of hanging length and space for shoes share remaining space in the 11-foot-by-18-inch second slide. The TV alcove with storage shelving and more drawers below separates the wardrobes. Additional storage is located behind the TV cabinetry and is accessed through the aft wardrobe, creating a functional bedroom for travel.
Outside, a crowned fiberglass roof minimizes maintenance and black streaking. The block foam insulated 2-inch side walls are vacuum-bonded using the moisture resistant and lightweight Azdel substrate product. A single 13.5k Btu ducted A/C roof unit supplies cooling and a 15k Btu A/C with heat pump ($490) is also available. The 4.0 kW Guardian generator is standard, or choose the optional ($560) Onan 4.0 kW Microquiet unit. Equipped with large pass-through rear storage across the entire width of the coach, it should easily accommodate the cargo of a growing family.
The Forester 3171DS represents an excellent choice for large families to enjoy the outdoors together yet not feel cramped or confined when indoors.
Our thanks to the staff of Mike Thompsonâ€™s Southern California RV Super Stores for providing the Forester for our review.
CHASSIS: FORD E-450Â
ENGINE: 6.8-L V-10 TRITON
FUEL: 55 GAL
GVWR: 14,500 LBS
LENGTH: 32′ 3″
WIDTH: 8′ 5″
HEIGHT WITH SATÂ DOME AND A/C: 11′ 3″
INTERIOR HEIGHT: 7′
FRESHWATER CAP: 44 GAL
GRAY-WATER CAP: 30 GAL
BLACK-WATER CAP: 30 GALÂ
LP-GAS CAP: 9.8 GAL
BASE MSRP: $90,334
MSRP AS REVIEWED: $97,946
Forest River Inc.