The Simple Life
Jayco’s new Alante Class A is a right-sized motorhome that makes buying — and living — easier
The world is turning. Time marches on. As keenly aware as we all are of this, and as much as we can appreciate the modern world, we often find ourselves longing for the simpler things in life. Certainly, appreciating our nation’s landscape from behind the wheel of a motorhome can be counted as one of these; just leave the hustle of daily life and all its trappings behind (literally) and enjoy the many pleasures that discovery brings. Today, there are lots of motorhomes in the $100,000 to $125,000 price range that will help you do that. However, many keep the price in check by offering a handful of standard features and a long list of options that can quickly put you over budget. The 2016 Jayco Alante, however, strikes a good balance with well-equipped, traditional floorplans that offer just a handful of options, making buying — and enjoying — a new motorhome much easier.
Let’s start with the floorplans. There are only four to choose from, ranging from the 26X at 27 feet, 4 inches, to the 31V (which we tested) at 32 feet, 3 inches. And in another nod to simplicity, there are no more than two slideouts offered. The test unit that Jayco supplied was loaded with every available option, which included full-body paint in Topaz ($8,088), power front overhead bunk ($2,199) and a bedroom TV ($375). It also came equipped with the Customer Value Package at $6,787, a mandatory option (we love that term) that brings niceties like backup and sideview cameras with monitor, an electric awning with integrated LED lights, living area flat-screen TV, touch-screen audio system, MCD night shades, slideout toppers and other features, bringing the grand total to $124,059.
Depending on your needs, you may be able to do without the bunk and the TV, but we highly recommend the paint option. The standard Blue Ribbon and Sensational Red gelcoat/graphics packages, with their black-framed storage compartments, aren’t visually appealing — and the paint is a vast improvement. Not only is the finish admirable even for a motorhome that costs twice as much, but it eliminates those contrasting black lines, and ties in beautifully with the tinted, frameless windows.
Jayco is a family-owned company that, while better known for its travel trailers and fifth-wheels, has built its fair share of Class A motorhomes — so we were eager to step on board and take a road trip in this, the company’s latest offering. Packing up was easy, thanks to side-opening doors and storage compartments in the middle of the coach that, while narrow at the top, do pass all the way through. We used the narrow section for a folding table and chairs, which worked perfectly.
We soon found out, however, that actually driving the Alante would be the least enjoyable part of our test. The Ford chassis subjects passengers to a harsh ride that can become downright uncomfortable over rough pavement or expansion joints, and the cacophony from the V-10 engine was, quite simply, unacceptable. Forget about conversation when climbing a grade, and the drone can’t be overcome by the stereo, either. You just have to hope for smooth, level pavement down the road. If you do decide on this motorhome, put some money aside to better insulate the doghouse area, and to fit the chassis with better shocks and some handling aids.
Certainly Jayco can’t solve the chassis’ shortcomings, and its contributions to the overall success of this motorhome are commendable. The one-piece windshield is huge and provides outstanding visibility, the driver’s seat features power adjustment, and both front seats pivot easily to face the living area without having to adjust the seat-back angles or some other nonsense. There’s shag carpet underfoot, and the perforated vinyl upholstery has a pleasing textured leather appearance, although it did get sticky in hot weather. At the driver’s left are a single cup holder and a change cubby, plus switches for the heated exterior mirrors, battery boost, accent lighting and MCD windshield power shade up/down. Also conveniently located on this side are the controls for the standard Power Gear four-point automatic leveling system, a nice feature that makes campsite setup a push-button affair.
The center stack features an XM-ready Jensen AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3 touch-screen audio system that also displays the rearview and sideview camera visuals. We found the sound from the audio system to be on the tinny side, and the sideview cameras do little more than display the sides of the coach — not much of the adjacent lane is visible. Underneath the Jensen unit are the Ford-supplied HVAC controls, plus switches for the lights and generator start/stop, which is a logical placement. We appreciate Jayco’s intentions in making the dash driver-oriented, but this is both a plus and a minus in a motorhome. The driver can see everything better, but the co-pilot can’t help the driver figure out the audio system, for example, without unbuckling his or her seat belt and crawling over.
Sleeping capacity is perhaps the biggest surprise in the Alante. Where most Class A’s sleep two or four, Jayco says the 31V is designed to sleep up to six, but we think this is conservative. By our count, seven to eight people should be able to spend the night depending, of course, on their size. Behind the driver’s seat in the living area slide is a jackknife sofa and a fixed dinette that has room for four. The sofa is reasonably comfortable to sit on, and it turns into a bed for one adult or two kids very quickly. Ditto for the dinette, which features handy storage underneath the seat cushions. Two can obviously sleep in the rear bedroom, and with the optional overhead bunk system mentioned earlier, there’s easily room for two more. This bed is power-operated and deploys rapidly, and Jayco supplies a ladder for easy access and a panel that prevents sleepers from rolling off. The platform is appropriately rated for adults at 750 pounds, and the mattress, with its faux suede upholstery, is firm but comfortable.
It may not be for everybody, but we liked the nostalgic look and feel of the laminate table and countertops, which have that old-school white marble look, and hard, non-beveled edges. The curbside galley has quite an expanse of the stuff on the countertop, affording plenty of space for prepping and serving food. There’s a plastic double-bowl sink and a residential-style brushed-bronze faucet for washing dishes, and to the right, a three-burner stove with oven. Hovering just above the counter in the middle is a 38-inch flat-screen TV, which is perfectly located for viewing from the couch or dinette, and is placed high enough so that food splatters shouldn’t be a concern. There’s plenty of cabinet/drawer space, and the fit and finish, especially for a coach in this price range, is exemplary. A residential-size microwave, refrigerator with a matching wood front and a narrow, but deep, pantry round out the galley.
The living area has plenty of windows, which makes for a light and bright space, but there are a few curiosities here.
For instance, Jayco places a small window directly above the entry door, which is an unusual, but welcome detail. It has its own MCD shade, but the entry door window directly below, does not. It seems to us that it would have been easy to make the shade longer, then it could cover both windows. Instead, the entry window is tinted, which only provides privacy during the day; at night, the interior lighting makes occupants plainly visible to anyone outside. The rest of the windows are all tilt-outs, which makes them easy to open, but doesn’t allow a lot of breeze to flow through on warm afternoons.
You won’t be wanting for light in the evenings, either, because there is an abundance of overhead LED lighting that can be turned on or off at once with a switch by the entry door, or individually at each fixture. Switch placement is intuitive for the most part, but there are a few places where it’s a bit odd, especially in the bathroom. On the entry wall, there is a row of four switches that includes water pump, tank heater, bath light and shower, with the switch for the overhead fan on its own just above. It would make more sense to have the light switch on its own, and put the tank-heater switch in the hallway along with the tank monitor, thermostat, generator and front slide control. It also seems odd that the light switch for the shower, which is across the hall, is in the bathroom.
Otherwise the bath area works well. It features a plastic sink and ’70s-style faucet and handles, which again, we liked. There’s plenty of counterspace, a huge, mirrored medicine cabinet, a tilt-out drawer for soap, etc., and a large cabinet below. Other nice features include an open-shelved area, two sturdy towel hooks, a towel hoop and a 120-volt AC outlet next to the sink. The plastic toilet does the job, but if this were our coach, we’d replace it immediately with a porcelain unit.
If you open the bathroom door all the way, it becomes a divider between the living area and bed/bath area, and there is a rubber grommet/bracket arrangement that holds the door in place. If you want to leave the bath accessible to guests, there is an accordion door that just separates the bedroom from the living area and bath, a thoughtful feature. We only had three complaints with the bath area: There’s no heat in the bathroom, the shower could use a more flexible hose and a shut-off valve on the showerhead, and the door needs to be trimmed to allow for a bath mat between the shower and bathroom.
The bedroom is compact, but functional. The small queen bed was comfortable and offers under-bed storage, but accessing it is really a two-person affair; one has to lift, the other puts the single strut in place to keep the platform elevated. Gas struts would be a nice addition, but this is one of the few areas we thought could use improvement. We appreciated the powered Fan-Tastic Vent controlled by a wall-mounted switch, and all the storage at the foot of the bed. Although the lower drawers are blocked by the mattress once the slide is in the travel position, you can still access the large mirrored closet and some drawers by climbing onto the bed. The 24-inch TV is appropriately sized for the room, and it flips up to reveal additional space behind it, though we don’t know what purpose this serves. If you were to put a satellite box or DVD player here, for example, you couldn’t control it once the TV was flipped back down, unless you invested in an RF remote.
We usually don’t discuss the utilities in our tests, unless they’re exceptionally good or bad. In the case of the Alante, they’re both. We absolutely loved that the dump valves are situated directly on waste lines (both of which are 3 inches in diameter), so they’re accessible, reliable and easy to repair should something go wrong. But, we really had a problem with the 30-amp electrical service. While it’s true that the Alante only has one roof air conditioner, the circuit breaker would pop if both the air conditioner and the microwave were turned on at the same time, for example. It’s for this same reason we can’t understand the purpose of an electric hot-water tank (in addition to an LP-gas burner) in this case.
Balancing desirable features with a reasonable price tag is never an easy task for any manufacturer, but Jayco has done a very good job overall with the Alante.
It’s just the right size, and with its generous list of standard features, it should make it easy for a family to enjoy the great outdoors, togetherness and friendship. In other words, the simple things.
Jayco Inc. | 574-825-5861 | www.jayco.com