Entegra’s highline all-electric coach offers room to roam for couples looking for luxury and road-hugging drivability
Most people associated professionally with RVs, whether from the manufacturing or sales side of the equation, will tell you that in about 80 percent of RV sales, it’s the floorplan that clinches the deal. That motorhome may cost as much as a brick-and-mortar home, but you can’t knock out a wall to enlarge the bedroom, revamp the bath or really even swap out the galley countertop without upsetting its balance, so you’d better make sure the coach you pick not only meets your immediate needs but those of the foreseeable future. It’s not always a perfect fit, but neither is it a deal-breaker to accept a few compromises with a coach configuration that “almost” fits your lifestyle so long as it fits your budget.
Once you hit a certain price point, however, such trade-offs are no longer necessary.
As a highline manufacturer of diesel-pusher motorhomes exclusively, Middlebury, Indiana-based Entegra Coach doesn’t play in that segment of the market where equipment is chosen as much for its cost as for its application. In fact, except for a single entry-level model within its Aspire line, everything this division of Jayco’s motorized group builds utilizes a tag axle and its corresponding 12,000 pounds of added weight capacity, so the company really didn’t have to be concerned all that much with choosing amenities based upon its impact at the scales, either.
One other thing Entegra is unapologetic for: Its coaches aren’t always designed for families.
“There’s plenty of room inside, to be sure, and the sofas in the main cabin convert to accommodate weekend guests — but our market really tends toward couples,” noted Chuck Lasley, vice president of sales and marketing for Entegra.
That would explain a few tip-offs during our test of an Entegra Anthem 44SL — like the seeming incongruity of a 23-cubic-foot, stainless-steel refrigerator (a great choice for entertaining) alongside a relatively small two-burner cooktop in the galley. “Our customers don’t tend to be doing a lot of cooking in these coaches,” Lasley added, “but along with the Samsung SmartChef convection oven it gives them what they asked for, a high-burner, high-element cooktop — and it also allowed us to create a galley which, with a slideout island, offers a lot more countertop space.”
One of six models in the Anthem line, the 44SL features a “traditional” rear bedroom suite arrangement with a mid-coach bath. Many of the differences between Anthem floorplans, in fact, revolve around changes to the bath configuration — be it a bath-and-a-half style, the placement of the water closet or a choice of single- or dual-lavatory sink setups — along with two primary configurations in the main cabin. That’s oversimplifying things, but hits the high points. The 44SL is the only model to include the main bathroom lavatory/sink in the forward part of the rear streetside slide housing the standard king-size bed (there’s a second, smaller sink along with the toilet in a curbside water closet).
Incorporating the lavatory into the slideroom really helps open up the shower area — not quite as much room as you’d get with a rear bath, perhaps, but neither does it adversely affect available space in the main cabin where, again, another tip-off to the Anthem’s “couples” intent was obvious in the size of the eating area.
Tucked into the backside of the sizable curbside sofa (and sharing the same comfortable, overstuffed, espresso-toned curves), the dinette can fit four people, albeit a bit snugly. A freestanding table with four chairs is an option, but the supple booth style of the standard dinette strikes us as the best compromise between long-term use and occasional guest incursions. Keep in mind, though, that in neither case will a diner facing forward be able to turn and watch the main TV, a 46-inch flatscreen mounted into the wall just aft of the dinette and above an electric fireplace. But if you want to watch the tube, you can always move to either of the two main sofas — or choose another TV: the Anthem boasts four. In addition to the main galley area, there’s a 32-inch flatscreen mounted between the cabinets above the cockpit and another of similar size above the curbside vanity in the bedroom; a 40-inch unit is part of the outdoor entertainment system. All the TVs in this all-electric, non-propane coach, by the way, are Samsung, with the TVs in the bedroom and main galley augmented with a Bose sound system.
Like every other Anthem in the lineup, the 44SL features a four-slideout arrangement, and while neither the streetside entertainment center, food pantry and angled glass shower, nor the aforementioned sizable refrigerator and water closet on the curbside, are housed in slideouts, virtually everything else is. Curbside, that includes the bedroom vanity and dresser in the rear as well as the entire curbside galley (cooktop, convection microwave and two-basin sink) and sofa bed. Open, the slideouts dramatically increase the 44SL’s square footage, but even when closed there’s still room to walk through the coach, visit the privy or even spend time in the bedroom watching the telly.
Part of that is due to the well-thought-out interior design of the coach, and part is due to the fact that the 44SL is as big as they come at Entegra, sharing its 43-foot, 11-inch length with a pair of other Anthem floorplans as well as its three Cornerstone-class siblings. And, like every Entegra coach, it rides on a Spartan chassis, powered by the same Cummins ISL 450-hp turbodiesel used throughout the Aspire and Anthem lines.
The chassis, though, isn’t exactly stock. Before being delivered to the assembly line, the chassis is retrofit with additional X-bracing to increase rigidity and, in conjunction with the 44SL’s independent front suspension (IFS), improve road manners. Along with its heavyweight construction, it all factors into what Entegra claims is the “quietest, best-riding coach on the market today.” We won’t haggle with what’s obviously a subjective statement — but while we didn’t spend untold hours behind the wheel of the motorhome, it was obvious during our trek to Eby’s Pines Campground in Bristol, Indiana, that the 44SL owned exemplary road manners.
Driving a narrow, single-lane country “highway” can sometimes be harrowing in anything bigger than a Toyota, but the coach, equipped with the extra chassis bracing, IFS and Entegra’s SmartWheel steering, had no problems with the road. Even the inevitable buffeting encountered when passed by trucks headed west while we were eastbound didn’t untrack the Anthem. You can, in fact, drive one-handed with a pretty high degree of confidence.
Entegra improves the performance further by fitting the 44SL with larger Michelin 315/80R tires in front (Michelin 295/80Rs in back) to absorb a lot of the motion. It’s hard to offer an opinion on just how much of a difference that extra sidewall seems to make without something to compare it to, but from a seat-of-the-pants perspective, we were quite comfortable throttling down roads with turns sometimes seemingly built more for horse-drawn Amish buggies than a 8.5-foot-wide, nearly 45-foot-long motorhome.
Nor, for that matter, will we quibble over the Anthem’s solid and well-insulated build. Marine-grade wood is used in the 6-inch-thick subfloor, with 2 x 4s every 16 inches on center along with residential-grade fiberglass batting. (There also are aluminum studs every 16 inches on center throughout, not only in the side walls but also the roof structure.) The same fiberglass batting is used in the wall, sandwiched between wallboard, Astro-Foil and quarter-inch solid fiberglass; the wall is then carriage-bolted to the floor around the perimeter of the coach.
That’s all that you don’t see, and it contributes greatly to all that you don’t hear. Obviously, you don’t expect to hear much out of a rear-engine diesel when belted to the Ultraleather driver’s seat, so at one point of our trip we changed positions behind the IMAX-sized windshield so I could walk through the coach and into the bedroom — where, even under acceleration, it was obvious that you could hold a normal conversation. Or, for that matter, recline on the king-size bed (standard on all Entegra coaches) and watch TV courtesy of the dual onboard Magnum 2,800-watt and 2,000-watt pure sine-wave inverters. These, along with switches for the unit’s optional twin 100-watt solar panels, dual Girard awnings, motorized antenna, Energy Command system (essentially an “auto-start” feature for the 12.5-kW Onan generator) and energy-management system, are housed above the entry door.
In fact, we really only had one gripe about the drive, and that was that everything on the dash was driver-centric and not really accessible to the passenger — including the monitor for the Sirius satellite radio and backup monitor. As Lasley noted later, however, that was done intentionally to improve driver vision. “A lot of OEMs will have that screen flat, so both people can see it, but that’s not ideal for the driver. That’s also why we mount our Allison transmission panel on line of sight of the windshield versus lower, because you don’t want to take your eyes off of the road.”
Besides, the dash-mounted screen is tied into the overhead TV, which is viewable from the passenger seat; switching it on allows the passenger to watch the view from the rear camera or the Rand McNally GPS system incorporated into the unit. When activated, the GPS system will take the vehicle’s size, weight, and even whether there’s an on-board propane tank into consideration and route you accordingly.
If you’re looking to attract a crowd, all you need do is pull into a “normal” campground the likes of Eby’s Pines RV Park & Campground, with a coach more suited to an upscale resort. While there was the typical cross section of campers that you’d expect, we didn’t notice another tag-axle-equipped, 44-foot-long, nearly $500,000 luxury motorcoach anywhere else on the property. And while we didn’t experience anything more than a fair share of interest, Entegra has anticipated problems when “camping small” — and has updated the 2015 Anthem with its new energy-management system which will automatically shed loads when adequate hookup power is not available.
We didn’t overtax the electrical components enough to make the energy-management system kick in — pretty content, actually, to nuke some take-and-bake through the microwave and watch movies in the main cabin — but we did run the air conditioning quite a bit. Aside from adding structural integrity and minimizing noise, the coach’s construction provides the motorhome with enviable insulation. In fact, the Anthem carries an R-33 rating for the floor, with R-16 side walls, R-24 for the rubber-covered roof and even an R-19 rating for the front and rear caps — one of the only manufacturers to insulate the caps. That’s combined with climate control in the basement to maintain storage temperature and prevent freezing of pipes and compartment contents, giving the Anthem four-season capability. It also helps keep the coach warm in the winter.
Another aspect of the Anthem build that bears mentioning is that the company has chosen to mount its lower cabinets directly to the wood subfloor rather than building the radiant-heated mosaic tile floor beforehand. “We put the wood cabinets on the wood floor for two reasons,” Lasley noted. “First, there’s no squeaking as you drive due to the wood rubbing on the tile — it may not happen for a year or two, but we believe that cabinets mounted atop tile will eventually begin squeaking as the coach flexes.
“Secondly, if there becomes a need to change out a tile because, say, someone drops a pan on the floor and cracks a tile, the repair person doesn’t have to remove cabinetry in order to replace it.”
The Anthem has all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a luxury coach of this caliber — solid-cherry cabinetry, satin-nickel fixtures, solid-surface countertops, porcelain-tile shower, an Aqua-Hot 450 hydronic water and heating system, remote secure coach locking, a washer/dryer combo concealed behind one of the bedroom suite’s cabinet doors alongside cedar-lined wardrobes — and a few other surprises.
There is, for example, the faux awning box on the street side that duplicates the real awning position and is also fitted with LEDs that — like the real awning — can illuminate at night, and a unique two-slide generator tray. Usually, when you pull out the slide tray the entire generator comes with it. By leaving the generator intact — it’s released by pulling a second pin — you can access things like the wiper mechanisms and defroster without having to climb all over the genset.
When we left our campsite, we were reminded of yet another feature. If you listen closely, when you disengage the parking brake you can hear a series of “clicks” as air-activated rubber bumpers secure the exterior travel doors and snug up the corner of the entry door. The storage bays weren’t filled on this trip — but they could have been.
Entegra Coach | 800-945-4787 | www.entegracoach.com