Foretravel and Motor Home Specialist Team Up to Create a Unique Luxury Motor Coach
Significant achievements are rarely the work of just one mind. The seed that becomes a tree of inspiration is usually sown by a dedicated team, motivated by a singular vision. In the world of luxury motor coaches, a collaborative effort is always part of the process, but it usually starts on a computer screen – and ends on the production floor – at the manufacturer’s facility. In the case of the all-new Realm FS6 Class A, things were a little different. In fact, you could say they were unprecedented. Because, instead of the factory dictating everything from concept to creation, the Realm was designed by the dealer and built to spec by the manufacturer, resulting in a unique business relationship – and a very special coach.
Foretravel is a small manufacturer of bespoke motor coaches in the east Texas town of Nacogdoches. On an average year, it sells around 20 units priced in the $1.3 million to $1.6 million range. By contrast, Motor Home Specialist RV (MHSRV) of Alvarado, Texas, southwest of Dallas, is the No. 1 volume-selling motorhome dealer in the world, moving around 60 to 70 motorhomes a week. It’s also the nation’s sole Foretravel dealer (they are also available for sale at Foretravel), so it was in a unique position to request a luxury Class A product line built exclusively for the dealership that would fill a conspicuous gap between the $500,000 to $1 million price points. Spearheaded by Foretravel’s Manager of Product Development Darrell Luce, and MHSRV CEO Donny O’Banion, the goal for the Realm project was to provide all of the touchstones of a custom coach in a 45-foot product that would cost roughly half as much, or around $700,000, fully loaded.
A big part of a custom coach’s price tag originates with its robust chassis. Testament to Foretravel’s commitment to quality is that it normally builds its own, but that would be cost-prohibitive for the Realm project. So, Foretravel turned to Spartan for its new K3GT chassis. In addition to a stout gross vehicle weight rating of 54,000 pounds, the K3GT packs a 15-liter, 600-horsepower Cummins ISX diesel, and is equipped with independent front suspension and Spartan’s new passive steer tag axle, which the company claims is good for a 7 percent reduction in curb-to-curb turning radius. The money saved over a custom-built chassis saved a considerable amount of money, enabling the team to equip the coach with all the luxury amenities they envisioned. “I think of it as IQ compounding,” commented Lyle Reed, executive director and chairman of Foretravel Motorcoach. “We combined our 47-year history as a manufacturer, with Spartan’s experience as a chassis vendor, with Motor Home Specialist’s mastery of RV marketing and customer knowledge as the world’s largest dealer.”
And it shows. When vying for attention from consumers who have nearly $1 million in discretionary income to spend, the first impression is crucial – and the Foretravel MHSRV team nailed it with styling that is at once impactful and subtle. Think Mercedes-Benz S Class or Bentley Mulsanne; you don’t have to be an auto expert to know these cars are special, and the Realm’s imposing presence works to similar effect – except on a much grander scale. In fact, much of the Realm’s aesthetic details are designed to echo premium automobiles. Consider its chrome grille, automotive Xenon headlights with LED accent lighting, fog lights and REALM FS6 script emblazoned on the rear cap – the F standing for Foretravel, the S for Spartan, and the 6 for 600 horsepower.
And the paint. Oh, the paint. Applied by the artisans at Foretravel, the Mystic Bronze scheme (pictured) is a spectacular combination of colors, fades and stripes that reportedly takes up to 675 hours from prep to completion. Not only are the slideout rooms painted to match on their sides, but even underneath. Combined with the unique REALMAIR integrated fairings above the windshield, and luxury coach standards like polished Alcoa wheels and roofline-integrated Girard awnings, the overall effect is truly striking.
Of course, the Realm also features all the other conveniences you would expect of a luxury coach, such as automatic hydraulic leveling and cavernous pass-through basement storage, but here again, details make the difference. The baggage doors lock or unlock with a key fob, and the bays are equipped with power-operated cargo trays as well as motion-sensing LED lights. Operate a tray, or simply put your arm inside a baggage door, and the lights come on automatically. At night, visibility is further enhanced by LED entry door and patio lights, not to mention cool blue exterior ground-effects lighting that adds a touch of drama.
A key feature of Foretravel’s products is what the company calls Fore-Slide technology, and the Realm benefits from it as well. First, the hydraulically operated, flush-fit slideouts begin to deploy almost silently, and perform a mechanical magic trick as a panel in the floor opens up, and the edge of the slide settles in, creating a perfectly flat floor. Then, once the slide is deployed, a pneumatic bladder around the circumference of each slide creates a seal that is literally airtight. Perhaps just as important, the coach was designed so that it’s still fully functional even when the slides are in. “The journey should be part of the experience,” O’Banion explained. “So we started with the slide rooms in and built outward. That way passengers have access to the kitchen, the bathroom. They should have fun while they’re traveling. Be comfortable, be entertained.”
One of four floorplans in the Realm lineup, the bath-and-a-half Luxury Villa 1 (LV1) floorplan we sampled offers an expansive living area featuring the traditional opposing slide layout with some untraditional details. The curbside slideout, for example, houses not the two-place expandable table you’re probably accustomed to, but a fixed dinette that, while smallish for four adults, is thickly padded and features a natural quartz table. It’s also positioned right next to a large window so you can take in the views, or just watch the kids (or grandkids) play. Right next to the dinette is the galley area, which offers plenty of space on the natural quartz countertop, which is also home to a large, undermounted stainless-steel sink with residential fixtures, induction cooktop, a residential stainless-steel convection microwave above, and a drawer dishwasher concealed below. The galley also features a countertop extension, which is a feature we’re usually not fans of; we’ve found they make a lot of noise during travel, and can extend with an alarming crash while cornering. Foretravel solves both problems elegantly and effectively by equipping the extension, as well as both rear pocket doors, with electromagnets that are energized whenever the key is on, holding everything tightly in place.
On the streetside is a large Villa Ultraleather couch with pillow-top air mattress and pullout extension, at the end of which is a cabinet featuring a 52-inch Sony LED flat-screen TV, drawers for movies and other knickknacks, plus a large cabinet for all of the audiovisual equipment, which includes a Blu-ray player that’s viewable from all televisions, a custom surround-sound system with a subwoofer in the living area, and a professionally programmed universal remote control. Directly adjacent is, get this, a small wine chiller. Aft of the TV cabinet in a 21-cubic-foot stainless-steel refrigerator and a large pantry with pullout drawers, followed by a stackable washer/dryer in its own cabinet.
Often in a coach of this caliber, the interior can bear a closer resemblance to a nightclub than a residence, but the Realm’s living area is tastefully decorated – in fact, some might say it’s on the conservative side – and the materials and craftsmanship are unsurpassed. As mentioned, natural quartz counters are used throughout, along with glass-tile backsplashes, solid, satin-finished African Mahogany woodwork and porcelain-tile floors laced with dark accent stripes. Infinitely dimmable lighting is used throughout, all controlled by multiplex panels, which are logically placed in every area of the coach.
In the center of the coach on the curbside is the half-bath, which is beautifully finished with more African Mahogany cabinetry, quartz and glass tile, along with a porcelain macerator toilet, powered roof vent and multiplex lighting. Countertop space should be more than enough for your guests, and above the small sink is a mirrored medicine cabinet. Plenty of lighting, plus a large window prevent the area from feeling like a closet.
Step out of the half-bath and look to your left, and it’s a clear shot to the back of the coach and the beautifully appointed master bath, which was arranged not just for comfort, but visual impact. “Normally, when you look to the back of the coach, you see a closet,” O’Banion explained. “When you look at the back of the Realm, you see the dual vanities and cabinetry. The prettiest part of the bathroom is facing forward.” The design also adds 2-3 feet of visual depth to the interior, and allows the vanity to be flanked by a huge cedar-lined closet (replete with shoe storage and a personal vault) on the streetside, and a magnificent shower on the curbside. This 60-by-31-inch space is finished with natural stone in the pan and large tiles on the walls, accented by thick bands of gorgeous glass tile. It’s plenty big enough for two, and is equipped with a residential, detachable showerhead, built-in seat, towel bar and skylight. Unless you’re Donald Trump, you couldn’t wish for more. Some other unusual details: The step-up height into the bath is only 2 inches (compared to the typical 5 inches or more) which makes the area feel roomier, and the toilet itself is enclosed in its own room for more privacy.
The bedroom, while spacious, again seems conservative until you begin to notice more subtle nuances. The walls around the bed at hip level are tiled so, in O’Banion’s words, “They stay looking nice even after you’ve walked past them a few times.” The built-in cabinetry at the foot of the bed has a large window, and at your command, a 52-inch flat-screen TV will rise from the surface. There is plenty of room for your belongings, and like the rest of the coach, it is very well-lit and thoughtfully arranged.
Clearly, a coach like this is intended to be driven as much as it is lived in, and we were given the opportunity to put the Realm through its paces on both Texas superslabs and country backroads. As you slip into the driver’s seat, you feel like a king on a throne, with the world outside the massive one-piece windshield at your command. Regardless of your size or stature, getting comfortable in the cockpit shouldn’t pose a problem, as the steering wheel offers both power tilt and telescoping functions, the seat is six-way power adjustable, and the throttle and brake pedals are power adjustable as well. The instruments are backlit analog, and the dash panels are painted to match the exterior, which we thought was a nice touch. There’s a central monitor that will display both side- and rear-camera views, but what we really loved is that the rear camera isn’t fixed; you can control it remotely from the cockpit. This same monitor also displays the SilverLeaf driver information center, while a separate touchscreen houses the Rand McNally RV Navigation system. And just because your co-pilot should always be pampered, he/she is treated to a power footrest and step-well cover, plus a personal DVD player/navigation unit mounted on a flexible stalk.
Fire the massive 15-liter diesel and there’s little more than a momentary shake as it comes to life, then a barely audible thrum as it idles more than 40 feet behind you. Merging onto the interstate, the big coach moved along almost silently, with nary a squeak or rattle to be found anywhere. In fact, the only thing that intermittently broke the relative silence was the beep of the standard Mobileye Collision Avoidance system, which thankfully can be muted and still retain its function as a useful safety device.
Exiting the highway and merging onto a two-lane country road, the ride remained compliant even over rough roads, and the steering provided good feedback, which is important on a coach of this size. The disc brakes on all eight wheels provide confident stopping power, which can be supplemented by a three-position engine brake if needed. Certainly, you’re never lulled into forgetting that you’re driving a 45-foot coach, but at the same time, you always feel confident that you’re in control.
In terms of standard equipment, fit and finish, drivability and overall value, this unique motor coach may truly be in a Realm of its own.