Class C from Forest River offers thoughtful family-friendly amenities inside and out
Ah, the great outdoors. The perfect place to wet a line, go for a hike, explore the mountainside or watch TV. Wait, what?! Like it or not, today’s generation of RVers has come to expect all the luxuries of home when in their rig, and that includes the evening news or Friday-night flick. And because that new money definitely talks, RV manufacturers have taken notice and offered up floorplans that not only include top-shelf entertainment amenities, but also a comfortable den-like atmosphere in which to view them. In fact, Forest River subscribes so heavily to that notion that the RV builder has included four separate, distinct viewing areas, each with its own TV. My initial reaction when touring the delightfully over-the-top Sunseeker 3170 DS was, “What, they couldn’t put a TV in the bathroom?”
All kidding aside, the clever use of available space for entertainment areas truly sets the 3170 DS apart from similar floorplans. As the tech-savvy family troupe RVers emerge onto the scene, the mid-coach bunk layout is definitely gaining in popularity. But the Sunseeker 3170 DS is the first instance this tester has encountered of a manufacturer truly embracing the possibilities of a family of adults/teens/pre-teens/toddlers and their electronic leisure-time preferences in a relatively affordable price point.
Of course, the allure of the Sunseeker goes well beyond some high-definition TVs. Forest River has also seen fit to address some of the everyday usability concerns of this type of floorplan, including a few practical yet necessary tweaks to the norm.
Those tweaks begin on the coach’s exterior. The rear storage compartment is not only pass-through, but the lockable rotocast lining means cleanup from road grime (and things like fish guts, campsite mud and barbecue grease) is rather easy. The electric awning with LED lights is another high-tech inclusion, and the integrated access step makes for effortless passage in and out of the coach. The walls are made from 2-inch gelcoat fiberglass over an aluminum structure with steel backers and block-foam insulation. The fiberglass front cap ($350), fiberglass roof and aluminum running boards not only look great, but should hold up to the elements in the long run.
Oh, and did I mention the optional exterior entertainment center ($1,085)? More front than center, the 32-inch TV, DVD player and integrated speakers are a pleasant surprise. Viewing in the midday sun is a bit difficult (glare plagues RVs as well as residential living rooms), and I found myself wishing the compartment hinged up rather than down so I could use the door to help block the sun. But talk about splitting hairs … the entertainment setup outside worked as advertised once the light dimmed and the grill was fired up.
Upon entering the Sunseeker, there’s an “Easy-Access” battery compartment within the entry steps that features a battery shut-off switch in a convenient location. There is a pair of shallow storage cabinets immediately on your left that will likely become catchalls, but your eyes are immediately drawn to the cabover area, which features a 32-inch TV (that’s No. 2), surround sound ($413) and a dual twin-bed area ($1,113). A stepladder that mounts to the wall when not in use, and an integrated “storage” tray in the cabover, complete with cup-holders and bins for remotes, DVDs, iPods and such, are refreshing inclusions. The TV is mounted on a swing arm that makes viewing from most any angle in the living area (save the dinette immediately below it) a pretty easy affair.
The four-person Ultraleather dinette offers four belted positions for travel, and also integrated storage drawers beneath the seats. A pair of cup-holders is molded into the tabletop, and three more line the adjacent window (yet another nod to the RVing family). The Ultraleather sofa bed and overhead storage across the way share the 100-inch streetside slide with part of the galley.
The galley, at first glance, is exactly what’s expected in this configuration. However, a little living therein reveals some pretty cool add-ons. The seemingly no-brainer addition of a flip-up counter extension greatly improves counterspace for meal prep; that you can’t open the wood-panel ($105) 6-cubic-foot fridge completely when the extension is in place is entirely forgivable (just plan ahead). I was especially impressed with a particular drawer configuration below the sink. Where the under-sink plumbing would normally not allow for a second drawer, Forest River has simply made the drawer shorter to make it work. The more, the merrier when it comes to storage, even if it’s in a smaller area. The rest of the galley consists of the standard three-burner range, oven and microwave, in addition to a stainless-steel sink and slightly upgraded hardware.
Heading rearward takes you to the bunk area, which is separated from the galley via an accordion door. To increase versatility, the top bunk can be raised and the bottom bunk transformed into a second jackknife sofa, a wonderful decision I think we’ll see more of. The area also gets its own TV setup, a 19-inch flatscreen (No. 3) and immediate access to the TV/DVD/CD/MP3 unit that fuels the RV’s entertainment. Each bunk has a light, curtains for privacy and a nifty mesh net-type storage pocket for odds and ends.
The lav also is a pleasant surprise, with a mirrored medicine cabinet, linen storage, a laundry cabinet and a porcelain toilet all located amidships. The shower/tub features a tri-fold sliding glass door, designed to maximize space in the shower. A curved skylight instead of the flat one would make for a bit more headroom for taller RVers.
The master bedroom actually feels like a suite, with plush carpeting and the fact that it’s separated from the rest of the motorhome by a solid sliding door. A large mirrored wardrobe with two hanging-clothes cabinets and eight drawers pleasantly dominates the curbside wall, sharing the massive 11-foot, 4-inch slide with the bunkhouse down the hall. It’s on that wardrobe that you’ll find TV No. 4, a 21-incher mounted ($455 with DVD player) to a cabinet door that can be swung open to reveal storage. Dual nightstands are a plus around the residential-type comfy bed upgrade ($301), but I would have appreciated outlets for charging electronics below, especially in such a tech-savvy coach. Due to the rear pass-through storage, under-bed real estate is at a minimum, but the space is still perfect for linens, pillows and the like.
The Sunseeker 3170 DS doesn’t exactly break new ground; it’s part of a now-trending need for bunk-house type Class C’s that can accommodate the whole family (and a couple friends). But what is unique about the 3170 DS is Forest River’s attention to detail, and its foresight into how the intended audience will likely use the motorhome once the sun goes down. Because, for better or worse, the days of gin rummy, Sorry! and I Spy are likely long gone. Let’s continue to welcome in the wired, tuned-in HDTV generation with open arms.
Special thanks to RV Outlet Mall in Georgetown, Texas, 800-275-6555, www.rvoutletmall.com