Annual trade show reveals the latest and greatest of all things RV
Each year, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) hosts a national trade show to showcase the latest offerings from RV manufacturers. The event – held at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville – may not be open to the public, but is a great opportunity for industry insiders to catch a glimpse of what’s hot for the upcoming model year. Manufacturer representatives are on hand to answer questions and discuss exciting new floorplans and features, while dealers, media representatives and others race up and down the aisles like kids in a candy store, kicking tires, opening cabinets and flipping switches.
This past December’s show revealed a number of growing trends in the motorhome segment, most notably a surge in popularity for Class B motorhomes due to their ease of driving and appeal to those entering the RV market (or looking to downsize). As you’ll read in the following pages, this segment has come a long way from years past, resulting in attractive, feature-rich models that offer a surprising amount of residential amenities in a sleek, fuel-efficient package.
That’s not to say that Class A’s and Class C’s went unchanged. Dozens of new models and floorplans with a focus on improved ride and handling, storage and livability were on display, and are likely on the road already as you read this.
Though there were also some other exciting new vehicles that had previously been introduced at various shows across the country, the following is a representative view of what’s trending in the year ahead.
One Class B motorhome generating quite a bit of foot traffic was Coachmen’s new Crossfit. The motorhome, built on the Ford Transit chassis with a 10,360-pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), has been designed to complement the company’s popular Galleria that’s built on the Sprinter chassis. The big news? The Crossfit comes in at an MSRP below $100,000 (albeit just a hair, at $99,995). That’s quite an accomplishment. “To have an MSRP there, with this type of quality, that’s a great place to be,” said Mark Steele, general manager of Coachmen’s Class B division. “The Transit drives really nice, so you get a great platform at a really nice price point.” But that’s not the only thing that has the Crossfit turning heads. “For starters, it looks great,” said Steele. “The cabinetry is solid maple, same as we use in the Galleria. There are some differences apart from the chassis, though. We’re using blue LED mood lighting for the cabinets, and we use a multiplex lighting system for our wiring,” a decision, Steele says, that “gives owners the ability to control things like the lights and awnings from inside the coach or around the campfire.” Standards on the 22D – the only floorplan available as of press time – include a two-burner LP-gas cooktop and a 19-inch LED TV. A wet bath – plus 30-gallon/15-gallon/18-gallon fresh/gray/black tanks, an up to 200-watt solar system and a standard gas AC generator – make the Crossfit a solid choice for a couple or small family.
Dynamax Isata 5
Dynamax has always been well-known for its durable construction, and especially its flashy exterior designs. The Isata 5 on display at the show was no exception. “All of our exteriors are designed by Dean Loucks, a local artist who does a lot of power boats and race cars,” said Joe Eash, West Coast sales representative for Dynamax. “We also do all our own painting in-house, and we’re one of the few – if not the only – Class C manufacturers who do so,” he said. The 2017 model year represents the first time the Isata 5 is based on the RAM 5500 chassis. What’s not new is that “it’s got a Cummins, which all of our Super C’s have, so it’s an easy transition,” said Eash. “The big news on the Isata 5 is that it’s offered in four-wheel drive,” said Eash, making Dynamax “the only company in the business that offers 4×4 in this segment,” he said. The Isata 5 is available in two 36-foot floorplans, and features a GVWR of 19,500 pounds. Both units come pretty well-loaded from the factory, with a handful of options – including the $6,600 factory four-wheel-drive choice – available; custom configurations are also possible. MSRP starts at approximately $180,000.
Forest River Berkshire Legacy 340BH
While Forest River has offered the Berkshire Legacy for several years, the Elkhart, Indiana-based builder completely revamped it for the 2017 model year. According to Forest River Diesel Division GM Dave Carpenter, it’s a ground-up redesign – starting with the use of 22.5-inch polished-aluminum wheels rather than the typical stainless-steel wheel inserts. Other exterior upgrades include new front and rear caps, a slide-out AC-generator tray and side-hinged bus-style compartment doors.
“We’ve added a lot of features that we think bring a significant advantage to the consumer,” Carpenter noted, including a Truma continuous-flow water heater, full multiplex lighting system with a touch screen, Samsung TVs, 15,000-Btu A/C units (the front unit includes a heat pump) and full fiberglass showers.
Available in three floorplans – the 340BH bunkhouse model, the bath-and-a-half 360RB and a two-bath bunk model, the 38C – the Legacy is built on a Freightliner chassis with a 340-hp engine and a 27,910-pound GVWR. MSRP for the 340BH starts at $240,453.
Gulf Stream BT Cruiser 5245
When Gulf Stream initially introduced its BT Cruiser brand in the fall of 2015, it found a ready audience – but as Bob FitzSimmons, general manager of Gulf Stream’s motorized division recollected, he soon wanted to add a few specific floorplans.
“When I came over to the motorized side, one of the first things I said I needed was a couple of smaller BT Cruisers that had beds in them,” said FitzSimmons. “Some of our smaller units relied on jackknife sofas for sleeping; I thought there were more people out there in today’s market that were looking for a smaller unit but wanted a bed in it.”
What Gulf Stream’s designers came up with was the 5245, an open floorplan incorporating a full-wall streetside slideout that’s home to a rear queen-size bed, wardrobe and dinette – in a unit that measures just 26 feet bumper to bumper. Directly across from the bed is a full bath, with the galley taking up the rest of the unit curbside; additional storage and a 32-inch TV are set into the cabover portion of the B-plus-style motorhome. Built on a Ford F-350 chassis – it also can be ordered with F-450 underpinnings – the 5245 offers buyers a 12,500-pound GVWR; MSRPs are in the low $80,000s. The 5245 joins five other floorplans in the BT Cruiser lineup, which stretch from 22 to 32 feet in length.
Hymer Sonne and Aktiv 2.0
Joining the Aktiv (see “Getting Aktiv” test in the January issue), Kitchener, Ontario-based Erwin Hymer Group North America (EHGNA) has added two new units to its lineup of Class B motorhomes built on the RAM ProMaster chassis. The Aktiv 2.0 – a longer version of the Aktiv – and the Sonne (pictured) made their debuts at the show and serve as the high and low ends of the now three-unit Hymer Class B lineup.
Built on the ProMaster 1500 short van and paired with the 3.6-liter V-6 engine, the Sonne comes in at a base MSRP just shy of $90,000.
Mike Snell, EHGNA’s vice president of sales and service for both motorized and towables, said the Sonne is “A couple’s coach or one-person coach.”
“It’s very versatile,” he continued. “It has a separate shower that can be converted down into a storage cabinet for household goods or even as a place for your dog if you want. The doors open up to create a massive yet private bathroom. It packs a lot of storage and functionality into a small space.”
With a similar layout to the Aktiv, the Aktiv 2.0 ($98,534 MSRP) is on the longer chassis and therefore adds a precious couple more feet of interior space, which Snell said was put to good use.
“You can get it with the old-style bed that we had with the first Aktiv, which had tons of storage when the bed was folded up, but now you can sleep north-south as opposed to east-west. We also are offering an optional electric sofa in the back,” Snell explained, adding that EHGNA will debut another unit sometime in the late summer with the same floorplan as the Aktiv, but on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis.
Leisure Travel Vans Wonder
Long known for its high-end compact motorhomes built on the Sprinter chassis from Mercedes-Benz, Leisure Travel Vans/Triple E turned to the Ford Transit for its introduction of the Wonder, a unit coming in at 24 feet 9 inches long and 7 feet 10 inches wide. Sales Manager Dean Corrigal, pointing out the Wonder’s $110,000 MSRP is roughly $25,000 less than the rest of the Leisure lineup, said the company simply wanted to add a second chassis option for buyers. “They love our stuff, but not everybody was a Mercedes-Benz fan. We’ve done business with Ford for 50 years with our Regency line on the E-450 chassis, so it’s fun to be back with Ford again,” he said, adding the Wonder is on the 5-liter diesel Ford Transit chassis with a six-speed transmission.
“It has two really cool features: a full residential 60-by-80-inch queen-size Murphy bed, and it has the residential rear bathroom with a stand-up shower, toilet and sink – all separate. We’ve done a modern look to it so everything is hidden, all of the appliances,” said Corrigal.
Newmar King Aire
While admittedly it’s difficult to argue that a coach starting at an MSRP of $887,250 ought to have all the bells and whistles, the 2017 King Aire by Newmar incorporates everything an outdoor enthusiast could want – and then some – along with the near flawless execution of a highly engineered redesign.
On the outside, Newmar’s top-of-the-line King Aire features redesigned front and rear caps with full LED head- and taillights, a cut-and-buff full-paint finish and one of the tallest basements in the Class A segment.
Powered by a 600-hp Cummins ISX diesel engine, the coach is built on a Spartan K3 tag-axle chassis with independent front suspension and a hydraulic leveling system from HWH Corp., which also supplied an all-new motorized front-entry step. The chassis receives further backing from Newmar’s STAR Foundation proprietary steel superstructure.
Again, numerous updates on the inside are what one should expect from a luxury coach – including a 50-by-34-inch fully tiled shower with massage sprays and foot wash – but Newmar is especially excited about the coach’s new dashboard and digital instrument panel. Developed in conjunction with Astheimer Ltd., a German design firm that includes Ferrari among its clients, the dashboard features a configurable “Digital Dash” display monitor, two 12.1-inch touch screens that can provide 360 degrees of outward visibility and a wireless nonslip charging pad. There’s also Newmar’s Comfort Drive with Passive Steer technology. A custom-tuned, 11-speaker JBL audio system, contrasted cross-stitching and exclusive fabrics from the Ralph Lauren Home Collection complete the cockpit.
Thor Motorcoach Miramar 35.3
Thor’s 35.3 model is the latest addition to the gasoline-powered Class A Miramar line, adding a sixth floorplan on the Ford F-53 chassis.
“The big thing about the 35.3 is you get the ‘L’ sofa, something you would expect to find in a diesel product. We’re bringing that over into our higher-end gas models,” said Wes Bogan, marketing manager for Thor Motor Coach. “It gives you that feel of a separate living area – you’re not stuck with that feeling of ‘it’s a kitchen, but it’s the living room.’ This really feels like a living room. That’s the big bonus. The fireplace adds to the ambiance, plus you get the drop-down overhead bunk for added sleeping area.” The designers also took the sofa position into account, angling the 40-inch television to improve visibility from any place on the sofa.
The Miramar is 36 feet 10 inches long and has a GVWR of 22,000 pounds. It has a base MSRP of $160,350.
Thor Motorcoach Quantum KM24
With the new KM24 floorplan, Thor has expanded its popular Quantum Class C motorhome line to include the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. The KM24 is one of seven Quantum floorplans for 2017, but is the first diesel option in the line that, until now, had been built only on the Ford E-450 chassis or on the optional Chevy chassis with gasoline engines. The BlueTEC 3.0-liter V-6 turbodiesel engine puts out 188 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque, and it easily moves a motorhome that is one of the shortest offerings in the Quantum line (measuring 24 feet 8 inches). It’s also the lightest, with a GVWR of 11,030 pounds.
The Quantum KM24 offers a full-wall triple-track slide, queen-size bed, Dream Dinette sleeping area and a bunk over the cab, taking advantage of a built-in skylight.
“In the Quantum you get higher-class cabinetry than is typical in Class C or Class B motorhomes. You also have a rear bath with a nice full-size shower. Typically in a small coach you’re cramped for space, so that’s a nice feature,” said Bogan.
The 2017 KM24 features an MSRP starting at $114,000, and is available with several interior dÃ©cor options, two cabinetry options and two exterior “HD-MAX” graphics options.
Winnebago Era 70M
Joining the rear sofa bed 70X and the versatile 70A with the Flex Bed System in the Winnebago Era lineup, the 70M made an impressive debut at Louisville. The Class B, with an MSRP of $138,000, rides on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis with a “Murphy+ Bed” slideout. The 24-foot-3-inch-long unit features 44-gallon freshwater, 22-gallon black and 25-gallon gray tank capacities – a sharp increase over the 70A and 70X capacities. While the rear bath is refreshingly spacious and the midlevel galley along one wall and European-style cabinetry and refrigerator along the other are well-appointed, the key feature of the 70M is its 52-by-75-inch motorized Murphy+ Bed. When not in use, the bed is tucked away in a slideout in favor of a sofa and removable pedestal table. At night, the table is stowed away, the sofa folds into itself and, with a touch of a button, the bed lowers for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Winnebago Vista 27PE
Sitting on Ford’s F-53 chassis and powered by its Triton V-10 engine, the Vista line of Class A motorhomes by Winnebago saw the addition of two new floorplans, the 32YE and 27PE, at the show. While the 32-foot-11-inch-long 32YE features a king-bed slide in the rear and a dinette/sofa bed slide in the living area, the 27PE’s two streetside slideouts nearly run the length of the 28-foot-8-inch-long unit. The rear slide houses a king bed opposite a bathroom, while the midway slideout holds a galley as well as a 42-by-73-inch dinette, which can transform into a bed. Opposite the midslide is the entry door, flanked by a refrigerator, sofa bed and overhead cabinets. Vista MSRPs start at $97,525, and the chassis has an 18,000-pound GVWR.