Best of Show Winners – Part Four

ELKHART, Ind. – The sheer volume of new RVs on display combined with the dizzying array of special features and amenities, made for difficult choices when RV PRO’s veteran editorial team attempted to narrow the massive list of contenders for inclusion in this special section highlighting what were determined to be RV PRO’s Top 20 Best of Show units for 2020.

This is Part Four of a four-part series releasing this week. Be sure to check out Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

Jayco Whitehawk 32KBS 

Just a couple of years ago, many dealers at Open House Week were grumbling that everything looked the same, no matter which manufacturer was involved.

All of the exteriors had the same swirls and all of the interiors had the same dark wood colors and brown furniture. If anyone needed evidence that manufacturers listened and responded to the criticism, they need look no further than the Whitehawk 32KBS with its light Modern Farmhouse color scheme, gray furniture, light-colored wood-plank floors and ample windows and LED lighting.

The Whitehawk is a taste of home and a breath of fresh air. Modern Farmhouse is significantly lighter than most RV interiors, but it isn’t white to the point of being sterile. The color scheme was introduced into some Jayco models for the 2019 model year, but with a year to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t, designers hit on the perfect mix in the 32KBS.

But if the lighter color doesn’t appeal, an option is the Cashmere Cottage finish, which is a little darker and more traditional. Whitehawk 32KBS has a box length of 34 feet and weighs about 8,000 pounds, so it isn’t the largest travel trailer on the lot. But between the lighter colors, clever use of slide-outs and an open floorplan with plenty of windows, the coach seems larger than it is.

Even the front bedroom seems large and airy thanks to and east-west bed situation that takes advantage of a slide-out and a wide-open front windshield with a small sofa underneath.

Entering the living room/kitchen area, a U-shaped dinette with a legless table provides an eating area free of worry about banging the knees. Next to the dinette, a tri-fold sofa faces the entertainment center featuring a fireplace and 50-inch TV with a storage area behind it.

A pantry at the front of the kitchen area is offset by a massive walk-in closet with dresser shelf and coat rack next to the full bath at the rear of the coach.

“That walk-in closet is what’s really going to be huge,” says National Sales Manager Sherlin Miller. “And the bedroom with the sofa and all the other Jayco qualities set it apart.”

What impressed RV PRO: From the Modern Farmhouse color scheme to Furrion’s Chef Collection kitchen appliances, the 32KBS has a welcoming, functional feeling to it. An optional Cashmere Cottage color scheme is available for those who aren’t quite ready to go all-in light. An east-west bed arrangement that takes advantage of a bedroom slide-out makes the coach wide open from the back wall to the front windshield.

Crossroads Zinger 299RE 

The Crossroads Zinger has a travel trailer model for just about any taste.

But the 299RE, with its rear entertainment center and hidden pantry, offers a little bit of all of that versatility wrapped up in one mid-sized, affordably priced model.

“It’s well-equipped and built well,” says Product Manager Robert Fitzsimmons. “And it has plenty of new features to lead the segment to market and not have to copy off of everybody else.”

The 299RE is 33-feet, 11-inches long and weighs 6,944 pounds. Situated about in the middle of the Zinger size range, it takes full advantage of its available space with a large slide-out in the living room/ kitchen area that creates an open feel.

Windows in the slide-out, in the opposite kitchen wall and above a wine cooler in the back wall, give added light and add to the feel. Light interior color options, including the Karbon on display, make the space seem larger as well.

That isn’t to say that 299RE is just a big empty, open trailer. For a smaller unit with an MSRP starting in the upper $20,000s, it is surprisingly well-equipped.

The wine cooler by itself might be a surprising touch, but when taken in combination with items such as washer-dryer prep, second air conditioner prep, an outdoor kitchen and a wall that holds the large 50-inch TV, soundbar and 30-inch fireplace that opens to reveal a large pantry and hidden storage area, the 299RE not only feels larger than it is but like it might come at a higher price tag.

Zinger comes with power stabilizer jacks, a tongue jack and an awning as well as flip-up steps and a large assist grab handle. It also has exterior Bluetooth speakers and is prepped for Zamp solar, a backup camera and Wi-Fi.

“With all the things that are standard, nobody else has anything like it,” Fitzsimmons says. “With the outside kitchen and using porcelain as opposed to plastic on the toilet – there are a lot of little details in this innovative floorplan.”

What impressed RV PRO: The 299RE shows off the versatility of the Zinger line. From its external kitchen and space-creating slide-out, the coach feels much larger than it really is. A pantry hidden behind the entertainment center not only adds storage but keeps valuables out of view.

Airstream Caravel 20FB 

A blast from the past, the Caravel has returned to the Airstream lineup.

The first Caravel travel trailer, built in the 1960s, was a showcase of Airstream’s innovation in lightweight, small-space design. The Caravel’s name is a nod to founder Wally Byam’s love for the sea and sailing.

The resurrection of the brand makes complete sense. Airstream’s more recognizable models, such as the Globetrotter or Flying Cloud, are pretty big. The newer models, such as Basecamp and Nest, are at the opposite end of the scale and might not live up to some of the expectations for Airstream comfort.

Caravel – particularly the 22-foot 20FB model – is just big enough to be able to stretch out and live comfortably without losing sight of the fact that it is being used for going camping.

“Caravel offers Airstreamers a small, nimble and easy-to-tow, single-axle travel trailer while not sacrificing the added features and storage that serve customers well for longer trips. It really is the best of both worlds where small has become the new big thing here at Airstream,” says Justin Humphreys, Airstream COO, summing up the Caravel’s appeal.

The trailer blends the look and feel of larger Airstreams, but wraps everything up in a sleek, lightweight package. It also offers panoramic windows, optional matching window awnings, a rear bumper, stainless-steel rock guards and increased storage capacity.

The design of Caravel 20FB is all about taking advantage of what space is available.

When used as a dinette, for example, the table has room for four people. When needed for sleeping, it converts with the table becoming a sturdy base and the cushions sitting on top.

The full bed at the front of the coach features a memory foam mattress and has a storage area underneath.

The kitchen includes a gas stove, a range vent, a stainless-steel sink and a microwave, as well as an all-electric refrigerator.

On the outside, a rear-view camera is mounted to make backup and parking easier. The trailer is pre-wired for solar and features a Zip Dee awning with Sunbrella fabric.

Caravel comes in either a Pewter or Tungsten color scheme and starts at $60,900.

What impressed RV PRO: Caravel hits just the right balance of space and economy to make it stand apart not only from teardrops and other small trailers, but also from its fellow Airstream models. At $60,900, Caravel isn’t cheap – it is an Airstream after all – but particularly with the 22-foot 20FB, there is enough space to not be cramped, but not so much to forget that the object of the trailer is to go camping.

inTech RV Sol Eclipse 

The panoramic windshield is a staple for many of inTech RVs product lines.

“People go on Facebook and upload photos of these picturesque scenes that they’re in front of – and it’s not marketing or Photoshop work,” says Adam Maxwell, CEO of inTech RV. “These are real customers going out there and doing it.”

The Dawn, which launched last year, is very similar to the Eclipse (with an MSRP of about $27,000). However, by moving the dinette to the rear, the Eclipse opens up immensely. The effects can be felt lounging in the plush dinette that seats up to six adults and facing out above the extra-large kitchen counter, which light bounces off of to create a brighter scene. It helps in appreciating the overall luxury the Eclipse offers: a stainless-steel, farmhouse sink with commercial-grade, pulldown faucet; two-burner LP stove and 3.7-cubic-foot refrigerator by Dometic; indigo lights in all the storage spaces; and curves galore throughout, clearly taking inspiration from European caravans.

“It’s amazing the amount of time that we spend in these units in the prototype phase,” says Maxwell. “Like we start out with just plywood everywhere and boxes.” Then it’s a matter of using different size nets and cubbies to optimize storage, meanwhile using everyday products RVers may bring with them like cereal and types of dishware.

“The front end on this unit changed drastically,” he says. “Four or five different times.”

But the patience and persistence paid off.

The 44-inch-long, 29-and-a-half-inch wide wet bath is one of the larger bathrooms in the industry given the Eclipse’s interior length of 13 feet and 9 inches. Which is important for Maxwell – one of inTech’s founders – who is 6-feet and 2-inches tall. Other amenities include a MaxxAir vent fan, Jensen sound system, High Pointe microwave, solar prep, as well as an optional 10-foot manual awning and rugged Rover package for the exterior.

Production for the Eclipse is slated to begin in December, with a retail launch this month.

Given its similarity to the Dawn, a lot of dealers were debating between the two, according to Maxwell.

“They think that one is going to win over the other. But we feel like they’re two different demographics, and that’s why you have those people gravitating toward one or the other. And we feel that’s a good thing. It expands our potential buyers.”

What impressed RV PRO: The Eclipse pulls off functionality without looking plain (read: this unit will turn heads) and weighs in at a max of about 2,800 pounds. At 6-feet and 4-inches standing room, it’s a couple inches shorter than inTech’s Horizon, but the Eclipse makes up for that with a masterfully engineered design scheme.

Riverside RV Intrepid 

Dylon Walker, the lead engineer behind the Intrepid, is all but 21 years of age.

“He designed it from the ground up,” says Chris Daniels, Riverside national sales and product manager. Walker had been working for Riverside RV since high school as a sort of protégé. And the youthful approach, and fresh eyes in the industry, is not lost in the design of the lightweight travel trailer. The unit feels sturdy and there’s no exposed framing in the pass-through storage underneath.

The master bedroom entrance on the 279BRC model (with an MSRP of $33,000), for instance, has a lintel spanning across the two, floor-to-ceiling cabinets. Combined with the “country chic” residential shiplap behind the bed (which has ample space on both sides), the eyes are instantly pulled in. Add the white interior panels contrasted by the darker cabinetry, large kitchen countertop, and open floorspace of the single slide-out, and the Intrepid easily becomes a no-brainer for entertaining plenty of guests.

For flooring, Riverside used tongue-and-groove plywood floor decking, which, Daniels points out, takes longer to lay. But making 12 units a day affords the manufacturer the care and precision it’s in no hurry to change.

“The biggest thing Riverside offers is our quality of construction,” he says. “We run a warranty rate of 1.88 percent, which is well below industry average. We don’t have the turnover rate that most manufacturers have because we’re about 80 percent Amish-employed.”

That careful construction continues from the ground up. As opposed to pinch-rolled sidewalls, Riverside takes the time to vacuum-laminate, as well as having a PVC roof membrane.

“It’s a relatively new product,” Daniels says of the membrane, “that was brought to us earlier this year, and we immediately used it because of the 15-year warranty, compared to a 12-year.”

The quality can be seen across Intrepid’s extensive offering of eight different, single slide-out floorplans. Each one features an aerodynamic molded fiberglass front cap and heated and enclosed underbellies utilizing Suburban water heaters, as well as 12-volt, 10.7-cubic-foot refrigerators. Other models will have features like oversized bunks with sliding drawer exterior kitchen cooktops and flat griddles. Additionally, there’s prep for solar from WAY Interglobal and observation cameras.

The Intrepid has already begun hitting lots of the 30 dealers signed on, spanning from California to Florida.

“We’re really excited about this product,” says Daniels. “We’re very easy to deal with in terms of sales and warranty. We’re trying to build lasting partnerships.”

What impressed RV PRO: The wide open, inviting space captivates instantly. The careful design and construction are felt throughout, even utilizing corner spaces in the bathroom for linen triangle shelves. The fully walk-in closet was equally impressive for a price point that’s hard to compete with.

Cedar Creek Champagne Edition 38ERD 

Cedar Creek management was looking for the right time to launch its new Champagne Edition 38ERD – a quad-slide fifth wheel with all the bells and whistles consumers come to expect in an extended-stay coach.

“The floorplan is something we’ve been wanting to do. We were just waiting for the right time to launch it. This Expo was definitely the right time to launch it,” says General Manager Curtis Gunter.

“The dealer response has been quite awesome, actually,” he said on Day 2 of the event.

The Champaign Edition fills out the brand’s lineup, which starts with the entry-level Silverback, followed by the Hathaway and then the top-of-the-line Champagne.

One key new component is the LCI One Control Command Center that allows the customer to operate the HVAC and other components from basically anywhere via an App and cellular connection.

“It’s a huge new feature for us,” Gunter says.

The App also opens up a new era for Cedar Creek by helping it keep in contact with its retail buyers. The App allows the company to send maintenance notifications directly to owners and provide information on new products and consumer shows.

“We’ll be able to touch the customer from a manufacturing level that we’ve never been able to do before,” Gunter says.

He calls it “a game changer by the way we can communicate with the end user and help cross-promote the dealership to retain our customers. We’ve never had this software before.”

Other key features include a Truma hot water heater, a solar power package and a 21-foot Thule legless awning. The latter allows a second awning on top of the slides that’s never been

possible before because now there are no legs to interfere with the slide-outs.

Gunter is also pleased with the four-burner residential stove from Insignia in the 38ERD. Insignia has teamed with Best Buy on its stoves, microwaves and refrigerators so that RVers can access service through Best Buy’s Geek Squad throughout the U.S.

Meanwhile, Gunter calls the new interior decor “a blend of modern country. It almost looks like a magazine (cover shoot) in there.”

MSRPs are in the high $80s to low $90s, depending upon equipment.

Cedar Creek started building the new models in October and planned to begin delivery in early November.

“It will be a showstopper for us for the show circuit starting in January,” Gunter says. “Anybody who has a late fall show has already been asking for it as quick as they can get it.”

What impressed RV PRO: This quad-slide fifth wheel comes with all the bells and whistles consumers come to expect in an extended-stay coach. That includes the LCI Command Center feature, offering customers the option to control a multitude of features remotely while simultaneously providing Cedar Creek with the ability to keep its customers informed about needed vehicle service, thereby boosting the chances for customer retention.

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