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2021 Preview: Forest River’s East to West, XLR and Columbus

Forest River's XLR brand is all about toy haulers.

RV PRO continues its preview of the 2021 model year. For the entire 2021 Model Year Preview special section, see the September issue.

Forest River

It’s been a busy time for Forest River, which launched a first-of-its kind fifth wheel in its Palomino Columbus line, introduced its new IBEX travel trailer line, and launched its first fifth wheel for its still relatively new East to West division. Those developments only scratch the surface of what’s new for Forest River, with plenty of new product launches, new floorplans and upgraded products across the RV maker’s many divisions.

East to West

For 2021, East to West is debuting its new mid-profile fifth wheel, the Tandara.

East to West founder and co-General Manager Lisa Liegl Rees says, “Tandara is a phrase from the Indigenous people of Australia that means ‘Camp Here’ – and perfectly embodies the adventurous spirit of our new fifth wheel brand.”

“Our entry-level travel trailers, Della Terra and Silver Lake, are growing exponentially, while our laminated travel trailer, Alta, is enjoying a great start in its first year of production,” Rees adds. “Creating a new fifth wheel brand at East to West has always been a strategic part of our growth plan and we are thrilled to have Mark Krol and Aaron Good on our sales team. Their experience in this segment will play huge roles in the success of Tandara.”

The Tandara is focused on retail price points below $60,000 and have combined what the team believes are the eight best-selling floorplans in the mid-profile category.

“We have identified the best-selling mid-profile floorplans in the industry, improved each floor plan significantly, and loaded them with features that deliver real benefits and competitive advantages,” Krol says. “On top of best-in-class quality, floorplans and features, the Tandara fifth wheel has an alluring exterior and stunningly beautiful interior design we are confident retail customers will fall in love with.”

East to West is introducing its first fifth wheel, the Tandara.

Krol says the Tandara fifth wheel is built with the best construction techniques and components to minimize warranty problems and maximize customer satisfaction. “Customers are overwhelmingly asking for lighter, brighter interiors,” says Krol. “On top of that, customers have unanimously asked for no carpet in RV interiors. So, we did full vinyl flooring throughout, even installing marine-grade flooring in our main slide-outs.”

Another staple of all the floorplans has been an emphasis on windows.

“We have specifically designed each floorplan to maximize windows on the door side of the fifth wheel so our customers can see their own campsite instead of looking out windows at their neighbor’s campsite,” says Krol. He adds, “The entertainment center on every floorplan is positioned for optimal viewing angles from the theater seating.”

The floorplans are as follows: 285 RL: short, double slide rear lounge; 286 RL-OK: short, double slide rear lounge with outside kitchen; 320 RL: 35-foot triple slide rear lounge; 321 RL-OK: 35-foot triple-slide rear lounge with outside kitchen; 385 MB: mid-bunk room with rear lounge; 386 MB-OK: mid-bunk room with rear lounge with outside kitchen; 375 BH: bath-and-half rear bunkroom; and 380 FL: front living room floorplan.

The first six floorplans will be in production before Oct. 1, with the other two floorplans following later this fall.

XLR

“We’re toy hauler-centered at XLR,” says Brent Stevens, XLR product manager. “From entry level all the way up to our flagship coaches.”

The entry-level Micro Boost product is a narrow-body travel trailer designed for the young family that wants to get into the toy hauler experience.

“It doesn’t even have to be motorized toys they want to bring,” says Stevens. “It could be a kayak. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of people looking for bunk houses. A toy hauler is a bunkhouse but offers a little bit of a longer-term unit. You don’t have to trade in if dad decides he wants to buy a four-wheeler. You still have the kids’ bunk beds in back.”

The new Micro Boost fifth wheel can be towed by a half-ton pickup. Stevens say the towable fifth wheel narrow body is the only one in its category that will provide a fifth wheel-style body in a narrow-body lightweight. The product targets the high-$20,000 price point.

It features an open floorplan concept and is specifically designed for the four-seat side by sides in the marketplace. Stevens says it will be the entry-level product into toy hauler fifth wheels.

More Micro-Boost floorplans will be introduced over the course of the next three months, with unique features such as bigger, 10-cubic-foot, 12-volt refrigerators, taller ramp doors, beaver tails – which provide an easier entry into the garage – and no wheel wells.

XLR’s management team (from l-r): Kelly Green, Brent Stevens and Rob McCartney

In the Boost product, Stevens says the RV maker has added a new L-shaped conversation option.

“The biggest issues toy haulers have had are conversation areas in the living room. This new L-shaped conversation option takes the recliner system that goes up against the bathroom wall and instead the slide comes out in front of the seats and becomes L-shaped in conjunction with the slide and seats.”

The Boost will offer gel-coated fiberglass side walls instead of aluminum and remain in the sub-$55,000 price point.

“Our strategic plan to have a dedicated product manager and sales team for Boost and Micro Boost is resonating with retail customers, with a 30 percent increase in retail registrations for January through June 2020 versus the same time period in 2019,” says Stevens.

The line offers Xtra Built items like NXG Norco frames, Body Armor insulated underbelly, 5,000-pound tie downs, MORryde party decks, MORryde SureStep, Roadwire designed furniture and NPS Gens powered by Yamaha.

“This year we focused on the growing size of the toys utilizing our haulers, increasing our ramp door opening heights, increasing the door sizes to increase our industry-leading ramp angles and improving our brackets on our optional bed lift system to increase the garage clearance. We know our Action Camping customers will appreciate the innovation in this area,” says Stevens.

In the XLR Hyperlite, Stevens says XLR’s philosophy of less is more is paying huge dividends in the $35,000 to $65,000 price range.

With that in mind, the narrow-body Hyperlite is going away as the RV maker focuses on wide-body units only.

“Last year, we introduced the new Hyperlite HD models, which had full front caps with windshields,” says Stevens. “All Hyperlites have windshields up in the front end, which has absolutely taken the market by storm. We’re also offering zero carpet in our toy haulers. It makes sense. This way there’s no mud collecting in the carpet.”

The XLR division makes a variety of toy haulers.

Meanwhile, XLR will be introducing three new floorplans in the limited-edition Nitro SS (Signature Series).

“This offers a huge upgrade from our standard Nitro product,” says Stevens. “They have vessel sinks in the bathroom and unique, one-of-a-kind shower enclosures with really cool glazed walls. They have a new graphics package for the exterior indicating the signature series and the series number on the side of the coach.”

Finally, Stevens says, the flagship Thunderbolt product line is going on hiatus this year while XLR reevaluates if it will be reintroduced.

Across the board, the Action Camping logo will be added to all products and TPMS is now standard. Lastly, Stevens notes that XLR and (other Forest River divisions) will now feature NPS generators by Yamaha.

Columbus

Columbus is offering a first-of-its-kind new unit, the River Ranch 390RL, which combines the storage and the interior height of a Class A motorhome with the tow-ability of a fifth wheel and a single-level layout like a travel trailer.

General Manager Colin Dechant says the product has been in the works since last October and is the culmination of collaboration between the division’s engineering and production teams.

“The trend in the industry in fifth wheels has been to do an elevated front living room and, in order to get more storage space, an elevated back living area,” says Dechant. “Typically, our fifth wheel buyers are a little older and not always stair friendly. This was the brainchild of our engineer, Ron Brown, to do one level and entry step like on a Class A motorhome.”

The new unit sustains the interior height of 84-inches by putting the HVAC system down in the underbelly and raising the floor.

“Putting the HVAC into the underbelly had already been in play for mobile offices, it just wasn’t used in a more prevalent approach to the RV industry. It still gives full pass-through storage of a Class A,” Dechant adds. “We’re taking all the key ingredients from key segments and presenting them in one.”

By putting the HVAC in the underbelly, the system functions like residential ductwork with one single duct pushing heat and A/C with the same filtration found in homes.

“It’s the first time a towable RV has had an air cleaning solution going into it like this,” Dechant says. “Coupled with dealing with COVID, dust mites and everything you deal with when camping, it’s now accessible to just pop off the lid, pop the filter out and slide in a new one. Just like in your home. That alone is absolutely huge.”

The company claims the Columbus has the storage and height of a Class A motorhome combined with the towability of a fifth wheel.

While basement systems have been attempted in the past, Dechant says they struggled to cool things down. But the air intake system came from the roof, by placing it in the basement there is less surface air trying to cool and the ductwork is removed from the hottest part of an RV, its top.

Storage has standard compartment doors with composite flooring in the basement like what is used on pontoon decks. Composite floors are used on slide-outs as well to cut a little weight.

The new unit falls right in line with full-profile fifth wheel pricing between $70,000 and $80,000. The 390RL has theater seats, dual vanities in the bathroom, a 60-inch by 30-inch shower, a walk-around king bed, a pop-up entertainment center in the bedroom and an 88-inch couch across the back.

Meanwhile, the 392MB, which is slated for release later next year, is more accommodating for families or couples who want an office or additional living area. It will have a mid-bunk when the sofa is down, bunk up and storage across from the sleeping and sitting areas. The bedroom features a full king slide and 60-inch by 30-inch shower.

“We check both boxes. We appeal to the family or the consumer using it to work while on the road,” Dechant says. “You can fit two full kayaks in the basement or bikes. There are possibilities for pull-out kitchens, pull-out drawers and more.”

To see these product reviews in RV PRO online, start here.

Previously:

Forest River’s Sabre, Salem | Wildwood, Surveyor, Shasta, Berkshire previews here

Forest River’s Cardinal | Wildcat, Cherokee Wolf Pack, Cherokee Wolf Pup | Grey Wolf, and Sandpiper | Sierra | Cedar Creek | Riverstone previews here

Forest River’s Sunseeker | Forester, Dynamax, R-Pod, IBEX and NOBO previews here

Coachmen’s Class A’s, B’s and C’s previews here

Coachmen’s Spirit | Apex, Clipper | Viking, Catalina, and Fifth Wheels previews here 

Renegade RV and REV RV Group previews here

Lance Camper and Midwest Automotive Designs previews here

Winnebago’s Travato, Revel and Solis previews here

Grand Design preview here

Newmar and Winnebago Towables preview here 

inTech RV and Riverside RV previews here

Chinook RV and Gulf Stream Coach previews here 

Roadtrek and Xtreme Outdoors previews here

TAXA Outdoors and the Vanleigh previews here

Alliance RV and Nexus previews here

nuCamp and Leisure Travel Vans previews here

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