This new tag-axle model enhances the Berkshire line of luxury diesel pushers.
By Bob Zagami
The Forest River story began when founder Pete Liegl launched the RV manufacturing company in 1996 in Elkhart, Indiana. Successful chapters continued to be added as the company developed new products; purchased competitors; and was acquired seamlessly by Warren Buffett, of Berkshire Hathaway fame, in 2005. Mr. Buffett apparently recognized the company’s success; he wrote the check and returned to Omaha, Nebraska, leaving Mr. Liegl to continue growing the company for another 10 years. Today Forest River Inc. sits at approximately $4 billion in sales.
Forest River’s diesel-pusher motorhomes sit high up on the success ladder. They start with the Legacy SR 340 on a Freightliner XCS straight-rail chassis, followed by the Berkshire, the Berkshire XL, the Berkshire XLT, and then the Charleston, all on the Freightliner XCR raised-rail chassis.
The addition of the new tag-axle Berkshire XLT motorhome enhances the offerings in the Berkshire line, which also includes the Berkshire and the Berkshire XL. Company officials wanted to bring the tag-axle technology and benefits to one of their most popular motorhomes. I previewed this new model at a couple of recent RV shows, where it attracted considerable attention.
Chassis And Exterior
The 42-foot-10-inch Berkshire XLT provides a 20,000-pound gross axle weight rating (GAWR) on the rear axle and an additional 10,000 pounds on the tag axle for increased carrying capacity. It benefits from an excellent ride on the Freightliner XCR raised-rail chassis, which includes a Cummins ISL9 450-horsepower engine with 1,250 foot-pounds of torque, coupled with the popular Allison 3000 MH six-speed transmission. The chassis features a lowered rear frame rail that allows for a flat floor throughout the entire coach and accommodates a side-mounted radiator.
I think most owners of this luxury coach will want to add the optional Freightliner UltraSteer feature, which significantly improves ride handling. This advanced tag-axle steering system offers a 17 percent reduction in curb-to-curb radius as compared with other motorhomes with fixed tag axles, according to Freightliner literature. This is said to represent a 140 percent improvement over competitive systems. The 12-degree turning angle eliminates tire scrub on the tag axle tires and provides more accurate steering. For safety, UltraSteer auto-locks at 20 mph or when in reverse.
The XCR chassis also offers the Tru-Brace support system, exclusive to Forest River Berkshire diesel motorhomes. This system, an upfit by MORryde, straightens and squares the framing to further enhance the driving experience.
Additional options include the two-stage Jacobs brake, which opens exhaust valves in the cylinders after the compression cycle, releasing air trapped in the cylinders. Buyers also can order optional adjustable suspended pedals, and a 150-gallon fuel tank with lockable dual-fill compartments that will provide a driving range of more than 1,000 miles with a full tank of fuel.
Clearly, the Freightliner system was engineered for luxury motorhomes. The Berkshire model line was designed from the chassis up to bring owners comfort and stability while going down the highway on Michelin 22.5-inch 16-ply radial tires mounted on polished aluminum wheels.
The exterior of the Berkshire XLT is striking, with its Sikkens full-body paint and four coats of clear-coat. This German paint also is found on luxury automobiles and is designed to retain its luster for many years. It should prevent the spiderweb cracks often seen on older motorhomes.
The Berkshire XLT offers a 15,000-pound hitch capacity for towing a large car or enclosed trailer. The full-width mud flap with the Forest River name emblazoned in chrome will protect whatever you decide to tow.
This unit comes with a one-piece fiberglass roof, along with one-piece fiberglass front and rear caps. The one-piece windshield is one of the largest in the industry. I liked the recessed lighting at the top of the front cap above the windshield. It’s a small point but is reflective of the extra thought that went into this coach. The front cap gets the Diamond Shield protective film treatment and looks sharp with LED headlights and recessed fog lights.
Dark-tinted, frameless dual-pane windows — and there are plenty of them — provide ample air circulation throughout the coach. Opening the windows and operating the vent fan produces cross ventilation and a comfortable setting inside the motorhome.
Located at the left rear, street-side corner of the motorhome, the side-mounted radiator is said to offer 30 percent more efficient cooling in this configuration. It also provides complete access to the diesel engine compartment for those mechanically inclined folks who like to work on their own motorhomes.
Carefree awnings adorn the coach. These include a power awning above the front door; a Carefree Trav’ler electric patio awning, complete with LED lighting; and slideout toppers all around. The motorhome also features the “One Key” system, which works on all exterior compartment doors, the fuel fill doors, and the entry door, which also is equipped with a deadbolt.
Berkshire XLT owners will appreciate two convenient features. In front, just inside the generator compartment, is an auxiliary air system. In the rear, a curbside compartment holds an auxiliary quick-connect propane-supply fitting combined with a pass-through fitting in the floor; they can be used to hook up an outdoor grill or a patio heater on a chilly evening while sitting under the stars. That front generator compartment comes with a standard 8,000-watt Onan Quiet Diesel on a manual slide tray, but I would recommend upgrading to the Onan 10,000-watt generator, which pushes out 83 amps of power.
The 30-inch-wide, lighted entryway eases you up the steps and onto a polished porcelain tile floor. An optional electric under-floor heating system keeps occupants comfortable on chilly mornings. The aluminum floor support system assures a strong foundation for the tile floor that runs from the cockpit to the bathroom just outside the master bedroom suite in the rear.
The XCR chassis allows for a flat floor throughout the motorhome, so when you swing the Flexsteel 360-degree-swivel/reclining chairs around to face the living area, everybody sits at the same height and eye level. The copilot’s seat also includes a power footrest. The bedroom, living room, and dining room slideouts are carpeted.
The color backup and side-view camera systems are integrated into the dash radio, which also includes a navigation system.
When you stand up in the Berkshire XLT, you will appreciate the 7-foot-high soft-touch vinyl padded ceilings.
For those who often entertain guests, this coach allows them to do it in style. For example, four televisions will keep you close to your favorite sporting events and movies. These include a 49-inch LED TV and a Blu-ray DVD player in the living room, and a 32-inch LED overhead TV in the cockpit. Another 32-inch LED TV is located in the bedroom. And the exterior entertainment center includes a 40-inch LED TV, along with a Jensen radio, outdoor speakers, and a USB and auxiliary jack to accommodate devices and even thumb drives containing family photographs or movies.
The coach is prepped for Sirius/XM satellite radio, cable TV, and a Winegard Trav’ler satellite package. It also has a high-definition digital television antenna with a signal strength indicator. Go forth and entertain to your heart’s content.
Native hardwood cherry cabinetry and raised-panel doors with home-style moldings adorn the interior. The XLT is also offered with an optional White Diamond interior, which features darker cherry cabinetry. Opposing slideouts in the galley/living room areas create an expansive space for relaxing or entertaining.
The living and dinette areas in the front street-side slideout feature Villa seating in a choice of configurations: a hide-a-bed sofa/dinette ensemble or an L-shaped sofa and dinette table and chairs.
Across the aisle is the galley, also in a space-expanding slideout. This area contains polished solid-surface countertops, along with coordinating solid-surface backsplashes that incorporate tile inserts. Similar countertops are found in the bath area. Kitchen drawers with soft-close guides add another touch of convenience.
An electric induction cooktop, two deep stainless-steel under-mount sinks with covers, and a high-rise faucet and pull-out sprayer will be appreciated by the cook in the family. A dedicated storage compartment stands ready to stow the sink covers. The 23-cubic-foot residential French-door refrigerator with ice maker, a 30-inch convection-microwave oven, and a pantry provide a kitchen that is nearly as comfortable and efficient as the one you have at home — or “had” at home, in the case of full-time RVers.
The word “residential” describes the bath area as well. The polished countertop and tile-infused backsplash complement the solid-surface under-mount sinks and large, mirrored medicine cabinets. A skylight provides natural illumination above the one-piece fiberglass shower, which includes a molded seat and a glass door. Additional cabinet storage hangs above the porcelain toilet.
When it’s time to retire for the night, or just relax, the Berkshire XLT’s rear bedroom beckons. The 72-inch-by-80-inch Serta king-size bed is flanked by nightstands, with a pair of reading lights overhead. MCD roller-style day-night shades accessorize windows in the bedroom and elsewhere throughout the motorhome. Storage is plentiful inside dresser drawers and wardrobe-type cabinets. An optional stackable washer-dryer can be added to the storage area in the rear wall.
The Berkshire XLT comes with a standard 2,000-watt pure sine inverter/converter, the Onan generator, and 50-amp service with a l-o-n-g 36-foot power cord, guaranteeing that you will always have power regardless of where you travel. Cooling is supplied by a 15,000-Btu air conditioner with a heat pump at the front of the coach, another 15,000-Btu unit in the rear bedroom, and a 13,500-Btu midcoach unit. When heat is needed, plenty is produced by a 30,000-Btu front furnace and a 20,000-Btu rear furnace.
All of this luxury is wrapped inside aluminum-framed housing with vacuum-bonded laminated siding.
Currently, the XLT is offered in two floor plans, the 43A and 43B (bunk model), with one more to follow.
I predict that the Berkshire XLT will become a popular choice for owners who want a tag-axle diesel pusher at a comparable price to most non-tag-axle models with similar features. To potential customers who may have been sitting on the sidelines the past few years, I would suggest that now is the time to include Forest River in your evaluation as you decide on your first, or your next, luxury diesel motorhome.
Forest River Inc. (Forest River Diesel Division), 1800 W. Hively Ave., Elkhart, IN 46517; (574) 522-3693; www.forestriverinc.com
AVAILABLE FLOOR PLANS
Freightliner XCR; raised rail, side radiator
Cummins ISL9; 450 horsepower at 2,100 rpm; 1,250 pound-feet torque @ 1,400 rpm
Allison 3000 MH 6-speed
Michelin XZA3 275/80R 22.5, 16-ply
22.5-inch polished aluminum
Bendix full air ABS with auto slack adjuster
front — Neway air;
rear — V-ride;
tag — UltraSteer I-Series, optional
telescopic/tilt steering wheel
chassis — (2) 1,900-cca, maintenance-free
house — (4) 6-volt deep-cycle
2,000-watt pure sine inverter/converter
50 amps; auto transfer switch, 36-foot power cord
Onan 8-kw diesel with manual slide tray, standard; Onan 10-kw, optional
42 feet 10 inches
12 feet 11 inches
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
front — 14,320 pounds;
rear — 20,000 pounds;
tag — 10,000 pounds
OCCUPANT & CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY (OCCC)
11,374 pounds; varies based on optional equipment
block foam polystyrene
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 66 gallons;
black water — 42 gallons
continuous-flow tankless, propane
(1) 30,000-Btu furnace;
(1) 20,000-Btu furnace
(1) 15,000 Btu with heat pump;
23-cubic-foot residential with ice maker
coach — 12 months/12,000 miles;
chassis — 36 months/50,000 miles
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE
43A — $346,248
43B — $348,879