This luxury diesel pusher returns for 2022 with a fresh slate of features and amenities.
By Mark Quasius, F333630
After a four-year hiatus, the Charleston, Forest River’s flagship diesel-pusher motorhome, is back, redesigned and upgraded for today’s discriminating RV owner. The initial offering for 2022 is the 36A, a 37-foot floor plan with three slideouts. A larger, tag-axle version is scheduled for release in the near future.
The Charleston packs a lot of value into a motorhome, offering amenities typically not found at its price point. An attractive exterior and a well-appointed contemporary interior showcase this high-line RV.
The Charleston is custom-engineered to be built on a Freightliner XCR raised-rail, side-radiator chassis, which features a 224-inch wheel-base, independent front suspension with a 60-degree wheel cut, and Freightliner’s V-Ride rear suspension. Adaptive cruise control and collision mitigation combine with antilock air disc brakes and electronic stability control to provide layers of safety. A 100-gallon fuel tank with dual fills and a 13-gallon DEF tank feed the 450-horsepower Cummins L9 engine, which is mated to an Allison 3000MH Series six-speed transmission and includes a three-stage engine compression brake.
The Charleston features vacuum-bonded laminate sidewalls with moisture-resistant composite material, aluminum structural tubing, and structural block-foam insulation, as well as a vacuum-bonded one-piece fiberglass roof that also incorporates aluminum tubing and block-foam insulation. Vacuum-bonded flooring includes a fiberglass bottom over a 2.5-inch steel subfloor, which is welded over the raised chassis rails and equipped with a Tru-Brace anti-camber support system. Structural block foam also is utilized in the floor and the steel basement bays to provide sufficient insulation.
The heated chrome side mirrors are top-mounted to avoid bumping into them when walking around the RV; they include side-view cameras and integrated turn signals. Power door and patio awnings provide shade on sunny days. The fiberglass front cap is fitted with a Diamond Shield protective covering to help prevent damage from stone chips and other road debris.
The Charleston is available in four exterior color schemes. Each coach features full-body BASF paint, which incorporates four colors, and four coats of polyurethane clear coat. The automotive-style windshield is glued in rather than attached with rubber grommets. Basement compartment doors are side hinged for ease of access, and each compartment is built from welded steel. A keyless system controls access to the entry door and basement compartments via either key fobs or a keypad mounted in an exterior grab handle. Flush-mounted, frameless windows offer a clean, attractive appearance and plenty of airflow from their large panes. The 30-inch-wide entry door is augmented by a heavy-duty power step and a lighted exterior assist handle.
The Charleston is equally attractive inside. Its contemporary decor is homey and stylish. Matte-finish porcelain floor tile runs throughout the entire motorhome in lieu of carpeting. A flush-floor design eliminates the steps that often are needed in diesel pushers for access to the rear bedroom. Solid-surface countertops and cabinetry with a semigloss finish are used in all living areas. The ceiling features a soft padded covering, and the 7-foot interior height provides plenty of headroom for tall people.
The cockpit is fitted with Villa six-way power captains’ chairs with integrated three-point seat belts. The Optiview glass instrument panel employs digital technology to keep the pilot informed and can be operated via the Drive Tech controls on the steering wheel. A 10-inch display controls the dash entertainment system as well as GPS navigation tasks. Power day-night roller shades provide privacy and also control the sun’s rays. A standard power bunk lift over the cockpit area provides sleeping space for two. RVers can eliminate the bed lift if they prefer.
The Charleston’s main living area includes a sofa bed as standard equipment; powered theater seating is available as an option. These seating choices are housed in the front street-side slideout. Across the aisle is a dinette table with booth-style seats. The table and the seats expand in order to provide additional space. The dinette resides in the front of a full-wall slideout, which also houses the galley and the curbside bedroom wall.
Entertainment features abound in the Charleston. A 49-inch LED TV is installed on a power lift in the dinette area, directly opposite the sofa or theater seating. And with a 43-inch bedroom TV, a 43-inch exterior patio TV, and a 32-inch TV overhead in the cockpit, occupants have multiple viewing choices. A JBL soundbar with a subwoofer, prep for a Winegard satellite dish, a Blu-ray DVD player, and an HDMI Cat 6 distribution matrix complete the entertainment system.
The galley area sports a 30-inch microwave-convection oven above an electric induction glass cooktop, a 23-cubic-foot French-door residential refrigerator with ice maker, and a stainless-steel dishwasher. The single-level faucet with sprayer is paired with a stainless-steel sink. A Maxxair vent fan in this area operates via wireless remote control and also has a rain cover.
The bath features a fully tiled shower and an Aqua Magic II porcelain toilet equipped with a foot flush. The bath area also includes a vanity with a solid-surface under-mount sink; a linen closet; and a power vent fan with a rain cover.
The bedroom holds a 72-inch-by-80-inch king-size bed that features power recline and extends from a rear slideout on the street side. Nightstands with USB jacks flank the bed. The cabinetry overhead incorporates individual LED lighting for those who like to read before retiring. The room includes a ceiling fan. A wardrobe along the rear wall is adjacent to a cabinet prepped for an optional stackable washer and. dryer. Another wardrobe and a dresser with cabinetry above it are positioned across from the bed. The wardrobes come with automatic lighting.
The Charleston’s utilities ensure that living in this all-electric coach is a pleasant experience. Its 50-amp electrical service is supplemented by an Onan 10-kw Quiet Diesel generator, which is mounted on a manual slide tray to allow easy access for service work. The automatic generator start system can be programmed to initialize the unit should the battery voltage fall below a preset level or if the air conditioners call for cooling.
A 2,800-watt true sine wave inverter supplies 120-volt-AC power to the entertainment center components, the residential refrigerator, and various receptacles in the coach. Six 6-volt deep-cycle AGM batteries supply plenty of amp-hours for the inverter and any 12-volt devices, while a 100-watt solar panel and an MPPT charge controller furnish additional battery-charging capacity. A 600-amp-hour lithium house battery with a 700-watt solar package is an available option.
The utility bay contains the usual assortment of valves and controls necessary to operate the Charleston’s fresh-water and waste-water systems. A manifold water distribution system allows zoned isolation of water to any plumbing fixture and ensures even pressure to every faucet. A whole-house filter, a black-tank flush sprayer, a power hose reel, and an outside shower fixture complete the utility bay.
The Aqua-Hot 400D hydronic heating system meets the motorhome’s interior heating needs and furnishes unlimited domestic hot water; it can be powered by either its diesel burner or electric heating element. Two rooftop 15,000-Btu air conditioners are equipped with heat pumps for auxiliary heating on cool days. An electric fireplace warms the living room, and an electric heating grid takes the chill off the porcelain tile floor when desired.
The four-year pause in the availability of the Charleston diesel pusher enabled Forest River designers to ramp up production capabilities and to infuse the coach with more amenities — many features that customers have come to expect, according to company officials. In my view, they appear to have succeeded.
SPECIFICATIONS | FOREST RIVER CHARLESTON
Forest River Inc., 1800 W. Hively Ave., Elkhart, IN 46517; (574) 522-3693; www.forestriverinc.com
Freightliner XCR raised-rail with side radiator
Cummins L9, 450 horsepower at 2,100 rpm; 1,250 pound-feet torque
at 1,400 rpm
Allison 3000MH Series 6-speed automatic
4.78 to 1
antilock air disc brakes
front — independent front suspension; rear — Freightliner V-Ride
chassis — (2) 1,900 cca, maintenance-free; house — (6) 6-volt deep-cycle AGM
10-kw Onan Quiet Diesel with automatic start
36 feet 11 inches
13 feet 1 inch
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING (GVWR)
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING
front — 15,660 pounds; rear — 24,000 pounds
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING (GCWR)
FRESH WATER CAPACITY
HOLDING TANK CAPACITIES
gray water — 66 gallons; black water — 42 gallons
100 gallons; 13 gallons DEF
Aqua-Hot 400D hydronic heating system
Aqua-Hot 400D hydronic heating system
(2) 15,000-Btu units with heat pumps
23-cubic-foot French-door residential with ice maker
porcelain with foot flush
coach — 1 year/ 12,000 miles limited; chassis — 5 years/100,000 miles
BASE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE