Under the Radar

The aluminum exterior is rugged and easy to clean and maintain. Pictured is a dual-entry model that’s practical for families.

The aluminum exterior is rugged and easy to clean and maintain. Pictured is a dual-entry model that’s practical for families.

by Kristopher Bunker
September 2, 2014
Filed under Trailer News, Trailers

 

 

Family-friendly and reasonably priced, the retro-chic Autumn Ridge trailer offers surprisingly upscale standard features

Starcraft RV is one of the more recognizable names in the RV industry, and with good reason. It’s difficult to go unnoticed when your company has been successfully manufacturing travel trailers for half a century. Yes, 2014 marks 50 years since the already established boating manufacturer took a chance on designing a pop-up camper that would ultimately shake up the towable market. Now, some five decades later, Starcraft is still going strong, having added a variety of lightweight and premium trailers to its lineup.

The optional freestanding table and chairs does wonders for entertainment purposes, but larger families may appreciate the flexibility of a convertible dinette.

The optional freestanding table and chairs does wonders for entertainment purposes, but larger families may appreciate the flexibility of a convertible dinette.

These days, Starcraft cuts its teeth on family-friendly floorplans that are generally towable by properly equipped midsize pickups, vans and SUVs. The 2015 Autumn Ridge 286KBS that we recently spent some time in is no exception. Unloaded, it weighs in just north of 7,000 pounds. The trailer sports an open floorplan ideal for taming the hustle-and-bustle that the whole RVing crew can bring, all at a relatively affordable price.
When discussing the appearance of the Autumn Ridge, one must begin with the corrugated aluminum exterior. A throwback to RVs of the past, this lower-cost construction technique works to set the Autumn Ridge apart from the smooth-sided fiberglass crowd. That such a skin is generally associated with entry-level trailers is of little consequence to me, as I prefer the ease of repair and retro-chic look of the Autumn Ridge’s aluminum exterior. An optional fiberglass exterior with frameless windows ($1,649) is also available.
The black-diamond-plate front skirt comes courtesy of the mandatory Customer Convenience Package ($1,949), which also includes an outside shower, dual LP-gas cylinders, exterior speakers and a water-heater bypass, to name a few. All 2015 Autumn Ridge trailers also feature the likewise mandatory Show Stopper Package ($937), which includes some much-appreciated add-ons such as an electric A-frame jack, an electric awning with LED lighting strip, LED accent lighting under the kitchen countertops, a pillow-top mattress and a CD/DVD player. That’s quite a lot of usable features for the money, alleviating the tension created by deeming two optional packages mandatory. In effect, these components are standard features, because, of course, “mandatory option” is a contradiction in terms.
starcraftfloorplanAs mentioned above, the floorplan of the 286KBS is wide-open and great for entertaining a tribe of young ’uns. The plush Ultraleather sofa at the rear converts to a bed, offering the little ones a place to bed down for the night. The trailer features the optional freestanding table with four chairs in place of a standard dinette ($465), an option we’d definitely uncheck to gain a bit more sleeping space (and under-bench storage) for the kiddos. Admittedly, the table and chairs were nice for a more open dining experience, but we’ve found that the standard dinette’s versatility is tough to beat when the sun goes down.
Entertainment is provided by an optional 32-inch LED TV ($600), while the Show Stopper Package provides a dual DC 12-volt USB charging outlet to go with the aforementioned CD/DVD player. All seating in the living area affords a good view of the television. A small cabinet near the rear wall houses the control panels and the living room slide controls, all hidden behind a corkboard door that’s great for messages and holding keys.
Cabinets feature raised panels for more style, and the galley’s solid-surface counters are a step up from the usual laminate. We always hope for a flip-up countertop extension and were disappointed that we didn’t find one, though two slotted sink inserts not only look nice, they add a bit more real estate to the prep area and are also useful as drying stations for dishes and flatware.
The valance over the window in the galley area features a nifty spice rack, which is a clever use of otherwise dead space. Simple meals were easy to whip up using the microwave, three-burner cooktop and range/oven, while the 8-cubic-foot refrigerator with black metal inserts (great for magnets) did the trick for keeping things cool.

The RV king bed fits surprisingly well in the master bedroom, which features subtle mood lighting and plenty of storage.

The RV king bed fits surprisingly well in the master bedroom, which features subtle mood lighting and plenty of storage.

Speaking of cool, the 13,500-Btu air conditioner did a fine job of keeping temps down in the central Texas heat, though as the mercury rises, we’re sure we could justify spending another $150 on the 15,000-Btu unit in the upgrade to Customer Convenience Package. A solid door closes off the living area from the lav, and an included towel bar/mesh holder for odds and ends is a nice addition to bathroom storage but is in full view of the rest of the trailer with the door open.
It seems strange to dub the bathroom the star of a trailer, but there’s no denying that’s the case in the 286KBS. Simply put, the shower rivals many residential homes in terms of style and space, and surpasses some. In fact, it’s the largest shower I’ve yet encountered in a trailer. A trifold glass door (part of the $1,762 Premier Package) — which I have no doubt would break with extended use by my kids, so plan accordingly — encloses the shower stall, which features an integrated seat and shelves.
One extremely cool feature is the inclusion of dual showerheads — an upscale overhead fixture and a standard wand-type. This proved to be a major selling point for most of our crew, as a comfortable stream of water cascades down to make showering a more pleasant experience. The problem for me is that it’s practical only for RVers 6 feet tall and shorter. At 6 feet 2 inches, my head bumped directly against the faucet, making a mess of the surrounding area, so I had to settle for the conventional method. Oh, well.
A hollow sliding door closes off the master bedroom, and a large streetside built-in entertainment center/vanity/wardrobe unit dominates the wall, but in a good way. There is ample storage here for all of your clothes, and probably those of your neighbors as well. Kudos to Starcraft for including an extremely practical piece of furniture.

The Autumn Ridge offers a huge shower enclosure, dual showerheads and a glass door for luxurious cleanup accommodations.

The Autumn Ridge offers a huge shower enclosure, dual showerheads and a glass door for luxurious cleanup accommodations.

The master also features a king-size bed that somehow doesn’t dwarf the floor space, and small shelves flanking the comfy bed are useful for eyeglasses, books and remotes. The bedroom area is a bit dark when the sun goes down, as the included lights are more of the mood variety. We’d like to see a light placed above the vanity desk in the wardrobe unit.

Overall, Starcraft has done a fine job making the Autumn Ridge much more upscale than its price would indicate.

Smart appointments like raised panels, textured surfaces and window treatments make it easy to forget that this is a family trailer at its core. There are also dual-entry models (pictured on page 59) for more family conscious versatility. Add LED lighting outside and in, a porthole-type living-room skylight lined with the same (Premier Package) and a truly impressive bathroom arrangement,  and it’s easy for buyers to appreciate how some subtle, well-placed extras can bring a trailer up a few notches in terms of overall value and livability.

Special thanks to Crestview RV (512-282-3516, www.crestviewrv.com) in Buda, Texas, for assistance with this Walk-Through.

 

 


 

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