Excel Limited 36GKM: Built to Excel
December 1, 2009
Filed under Trailer Reviews
For obvious reasons, larger fifth-wheels are often the RV of choice for the full-timing and
snowbirding crowds. After all, fifth-wheel floorplans are quite versatile and very rarely
sleep less than four, and the extra room above the hitch can be cordoned off like a master
Because of their popularity among extended-stay RVers, these fivers need not only
feature a host of residential amenities designed for the long term, but also must employ
quality craftsmanship and construction techniques to stand up to extended wear and tear.
Based out of Smiths Center, Kansas, Peterson Industries – manufacturer of the Excel Limited
36GKM seen here – has been building RVs for 40 years, the last 30 of which have featured
fifth-wheels designed to fit the long-time livability bill. The Limited Series is the
company’s top-of-the-line model, and features many standard amenities that are available
only as options on other trailers.
One way to make sure full-timers are happy is to design
a trailer to withstand extreme weather. The Limited’s wood framing, 5?8-inch plywood floors
and a molded gel-coated fiberglass roof and exterior are not only durable, but they work to
ward off the harsh elements as well. R10 side wall and R17 floor and roof insulation add to
the all-weather capability, which Excel backs with a Minus Ten Degree Guarantee. The
optional Limited full-body paint ($8,750) keeps the weather-busting exterior looking nice.
Another way to impress full-timers is to design the trailer to tow easily. Excel claims (and we can attest to) its exclusive “Drop-Z” frame
design provides a lower center of gravity for towing stability, in addition to adding more
useful space in the basement storage. Nev-R-Lube axles and shock absorbers, plus the
MOR/ryde suspension and disc brakes ($2,375) make for smooth sailing. The LED exterior
taillights not only look cool, but are prominent enough to ensure fellow drivers aren’t
unaware of your on-road intentions.
But the best way to convince full- and long-timers to
open their wallets is to outfit the trailer with quality appointments and amenities that
will ensure their stay is as enjoyable and trouble-free.
After spending several days in the
fiver, my family and I could honestly see ourselves living in it long-term – and, with a
5-year-old and a 7-month-old among us – that’s saying a lot.
One of the most important
features I look for in a full-time trailer is floor space. It’s great to have cabinets
galore, and electronic bells and whistles are fun to play with, but I need room to stretch
out. The living room in the 36GKM has room to spare. In fact, we were able to leave a
playpen fully open in the living-room area the entire trip – including meal time, play time
and bed time – without once feeling cramped. We simply set it off to the side, between the
two comfy recliners and four-person round dining table located in the curbside slide.
Combined with the opposing streetside slideout housing a sofa bed ($413), there was plenty
of elbow room to watch a movie at night on the 32-inch LCD TV in the rear entertainment
center. The optional electric fireplace ($1,190) added a nice touch of elegance, and seemed
to offer more entertainment for the little ones than did the TV. Also along the back wall
are plenty of overhead storage, a slide-out computer desk and enough drawers for your
The layout of the galley – the majority of which is located in the
streetside slide – offered an ideal footprint to allow for prepping and cooking meals
without having to squeeze to the side to allow others to utilize the rest of the trailer.
Although the optional 10-cubic-foot refrigerator ($1,085) handled our groceries with no
problem, I would expect a larger unit considering the trailer’s price tag and targeted
market. The standard fridge is an 8-cubic-footer.
A slide-out cupboard, scores of cabinets
and plenty of drawers made sure we had enough space for dishes, pots and pans,
non-perishable groceries and the like. The cabinet facing the living area can be accessed
from the galley and the living room, which proved to be rather convenient.
the bedroom, one nifty feature is the grandfather clock-type fixture that hides the
slideout switches and monitor panel, and provides a handy place to hang your keys. Little
touches like this not only add class but also serve a practical purpose and make it evident
that the designers of the Excel know their audience well. Up the stairs to the left is a
sizable linen closet that blends into the area without being intrusive in size.
bathroom features a porcelain toilet, attractive faux-granite shower and quality sink, all
of which allow users to take their time with grooming duties rather than hurrying through
the tasks due to claustrophobia. A spacious towel cabinet and four drawers should easily
handle your towel collection.
My only major gripe with the Limited comes in the tiny hall
area between the bathroom and the bedroom. Granted, the size of the trailer dictates the
necessity for such a layout, but a quick glimpse at the floorplan and you’ll see what I
mean. If the person in the bathroom happens to open the door when somebody is exiting (or
entering) the bedroom via the French door ($490), chances are there will be a collision.
Add to that the prospect of a third party coming up the stairs, and you have the perfect
storm for a head-meets-door fiasco. We had several before finally learning to announce our
intentions when entering the hall. Again, this isn’t a log-jam unique to this particular
fifth-wheel, but it was enough of a problem to mention here.
The queen-bed slideout
features a delightful treat: a pillow-top mattress and box springs, the latter of which
Excel claims to be exclusive to the industry. Needless to say, we never slept so well in a
trailer (aside from the 2 am baby feedings, that is). The bed is flanked by small – but
completely usable – nightstands that worked fine for eyeglasses, books and the remote
control to the optional 19-inch TV ($966) in the bedroom. The TV is located curbside next
to a dresser-type unit that features drawers and a laundry compartment.
And speaking of
laundry, a stackable washer/dryer option ($1,750), further extends the Excel’s full-time
The closet left a bit to be desired; because it wasn’t floor-to-ceiling, I
had to sit on the bed and reach in to be able to access the far corners of the large area.
This is definitely something that would take getting used to, as the full-size
(side-to-side) closet is the primary location for all your hanging garments – but that’s a
small price to pay for a bedroom/laundromat, right?
The Excel Limited 36GKM is a great
choice for full-timers, long-timers and everyone in between. Thoughtful amenities, quality
construction and great utilization of space make living in the Limited fifth-wheel easy
Excel RVs, Peterson Industries Inc., (800) 368-3759, www.excelrvs.com.