Augusta RV’s entry into the luxury fifth-wheel market offers full-time living at a competitive price
Deciding exactly what you want, or more importantly, what you really need in a fifth-wheel designed for full-time use is perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome when stepping up from a weekend RV or making the jump from your permanent home. Aside from financial considerations, making sure that the trailer you’re considering is robust enough and properly equipped for daily use is perhaps most important, but you must also be careful not to buy more trailer than you really need. Budget notwithstanding, a larger, more expensive fifth-wheel may require more tow vehicle than you’re comfortable with, and it can also mean a commitment to staying in more high-end resorts with more space and full hookups.
Most of the fifth-wheels that strike that elusive balance are in the 40–foot range and land somewhere in the neighborhood of $100K to $125K. It’s a competitive market dominated by seasoned, well-respected brands, and a market that Augusta RV has chosen to play in with its beautifully styled (and aptly named) Luxe.
Looking at the specs, equipment and construction materials, it certainly seems like the Bristol, Indiana-based company is off to a running start. A 12-inch I-beam chassis with a stackable 2 x 2-inch box tube underneath forms the foundation, which is fitted with A-list components like an Equalizer six-point hydraulic leveling system and MORryde pin box, independent suspension and disc brakes. Walk around the exterior, and you’ll find more icons of long-term durability, like Goodyear H-rated G114 tires, a Dometic power awning and full-body paint. Of course, as a factory-direct manufacturer, Augusta invites you to be part of the manufacturing process, which helps ensure that the trailer is built to the most important standard of all: yours.
The Augusta Luxe is available in five semi-customizable floorplans ranging from 38 to 43 feet. We recently were given the opportunity to sample the Luxe LF-38RL, a traditional-style floorplan that should find favor with a wide range of fifth-wheel buyers. Finished in a black-and-gray paint scheme with gold trim that the company calls New Moon, the exterior is a welcome departure from the usual lighter tones and gives the trailer an air of elegance and mystery. Black dual-pane frameless windows contribute to the effect.
Once inside, the anticipation grows, as your eyes roam past multiplex lighting panels, a residential LG stainless-steel refrigerator, solid-surface countertops and residential fixtures — all the stuff full-time trailers are made of. But as we settled in on our test, we started to discover some of the areas where Augusta chose to save money to keep the Luxe competitive.
The slideout mechanisms seemed adequate at best, looking and sounding as though they were laboring to deploy the large opposing rooms in the living area — something the company has addressed as we go to press. And as we packed the interior with our belongings, we felt that the cabinet doors, while nicely finished and well fitting, felt a little light for a trailer in this class. We also noticed the furniture and overall design could use a little help. The rear couch and curbside recliners looked low-end to us, the freestanding dinette was painted, not stained, and the wonky-looking wood trim on the ceiling seemed out of place in a trailer that was otherwise sleek and modern.
No one could argue that comfort is the most important feature of any luxury fifth-wheel, and the Luxe we tested fell short there in only a few areas. The rear couch in the test unit, while large, wasn’t very soft or supportive, and there is no storage space on either side on which to put your drink or phone. That seemed odd, especially considering the thoughtful placement of a USB charge port on the street side, as well as a 120-volt AC outlet.
The couch converts to a sleeping space with a genuine folding bed inside, not a trifold arrangement. We found it reasonably comfortable for the intended purpose of unexpected guests but not something anyone is going to relish sleeping on for more than a night or two. The dual recliners in the curbside slideout were also firm and generally uncomfortable, with manual, cable-operated footrests that could barely support the weight of our legs. These would be expected in a $50,000 fifth-wheel, but not in one costing more than twice as much.
The recliners are tied together by a center armrest that contains two conveniently placed cup holders and an elbow pad that opens to store remotes or snacks. The placement of the recliners is perfect for viewing the LG LED TV, which features a sound bar for a heightened audio experience. A cabinet on either side of the Greystone fireplace contains a shelf and pull-out drawers for movie storage, as well as a DVD player (right side) and outlets for additional equipment (left side). Overhead cabinetry here, as well as above the couch, is available for storing blankets, pillows and other items suited for general lounging purposes.
Another thing a full-timing fifth-wheel should have is a good kitchen, and on that front, the Luxe delivers. The residential LG refrigerator is cavernous and had more than enough room for our stuff. It also has a freezer underneath in a separate drawer for an unexpectedly large amount of usable space. Moving forward on the street side, there’s a pantry with frosted-plastic doors, the lower one of which contains four large drawers. The upper cabinet is best for large, soft items (like paper towels and napkins), as it does not have any divider to stop items from moving during travel. One thing it does have, which owners will appreciate, is a complete list of all the equipment on the trailer, who makes it, model number and serial number, which can come in very handy if something goes wrong on the road.
In the nerve center of the kitchen is a True Induction cooktop, with a genuine glass-tile backsplash and an LG residential stainless microwave above. In lieu of a standard oven, drawers and cabinets are located directly underneath, and we liked that they are all soft-close — just give them a push, and they shut by themselves. The bottommost cabinet contains two drawers (center and left), while the right contains a small trash can — something many manufacturers forget about.
The center island features a large stainless-steel sink that is offset toward the front of the kitchen, leaving lots of prep space to the right. A 120-volt AC outlet below on the side is well placed to plug in a blender, stand mixer or other small appliance. There’s also an integrated drawer dishwasher below and to the right, as well as a silverware drawer. The only thing we wished for in the kitchen was a little more storage for larger pots and pans, although it would be possible to store some of these in the large cabinet below the sink.
At the front of the kitchen to the left of the bedroom hallway is a small buffet with more storage, some shelf space for spices and a small LG television, which we thought was a cool detail considering the chef usually can’t watch the living room TV while cooking. On the other side of the hallway, near the entry door, is a wide, shallow cabinet that contains the slideout mechanisms, generator control (the test unit was generator-ready), water-heater switches, tank-level monitors, etc., and below it, a cleverly placed fuse panel for easy access. Elsewhere in the cabinet, there is room for small items, but it’s not deep enough to hang clothes, for example. The multiplex panel next to the door is a nice touch, and the panels for the LED lighting throughout the trailer seem logically placed.
Up the stairs and to your right is the bathroom, which features some elegant touches that make a difference in the space. Perched atop the counter is a vessel sink that looks great (although it takes up most of the counter space) and is complemented by a stainless-steel residential fixture and a one-piece glass backsplash for an added touch of class. Above the sink is a medicine cabinet with mirrors, and mirrored cabinets on either side. The spa-like shower also looks inviting with its clear glass door, granite-look shower enclosure and stainless-steel fixtures. It’s not markedly roomier than other showers we’ve sampled in this class, but it had plenty of room for our needs, and the overhead Fan-Tastic vent removed steam quickly.
Across from the bathroom is a cabinet for a washer and dryer (again, our test unit was prepped for this option), and a large cabinet with adjustable shelves for clothes or folded towels. The only misstep in this area is that the door to the bedroom does not move with the opposing slide, so forgetting to close it before retracting the room could result in a broken door.
Inside the bedroom is a queen bed in a large slideout, which means there is room for nightstands on either side, although the one nearest the front closet is narrow. The one near the bathroom is large, has a power outlet above and plenty of storage inside. The bed is comfortable and has a multiplex switch above the rearmost nightstand, but it’s not really within easy reach. It would make more sense to put this panel underneath the overhead cabinetry so you can reach it without having to lean out of bed.
Front and center is a flat-panel TV at a perfect angle for watching your favorite show or movie from bed. There’s a shelf underneath on which to place a DVD or Blu-ray player, and beneath this is a large window that keeps the area light and bright during the day. At night, we appreciated the MCD solar/blackout shades used throughout the trailer. At the front of the bedroom is a good size closet with shoe storage and a small chest of drawers on either side. Overall, the room is comfortable and roomy, but the exterior bathroom wall facing into the bedroom is stark white and looks unfinished. It would be good to panel this or upholster it so it looks nicer.
One area where a lot of manufacturers tend to cut corners is the exterior storage compartments and utility center — but full-timers know these are areas that can really make a difference when they’re done properly. So does Augusta. The large front storage compartment is nicely finished and well lit, and the test unit was equipped with optional MOR/stor sliding trays that made it very easy to access our larger, heavier items. On the curb side, the 50-amp power cord is stored on a reel for easy access, and the utility center is well finished and nicely arranged with winterizing valves, black-tank flush, freshwater connection and cable-operated dump valves.
We don’t envy any fifth-wheel manufacturer when it comes to deciding what to include — and not include — to stay price-competitive. But the Augusta Luxe gets it right in the most critical areas, and with a few minor improvements, which could be driven by customer input (for example upgraded furniture for the living room), it could become a leader in the luxury full-time fifth-wheel segment.