With its unique floorplan and five slideouts, Keystone’s front-kitchen Montana 3820FK makes a big impression
Montana has a number of different meanings. In Spanish, montaña means mountains. In the United States, it’s the name of our 41st state and is known as Big Sky Country. But in RV land, Montana is the name of a fifth-wheel trailer that is built for ruggedness and comfort, is warranted for full-time RVing and is the number-one-selling fifth-wheel brand for the past 15 years, according to Keystone RV Company, its manufacturer. In 2016 the company knocked the ball out of the park with a unique concept in fifth-wheel design, the front kitchen, earning the RV of the Year award from RVBusiness magazine for the Montana 3820FK. For 2017, the company has further refined this truly luxurious 40-foot floorplan to make it one of a kind.
For this test, we picked up the brand-new unit from the Goshen, Indiana, plant where it was built, within five hours of its completion. We then put it through its paces for a week at Elkhart Campground, a 9/10H/9-rated Good Sam Park on the outskirts of the RV Capital of the World. The park has excellent drive-through sites with 50-amp power and full hookups.
From the outside, it is easy to tell that the 3820FK is special, with its patented Max Turn front cap adorned with a tinted motorhome-style windshield, made by Guardian and inset into the reinforced cap. Two-tone paint and inset LED light strips make this one good-looking fiver.
Around the sides, the looks continue to impress, with attractive graphics, radius doors and hatches, and standard frameless tinted windows, with optional dual panes. Exterior lighting is generous with standard outside lighting on the sides and front, plus security lights on both sides. Exterior storage is on the lighter side in this unit, although still quite adequate with a 41-cubic-foot front pass-through and a 46-cubic-foot exterior storage compartment under the bed that moves with the slide. The forward-most compartment is taken up by the batteries and the optional generator-prep cabinet.
Our test unit, which featured the Java interior decor, was equipped with three packages: the optional Legacy package and the mandatory Residential Living and Four Season Living packages. As part of the Legacy package, the Montana came equipped with an attractive dual-tone painted rear fiberglass cap, a rear accessory hitch receiver, which is a nice option for bike racks or a tray, and an exclusive MORryde LRE4100 suspension system.
“One of the things we noticed with past owners was having to replace the suspension system due to wear at 10 years,” said Mark Krol, product manager for Keystone’s two Montana lines. “We wanted to build a 15-year coach, so this was one of the upgrades, which gives a better ride and has [greaseable] bolts for the shackles,” Krol explained.
Our test drives with two different trucks showed the Montana 3820FK to be quite compliant, following turns nicely, handling bumps smoothly and leaving everything inside in place during drives over bumpy roads and speed bumps in the campground.
The five-slideout fifth-wheel comes with Lippert’s six-point Level-Up hydraulic leveling system controlled by a dedicated and super-convenient left-front side-access panel. The same pump controls three of the slides, and the control valves are also here if you need to extend or retract each room independently. The other two slides are electric.
The slides, front jacks and more can be operated from the new In-Command system by Jensen. This is a computerized monitor and multiplex control system for RVs, utilizing a central Body Control Module (BCM) that runs most of the lighting and control circuits, similar to how late-model cars and million-dollar conversion coaches work. Finding tank levels, turning on and off lights, and operating the slides, awning or jacks are all controlled from the touch-screen. What’s neat about this is, if you have an Android or Apple iOS device, Jensen provides a free app that mates your device with the onboard computer, so you then have complete control from anywhere around the trailer. In our tests the system worked well, and, especially with nighttime campground setup, allowed us to turn on the exterior lights from outside and operate the slides while we watched to make certain they weren’t going to hit anything. Dumping tanks is simplified, too, as you can see tank levels through the phone.
One downside to this floorplan is the complete lack of interior access when the slides are in. If you plan to make lunch while stopped at a rest area, you’ll need more than one parking space. Some slides have to go out to access any of the kitchen, living room or bedroom. Front-to-rear interior access requires at least the three curbside slides to be opened. On the plus side, the bathroom can be entered using the rear-entry door.
Stepping into the RV using the front of the two doors, you enter the attractive living room, but the upstairs galley immediately catches your eye. Fitted with an L-shaped counter opposite an attractive and functional buffet, the kitchen features solid-surface countertops and cherry hardwood cabinets (that means doors and frames.) All the appliances are clad in stainless steel and include an 18-cubic-foot Norcold four-door refrigerator, an Atwood three-burner range and a High Pointe 30-inch convection microwave with a range vent. A double-bowl stainless-sink is underset in the counter, and in the curbside slide is a gorgeous buffet setup with a center window, opposing glass-front china cabinets and a bow-front six-door buffet cabinet underneath.
Cabinet and drawer storage is ample, and lighting is excellent with both ceiling and under-cabinet LEDs. The kitchen is also illuminated by a rectangular skylight with custom cherry surround, complete with four LED lights and a skylight shade to darken the room if desired. The stainless sink is a nice size and has solid-surface covers with their own storage rack just below them next to the trash can, so they’re out of the way when you don’t need them. The two-way refrigerator-freezer incorporates Norcold’s new LCD control center and integrated circulation fans, which ensure even cooling and little to no frost buildup on the fins.
At the end of the galley suite is a unique custom U-shaped dinette with a sturdy oval table with a swivel lock that allows easy access to the seating. Behind this dinette is the large aforementioned windshield with a pull-down night shade that is held against the windshield by a track. We would have liked to see some storage under the dinette, but with all the other storage in the galley, it’s probably unnecessary.
Lighting throughout the Montana is thoughtful and plentiful. All of the lighting is LED, which is great for energy preservation while dry camping. LED accent lighting is positioned above the cabinets and behind the custom crown molding throughout the living room and kitchen, and is again controlled by the In-Command system app. A number of task lights are also built into this model with on-off switches in the individual fixtures.
The living room is a popular setup, similar to front-living-room fifth-wheels. Two opposing couches with built-in queen beds sit in opposing slides, so when the beds are out, there is just enough room to pass between them. Up against the kitchen wall is freestanding theater seating. All are clad in an attractive brown leatherette. The theater seats are also recliners with an armrest/cup holder resting in the middle. Removing the armrest turns the whole thing into more of a loveseat.
Two things about these seats: first, they need to be strapped in place for travel. Second, to recline, they have to be pulled out from the wall, and they have some heft to them. Don’t forget to strap the theater seating back for travel, or the hydraulic slide will have its way with them. Also, when the seats are pulled forward, they block a heat register in the floor, so this must be watched when running the furnace.
Across from the theater seating are the entertainment center and a remote-control fireplace, which is really slick. This new fireplace, complete with a quartz heater above the “firebox” for added realism, allows control of every function of the unit. The flames have a number of controls including speed, brightness and, yes, even colors. The temperature can be digitally set, and there’s a timer as well.
Above the fireplace is a 48-inch flat-panel HDTV and surround-sound bar by Insignia, which is Best Buy’s own brand. What’s nice about this is that, if there’s a problem, help is as close as the nearest Best Buy and Geek Squad, according to Krol. Next to this is the iRV Technologies iRV-34. This unit is an AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3/MP4 stereo with HDMI, USB, SD and Bluetooth inputs. In addition, it has an app for Android and Apple iOS that not only allows you to control the stereo from anywhere around the trailer (think under the awning or in bed) but also to stream music from that device. It has 2.1 Dolby Digital Surround, and in this configuration it feeds the DVD and stereo audio in the living room to the sound bar. The result is pretty impressive, even if a degree in engineering is required to figure out how to operate it.
Down the hallway are the master-control panel and switches, conveniently and attractively located inside a cabinet, and the bathroom with Montana’s space-saving pivot-hinge door, which makes entry from either direction easy. Inside the bathroom, the full-length rectangular walk-in shower with a triple-glass sliding door is nice, and the Euro-style shower-handle setup worked well. The china toilet and sink vanity also worked well, although we thought the sink could use another light under the vanity.
The master bedroom, with its high ceilings and expansive rear picture window is impressive. The closet, in its own slide, has nine drawers, a built-in HDTV and plenty of hanging space for the average RVer. The optional king-size bed has an iRelax high-density foam mattress and two small shelves, one on each side with electrical outlets. Being a CPAP (breathing-assist device for sleeping) user, I found this setup unsatisfactory and would have preferred a queen with side tables, which is standard.
With the exception of the bedroom, the floor is clad with Beauflor vinyl in a gray hardwood pattern, which is attractive and functional. The slides and bedroom have tan carpet. Heating and ventilation are efficient, with a front 15,000-Btu air conditioner and 35,000-Btu furnace, and a rear 15,000-Btu heat pump.
For 2017, Keystone put these on two separate single-zone thermostats, instead of using Dometic’s multi-zone control. This did two things, according to Krol. First it reduced confusion on how to operate the multi-zone thermostat, which Krol said customers were experiencing. Second, it allowed control of the air conditioning and some heat from the heat pump in the bedroom. We agree and see the benefit. However, the rear heat pump also has a mandatory furnace setting, which controls nothing, and this was confusing at first when it came to heating the trailer, but we got over it. This model is very well insulated, which Montanas are known for, and so the nighttime lows in the mid 30s were of no concern during the test.
The Montana 3820FK is an impressive fiver, especially if you’re a full-timer or have plans for extended travel.
Keystone RV | 866-425-4369 | www.keystonerv.com/montana
Chris Dougherty is technical editor of Trailer Life and MotorHome. Chris is an RVDA/RVIA certified technician and lifelong RVer, including 10 years as a full-timer. He and his wife make their home in Massachusetts and hit the road with their travel trailer every chance they get.