Viva Vilano!: Vanleigh Vilano Fifth-Wheel

Outdoor Resort Palm Springs in Cathedral City, California, was a perfect backdrop for the Vilano.
Outdoor Resort Palm Springs in Cathedral City, California, was a perfect backdrop for the Vilano.
Photos by Scott Hirko

Vanleigh RV’s expertise building Tiffin motorhomes inspires a new line of amenity-rich fifth-wheels

It’s no secret that the principals of Vanleigh RV, a relative newcomer in towable manufacturing, share their DNA with the founders and current operators of Tiffin Motorhomes, makers of Allegro-branded motorized RVs. While cutting their teeth on building Class A motorhomes in the family business has proven to be highly successful, the next venture into fifth-wheel trailers, surely a departure from their norm, capitalizes on the reputation that made Tiffin an icon in the RV industry.

The Vilano fifth-wheel line made its debut at the Louisville trade show in 2015 and has quickly found its niche in a market that caters to discriminating owners who do not have an unlimited budget. At just shy of 100 grand, the latest model, the 375FL, is a 40-footer with a front-living-room configuration with enough strategically infused upgrades to raise the bar from commonplace to feature-rich, again, without pushing the price into the stratosphere.

The front living room is big enough for eight people to hang out in comfort.
The front living room is big enough for eight people to hang out in comfort.

A front-living-room floorplan offers a number of possibilities for full-timers or extended-stay occupants, but it’s not for everyone. In this plan, the front living room is about as inviting as any room can be. The dark wood contrasts nicely against the lighter colored wallboard, wood-grain-look flooring and Ultraleather furniture. Those who
enjoy hosting guests will find that this living room will quickly become hangout central. The seating is superb, with enough places for eight people on the opposing sofa beds
and theater recliners.

Two factors make this front living room more spacious: the flat roofline that provides 6 feet 6 inches of headroom and the opposing slides, two of six in this model. A liberal placement of LED fixtures offsets any darkness from the woodwork, and even the cup holders have blue background lighting.

Uncommon in a fifth-wheel in this price range is the level of woodwork found throughout the interior. All the cabinets and trim are solid wood, built by hand in the company’s custom cabinet shop. The heavy dark woods exude quality and long-term service, even under full-time living, which is a likely use for this fifth-wheel and a feature that the Tiffin family has hung its hats on for a very long time.

A short stairway from the living room leads to the kitchen with a peninsula galley counter. The fully equipped galley also has a TV for the cook’s viewing.
A short stairway from the living room leads to the kitchen with a peninsula galley counter. The fully equipped galley also has a TV for the cook’s viewing.

A generous assortment of windows brings in plenty of ambient lighting and offers a commanding view to the outside, except for the very front, where the wall is completely filled with a 55-inch smart TV and well-placed cabinets and drawers. Some of this space is designated for entertainment electronics that support the huge TV, but there’s still plenty of room for pack rats. A large fireplace in the lower section of the entertainment center offers a perfect touch in this room and is within easy viewing from the opposing large and comfy reclining theater seating. As a matter of fact, don’t plan on spending too many awake moments in front of the TV if the theater seats are reclined fully.

As you step down from the living room, the floor converges with the entry-door landing and beginning of the galley. What seems smallish at first glance is actually a very usable kitchen that’s ready for just about any type of meal prep. Using a peninsula galley counter with the stainless-steel sinks, rather than an island approach, makes great sense here. Not only is floor space better utilized, the layout allows access to the refrigerator when the slides are retracted for travel, and there’s deep storage below the sinks.

The residential refrigerator, three-burner cooktop with oven and stylish microwave occupy the left-side galley slideout, along with an array of cabinets and drawers. The backsplash decor adds a big touch of class to the overall look in the galley. And to help control the foodstuffs and supplies needed for a fifth-wheel of this size, a hutch separating the galley from the front living room is chock-full of cabinets — and there’s a small shelf to hold keys, phones and other small items.

Across from the galley, the dining table, chairs and large pantry are tucked into an opposing slideout. The chairs are very heavy, but once you sit down, you’ll be all smiles, even though they take a little grunt to move around. Not only are the chairs extremely comfortable and upholstered smartly, but they work harmoniously with the glass-top table, which is also solid as a rock. Four people can work through an elaborate meal without plate clunking.

While the galley and living room are designed more along the lines of a fifth-wheel, the rear portion of the unit takes many of its cues from the motorhome operation. A wide hallway leads to the bathroom on the street side and the rear bedroom, both closed off by residential-style doors. These doors are 7 feet tall and solid, with the one leading to the bedroom fitted with a decorative window. Basically, you’re looking at doors that can be compared to those in expensive homes.

Floor space in the bathroom is expansive with the focal point being the his-and-her sinks set in a solid-surface countertop. Full-timers will have no problem storing all the necessary bathroom items, and the counter is big enough for primping, but not oversize by any means.

Sharing a slideout with the neighboring bedroom, the bathroom’s his-and-her sinks are a welcome touch for couples. A horizontally positioned shower offers plenty of room.
Sharing a slideout with the neighboring bedroom, the bathroom’s his-and-her sinks are
a welcome touch for couples. A horizontally positioned shower offers plenty of room.

The horizontally configured shower stall is huge, and is fitted with a nice showerhead and fixtures, and places for soap and shampoo. Water pressure was on the anemic side, whether hooked up or using the onboard demand pump. This is something that can likely be rectified at the dealer level and usually entails locating and fixing a tight bend or removing crud in the lines. For those who spend time off the grid, a more efficient water pump may be in order.

The toilet is mounted cubbyhole-fashion adjacent to intersecting walls across from the sinks, which makes great sense for opening up the floor space in the bathroom, but it was placed in such a way that the toilet seat could not stand up unassisted. Also, providing a small porcelain toilet, rather than one with an elongated bowl, was not consistent with the rest of the interior amenities.

A sliding door in the bathroom opens to the rear bedroom, creating a very large area that has all the elements of a nicely furnished suite. Design elements taken from the motorhome side of the business give the area a look more similar to that inside a diesel pusher. The slideout on the street side expands the area in front of the double sinks in the bathroom and the cabinetry across from the foot of the optional king-size bed that’s pulled out with the opposing slideout. Multiple drawers in dresser form, plus the cabinets, handle large wardrobes, and that doesn’t take into consideration the rear closet. Mirrored sliding doors open to a huge area for hang-ups and items that can be placed on the floor. Next to the wardrobe is a closet prepped for an optional stacking washer and dryer.

Buyers will have to decide if the king-bed option makes the most sense, and that, of course, is usually dependent on personal taste. If the additional 10 inches of width is not crucial to a good night’s sleep, then the standard queen bed is a better choice. The king bed is stuffed into the slide, leaving little room to walk around and maneuver for changing the sheets. Also, the nightstands are rather small for common bedside items, including those that can take advantage of the built-in double USB charging receptacles. In either case, the foam mattress is comfortable, and there is a good amount of storage space under the bed platform, which lifts easily.

We liked the headboard and overhead-cabinet treatment, and the multiple LED fixtures, along with the windows on each slideout wall, warded off any closeness due to the dark decor. A ceiling fan and multiplex lighting switches are welcome features.

The bedroom and bathroom are not accessible with the slides retracted, so those who want to take a potty stop or quick nap on travel breaks will have to extend the slides enough to slip by.

Physical size, attributed to the six slideouts and overall length, made the Vilano pleasurable to live in, especially for full-timers who may want a little separation from each other and enjoy some quiet time. While most of the amenities in this fifth-wheel meet its design purpose, the Vilano could use some support-system tweaking. Three air conditioners (one optional) perched on the roof suggest that the interior will stay cool, and it does, but heat distribution from the furnace could use some redirection. The nearest register to the bedroom was too far to keep the area warm, while the front of the unit was toasty. To supplement, we used the heat pump in the rear air conditioner, which added needed warmth but was noisy and cycles way too frequently.

Opposing slides, an optional king-size bed and storage space for large wardrobes take on the aura of the company’s higher-line motorhomes.
Opposing slides, an optional king-size bed and storage space for large wardrobes take on the aura of the company’s higher-line motorhomes.

All the systems are controlled by a central touch pad mounted at the end of the galley hutch and easily accessed when entering the rig, which adds great versatility. From here the lighting can be controlled, HVAC set, slides deployed, and hot-water tank set to gas or electric. It was a great convenience that will take some time with the instructions to perfect but will certainly be appreciated. It would be nice to illuminate the icons in the surrounding bezel; we liked turning off all the lights with one button, but when it’s dark, the icons on the bezel are hard to see. Acclimation with the panel should make this process more instinctive for most users.

To help with cleanup, a central vacuum-cleaner hose is built into a channel behind the theater seating. It pulls out of its dock for use, and cleaning attachments stored in a nearby compartment can be connected. Users should not be timid when extending the hose to reach the back portion of the trailer.

Outside, all stored items are relegated to the front compartments.

A standard-fare pass-through offers a good amount of space for bulky items and is finished off handsomely. Additional items can be stashed in the front compartment where the battery boxes reside. Batteries are supplied by the dealer, and it’s best to install two to support the trailer’s power requirements. A 1,000-watt inverter is included to operate the residential refrigerator when on the road.

Adjacent to the pass-through compartment on the left is the utility center, which is well laid out and easy to use. Refreshingly, the controls are simple, and switches for the electric gate valves for dumping the holding tanks make it unnecessary to incorporate problematic cables. An electric reel for the 50-amp power cord facilitates hookup.

Plan on taking along extra sewer hoses, since the outlet pipes are separated by a long distance — the gray below the utility center and the black out back. To hook up both at the same time, a wye fitting will be necessary.

Working in the pass-through storage compartment and utility center will take some care. Many owners will be too tall to stand under the front-living-room slideouts when extended and will likely have unexpected confrontations with the corners at first. We learned that the hard way and covered the lower edges with foam swim noodles. While most people will learn to duck, backing up from the storage compartment will also take some finesse to keep from bashing one’s back. This is a compromise that results in exceptional headroom in the living room.

High-gloss fiberglass side walls with well-placed graphics and a painted front cap give the Vilano a stately look. Your eye will gravitate to the painted front cap, which is stylish and fitted with LED lighting, and gives the overall impression that the entire body is painted. The flat roofline pushed up the profile, but not to a point where you think you’re towing an enormous fifth-wheel.

Vanleigh RV 662-612-4040, www.vanleighrv.com
Vanleigh RV | 662-612-4040 | www.vanleighrv.com

At first, the 16,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) seemed like the Vilano was going to be light for its size, but that rating gives a false impression. After filling it with water and LP-gas and adding one battery, the actual weight left only 360 pounds for loading, which is inconsistent with the intent of this model. Even though the 7,000-pound-rated axles are not loaded to maximum capacity, this fifth-wheel is a strong candidate for higher rated axles and chassis to make it feasible for heavier loading. The optional G-rated tires and wheels are capable of increasing the capacity to 7,500 pounds on each axle, so moving to heavier-rated axles and boosting the gvwr can be accomplished at the factory level without much redesign work.

Tiffin heritage is renowned for its wonderful customer service, and moving the family into the fifth-wheel segment will undoubtedly propagate that reputation. Considering the newness of the product line, the company gets high marks for bringing to market fifth-wheels that raise the bar without breaking the bank.


 

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