Amped Up in Vermont

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Photo Credit: Karen Dougherty

Paired with the 2016 Ford F-450 Lariat Platinum Crew Cab with a 6.7-liter diesel, the 2017 Dutchmen Voltage Epic V3990 is right at home on the pond at Greenwood Lodge and Campsites in Woodford, Vermont.

by Chris Dougherty
October 28, 2016
Filed under Top Stories, Trailer Reviews

TL-test

Dutchmen’s Voltage Epic V3990 combines luxury, practicality and excitement in a fifth-wheel SURV

The evening is cool, the sky clear. Occasionally, a frog chirps on the pond, as we listen to the water dribble over the dam a few hundred feet away while sipping a beverage on the rear deck of the 2017 Dutchmen Voltage Epic V3990. We’re enjoying this serene atmosphere at Greenwood Lodge and Campsites in Woodford, Vermont, a great little campground and hostel owned by the Shea family in the Green Mountain National Forest.

Most folks look at this type of fifth-wheel and see a toy hauler, but it’s much more. The more appropriate designation is sport-utility recreational vehicle or SURV. The reason is that these RVs do a lot more than hauling ATVs or motorcycles; they have convertible space that contributes greatly to the enjoyment of the RV lifestyle.

The Voltage Epic series is Dutchmen’s top-of-the-line SURV offering, a mix of luxury, utility and high-energy excitement. This fifth-wheel is at home in Vermont’s Green Mountains or a regional fairgrounds like the Big E in Massachusetts. It’s a great match for a family of motocross racers, a couple of full-timers looking for more convertible living space, or folks who travel with a small business or hobby.

 

The Voltage has a well-appointed living area and kitchen that feature a fireplace, an LED TV, a quartz countertop and an 18-cubic-foot refrigerator.

The Voltage has a well-appointed living area and kitchen that feature a fireplace, an LED TV, a quartz countertop and an 18-cubic-foot refrigerator.


The first thing that comes to mind when looking at the V3990 is the wow factor. Our test unit came with upgraded exterior graphics, hitch-illuminating docking lights and a fully painted front fiberglass cap with inset blue LEDs. Gel-coat fiberglass and full-body paint are also available, as is the Limited Black Label edition, which adds a tidy $15,662 to the sticker price. Custom aluminum-alloy 16-inch wheels with raised-letter “Voltage” on one of the spokes is a sharp touch, and blue ground-effect lighting creates a neat atmosphere at night. All of the exterior lighting is LED, and there’s plenty of it, including floodlights and awning lighting.

From the outside, this is a well-put-together fifth-wheel. The V3990 has a frame with a 20,000-pound gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) and three 7,000-pound-rated axles, which, mated with the MORryde LRE-3000 suspension system, should contribute to a long, trouble-free life. Speaking of MORryde, the company’s rubber pin box is designed to control chucking, and it didn’t disappoint. Heading out on some of the region’s scenic byways from Springfield, Massachusetts, the V3990 was a delight to tow, despite being almost 44 feet long.

Owners will need to be aware of the trailer’s cargo capacity to avoid overloading and exceeding the gvwr. That 1,697-pound cargo-carrying capacity can disappear in a hurry, given how much general gear can be loaded in a 44-foot trailer, let alone the weight of any toys carried in the garage space. It would be helpful if a toy-hauler trailer of this type had enough payload capacity to honestly handle its intended load.

The rear multiuse room combines a garage, a bedroom, a dining area and utility space. The room has a sliding screen door that opens onto the rear deck, which doubles as the ramp door.

The rear multiuse room combines a garage, a bedroom, a dining area and utility space. The room has a sliding screen door that opens onto the rear deck, which doubles as the ramp door.



Baggage doors on the front sides feature slam-latch handles and gas props to hold them open. On this model, exterior storage is restricted to a single cross-trailer compartment, as the front compartment is taken up by the Cummins Onan 5.5-kilowatt gasoline generator and battery, although a creative person could insulate the genset box and utilize some of this space for storage.

Equipped with the all-weather package, the V3990 has storage and holding tanks with electric heaters. Frameless, tinted windows allow a lot of light in and provide good ventilation. However, on a hot day, the two front-zone air conditioners — one of which is a 15,000-Btu model — could not keep up with the heat. To combat this, the optional dual-pane windows are a good idea ($2,691).

On the street side, the utility bay, accessed as part of the cross-trailer storage, is complete and well laid out. The utility panel features the usual suspects including water, cable-TV input and the front holding-tank valve handles. This is also where you’ll find the winterizing valve and antifreeze pickup connection, the water-heater bypass valve, the front black-tank rinser, a 120-volt AC receptacle, and a wash station with hot and cold water. The V3990 is set up with satellite-TV wiring, which is also accessed here.

This is a bath-and-a-half floorplan, so there is a single black holding tank in the rear. The termination valve is under the RV on the street side in the rear, and the black-tank flush is on the curb side in line with the bathroom. Another gray tank is mounted in the middle of the trailer with a separate handle in the same area underneath but still utilizes the front sewer connection.

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On the street side in the rear are the dual fuel fills for gasoline, one for the genset and one for the fuel station. For those who are unfamiliar, SURVs often come with their own portable “gas station” to fuel up the motorized toys, or chainsaws, if you’re a bear carver. While this may be superfluous for those who don’t have motorcycles or ATVs, the gas-powered generator is a great feature, and the fuel station will allow it to be used for much longer than relying on the dual 7-gallon LP-gas cylinders.

One well-thought-out feature of this fifth-wheel has MORryde’s name on it yet again, and that’s the Park ’n’ Play patio system with its zero-gravity rear door. The big ramp door is equipped with an electric key lock; turn the key and listen for the locks to disengage, then gently pull down the door. The door is equipped with a cable-and-spring mechanism integrated into the jamb and header, making operation almost effortless. MORryde has two hinged gates that fold and telescope out to become railings for the patio.

test-voltagespecsThis design allows the patio to be completely set up in about a minute and 40 seconds, if you know what you’re doing, and that’s about half the time of typical systems used on toy haulers. It’s also much easier to get toys in and out, because the railings are hinged on the end and open simply. There are no ramp or deck setup directions included with the RV, but MORryde’s website links to a good video to show how it’s done, if it isn’t demonstrated by the dealer. In addition to the railings, an included staircase connects to the end for additional access, if you want it. When properly deployed, the deck supports 1,000 pounds.

Just inside the doorjamb is a set of sliding-screen doors, which allow the deck to be kept open all the time while keeping the bugs out. The telescoping pocket-door panels have hook-and-loop-fastened tinted-plastic panels that affix in place over the screens, similar to those in a boat or an awning screen room. Great idea, although a little weak in its application; the doors don’t slide well, and the slides don’t hold the door straight, causing them to bind. The door transom blocks access to the manual override for the electric door locks for the back door. Depending on what position the rear beds and seats are in, this could present a difficult and expensive problem in the event of a failure.

Besides telescoping open, the screen doors are also on hinges and can be unlocked and swung open to about 85 degrees or so but are partially blocked by the railing system. Still, this door is a better, more usable option than a pull-down screen, but it may take a bit of fine-tuning.
The doors are common RV-entry doors, and both are equipped with gas props. The front one has a single-hung window in the middle that opens, which is rare and appreciated. Entry is via dual aluminum quad steps by Lippert Components, which work well; the steps are easy to lift and deploy, and have a clean, high-end appearance.

The V3990 is equipped with three awnings with vinyl fabric. A pair of articulating-arm awnings on the curb side ensure lots of sun-shielded outdoor space. The other awning, a manually cranked lateral-arm model, helps shade the rear deck.

A fifth-wheel SURV should come with an exterior entertainment center, and the Voltage Epic has one. A built-in Furrion TV and Kenwood speakers are housed in this compartment, and the control for the Kenwood stereo is about 10 feet away from the entertainment center. The TV is on a fixed wall mount that is a bit sloppy, as are the bedroom and garage TV mounts.

To make backing and hauling easier, Dutchmen included a Garmin BC 30 wireless backup camera designed for, and mated to, a Garmin Nuvi 68LM GPS. This GPS is Garmin’s budget model that works with the wireless camera. While the camera is a nice touch, and a $1,080 option, the GPS is frankly dangerous to use with an RV of this size, especially up in New England where low-clearance bridges are common (we had to make a U-turn to avoid one in Amherst, Massachusetts). Fortunately, the camera is compatible with the more suitable Garmin RV660LMT RV GPS, so upgrading is easy and recommended.

The master bedroom features a memory-foam king mattress with a padded headboard, windows that allow for a nice cross breeze and shelves beneath them.

The master bedroom features a memory-foam king mattress with a padded headboard, windows that allow for a nice cross breeze and shelves beneath them.



Inside, the V3990 is classy and comfortable. Entering from the front door leads to the kitchen with a large island and a living area with opposing slides that contain seating on one side and kitchen appliances on the other. The Voltage Epic has three decor options: Raven (black), Stone (gray) and Hazel (brown). The Hazel decor in the test unit had a warm, comfortable feel with earth tones and chocolate browns throughout.
While a bit tight, the kitchen has numerous cabinets and drawers, and is well equipped with a Norcold 18-cubic-foot four-door refrigerator-freezer, a range and a convection-microwave, all clad in stainless steel. Countertops are quartz — yes, quartz — with a huge under-mount stainless sink and a gooseneck faucet with a pull-out sprayer. We would like to have seen more shelving and better door hardware, particularly in the aluminum-and-glass-panel doors above the living room TV that wouldn’t stay open because they were too heavy for the hardware.
The television is a huge Furrion LED flat-screen set off by an entertainment center with cubbies and cabinets above and along one side. The TV is on an articulating arm that aims the screen toward the seating, but viewers still must turn their heads to the left to see it. Below the TV, the cozy faux-stone fireplace has the typical electric heater and remote control.

The entire streetside slideout has five recliners set up like theater seating, with heat and massage features, and touch-activated controls by the cup holders. Even though there is an electric lock on the keypad to lock out the controls, the lock is a raised button that is easy to activate inadvertently, which we did. The resulting heated seat was a surprise on a 90-degree day.

The living room leads into the rear multiuse space, or garage, as many would call it. It’s important to note that this room is not just a garage but serves as the dinette for the whole unit, as well as additional sleeping space. A large table is included with three tube legs that insert into floor pockets, with a fold-down gaucho on each side and a portable Euro-style chair/recliner for one end, if needed. The V3990 also comes with a nice fold-up table, stored under the king bed, which can be used anywhere.

This multiuse space has its own air conditioner and is the third zone on the Dometic thermostat. The room has a ceiling-level TV, and the Kenwood stereo system that feeds the whole fifth-wheel is here as well. Seating and beds are part of a HappiJac lift system, and are quite comfortable and easy to use. The half bath is on the curb side and is more than adequate for the task.

Five recliners line up across from the kitchen island, two with integrated heat and massage. The room opens to the rear multiuse space via a sliding-glass door. Above is a compact twin bed.

Five recliners line up across from the kitchen island, two with integrated heat and massage. The room opens to the rear multiuse space via a sliding-glass door. Above is a compact twin bed.



Toward the front, a staircase leads to the large side-aisle bedroom-and-bathroom suite with a king bed, a front closet and a closet with washer-dryer prep. A well-equipped bureau stands at the foot of the bed with another HDTV above it. The front closet has sliding wood doors with mirrored inserts, but the weak hardware was broken and torn out of the particleboard stiles by the time the test unit got to us.

The bathroom is large and features a quartz countertop with a glass-bowl sink atop the vanity, a large mirror and an ample medicine cabinet. A Dometic porcelain short-bowl toilet is standard. The adult-sized bathtub is inset slightly below floor level with a solid fiberglass surround and a bow-style shower curtain, both of which are nice touches. The only problems we could see were that the V3990 has a 10-gallon water heater, and there is no tub faucet or closeable drain.

The entertainment system includes a Kenwood DDX-373BT stereo, a great video-and-audio head with a DVD player, Bluetooth wireless phone access, a backup camera, Apple’s Siri Eyes Free and SiriusXM Radio access. The system has a hardwired remote unit that is attached to the exterior side wall under the front awning.

Overall, the Voltage Epic V3990 is a spacious SURV that is comfortable while being utilitarian and easy to maintain. Whether you’re taking it to a sporting event or roaming the continent full time, this fifth-wheel with a convertible back room offers plenty of versatility.

Dutchmen RV Company | 574-537-0600 | www.dutchmen.com/voltage


 

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