Thoughtful features and a floorplan perfect for entertaining make this full-size fifth-wheel a safe bet for family fun
Stereotypes, as inaccurate or unfair as they may often be, are sometimes founded in truth. Sports cars are driven by young men, cowboy hats are worn by cowboys and fifth-wheels are for older, retired couples. But every so often, we’re reminded of fallacies inherent in stereotyping and find ourselves surprised by reality. Old ladies sometimes do drive Porsches. The guy in the Village People also wore a cowboy hat. And sometimes, as is the case with the Jayco Eagle Premier, fifth-wheels are designed for family use.
When you think about it, family oriented fivers just makes sense. They have the walk-around space and residential features familiar to the younger members of your household, and the giant basement storage typical of these rigs can easily accommodate the trappings of four or more. Replace the leather and tile with cloth and vinyl, and you’ve got an attractive, durable and affordable package that can hold up to the rigors of family use.
The Jayco Eagle Premier is available in a total of nine floorplans, all of which can sleep at least three and as many as 10. The test unit you see here is the Jayco 361REQS, which combines high-end styling and thoughtful features with sleeping for up to four adult-sized people. As such, it’s no snack-size rig; measuring 40 feet 9 inches, it’s best suited for RV parks rather than public campgrounds, which tend to be a little more cramped. With this in mind, we made reservations at the Pechanga RV Resort, located in the Southern California wine country of Temecula, approximately 67 miles north of San Diego.
Pechanga is a well-manicured, clean park that offers 168 sites (including 25 deluxe pull-throughs) with full hookups, cable and Wi-Fi, plus two spas and a heated pool. It’s also walking distance to Pechanga Casino and golf course. The park assigned us a pull-through site, after which we deployed the automatic four-point leveling system (a $2,329 option) four slideouts and not one but two power patio awnings (the second one, which deploys from the curbside slideout, is a $679 option). Once set up, we received numerous comments from passersby on how nice the rig looked, with its high-gloss exterior walls, tinted, frameless Thermopane windows and aluminum wheels.
The 361REQS floorplan is great at mealtime or for entertaining as many as 10 guests. The island kitchen has some of the most useful space we’ve seen in a while, particularly on a fifth-wheel at this price point. That’s because, in addition to the island itself, with its Stonecast sink and residential brushed-nickel fixtures, there is a banquette at either end. The one on the forward wall is great for food you’ve already prepped, while the one nearest to the living area is a perfect place to put food that’s ready to serve. It’s directly inline with the four-place freestanding dinette and has pendant lights located directly above so you can highlight your culinary masterpieces. However, we found it counterintuitive that the power outlet and pendant light switch were located on the living area side of the banquette; we think having it on the kitchen side would be a lot more convenient.
The LG-brand solid-surface countertops, while thin (presumably to save weight and cost) look good, and there’s plenty of storage space down low for large pots and pans as well as cabinet space above for dishes, bowls and the like. The only thing we wished for was a dedicated space for a trash can under the sink, but this is a small complaint. The test trailer also had an optional 12-cubic-foot refrigerator ($1,993) and a large, residential-style overhead microwave, which we appreciated given the recent popularity of Barbie-sized units. There’s also a three-burner cooktop and a standard oven.
Generally speaking, we prefer living areas where the couch or recliners are directly across from the television, but Jayco did a great job compensating for the fact that its entertainment center is on the back wall. First, the couch is L-shaped, which makes it easy to turn toward the 40-inch LCD flatscreen television without overtaxing your neck, and it includes an ottoman with internal storage. The opposing fabric recliners are not only very comfortable, but swivel for easy viewing. And, depending on which side of the room you’re on, the TV mount detaches from the wall and swivels as well, so you’ve always got a good viewing angle. Add to this the optional Ledge Stone electric fireplace ($714), and you’ve got a living area that’s about as cozy as anyone could want. There are also cabinets on either side of the fireplace, the streetside of which contains the components for the Multi-Media Premium Sound System with AM/FM/CD/DVD/MP3 player. Flip a switch, and you can activate the dual exterior marine-grade speakers in the patio area. In addition, the cabinet is prewired for another component (such as a Blu-ray player) and offers handy storage directly underneath for DVDs or Blu-ray discs.
About the only flaw in the living area of the test unit was the fold-out couch, which hadn’t been assembled properly at the factory and dropped some hardware when it was deployed. It also wasn’t very comfortable to sleep on because it wasn’t flat, and the foot of the bed was actually higher than the head, requiring our guest to sleep on it backward.
There were other bugaboos. While we appreciated the effort Jayco extended in placing many of the house light switches, tank monitor, water heater/pump controls, etc. in a centralized location by the steps, the print for the switches was so small that it was impossible for us to read at night without glasses, and there’s no light nearby to make reading easier. And while it’s common in the RV industry to place an interior light switch near the bottom of the entry door, we thought it odd that it was placed on the right side of the doorway, so you have to open the door completely to get your hand on the switch. Once activated, it illuminates the lights above the kitchen, which brings up another oddity: There’s no switch in that location for the overhead lights in the kitchen. If you’re preparing dinner and you need more light, you either have to walk around the island to the central control panel to switch them on or bend over and turn on the one at the bottom of the entry door. We suggest that the switch be moved to the left side of the doorway and that the switch activates a light less-oft used, like the one just to the right of the entry door in the hallway, for example. Then, place a light switch for the kitchen overhead lights in the kitchen.
Working your way up to the bedroom and bath area, you’ll find that Jayco did things differently from the typical fifth-wheel and was successful for the most part. The bathroom has a residential-size shower that should feel very familiar if you have a tub/shower arrangement at your home. It’s rectangular, offers a molded seat at one end and has a sliding glass door. The lavatory and mirrored medicine cabinet are roomy enough, and there are two linen closets, although one is located behind the toilet and can’t be accessed with the lid or seat up. It’s also quite shallow, so you’ll need to fold your towels into thirds.
The bedroom is about what you would expect to find in a fifth-wheel of this size, with a standard queen-size bed, a chest of drawers and a forward closet. The test unit, however, was outfitted with the optional king bed ($71), which we wouldn’t recommend unless you really need the space. It essentially eliminates nightstands on either side of the mattress, leaving spaces so narrow they can barely accommodate a small glass of water. There is, however, adequate walk-around room, and the mattress was firm but comfortable.
The forward closet is not cedar-lined (another cost-saving measure), but it has enough room for all the clothes you’re likely to take along.
To the right of the closet is a large, deep cabinet that either contains shelves or is washer/dryer prepped. The test unit was equipped with the former, yet still had overlapping doors for a washer/dryer setup, which meant shutting the doors one at a time in the correct order every time we opened the cabinet. The chest of drawers at the foot of the bed was a good place to put items like socks and underwear, but not much else, as the drawers were only 9 inches deep. Ditto the linen closet to the left of the bedroom door. Overall, however, the space works well enough once you get used to it, and the 32-inch LCD flatscreen is placed at a perfect viewing angle for watching TV in bed.
Outside, access to storage and utilities is excellent. The front pass-through storage is roomy, well lit and nicely finished, and features TV/cable prep for an outdoor entertainment system, if desired. The compartment can also be heated via a vent in the bedroom duct that passes over the area, which is a nice touch. Jayco created a second compartment accessed from the front of the rig that is perfect for storing items like tools, chemicals and other small cargo. The doors also work on gas struts, which is something we’d like to see more of in the RV industry.
On the street side of the compartment are the optional four-point-leveling-system controls and Jayco’s well-conceived Uni-Dock utility center. This area contains the winterizing valves, city-water hookup, exterior shower and dump valves, and also thoughtful features like a light, soap dispenser and a paper towel holder to make dumping the tanks a more sanitary process. There are other less noticeable exterior features as well, such as dual propane cylinders on a pull-out tray, a dual battery compartment with disconnect, a heated and enclosed underbelly, and enclosed slideout mechanisms.
Another common stereotype is that fifth-wheels are heavy and expensive. The Jayco Eagle Premier is neither. Weighing in at less than 13,000 pounds ready to tow, it’s amazingly light for a 40-footer, and with a base MSRP of less than $60,000, it is a great value.
Jayco Inc. | 574-825-5861 | www.jayco.com