Step inside the slideout door of this 36-foot home on wheels to experience yet another innovation in the RV industry.
By Lazelle D. Jones
For more than a year, engineers at Rexhall Industries worked on a first-of-its-kind slideout design. With the introduction of the 2003 35TS floor plan, their concept became a reality. Rexhall emerged as the first motorhome manufacturer to offer a slideout that contains an entry door.
In the 35TS floor plan — available on the company's Aerbus and RexAir gas-powered type A models — the door, stairwell, and power entry steps are incorporated into the curbside living area slideout. Rexhall has appropriately dubbed it the "EntrySlide" system.
I recently was given the opportunity to review the 35TS Aerbus, a 36-foot-1-inch, triple-slideout coach built on the Ford F-Series Super Duty chassis and powered by a 6.8-liter Triton V-10 engine. This model is available on a Workhorse chassis as well.
Breaking away from traditional slideout design has given Rexhall the flexibility to create new floor plans. For example, the slideout that houses the entry door also incorporates everything on the curbside wall in the front part of the coach except for the double-door 12-cubic-foot refrigerator-freezer. This slideout measures 11 feet 10 inches long and 25 inches deep. The door in this slideout is fully serviceable regardless of whether the slideout is extended or retracted.
In my test coach, the forward part of the slideout contained a floor-to-ceiling entertainment center with an optional fireplace on the bottom and a 25-inch television above. Aft of that was the entryway and a freestanding table with two upholstered chairs. A 39-inch-by-72-inch booth dinette is available as an option.
The opposing living area slideout encompasses a sofa bed and a rocker-recliner. This slideout measures 9 feet 10 inches long and 35 inches deep. Buyers can opt for an L-shaped sofa and Euro chair and ottoman, or two Euro chairs with ottomans and a flip-up table inside this slideout.
The coach's third slideout is located in the bedroom and encompasses the head of the queen-size bed, a nightstand, a shirt-length wardrobe, and an armoire. This slideout is 10 feet 7 inches long and 25 inches deep. All told, when extended the three slideout rooms create an additional 75 square feet of interior living space.
Aerbus interiorEach slideout has its own control panel with an extend-retract toggle switch and an on-off key that can be removed for safety purposes — an especially good idea when traveling with youngsters. None of the 35TS slideout rooms require auxiliary manual locking devices for the travel mode. All slideouts, as well as the coach's manual (joystick-operated) four-jack leveling system, are powered by a single HWH hydraulic pump.
The standard house battery pack includes two 12-volt batteries, but my test coach was equipped with four 6-volt deep-cycle batteries. This powers the slideouts and performed well, with no evidence of power fade or drop-off at the end of the slideouts' extend or retract cycles. I was impressed with how smoothly the slideouts moved.
After the leveling jacks are extended, it takes only a matter of seconds to cycle the slideouts in or out. To create a flush entry floor when the curbside living room slideout is open, a fully carpeted subfloor rises up into place adjacent to the stairwell. When both front slideouts are extended, the living area is a whopping 13 feet wide (actually, 13 feet 1 inch) — and that's impressive.
I found the fit and finish on my review unit to be very good. All doors throughout the coach — the main entry door, interior doors, and cabinet doors — opened and closed with ease. Keys operated smoothly in locks. I took this motorhome directly from the factory, so it had not been through "dealer prep," yet all systems worked as intended.
The well-insulated exterior bay doors swing wide open. The doors to the eight exterior storage bays are held open by gas struts and latches that attach to the exterior wall. Approximately 120 cubic feet of storage is available in the exterior bays.
The cockpit features clean, uncluttered lines. Instrumentation and controls have been kept to a minimum, which I appreciated. The large, flat dash could accommodate a pull-out computer table on the passenger side, something Rexhall designers might want to consider adding. My test coach did not include the auxiliary windshield fans that are available as an option; they would no doubt help defrost this area in the winter and prevent heat buildup in warm weather.
I did experience some inconvenience with the driver's seat, because it didn't conform comfortably at my neck and shoulders. I tried to reconfigure the seat several times using the six-way power adjustment feature, but I could never get it to feel quite right. Of course, this was a matter of personal preference, and it may not affect anyone else.
Aerbus interiorThe optional power-adjustable split side mirror system yielded good visibility down both sides of the coach. A rearview monitor of respectable size offers real-time information about what is taking place behind the coach. I liked the fact that the 35TS is available with a driver's-side door, which is convenient for exit and re-entry when refueling and also provides an additional emergency exit.
The fuel tank fill cap is located aft of the rear axle behind a locking bay door. This is a good security feature. Keep in mind when positioning this coach for refueling that you will need to either occupy an entire island at a service station or pull forward and have the coach extend beyond the island. The fuel tank on the Ford chassis holds 75 gallons. With the fuel economy figures I calculated (8 miles per gallon), this means a full tank of gas yields a driving range of approximately 550 miles.
The Aerbus I tested weighed 19,920 pounds with a full fuel tank, a full fresh-water tank (91 gallons), and a full LP-gas tank. Of this figure, the front axle weighed 7,160 pounds, and the rear axle weighed 12,680 pounds. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the Aerbus 35TS on the Ford F-Series Super Duty chassis is 22,000 pounds, which gave this coach 2,080 pounds of cargo and passenger-carrying capacity. The coach has a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 26,000 pounds.
The Ford Triton V-10 engine delivers 310 horsepower and 425 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can choose the 35TS Aerbus on the optional Workhouse W-series chassis, which features 340 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. The Workhorse chassis can be ordered with optional 22.5-inch Alcoa aluminum alloy wheels.
A rather subjective but positive impression I garnered during the driving part of my review was the responsiveness of the Ford powertrain when entering freeways, passing on the interstate, and climbing hills. Although this coach is 36 feet 1 inch long and 102 inches wide, it maneuvered well in and out of traffic and moved solidly down the freeway.
I have always enjoyed the ride and handling of Rexhall motorhomes. Several years ago I asked Bill Rex, president and CEO of Rexhall Industries, about this, and he explained that this pleasing ride can be attributed to the coach's welded steel cage construction. This type of construction is still used in building all Rexhall motorhomes. It features an all-steel infrastructure (walls, roof, and subfloor). Every piece of steel is welded together to form the skeleton. To further stabilize the ride, Firestone Ride Rite air bags are added to the rear of the coach.
Aerbus interiorWhile at the factory in Lancaster, California, I watched as a Rexhall coach was being built. (Tours are offered Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 10:00 a.m. by reservation only.) Tubular pieces of steel are cut, placed on a jig to form the infrastructure of the walls or roof, and then welded together. Next, 1-7/8-inch foam insulation is cut to fit between these welded tubular steel members. Adhesive is then applied to both the inside and outside of the foam insulation and steel members. After this, a single sheet of gel-coated fiberglass is placed on the exterior side, and vinyl-covered wallboard is placed against the interior side of the walls. The wall structure is then put on a vacuum table, where a vacuum is drawn and held while the adhesive cures. This process creates a one-piece structure that is much stronger than the individual constituent parts.
The roof is built a bit differently. A single molded fiberglass cap, built in-house, is added to the exterior side of the roof after both sides are sprayed with a wet adhesive. On the interior (ceiling) side, Ozite-covered board is placed against the adhesive-covered foam and welded tubular steel. As with the walls, the roof is then placed on a vacuum table. Again, a vacuum is drawn until the adhesive is set (approximately 90 minutes).
When the walls are set in place, the tubular metal around the perimeter of each wall and the steel perimeter around the floor are welded together (not bolted or attached with screws or rivets). Next, the roof is set in place and welded to the walls. All of the interior cabinets and appliances are set in place only after the floor, walls, and roof are a finished unit. Materials in the interior are not added to give the coach structural integrity. The welded steel members create a rigid box with high-torsion strength.
A seamless sheet of StructurWood, a bonded structural panel made by Weyerhauser, is placed on top of the floor's welded tubular steel infrastructure. This acts as an uninterrupted barrier that is designed to prevent moisture and road dust from intruding into the cabin. The floor structure is then lagged in place. A continuous sheet of bubble-type insulation is placed below the floor to further protect the cabin and separate it from the outside environment.
The exterior bays are fabricated from galvanized steel and are lined with a carpet-type material. Heat is routed from the furnace to the holding tank compartments to keep them ready for cold-weather travel.
The bays below the slideout rooms move in and out as the slides extend and retract. A centrally located coach-wide bay provides space for stowing long items such as skis or fishing poles. As noted earlier, the bay doors are well-insulated. The reason? After the coach walls have undergone the vacuum table process, cutouts are made to create openings for the doors and windows. This yields large vacuum-laminated pieces that, instead of being scrapped, are used to make the exterior bay doors. Thus, just as the walls do, the bay doors feature 1-7/8-inch-thick insulation.
The way the bay doors are hinged is unique. A continuous hinge is attached along the top of each bay door. A single continuous track that is designed to receive each bay door hinge is attached along the exterior side of the coach. To mount the bay doors, the portion of the hinge that is attached to the bay door is slipped into the stationary (coach-length) track and slid along the track until it's positioned where it will close precisely over the storage compartment it is intended to cover. This method of hinging and hanging the bay door does two things. One, it distributes the weight of the bay door along the top of each door. Equally important, the weight of all of the bay doors is distributed along the entire length of the coach via the single track.
The Aerbus can easily handle stand-alone camping. A 5.5-kilowatt gasoline generator is standard, and 6.5- and 7-kilowatt gen sets are available as options. This coach is wired for 50-amp shore power, but one of the coach's two 13,500-Btu centrally ducted roof air conditioners can still be operated if only 30-amp shore power is available. The 35,000-Btu forced-air furnace keeps things warm on chilly nights, and two power-adjustable ceiling vents help to keep fresh air circulating.
Since the Aerbus has a large fresh-water tank (91 gallons, as mentioned earlier) and well-sized gray and black water tanks (approximately 60 gallons each), carefully managing the levels in the waste water tanks and the consumption of fresh water should allow one to spend days at a time enjoying boondocks-type camping.
The 2003 Aerbus 35TS is offered in three décor packages, and these are being updated for the 2004 models. Light oak cabinetry is standard, and medium oak cabinetry is optional. All of the cabinets are built by Rexhall and feature raised-panel oak doors.
Plush carpeting covers the floors from front to rear, except for the galley and bath, where simulated tile is used. The galley comes with a convection-microwave oven, a coffee maker, and a three-burner LP-gas cook top and LP-gas oven. An 8-cubic-foot double-door refrigerator with ice maker is standard. My test coach was equipped with a 12-cubic-foot double-door refrigerator with ice maker. Solid surface material is used to create all kitchen countertops as well as the 84-inch-long vanity in the rear bedroom.
The base suggested retail price of the Aerbus 35TS is $114,565. My test coach had the following options, which brought its final price to $130,282: AM-FM stereo with CD in dash; 13-inch built-in bedroom TV; 50-amp Smart EMS service; 6-volt house battery upgrade; six-way power driver's seat; rearview camera and monitor; ComforAer Package (Ventline fan with thermostat in kitchen and bathroom, A&E window awnings and A&E 9000 patio awning), Dometic 12-cubic-foot side-by-side refrigerator with ice maker; driver's door with deadbolt lock; ducted roof air conditioning; electric, heated side mirrors; fireplace; fluorescent ceiling lights; gas-electric 10-gallon water heater; 6.6-kilowatt Generac gasoline generator.
By being the first to put an entryway in a slideout, Rexhall has proved that yet more ways can be found to create additional living space in a motorhome. It's exciting to see great new ideas on the RV market.
Manufacturer ... Rexhall Industries Inc., 46147 Seventh St. W., Lancaster, CA 93534; (800) 929-5280, (661) 726-0565; fax: (661) 726-5811; www.rexhall.com
Model ... Aerbus
Floor plan ... 35TS
Chassis ... Ford
Engine ... 6.8-liter Triton SEFI V-10
Transmission ... 4R100 four-speed automatic with overdrive
Axle ratio ... 5.38 to 1
Tires ... 245 70R 19.5 LRF
Wheelbase ... 242 inches
Brakes ... power front and rear disc, ABS
Suspension ... tapered multileaf
Alternator ... 130 amps
Batteries ... chassis — (1) 750 cca; house — (2) 1,000 cca 12 volt, (four 6-volt batteries optional)
Steering ... TRW TAS40
Inverter ... 2,000-watt, optional
Electrical service ... 50 amps
Auxiliary generator ... 5.5-kw Generac Quietpact gasoline; 6.6-kw Quietpact gasoline, or 7-kw Onan gasoline, optional
Exterior length ... 36 feet 1 inch
Exterior width ... 102 inches
Interior height ... 6 feet 4-1/2 inches
Exterior height ... 11 feet 6 inches
Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) ... 26,000 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ... 22,000 pounds
Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) ... front — 7,500 pounds; rear — 14,500 pounds
Wet weight as tested ... (weighed with full water and fuel tanks) front axle — 7,160 pounds; rear axle — 12,680 pounds; total — 19,920 pounds
Payload ... 2,080 pounds
Frame construction ... tubular steel
Insulation ... polystyrene foam
Fresh water capacity ... 96 gallons (including hot water tank)
Holding tank capacities ... gray water — 60 gallons; black water — 60 gallons
Fuel capacity ... 75 gallons
Fuel requirements ... unleaded gasoline
Propane capacity ... 29 gallons (23.2 gallons at 80 percent maximum capacity)
Water heater ... 10-gallon LP-gas/electric; 6-gallon LP gas, standard
Water system ... demand
Furnace ... 35,000-Btu LP-gas forced air
Air conditioner ... (2) 13,500-Btu Dometic rooftop units with ducted air
Refrigerator ... Dometic 12-cubic-foot with ice maker, optional; Dometic 8-cubic-foot with ice maker, standard
Toilet ... Thetford Bravura, plastic
Warranty ... chassis — 3 years, 36,000 miles; coach — 1 year/12,000 miles; 5 years/50,000 miles limited structural
Base suggested retail price ... $114,565
Price as tested ... $130,282
* Due to continuous product development and improvements, all specifications are subject to change without notice from or obligation of the manufacturer.