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Phenix: Foretravel's Elegant Flagship Print Email

The 2007 45-foot Phenix from Foretravel Inc. boasts a 600-horsepower Cummins diesel engine and caters to the custom coach buyer with its long list of options.

By Lazelle Jones
December 2006

There’s something about traveling through East Texas that makes you feel as though you’re coming home. Maybe it's the sweet tea at McDonald’s or the crepe myrtle in the center divider of the highway. Or perhaps it's that three out of every four radio stations seem to play country music, and you can hear Doctor Laura on the fourth, solving people's problems.

And speaking of coming home, East Texas is home to the oldest town in Texas, Nacogdoches, and to one of the very oldest luxury motorhome builders still in business: Foretravel Inc. The company was founded in the mid-1960s and its ownership stayed in one family for decades.

Within the past two years, however, Foretravel has seen new ownership and new leadership. For the 2006 model year, Foretravel management introduced two all-new luxury motorhome models, the Nimbus and the Phenix. I traveled to Nacogdoches to review the 2007 version of the Phenix just two weeks after the first one was introduced at the FMCA international convention in North Carolina this past August. Suffice it to say that without equivocation, I was impressed.

Generator on a sliding trayThe 2007 Phenix is equipped with the new 2007 Cummins ISX 600-horsepower engine, which meets new federal guidelines regarding emissions. Foretravel began production of the 2007 Phenix in September 2006, and, as of this writing, the first five units were spoken for. As new orders are placed, they will be designed and built based upon the clients' specific preferences, for the Phenix is basically a custom coach.

The 2007 Phenix looks different than its 2006 counterpart. For one, it features new and impressive exterior styling (roofline, new front and rear caps, new full body paint, and graphics schemes). More cutting-edge systems have been added and improvements have been made to the construction process, which means Foretravel motorhomes are better built now than ever before.

As it has for many years, Foretravel builds motorhomes on its own chassis, now called the TravelRide. This platform retains Foretravel’s time-tested design technologies, such as module chassis construction; use of a solid front axle; and vacuum-laminated steel-frame floor, walls, and roof (aluminum structural members are used in the roof).

The Cummins 600-horsepower diesel engine yields 1,850 pound-feet of torque. It is coupled to an Allison 4000 MHPR six-speed transmission, which has a dual-actuated transmission retarder. The driver regulates the amount of retarding (braking) needed using a joystick-type controller. It has six positions to choose from and can be toggled from high to low and back again on the fly. The retarder replaces the engine brake found in most other models.

Foretravel's TravelRide chassisForetravel has introduced thicker and heavier steel chassis components and members. And the company now uses huck bolting to attach the chassis modules to one another (there are three modules -– front, middle, and rear), and to anchor the walls, roof, and floor structure to each other and to the chassis.

Model year 2007 includes a new cutting-edge method for constructing slideouts, which now can number up to four per coach. The slideouts incorporate tubular aluminum vacuum-laminated structures, not just molded fiberglass.

Overall, the exterior look of the Phenix is smooth and attractive. The walls and roof are fiberglass, and the front and rear end caps have been strengthened and made more pleasing to the eye. The new rooflines include Foretravel-designed farings that incorporate and visually blend the power awnings with the roofline and the front and rear caps. In addition, the awning has been raised to the top edge of the roofline so that the three roof air-conditioning units are now hidden from view. Even the air horns remain out of sight. All of this creates a clean look.

Standard features on the Phenix are legion, but the options Foretravel offers put the coach in the custom market. The basic model has no slideouts, and the customer specifies the floor plan and number of slideouts desired. The 2007 Phenix is offered in 40-foot (Model 440), 42-foot (Model 442), and 45-foot (Model 445) lengths. All three lengths feature a 10,000-pound tag axle that can be raised when making tight turns or to facilitate backing up. All come with the Cummins 600-horsepower engine, the only engine offered on the Phenix, and with the power and torque ratings noted above, that is about as big as an engine on a motorhome one can get. The Phenix comes with a Firestone air-ride suspension that incorporates 10 air bags and 10 Koni shock absorbers (one per air bag) that are tuned to their specific location on the coach. A computerized air-leveling system is standard.

Electric reels: standard on Foretravel PhenixThe Phenix is an all-electric coach, which is made possible by a Xantrex RS 3,000-watt inverter/charger that can power everything onboard from the house battery pack, except for the roof air conditioners. The standard utility package includes an Onan 12.5-kilowatt diesel generator that comes with an auto-start feature. The RV Quiet Diesel gen set, by Cummins Power Generation, is mounted all the way forward and housed in a quiet box on a sliding tray. The house battery pack includes eight gel-type, deep-cycle batteries. For heating and domestic hot water, the coach has an Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system.

Other standard features are an electric reel for the fresh water hose, an electric reel for the 50-amp shore power line, and the SilverLeaf Total Coach systems monitor.

When a client begins the planning process to create a coach, first he or she chooses the number of slideouts it will have. This process is completed with Foretravel's custom design team, which uses three-dimensional modeling for floor plan design, features, equipment, interior décor, and furnishings. A graphics designer is used to develop the exterior appearance. The coach I reviewed featured four hydraulically powered slides. Each slideout includes a pneumatic seal that forms an airtight boundary.

During my review and road test of a 45-foot Model 445 Phenix, I averaged 5.3 miles per gallon in mostly rural and city driving. The hot, humid August temperatures necessitated that the diesel gen set be kept running to power the three roof air conditioners. The Aqua-Hot system was kept on as well so that hot water would be available for showers. It also needs to be noted that following my review, Foretravel president Lyle Reed took the same coach on a 3,000-mile cross-country trip. At steady-state interstate driving at 70 mph, he compiled a fuel economy figure of 7 mpg.

Foretravel Phenix living areaThis is no lightweight coach, for with a full tank of fuel (200 gallons) and a full tank of fresh water (130 gallons), the Phenix 445 tipped the scales at 43,560 pounds. But it has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 48,300 pounds, so nearly 5,000 pounds of cargo-carrying capacity remained. Amazing. With its Class IV hitch receiver and powerful engine, this unit can tow another 18,000 pounds. That's enough to haul a large SUV, trailer, or boat and stop as necessary with the transmission retarder and all-wheel disc and antilock brakes.

The steering and solid front axle do a nice job at getting the coach turned around. I tried it and liked it. The coach drove very smoothly and the single-piece windshield (introduced in 2006) yielded excellent visibility. The ride is quiet, with little if any road noise, or the kind of noise that often is generated when a large coach pushes its way through the air at freeway speeds.

Fiber-optic cameras (one on each side of the coach) and a 3.5-inch-by-7-inch Panasonic color rear monitor do an excellent job at providing views of the rear and sides of the coach. The rear camera can span 180 degrees and features self-cleaning capability that keeps the resolution good, even when it’s raining. This system is helpful for coach security also, as it enables the coach occupants to monitor all around the coach (day or night) from inside the unit.

When the turn signals are activated, the side fiber-optic cameras are, too, and their views are displayed on the Panasonic monitor. The monitor also is used for the GPS presentation. The copilot has another monitor that is hooked up to the in-motion satellite TV and DVD player as well as the Pioneer GPS system, so he or she can help the driver navigate. The dash instrumentation has been kept simple, but it provides all the performance and operating data a driver will ever need.

Foretravel Phenix dining areaThe driver's seat is mounted on its own air-ride system that cushions and provides comfort, which was especially appreciated during a long day of travel — I liked it a lot.

It seemed to me that the passenger should have access to the switch that controls the stairwell’s pneumatic cover. Instead, the control is located adjacent to the driver, out of the passenger's reach. I was told by a Foretravel representative that the company did this on purpose for liability reasons. In any event, subsequent to my conversation with Foretravel about this, I've learned that the company now offers a passenger-side stairwell control switch, but to keep it inoperable by children, the switch has a special childproof cover.

In the stairwell, one of the steps is hinged along the back to provide access to a clever storage compartment below. I found this to be a good use of space.

The two cockpit seats, by Villa, are elegant and could easily be considered works of art in their own right. The copilot's seat is a full recliner with a power footrest. When turned toward the living area, both seats instantly complement the coach's handsome interior.

Some of the good looks in my test coach came from the liberal use of real cherry wood. It's one of several wood choices available to buyers. In fact, for 2007 it seems the sky's the limit as to the number of surface material types offered.

Foretravel Phenix interiorThe interior of the Phenix exudes beauty, which starts in the living area and galley. As you enter, you may notice that the coach has no permanent dining area; during travel, the table is sequestered in a drawer below one of the leather upholstered sofas. The same is true for the coffee table, which also remains out of the way until a destination is reached and housekeeping is set up. Since no interior living space is lost to a fixed dining table or coffee table, the area gained is considerable.

The only criticism I had regarding the dining table arrangement was that the table was so heavy it took two people to set it up. It is fashioned from Bubinga wood, imported from Africa. I understand that Foretravel is working with the vendor to reduce the weight of the specially designed table and make it even more versatile. I certainly would not want to lose its beauty, for the rich wood tones and skilled craftsmanship that went into creating this functional piece of art (yes, this table is a piece of art) make it desirable.

And Foretravel has done something else that is unusual. The 37-inch flat-screen television is not located above the dash. Because the driver-side slideout is so deep (39 inches), the TV is positioned in an entertainment unit at an angle in the rear corner of the slideout, making it easily viewable from anywhere in the forward end of the coach.

Foretravel Phenix bathroomSimply put, the galley has it all: a two-burner (electric) cooktop; a microwave-convection oven; a 21.6-cubic-foot stainless-steel refrigerator-freezer; Granite Lite brand countertops; and a dishwasher. A huge slide-out pantry offers plenty of room for foodstuffs.

No need to worry about messing up the carpet in this area, for the floor from the front entry to the rear bedroom is covered in lovely ceramic tile set in a herringbone pattern. The splash panels behind the galley countertop areas were dressed with a complementary but different type of tile. This galley is so lovely it could easily be used as a set for a televised cooking show.

The Phenix I reviewed included two water closets located about midcoach. Each toilet area has a cabinet topped by a vessel sink and a counter. The bath area contains a curb-side shower lined with a solid-surface material and another sink. Situated across the hall is a cabinet for a stacked washer-dryer combo, and additional cabinetry.

The Phenix's 32-inch flat-screen TVIn the rear bedroom, the head of the California queen-size bed and side nightstands take up the rear wall of the coach; a fabric headboard adds a designer touch. At the foot of the bed is an ingenious piece of engineering: an island complex that includes a pedestal in which a 32-inch flat-screen television is stored. The TV rises up out of the pedestal for viewing from the bed and also can be swiveled 180 degrees so it can face forward. A table (with chair) sits against this pedestal and can be used as either a desk or vanity. For the latter application, there's a mirror on the back of the TV.

The forward area of the bedroom is occupied by two wardrobes — one on either side of the room, and each in its own slideout. I have never seen as many floor-to-ceiling storage cabinets and drawers in a motorhome. In addition, more storage is available on either side of the head of the bed, and in a cabinet above it.

The lighting system, the power day-night shades, and the windshield shades all feature state-of-the-art push-button controls. The touch pads are backlit; simply by touching them, the back light goes on and the push buttons become visible.

The base suggested retail price of the 2007 45-foot Phenix is $731,620. The final price of my test coach came to $789,601 with the following options: two side-mounted cameras; passenger GPS monitor; rock guard; second MX 950 remote; second HD satellite receiver; stainless-steel appliance package; dishwasher drawer; stacked washer-dryer; two folding chairs; walk-through tile and carpet; 32-inch LCD TV in bedroom; custom TV cabinet with lift; built-in soap dispenser; custom design and engineering.

There are castles, and then there is the Foretravel Phenix. It’s palatial and luxurious; functional; drives and handles very well; and is oh so livable.

Specifications

Manufacturer ... Foretravel Inc., 1221 N.W. Stallings Drive, Nacogdoches, TX 75964; (936) 564-8367; fax: (936) 564-0391; www.foretravel.com
Model ... 2007 45-foot (44-foot-8 1/2-inch) Phenix 445
Floor plan ... custom quad slide
Chassis ... TravelRide Chassis by Foretravel
Engine ... Cummins ISX07 diesel, 600 horsepower, 1,850 pound-feet torque at 1,200 rpm with 2,000 rpm governed speed
Transmission ... Allison 4000 MHPR six-speed with retarder
Axle ratio ... 4.30:1
Tires ... 295/80R22.5
Wheelbase ... 304 inches
Brakes ... all-wheel disc
Suspension ... TravelRide Suspension by Foretravel
Alternator ... 320 amps
Batteries ... chassis — (3); house — (6) 8-D gel-cell with heat probes
Steering ... power
Electrical service ... 50 amps; power cord reel
Inverter ... Xantrex RS 3,000-watt inverter/charger
Auxiliary generator ... 12.5-kilowatt Onan diesel in quiet box
Exterior length ... 44 feet 8 1/2 inches
Exterior width ... 102 inches
Interior height ... 6 feet 9 inches
Exterior height ... 12 feet 2 3/8 inches to top of A/C, without satellite
Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) ... 60,000 pounds
Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) ... 48,300 pounds
Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) ... front — 15,300 pounds; rear — 23,000 pounds; tag — 10,000 pounds
Wet weight as tested ... front — 14,240 pounds; rear — 20,340 pounds; tag — 8,980 pounds; total — 43,560 pounds
Payload as tested ... 4,740 pounds
Construction ... vacuum-laminated steel-frame floor, walls, and roof; aluminum structural members in roof
Insulation ... block foam
Fresh water capacity ... 130 gallons
Holding tank capacities ... black water and gray water — 140 gallons combined
Fuel capacity ... 200 gallons
Fuel requirements ... diesel
Water heater  ... Aqua-Hot hydronic
Heating system ... Aqua-Hot hydronic
Water system  ... demand, Manibloc water distribution system
Air-conditioning ... (3) 15,000-Btu ducted roof units with climate control center
Refrigerator ... 21.6-cubic-foot residential-style
Toilet ... custom order
Warranty ... coach — 18 months or 18,000 miles; chassis — 5 years or 100,000 miles; engine — 5 years or 100,000 miles; transmission — 5 years/unlimited miles
Base suggested retail price ... $731,620
Price as tested ... $789,601

 



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