- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2001

Changes in the RV industry tend to be evolutionary and gradual instead of revolutionary. RV manufacturers don't often produce vehicles that make dramatic and permanent effects on the RV marketplace. So when they do, people take notice.

Fleetwood's Nex-Gen Class A started as a concept model, built for display on the RV and outdoor show circuit, and it incorporates a wide variety of exciting new ideas in motor home design and outfitting. The unit's ASV, (Activity Support Vehicle) designation is a clue to its intended market: active outdoors-oriented people, and especially those among the baby boomers and higher-income Generation X-ers.

We've had a chance to observe people's reactions to this rig, and it seems Fleetwood is right on the money with the overall concept. Non-RV-specific onlookers of all ages are truly excited by this coach. The Nex-Gen is based on a Ford or Workhorse chassis and powered by Ford 6.8-liter V-10 or GM 8.1-liter V-8 gasoline engines. Both chassis have enough capacity to tow a trailer full of all-terrain vehicles, personal watercraft, motorcycles or other toys.

This unit is approximately 29 feet long, a good size (for parking in smaller Forest Service campgrounds or some close-quarters wilderness areas) while still providing comfortable interior living space. Its floor plan is somewhat nontraditional with its large U-shaped rear lounge/dinette that folds down to a bed out back, a feature that was often used in motor homes back in the 1970s and early 1980s. The forward part of the coach includes the more common sofa/bed, a fixed dinette and galley, plus a bath, just ahead of the rear lounge. Its construction is also familiar and time-proven, with aluminum framing, polystyrene insulation, fiberglass end caps and exterior skin. From there on, the Nex-Gen is not your father's or grandfather's motor home.

Bold exterior graphics, custom wheels, an integrated tubular rear bumper, a brush guard with driving lights and a tubular rear multirack all done in bold and colorful finishes create an exciting sports-vehicle image. Even the fiberglass end caps include stylish design elements that make them visually stand out.

Inside, there's rubberized heavy-duty flooring, durable easy-to-clean fabrics and unusual materials throughout. Rich-looking cherry cabinets reflect the type of product quality the baby boomers have come to expect, and the brushed-aluminum handles and accents, plus cargo-net-style restraints, add to the modern side of the rig's nontraditional image.

The driver faces a stylish instrument panel that's designed as something of a stand-alone unit apart from the rest of the dash. It's modern and attractive, yet functional and practical, at the same time. The driver and passenger seats are fitted with attachments for clip-on backpacks on the aft side of the seats, and soft-side glove box and other organizers made of backpack-style fabric add functional and appealing storage space.

Naturally, there's a full array of the electronic goodies people would expect in such a rig. There's a top-end AM/FM/CD audio system up front along with a Panasonic DVD surround-sound system, a 20-inch TV forward and a 13-inch TV in the rear lounge. To aid campsite communications, a set of four rechargeable FM family-frequency two-way radios is standard. A satellite TV system is optional.

The dinette and other furniture components are framed in anodized aluminum tube and upholstered in modular-style cushions and padding. A combination of stainless-steel and black-accent appliances creates a contemporary image inside.

Next to the galley, a pegboard-style kitchen implement rack is widely adjustable and holds the cook's tools at close reach. Despite its unusual appointments and design, the Nex-Gen is still a fully functional RV. Its standard capacities include 50 gallons of freshwater, 29 and 24 gallons each gray and black water, respectively; a 6-gallon water heater, and 60 gallons of fuel for the Workhorse chassis and 75 gallons of fuel for the Ford chassis.

Some features on the Nex-Gen concept coach are a bit out in left field for practical day-to-day use, but as a "conceptual idea" rig, the package is first-rate.

Fleetwood plans to produce and sell the Nex-Gen coach sometime during the 2002 model year. The final version will likely be toned down somewhat from what visitors have seen on the show circuit. It's still a safe bet, though, that the Nex-Gen will be the most exciting new Class A product in a long time, and it will be interesting to see how it flies in the market and affects the RV industry in general.


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