Saturday morning arrived and I was all set for a day of football and family time but much to my displeasure Mom and Dad disappeared again for the vast majority of the day. When they finally stumbled in the door some seven hour after they departed, they were tired and out of sorts. I’ve decided to take a back seat in this post because I know my parents moods and they are bummed.
Friday, of last week, I called La Mesa RV in Tucson and verified that the Big Country 3900FLP (the only one in the state) was still on lot and would be available on Saturday. I then asked that the unit be turned on and the lights on Saturday morning and the patio extended so that we could get a more realistic view of the unit. They agreed and sure enough come Saturday morning the unit was there and waiting for us just like I had requested. So far, this was a VASTLY different experience than with their counterparts in Phoenix. The very nice salesmen even left us alone to talk and discuss things without interference.
Overall our first impression was fabulous, the light from the sliding glass door and the patio combined to make a great fifth wheel experience. There is plenty of internal storage for just about everything I could reasonably think of bringing. There is room for Pickles to hang out in the kitchen, in the living room, and on the patio. The patio is perfection. Not only could Pickles be easily rolled out there in his cage but both dogs could lay on the deck on sun themselves and there would still be plenty of room for me to curl up and read. Dave could see everyone from his desk at the kitchen table and thus wouldn’t be too far from the action so to speak.
The double slide out in the bedroom makes it feel huge. The ability to walk around the king size bed without tripping over your feet, or someday Wally’s sprawled sleeping self in the middle of the night, is huge. The large window in the bedroom lets in a ton of light which also helps add to the feeling of spacious living. The under bed storage was also extremely nice.
The bathroom was probably the least favorite thing. There was plenty of headroom in the shower for Dave, who at 6’2 doesn’t always fit in RV showers. I was surprised at how cramped the bath was. Everything you need was there but it felt super tiny and you definitely would not be drying off comfortably in the shower. Note to self: shower with the coach blinds down to prevent scaring any potential neighbors!
The patio is the huge selling point for this model and it doesn’t disappoint. The awning on the coach completely covers the patio which is perfect. It is large enough for dining al fresco, reading, bird sunning, dog lounging and avoiding the creepy crawlies that roam on the ground. It is truly the selling point. We both love the patio.
Now for the problems, which were made all the more evident when we once again went to the RV Show on Sunday and walked through various other fifth wheels from Heartland and the competition. We are hoping that the issues noted below are isolated incidents with this particular unit and not representative of the 3900FLP build quality overall.
This the the kitchen corner desk/table countertop corner facing the kitchen. On a brand new, built in August 2015, the countertop is lifting away from the wall. It is a visible gap and the slightest pressure from above makes the gap more apparent while some slight pressure from below stabilizes the structure (as Dave learned below). Now, Dave already devised a potential solution if we should experience this issue but overall, it was unexpectedly poor build quality.
Same area, this time on the wall next to the sliding glass door.
There are also issues with the wood lamination in the bedroom.
And the furniture in the living was not up to the level of comfort we’ve come to expect from Heartland, this was made even more apparent after Sunday afternoon. It’s decent to look at but there would be no curling up in the sofas and losing yourself in a good book. The recliners weren’t all that comfortable as well. We realize that everyone’s definition of comfort varies but this particular coach appears to have gotten the least comfortable furniture ever.
The entertainment center and fireplace were extremely nice. Roomy cabinets that will easily accommodate the XboxOne with plenty of room for books and games. But why is the stereo front and center? It is an eyesore, all blue and glowy. If it had been recessed or behind a glass cabinet I would be much happier. Yes, I can live with it but it is an eyesore that isn’t present on the Big Country 3800 which is the almost exact same floor plan without the patio.
Overall, we love the 3900FLP in concept and design but we have a lot of questions to get answered from the factory about build quality and design. We have conflicting answers from the factory and dealer on axles. We have generator issues to be resolved. Needless to say, we won’t be purchasing the one sitting on the lot in Tucson. The price is good but there are too many issues that were noticed by us on a general viewing walk through to be comfortable purchasing that particular model. We know things jar loose or break with time, travel and use.
Conversation with Heartland and Ourselves
After we viewed the coach and spent Sunday looking at other coaches at the RV Show, we had questions and concerns which we raised directly with Heartland. Marie Pennington is our customer service point of contact and Joel Eberlein is the General Manager for the Big Country model line. Marie and Joel were both extremely helpful in addressing our concerns and tracking down answers for us. Customer service has been excellent and deserves public praise in an industry that often overlooks customer satisfaction.
The 3900FLP received a design update this fall and the above living room picture is no longer representative of what the new models look like for the 2016 product line. With Heartland’s permission, we are sharing the new living room which directly addresses our concerns. The stereo is no longer an eyesore and the color scheme is much improved. The sofas also look like the ones we sat in on the Big Country 3800 over the weekend which are a significant improvement over the ones on the FLP we walked through.
Heartland is confident that the lamination and cabinet issues we found on our walkthrough could be addressed and solved during the PDI by the dealer. Dave and I are both of the same mind, if they exist when we order and do our PDI those are both reasons for which we would refuse to accept delivery of the coach. One is cosmetic which will drive me bonkers once I notice it and one is structural. We both understand that the countertop issue may reoccur with wear and tear but new from the factory, it should not be present.
Our other big concerns, were the axles and whether or not our current mattress would fit. The FLP comes standard with 7,000 pound axles and our dealer told us that 8,000 pound axles were an option. This has been confirmed by Joel and has eliminated our weight concerns for cargo carrying capacity entirely. Marie has also confirmed this morning that our mattress will fit the clearance needed for the double slides in the bedroom. I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled that made us both.
Barring a radical change of circumstances, we have made up our minds. Come early first quarter we will be placing our custom order for the Big Country 3900FLP. It is the best fit for our needs. If gives us so much extra space with the attached patio. Pickles, Wally, and Sangria can all sun themselves without worrying about creepy crawlers. Dave has space to work and we all have space to relax, cook, read comfortably, and game. So, after the holidays are over the decluttering and downsizing will begin in earnest as we prepare to transition to fulltime this summer when our lease ends.