It has been several years since we had the opportunity to cruise the RV roads to adventure in a Holiday Rambler class A motorhome, and we were looking forward to seeing how this venerable brand has been reborn as a division of the REV RV Group.
Over the years, the Holiday Rambler brand has one of the blue-chip marques in the RV industry. When we created Camping Canada’s RV Lifestyle Magazine in 1971, Holiday Rambler was one of the leading brands in the RV industry, with a history dating back to 1953. In 1961, the company created the first aluminum framed travel trailer, and this leading-edge technology kept the brand at the top of the RV industry for more than 40 years. In 1986 Holiday Rambler became a division of Harley-Davidson, and in 1996 the company was sold to the Monaco Coach Corporation, which became a division of Navistar in 2010. In 2013, the company was sold to Allied Specialty Vehicles, which became the REV Group in 2015.
Today, the REV Group, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of bus, emergency, recreation and specialty vehicles, with 21 manufacturing facilities, 30 vehicle brands and approximately 7,400 REV employees across the United States producing more than 20,000 vehicles per year, including ambulances, fire trucks, commercial buses, yard trucks, street sweepers, and wheelchair accessible vans, The REV Recreation Group operating out of Decatur, IN, builds travel trailers, truck campers and Class A, B and C motorhomes, with divisions producing several of the best-known RV brands, including Holiday Rambler, Monaco Coach, American Coach, Fleetwood RV, Renegade RV, Midwest Automotive Designs, and Lance Camper.
There has always been a special allure to the Holiday Rambler class A motorhomes, with elegant interiors, excellent engineering, and a range of features based on decades of RV camping experience distinguishing the brand from many of the competitors. While the brand has certainly had some ups and downs over the years, we were very interested to see how the REV RV Group has enhanced the Holiday Rambler line for 2019.
We contacted Bruno Tombari, of Bella Vista RV in Oro-Medonte, Ontario, about an hour drive north of Toronto, and arranged to road test the 2019 Holiday Rambler Vacationer 35K, a luxury gas powered motorhome built on a 22,000-pound Ford chassis.
Bella Vista is the sole Ontario dealership for Holiday Rambler, and they have been selling the 2019 35K since its early introduction in March 2018. Bella Vista brings in many of their Holiday Rambler motorhomes with the full technology package and a range of optional equipment, as these units appeal to the full-timers, and there are significant advantages to having the most desirable options installed at the factory.
We found the overall design and construction of this coach to be excellent, bringing the quality of the new Holiday Rambler era back to the level that was legendary in the best years of the brand. Fit and finish were outstanding, and the choice of components and materials were superb, especially at a price point that makes this coach considerably more affordable than you might imagine.
Our test vehicle was the new Vacationer 35K, one of five floorplans in this Class A gas motorhome line. This has been a very popular model, and a best-seller for Bella Vista RV.
The Vacationer 35K rides on a Ford F-53 chassis powered by a 6.8L Triton V10 gas engine producing 320 HP and 457 lb.-ft of torque. The unit has a TorqShift® 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive and tow/haul mode. The Vacationer is equipped with a class III hitch and 7-pin electrical hookup. The 175 Amp alternator keeps the 72-amp chassis batteries charged – there are four 6V heavy duty chassis batteries on board.
The Vacationer comes with a suspension that is usually seen on diesel coaches – the front and rear suspensions are tapered multi-leaf designs, Bilstein 1.63-in. diameter shocks are top-rated, and the coach has front and rear stabilizer bars as standard equipment. With plenty of power, excellent brakes and power steering, this is one of the better handling class A gas coaches on the road today.
In the Cockpit
You will enjoy a very comfortable driving experience when you slide into the captain’s and navigator’s chairs in the Vacationer. The captain’s chair reclines and swivels and features 6-way power controls. The navigator’s chair has a manual footrest, reclining back, and swivel base. Both seats have armrests, cup holders, and convenient lighting.
Your driving comfort is supreme, thanks to in-dash A/C, heat, and a full set of roller shades – automatic for the main windshield day/night shade, and manual shades for the side windows. The instrument cluster is clear and easy to read, and there are two monitor screens – the 6” backup and side closed circuit monitor screen is just below your line of sight to the driver’s side view mirror, and the 6.2” GPS and entertainment system screen is to the right of the tilt steering wheel. The system in our test unit was a Kenwood touch screen model, with AM/FM/CD/DVD/Bluetooth/MP3/ and USB features, plus cell phone controls and Siri Eyes Free. The system is navigation ready, utilizing your cell data, and the radio is Sirius/XM ready, but you must provide your own subscription to the service. Our test unit was fitted with the optional 6.95” Kenwood motorized tilt screen radio system with all the bells and whistles.
The 2019 Holiday Rambler is built on a custom designed Ford chassis, with a powder coated raised steel frame foundation that provides pass-through basement storage. This gives the coach a profile similar to what you would expect to see in a diesel motorhome, with lots of headroom inside, and very generous underfloor storage compartments. The coach has an aluminum framed arched roof design with a flat interior ceiling, which results in 5” of insulation space at the roof peak, where the air conditioning ducts for the dual roof-mounted 15,000 BTU A/C units run. This assures efficient climate control for year-round comfort, and results in a very quiet A/C system. The new roof mount A/C models with chill grill and rear heat pump are quite impressive. The 34,000 BTU furnace completes your climate control system.
The Vacationer features a Five-Point Build System™ with a steel bridge, aluminum framing, vacu-bond interlocking joints and weather resistant materials. The floor and roof Powerframes™ are joined with an Interlocking Powerlock System™ for a precise and seamless fit. The Vacu-Bond™ walls are joined to the welded aluminum frame in an adhesive bonding process that applies 415,000 pounds of vacuum pressure, creating a sandwich with bead foam insulation for climate control and a Tuff Coat fiberglass skin for durability. Insulation values are R8 for the sidewalls, R10 for the roof, and R9 for the floor. The exterior wall is finished with a premium gel exterior Vetrosina fiberglass skin with no wood substrate.
The Vacationer 35K has two slide-outs featuring tapered box tops and debris awnings. The slide ramps are aluminum extrusions, which should provide years of trouble-free operation, and the slides are triple-sealed to reduce the effects of dirt and moisture.
There are many top-quality components of the Holiday Rambler Vacationer that are not often noted by RV shoppers: for example, the company uses Tuff-Pex plumbing with Oetiker tubing, fittings, and stainless-steel rings – this is the optimum choice for vehicles that will be used in sub-zero weather conditions. Holiday Rambler also uses insulated metallic A/C ducting running the full length of the coach, and the flush-mount dual-pane frameless windows have a special Dryseal™ edge coating to seal out moisture.
Our test vehicle featured large cargo storage areas with seamless, insulated cargo doors that were easy to open and easy to close. The doors are equipped with gas shocks and full-length hinges, and the Rotocast-molded cargo compartments are well lit and easily maintained. The fresh water and holding tank compartments are heated and enclosed, and there is full coverage heavy-duty undercoating, which makes this coach a prime choice for our Canadian RV lifestyle. The legless electric patio awning with LED lighting has a sensor that will automatically retract the awning in windy conditions.
Decor and design
Our test unit features full-body paint with UV protection. The colour scheme for this model is “Atlas”.
We really like the aerodynamic styling, with a fiberglass front cap featuring one-piece windshield and automotive lighting, and a rear fiberglass cap, also featuring automotive style lighting. The rear cap has a ladder with a detachable lower section, so you can choose when your family or guests can have access to the roof… many people use these coaches at events where the rooftop becomes a seating area – this is quite feasible, but please note that you may be responsible if someone falls from the roof!
Loaded with Options!
Our test unit was equipped with many of the most popular options, including a Splendide washer/dryer combo, and Eurolift drop-down bed along with some great standard features including a 3-burner drop-in range.
Bella Vista brings in most of their Vacationer models with the optional technology package – this includes a 160W solar panel, Kenwood collision avoidance alerts, Kenwood radio, Bluetooth speaker, Wi-Fi extender and cell booster.
The coach was equipped with an Illumaplex electronics system, a multiplex wiring control system with App control, as well as push button controls for lights, slide-outs, and a variety of RV systems, all placed in clusters just where you need them – at the entry, in the bedroom and bathrooms, and at key positions throughout the vehicle. There was also a Matrix HDMI control box, so you can watch different TV shows on each of the LED TV monitors – at the front of the coach, in the living room, in the bedroom, and on the patio. The coach features energy efficient 3” LED flush mount ceiling lights and under-cabinet reading lights.
The master bedroom has a very comfortable king size bed, with lots of space to walk around the mattress. The L-shaped lounge converts into a very comfortable sleeping position, and the dinette drops down to form another bed. The optional Hide-A-Loft™ queen size drop-down front bed has a 500-lb capacity and can be accessed with relative ease by hooking the ladder to the bed frame. A privacy curtain attaches to loop fasteners in the ceiling. This gives the vehicle a sleeping capacity of six adults.
In the Campground
Parking the Vacationer is a breeze thanks to the rear and side view monitor system, and once you have landed in your campsite, it is a simple matter of setting the parking brake and touching the controls of the four point fully automatic hydraulic levelling jack system. Once you have levelled the coach, you can hook up your water, sewer cable TV and electric system – all the water-based hookups are located in one convenient compartment, and your electric and TV hookups are in another service bay. Once these connections are made, you just press a button to extend each of your electric slide-out sections.
The Vacationer 35K is a tailgating paradise, with the exterior entertainment centre featuring a 40” LED TV with AM/FM/CD/DVD/Bluetooth and two speakers, all housed behind a flip-up compartment cover, so your gear is protected from the weather and jealous strangers.
If you are in an area where there is no cable TV hookup, or if you prefer to use your own technology, the Vacationer features a Unidirectional King Controls Jack TV Antenna. A King Controls auto-locating stationary satellite system with dish receivers is standard. Please check coverage areas with your local RV dealer to be sure this system will be operational in the regions you plan to visit.
Our test vehicle was equipped with a 5500 Onan generator, which has an auto start function, so you can be sure that you won’t lose power to your refrigerator if your coach batteries run down in a dry camping situation. The Vacationer electrical system features 50 AMP service with a 60 AMP power converter and a single 2000w pure sine inverter.
The Vacationer 35K features an expandable L-shape sofa, facing a 40” LED TV and electric fireplace. Floorplan options include optional theatre seating. The dinette is a facing booth design with “dream dinette” table that folds down to let you convert the dinette into a sleeping area. The furnishings and seating are from Flexsteel – one of the top names in RV interior components.
In the Galley
We really like the configuration of the galley in this unit, with ample counterspace, twin deep undermount stainless steel sinks, and the optional dropped in three-burner range. The solid surface countertop is attractive and durable, and there are lots of drawers and cabinets in the galley, and a great pull-out pantry beside the dinette.
The galley in the 35K features one of the most impressive residential refrigerators we have seen in a motorhome – a stainless steel Samsung model with French doors and a huge lower freezer compartment. This complements the stainless steel over the range microwave convection oven, resulting in a very well-equipped kitchen for the serious RV gourmet.
In the Bedroom
The master bedroom features a king size bed with top quality memory foam mattress, in a layout that makes walking around the bed very convenient. Lighting and electronic controls are at your fingertips, and the bedroom includes a wall of cupboards including a cedar closet for hanging garments. Our unit had the optional Splendid washer/dryer combo, a top choice for a vehicle of this type. Like all of the interior drawers and cupboards, the bedroom storage facilities feature full extension drawer guides with travel latches, hidden Euro style hinges, and struts, and solid wood raised panel cabinet doors.
Lounging in the bedroom is not only comfortable, it can be entertaining, thanks to a 32” flat screen LED TV.
The rear ensuite bathroom in the 35K features a residential style porcelain VacuFlush toilet, a vanity with sink, and a fiberglass surround shower with glass doors. The mid-floorplan half-bathroom also features a porcelain toilet, vanity and sink, and a Fantastic power roof vent.
The Bottom Line
The 2019 Holiday Rambler Vacationer 35K is a fresh approach to the brand, engineered and produced by the experts at the REV RV Group. This unit is a substantially different product from the models that have been available in recent years, and a very impressive upgrade in terms of design, selection of components and quality control. It is, in our opinion, the best Holiday Rambler class A gas motorhome that we have seen, and a very welcome return to the legendary HR standard of excellence.