Heartland Recreational Vehicles has been making its mark as of late, and the company is turning more than heads by making available its patented Improved Turning Radius design on its 2011 Sundance line of mid-profile fifth-wheel trailers. Along with a plurality of wheels, the design abandons the conventional right angles on the front cap and adopts
recessed, contoured corner edges to allow for sharper turns, engineering the company claims will allow for tighter turns – as much as 88 degrees – when towing fifth-wheels with shortbed pickups.
The incorporation of this design into the Sundance line is no doubt
timely, with the ongoing popularity of shortbed pickups leading to more people towing
fifth-wheels with less distance between the front cap of the fiver and the cab of the truck
– with potentially serious and expensive results when the two make contact. The design
looks good, too, which is attributed to its laminated side-wall construction and
understated graphics package.
For a closer look at what Heartland has to offer, we tested
the Sundance 2900MK on a trip to Ventura Ranch KOA (www.koa.com, 805-933-3200), located in
the scenic foothills of the Heritage Valley, a pristine agricultural region in Southern
California. The fifth-wheel towed well behind the pickup on the freeway and while
maneuvering through the campground.
Stepping into the 2900MK, the tallest member of our
group had to duck to avoid hitting the door frame. But once inside, we immediately noticed
a clean airiness about the interior, an impression likely fostered by the Mocha décor, one
of four interior choices for this unit. And although this model is one of the smallest in
the lineup at just less than 32 feet, its three slideouts make a huge difference when it
comes to livable space, stretching the kitchen, living room and bedroom.
It seems there’s a
function for every nook and cranny in this fiver, either as livable space or hidden storage
opportunities. A perfect example is the nicely crafted mirrored closet just right of the entry. Functioning as a full-length mirror, it also inconspicuously houses the mechanical controls for the entire rig and can be used to store miscellaneous items or to hang jackets and umbrellas.
Good overhead lighting is liberally placed throughout and enhances the crisp look of the décor. For daytime, the sun is the main source of light, admitted by the seven windows that wrap around from the rear to the streetside living area, the three windows in
the front bedroom, a translucent ceiling vent in every room and a skylight dome over the shower. The huge streetside slideout in the back adds 3 feet 2 inches of depth across an 11-foot 1-inch span. It holds the dinette and the sofa bed, the latter of which won us over with its cool storage drawer underneath and very comfy air mattress that inflates with a switch. The sofa is a part of the Sundance Package ($6,163), an option that adds and enhances features throughout the unit.
We decided to cozy up in the Euro swivel rockers ($399) while watching the happenings outside the sizeable rear window, and later turned the
chairs around to watch the 32-inch LCD TV ($869) from across the room. Though the 2900MK isn’t a true luxury fifth-wheel, it does have quality comforts and finishing touches that
might make you think otherwise. The cabinetry structure throughout is all Amish-crafted hardwood, made with attention to detail. The trim work is classy, the ceiling fan is elegant, the cabinet doors are solid and the full-extension drawers are sturdy, easily
gliding in and out with their steel ball-bearing guides. There’s even oak paneling on the refrigerator door, one of the many enhancements found in the Sundance Package.
This type of attention to detail trickles down to the freestanding dinette and four high-back chairs, a nice $363 option. Lift up the seat of a chair and a storage cubby large enough for a board game, placemats or small valuables is hidden within each. More cubbies line the living area above the windows all around.
Just left of the entry there is a larger overhead cabinet with a spice rack and a kitchen peninsula with a dual-basin sink. The radiused solid-surface countertops are a “forced option” (a phrase that’s becoming more popular in the industry; “forced option” is a pricing game but really means “standard equipment” ) that tacks on $1,008 to the base price. Forced or not, we like the countertops, believing they added beauty to the room, not to mention durability.
The galley also includes numerous places to store utensils, dishes, food and the like with its many drawers, cabinets and a
pantry. Add a three-burner stove, small oven, microwave and 8 cubic-foot refrigerator and
the room rivals many residential kitchens. These appliances along with the pantry are
housed in the 8-foot-long curbside slideout.
Counter space and appliances certainly aren’t lacking for the kitchen; rather, it’s the floor space that demands no more than one at a time. Yet having the open peninsula in the layout allowed us to make do with all of the kitchen helpers chopping and mixing while standing outside of the galley, a “forced option” that worked nicely when making meals.
Interior and exterior speakers allowed us to enjoy music from the AM/FM/CD/DVD player, also part of the Sundance Package. But with the stove on and the family moving about, we agreed to close the door and turn on the air conditioner. It’s located to the rear, which efficiently cools the interior by blowing air forward as opposed to blowing it in multiple directions. It’s also an interesting placement
in that, due to the lower height of the rear of the fifth-wheel, it doesn’t much alter the overall exterior height of the fifth-wheel.
The unit remained at a comfortable temperature
even up front, which is separated from the living area with steps and an accordion door.
Stepping up into the walk-through bathroom suite, the toilet is mounted behind a solid door
to the right in its own small – but large enough – room, and to the left a nicely sized
frosted neo-angle shower and open vanity with basin. The layout of the bathroom even works
well when leaving camp, because that’s the only room accessible when the slides are closed.
An additional accordion door separates the bathroom area from the bedroom, which covers the entire front of the unit. A queen-size bed with a comfortable pillow-top mattress ($326) takes up most of the room, and a mirrored closet that lines the front wall makes the room look larger than it is. Though the closet is of decent size, it’s difficult to get to it, considering the bed snugs up so close and the ceiling is only 5 feet 9 inches. However, for
sleeping and minimal time spent in the room, we had no complaints.
The bedroom also contains shelves, a wardrobe and a quality wood-crafted dresser with four large drawers – not so typical for fifth-wheels of this price. More typical is the large storage area under the bed. Just next to the bed is a nifty laundry chute that allows access to the large pass-through exterior storage area below.
Among the outside compartments, we were impressed with the universal docking center, another perk that’s included in the Sundance Package. This concealed compartment holds all of the holding-tank valve handles, the winterization valves, exterior shower, satellite/cable/data/ phone hookups, etc., making all of unit’s system hookups conveniently located in one easy-to-reach spot.
Packing to leave, we appreciated the electric rear stabilizer jacks ($493) as much as we did when we first arrived at our campsite. From beginning to end, the Sundance 2900MK held up well to our solid test of towing, livability and overall enjoyment.
Heartland Recreational Vehicles
LLC, (574) 262-5992, www.heartlandrvs.com.