2008 Forest River Wildcat Review

Lightweight fifth wheel a perfect fit for a half-ton pickup

By Howard J Elmer, Sep. 22, 2008, Photography by Howard J Elmer
A new breed of fifth wheel, specifically built to be handled by conventional half-ton pickups, may well be the replacement for the Class C motorhome. Similar in size, with similar amenities, these fifth wheels are a perfect match for the single most popular vehicle in North America; and if you discount the price of the truck (because you need transportation anyway) then the overall price is less too.

Forest River builds several versions of these light fifth wheels; among them the Wildcat that I tested and towed with a 2007 Toyota Tundra pickup. It’s rated to tow 10,800 lb while the payload is pegged at 1,900 lb (not really half-tons anymore are they). The 28-foot Wildcat has a dry weight of 6,536 lb – which hardly strained the Tundra. And if you do add a hefty 4,500 lb of water, gear, groceries and your rock collection you’ll have arrived at the trailer’s max GVWR and that of the truck. A nice match. 

Forest River uses aluminum framed side-walls; wooden roof trusses and fiberglass exterior skin to (1) keep the weight down (2) keep the price down. In keeping with its mission to provide a sharp value the Wildcat uses a mix of building techniques in its construction while inside the manufacturer provides the basics – and leaves all the extras on the options list.  This formula is a Wildcat strength and benefits the value-conscious buyer. 

Inside the entry opens into a rear lounge setup with two rocker-swivel chairs set on either side of a table that has outlets for phone and power and a large picture window above. Inside the box-like table is the furnace that pumps heat straight up the middle of the trailer through in-floor duct work. This heat is also directed at the enclosed holding tanks – effectively offering an extended camping season. Two-inch block foam is used to insulate the storage area which of course offers seepage protection against heat (and cold) loss through the floor of the bathroom.

The Air conditioning is roof mounted and is diffused through the ceiling. A nice feature (that is optional) is the flush mounted ceiling fan placed at the highest point in the trailer – it will move both heat and cold air.

The Wildcat’s single slideout is large and deep, holding a hide-a-bed couch and a freestanding dinette with four chairs.  The table has a pull-out extension. This is handy for more than just dining because counter space in the kitchen is at a premium despite the clip-on counter extender.   

The focal point of the living room is the entertainment center that can hold a conventional or flat-screen TV. Built into this cabinet is the standard 5.1 Dolby CD, AM/FM/DVD/TV that provides surround sound as well as speaker range selector for moving sound into the bedroom or even outside. Also outside (between the speakers) is a TV cable and electrical outlet.

The Wildcat line has been around for a few years, but new for 2007 are several upgrades - among them - the addition of radius corners on the upper cabinets, drawer fronts and raised panels on all living-room cabinets.   Another feature I noticed is that décor-wise the new accent color seems to be Nickel. The Wildcat gets Nickel finish door handles, hinges, range vent, wall clock and carpet bar. This all matches nicely with light colored hardwood and a new black range cover.

For flooring Forest River is using a new Armstrong “Toughguard Linoleum” (which includes a stand-alone five-year warranty) in all current Wildcats. But, the best new feature has to be the hydraulic landing gear. Frankly, I expected this upgrade and though it’s still an option (at a cost of $250.) its well worth it.

Forest River uses a rack &pinion slideout mechanism that is hydraulically powered, so taking that power and using it for the landing gear was a no-brainer. The key advantage is speed – this system moves up to ten times faster than an electrically actuated system.

The bedroom on this trailer offers a Queen bed with two night tables that also double as wardrobes. Headroom here is 6’4” and I noted several A/C ceiling vents – otherwise this would be the hottest spot in the trailer. Two large side windows should offer a good cross-breeze and a nice feature is a laundry chute into the basement storage hamper that is accessed from the right side cargo door.  Speaking of nice features – taking the garbage out just got easier with a separate outside door for removing a nice sized garbage container that sits below a covered cutout in the kitchen countertop. This makes getting the garbage in and out easy. It even sits atop a shelf that leaves space to store garbage bags so switching out liners is even more convenient.  Hey, maybe the kids will even fight over who gets to take the garbage out.

The kitchen features a new pan-a-view window (nice name for a bigger window) set above the sink between the stovetop and extended counter. Nice touches include wood grain refrigerator fronts, a pull-out pantry and a decent amount of drawer and cupboard space. What you will notice though is the lack of finishing inside the cupboards – I suppose this is a nod towards economy – but personally I don’t want to see screws, glue and bare plywood.

Following a trend that has become well established the bathroom area is large and bright with a corner glass-door shower, oval sink, counter, medicine cabinet and a wardrobe across the isle.  The toilet is across the hall in its own hard-door room and its porcelain. This space is vented with a 10-inch Fantastic Fan that can move 1000 cubic feet of air a minute.     

Outside the Wildcat comes with a standard rear mounted ladder for access to the roof which is covered in 3/8” (walk-on) decking and a one-piece rubber roof. My tester had an outside shower- a good option. 

I mentioned the speed of the hydraulic landing gear – which of course speeds hookup – but I should also mention the work light in this area and the new Trailair Equa-flex equalizer on the trailer axles. This product reduces road shock that normally travels from the suspension through the truck. Towing the Wildcat was quite smooth compared to older product I’ve tested. If you were to add a shock-absorbing pin box (there are several aftermarket products out there now) I suspect you wouldn’t feel the trailer at all.

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