2009 Forest River Cedar Creek Silverback Review
Familiar fifth wheel gets a makeover
Outside design changes have to do with the flattening of the roofline, a new molded rear cap with LED taillights and the adoption of a new “Areonose” – which is strangely square and not aerodynamically rounded as the name implies – though it is said to have improved air shedding ability. The body of the new trailer has smooth sidewalls, while auto-style “frameless windows”, are tinted and offer an overall slippery look to the unit.
Right off the top, a key change, for those of you who own (or want to buy) short bed pickups to tow with – is an extended pin design that does not require any special sliding hitch. Instead with the pin arm reaching forward a standard fifth wheel hitch placed over the axle of a short bed pickup will still offer up to 90-degrees of turning radius. This feature can save you a whack of cash and frankly it is the direction the whole industry should be taking.
Along with this new look; this three-slide unit comes with two floorplans – one for the empty-nesters and the other a bunkhouse setup for folks with kids at home. I took out the kid-friendly design.
The key difference is the bunkhouse adds a second hard-door bedroom to the rear of the trailer – while the empty-nester unit is completely open with a picture window and recliners in place of the bunks.
This bunkhouse, though, is a bit different than most. For one thing one set of bunks folds flat onto the rear wall, while the other set are built into the slideout. With the bunks left folded up this creates a large open space – with a door – where kids can get away by themselves. Here a large built-in wardrobe is flanked by a spot for a TV and other entertainment devices – cable and power outlets are conveniently placed for setting up electronic distractions.
What really emphasizes the design direction of the Silverback are the kitchen counters that have radius corners and the overhead cabinets match this detail. Pot lights are also new, illuminating this updated kitchen look – this detail was what struck me first. But, some things remain the same – with an old-school dinette table that is supported by two legs that have to be removed before the table top can be dropped to seat height to form the bed frame. On the other hand the fold-out couch is of the new inflatable type – with the bag stowed behind the couch leaving a full-length pull-out drawer underneath.
The Kitchen in this unit is nicely designed – pleasant to look at and efficient to use. As mentioned the L-shaped counter has rounded radius corners with cabinets above that mimic the shape – nice. Note, these cabinets do not go all the way to ceiling – they’d be a bit hard to use anyway because of the height. Appliances include a three-burner stove with an oven and a rangehood and microwave overhead. The fridge/freezer is a built-in and the pantry makes use of the available height by going floor to ceiling. The twin sinks have a tall goose-neck swivel faucet and a separate pull-out hand sprayer. One of the sinks has a cover that doubles as a cutting board.
Flooring is embossed linoleum – which looks like tile. It covers the kitchen, entrance, bath and rear bunkroom – all the high traffic areas really – leaving carpet for the master bedroom only.
AC is on a single line with four roof vents only – one in each separate space. Heat on the other hand is ducted through the bottoms of the cupboards using aluminum foil piping (which is exposed in places, creating a danger of tears if something hits it.) Cooling is helped with the addition of a standard ceiling fan in the Living Room.
The focal point of this Living Room is the entertainment centre which is a built-in unit with glass doors covering a series of shallow shelves above which is a large flat-screen TV and a DVD player. Sound for the 32” TV (and any stereo you might add) is piped through five speakers ceiling mounted in a surround-sound pattern in the LR. At the base of this built-in is a panel covering the main fuse box. This is nice easy, open access. Power and cable wiring is, of course, in the cabinet – as is pre-wired satellite access – my only question is why do I have to see it? Why not have it tucked away behind the TV or a panel?
Up front the access to the bedroom is through a side aisle floorplan, that also opens to the full bath. This means that even with the slides closed the bathroom is not cut-off (this is something everyone who is thinking of a fifth wheel should think off – a quick on-the-road rest-stop should not require you to extend a slide). The all-in-on bath is large, with a sliding door, one-piece tub surround with a spot to sit and a nice corner cupboard as well as the standard under sink and medicine cabinet storage. It of course has a power vent.
The bedroom comes with a standard queen size bed that lifts for storage underneath. The head of the bed is what is set in the slide – it has windows, but these do not open. Instead a window on the opposite wall opens as does a single roof vent. Personally I like more air than this. Lighting above the bed comes from two pivoting fixtures, but there is just one tiny built-in nightstand. Clothes stored in the full-width closet in the nose benefit from the new Areonose design I mentioned – as the square shape means you can use real hangers – not the cut-off doll hangers needed in some units where the back wall of the closet is rounded.
Storage in any fifth wheel is important, whether you’re a snowbird or a family with bikes (that eat up a huge space no matter what you do). The Silverback has decent access to its underfloor storage which is surfaced with an easy-clean rubber matt and ample D-rings for tie downs. This space is heated and fresh and waste water tanks are also insulated and heated down below here.
This front storage is a split-level design with the spare tire and two pull-out plastic trays (these are loose however – no tracks) in the front part. At the rear of the storage space a partition wall hides the electric, plumbing and hydraulic lines.
Now, while out of sight is out of mind, I know that sooner or later you (or your service tech) will need access to this area – and while there is an access hatch – it’s really flimsy. Furthermore, I saw wiring and plastic lines running hither and there without rhyme or reason. I wish manufacturers would clean these messes up and neatly arrange these service areas. I should add though that some do – and while I have been accused of being anal about organizing and neatly stowing wiring and plumbing I hold that in the long run it saves money because service people charge by the hour; the quicker they find and fix a problem the cheaper it is.
Slides and landing gear are hydraulically driven and a nice feature is the ability to run both from outside at the same spot – no need to go inside to extend the slides. This idea carries over to the dump station as well, where all the controls are available in the same area.
Towing the new Silverback with the Dodge Ram 3500 single-wheel pickup I had on loan from Dodge Canada was a pleasure. That, of course, is as much a result of the ride and power offered by the diesel powered Ram as it was the new design of the trailer. In fact, because the truck was a short bed it came equipped with a sliding fifth wheel, but I left it blocked (this prevented it from moving) and with the new forward pin design it wound its way in and around parking lots easily. As a quick note: the Ram was equipped with an instant fuel consumption readout and on extended flat towing at 55 mph the Cummins was getting about 11 mpg.
Pricing on this unit is aggressive (about $50,000), which soothes some of my negative design observations, but I still hold that while Forest River is heading in the right direction they can still add more value to the series – I expect they will.