Grand Design takes a favorite floorplan, shrinks the dimensions and weight for easy towing, but retains the livability and comfort
Fifth-wheels offer exceptional versatility in floorplan design, primarily because of generous square footage and room segmentation. This separation of the rooms provides a more residential feel to the interior, which enhances livability. Component placement is critical to livability. Often, furniture, the galley and entertainment arrangements offer great “eyeball” upon initial viewing by potential buyers, who over time end up disappointed after living in their rigs for a while.
For example, we prefer not to watch TV with our heads cocked to one side, which leads to a real pain in the neck. One solution is opposing slides with an entertainment center in the streetside slide and comfortable seating on the curbside. Add in a fireplace, and the scene can be very soothing and conducive to lounging and entertaining. In many cases integration of such a plan requires stretching the length boundaries of the fifth-wheel. The Reflection by Grand Design strikes a balance between length and livability and the result is a relatively lightweight fifth-wheel that looks and lives like a much bigger trailer. The Reflection 303RLS is just shy of 33 feet and features just about all the elements of a similar plan in the company’s line-up that extends beyond 36 feet. What’s missing? A slide for the bed, a front wardrobe and a cabinet for a washer/dryer.
For those looking for a fifth-wheel that’s easy to tow and maneuverable enough to venture into public campgrounds without trepidation, the Reflection 303RLS is brilliant. It’s classy enough to sit proudly in any RV resort, but the décor has just enough of a mountain cabin feel to give occupants a sensation of really getting away from it all. The successful implementation of this popular floorplan into more compact surroundings is not surprising when considering who’s running the company, an enterprise that’s only in its second year. The principles have RV pedigrees that go back many years, including the most recent stints as CEO and executives of Thor Industries, one of the most successful companies in the RV business. These guys have channeled years of knowledge into a new company that concentrates on the customer experience and prides themselves on the ability to get things done efficiently. The result is clearly a fifth-wheel that offers exceptional features and livability at value pricing.
The details tell the story. There are only two options available: a freestanding table and chairs, and dual-pane windows, both of which are important for this fifth-wheel to reach its full livability potential. And there is only one interior décor choice, so that part of the decision-making process is not negotiable. If you’re not into brown, you’ll need to move on.
Actually, I’m not normally that enamored by browns, but the décor in this trailer works well enough to change my mind. Mocha-color leather furniture contrasts nicely against the Beauflor simulated plank flooring and hand-rubbed cabinet doors and solid wood drawer fronts. Oversize windows in the living and dining area suck in the outside scenery to brighten up the interior and add necessary color, but for some, the overall interior may be on the dark side, depending on where the sun is in relation to the parking spot. Nevertheless, multiple incandescent and LED lighting fixtures offset any darkness with aplomb.
The entire back section of this fifth-wheel is the real selling point. Permanent placement of an island counter with dual stainless-steel sinks and high-rise brushed nickel faucet enhance the overall appearance dramatically. The cook has a tremendous amount of counter space to spread out and is surrounded by gobs of storage compartments and drawers. Built into this space are an 8-cubic-foot helium refrigerator, three-burner stove with large oven and a microwave that’s probably too small for most peoples’ tastes. The galley works well because everything is in reach and the cook can easily prepare complicated meals. The front section of the L-shaped kitchen is fitted with a handsome hutch arrangement with a large counter and symmetrically placed cabinetry above; below are more drawers and cabinets. A great amount of food and supplies can be stored in the hutch area alone. Provisions for pots and pans are provided by the large drawer below the range, and more stuff can be held by the other two cabinets and drawer in the area. The counter next to the stove can hold small items while cooking.
But wait — there’s more! Adjacent to the range is a full size door that leads to a gigantic pantry with multiple shelves. The pantry occupies the entire height of the slideout and will encourage owners to take advantage of big-box store sales to fill it up. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the large storage space under the island sink. This is a perfect place for bulky items and a kitchen-type trash container.
“Comfort” is the operative word for the rear living room. The seating arrangement in relation to the entertainment center is as near to perfection as possible. Twin recliners in a love-seat sofa configuration are in clear eyeshot of the entertainment center housed in the tail section of the streetside slideout. Since the recliners are mounted in the opposing slide, the floor space is wide open and ready for a nice throw rug and/or small coffee table. The Ultraleather upholstered recliners are the most comfortable seating we’ve ever experienced in an RV. They have a wall-hugging design and convert to a nearly flat surface with footrests that actually hold up the weight of your legs. There’s no need to drag the recliners away from the wall to fold them out and once they are in their prone position, users will sink into deep comfort. Don’t expect to watch too much TV while in the recliners, especially if the fireplace is on. The two components in the entertainment center are mesmerizing, which makes it almost impossible to stay awake in such a relaxed state. The matching couch across the rear wall converts into a bed for two, but the mechanism keeps the backs a little too straight for our tastes. Still it’s more comfortable than most couches we’ve used in RVs.
A good number of cabinets above the couches and surrounding the TV and fireplace offer sanctuary for lots of supplies. The simulated flame in the fireplace is augmented by a fan system that blows out warm air that’s equal to a small cube heater. Controls adjust fan speed and a timer can be set to turn the heat function off automatically. We used the fireplace to warm up the trailer on chilly mornings when the outside temperature dropped to the mid 40s and it was enough to keep from running the forced air furnace. Good insulation throughout and the Arctic Four Seasons package helped stabilize the interior comfort level.
The last element in the back half of the trailer is the freestanding dinette, which is positioned next to the recliners and adjacent to a picture window. The table is bolted to the floor and there’s enough space to handle four place settings; a drawer that slides out of the end of the table is a nice touch. Under the chair cushions is space for knickknacks and overall the chairs are pretty comfortable to sit on. Carpeting on the slideout floor conceals a slight lip, which keeps the outer chairs from level footing when spaced out for four diners.
Steps up to the front half of the fifth-wheel start at the entry door and lead to a hallway that accesses the bathroom and bedroom. Controls for the slideouts, some lights, gas/electric water heater and the monitor panel are housed behind a cabinet door in the step area; a night light for the steps is another welcome touch.
A door in the hallway leads to the roomy bathroom. The rounded shower with radius shower doors and large skylight is the focal point inside the bathroom. There’s plenty of room for large-frame users and places for soap and shampoo. Adjacent is the porcelain toilet and across from the throne is a right size lavatory with acrylic sink. A large cabinet below the sink and a wood medicine cabinet provide places for all the bathroom essentials. Towels can be stored in the cabinet that moves out with the front wardrobe slideout, located mostly in the bedroom.
The bedroom could be a deal breaker for those who want more room to walk around and pack too many clothes. For our needs there was plenty of space in both categories, but the same plan can be had in the longer model 337RLS, which pushes the bed out in a slide and offers the front wardrobe with washer/dryer space. Those who prefer the shorter rig will appreciate the efficiency of the bedroom. A full queen is perched on a raised platform that flips up to expose a large storage compartment. Walk space may be limited on the curbside of the bed for some, but there’s still enough room to move about and place sheets and blankets.
Space utilization in the bedroom is excellent and the designers left nothing to chance. There’s plenty of room in the overhead cabinets, nightstands on both sides of the bed are big enough for a water glass and book, a shelf above the padded headboard is perfect for small items, light fixtures are positioned on both sides of the bed, two adjustable lights are placed for easy reading and there are 120-volt AC receptacles on both sides for charging electronic devices. Clearly the designers were thinking like owners.
Hang-up clothing can be stored in the double closet in the slideout, next to the shelf and drawers. Obviously, when the wardrobe closet is extended, the bedroom is much more spacious. It also exposes the second entry to the bathroom, via a sliding door, which transforms the area into a mini master suite. There’s only one window in the bedroom so cross ventilation can be achieved by opening the roof vent; an owner-added Fan-Tastic vent will improve airflow. The upside is a room that remains very private and dark at night.
The factory provides a TV location with backing support for those who like to watch in bed. A swing-out bracket will be required, which may restrict the passageway for the person getting out of bed on that side. Creative owners may be able to modify the location to suit their individual needs.
Space allocation for the living areas is well balanced and surprisingly effective for the given exterior dimensions. Fit and finish are good, solid surface countertops are attractive and the fixtures and hardware complement the décor nicely. Support systems are robust, including the 35,000 Btu furnace, 15,000 Btu air conditioner and generous-capacity water and holding tanks.
Construction focuses on four-season livability by featuring healthy doses of insulation within the aluminum framed, laminated walls/floor and the wood framed roof. The front and rear caps are double insulated and radiant foil is used below the holding tanks and wrapped on the frame; the holding tanks are heated via ducting from the furnace, as are the dump valves. Five-inch truss rafters on 16-inch centers are used below 3/8-inch decking, making the roof sturdy enough for walking upon. Thermofoil and fiberglass insulation are used in the roof structure and the top is covered in tan-colored EPDM. A rear-mounted ladder is standard equipment.
Tan gel-coated fiberglass graces the exterior, which is a nice departure from white. Graphics are used sparingly and when combined with the 80 percent tinted windows, give the exterior a very classy appearance. Compartment doors on both sides of the pass-through storage area use slam-latch hardware and are held up by strategically placed magnets instead of unsightly folding latches that eventually break. The streetside compartment door is a two-piece affair, where it’s necessary to unlock the front portion to open the adjacent door and access the docking station. Here you’ll find all the hookups for water and sewer, the dump-valve handles, a wash station and cable/satellite connections all neatly arranged in logical order. A black tank flush system is also integrated into the panel. Additional storage space can be found in the front compartment via a typical door that swings up for access.
The chassis is fitted with an Equa-Flex suspension, E-Z Lube axle hubs and Correct Track alignment system. Electric stabilizers are used in the rear and the spare tire stores in an under chassis carrier, eliminating the necessity to hang it on the rear bumper. The usual front landing jacks handle hitching duties, but the pins used to secure the inner feet are too cheesy and will likely be replaced by the owner in short order. I’d be remiss not to mention the entry steps, which are aluminum. They are lightweight and a pleasure to engage and offer exceptional footing.
Overall, the Reflection is chock full of features that will appeal to seasoned RVers and neophytes. All this is packaged within the aforementioned 33 feet of space that weighs in at 9,760 pounds with full water and propane. And the trailer is only 11 feet, 11 inches tall, which allows it to sneak under standard 12-foot roll-up doors used on many storage buildings.
While the overall weight makes it a contender for towing by a half-ton truck, hitch weight, depending on loading, may require a higher gross vehicle weight rating. We were also impressed that all the company’s published weights were very close to our certified weights, and the carrying capacity was actually understated.
For the test the Reflection was towed by a 2013 Ford F-350 crew cab with a shortbed and single rear wheels. Obviously, this was overkill, since Ford’s F-250 with a gas or diesel engine will easily suffice. As expected, the Ford four-wheel-drive truck with the 6.7-liter V-8 diesel made short work out of towing this fifth-wheel. Towing comfort and stability were outstanding. It was easy to forget there was a fifth-wheel out back.
The 2014 model, for the most part, is unchanged from 2013 and the Platinum edition test truck was dolled up with just about every option available; the $65,225 sticker reflected all the bells and whistles. Optional equipment from the factory included electric mirrors that extend for proper visibility while towing, a built-in brake control and a fifth-wheel hitch that’s mounted using concealed pins. It’s pretty much a drive it home from the dealer and hitch up the fifth-wheel affair.
Getting to our destination towing the Reflection with the Ford was about as pleasurable as possible; living in the Grand Design exceeded expectations. It’s a match with tremendous potential for enthusiasts looking for short and/or long-term journeys.