KZ Spree 261RKS and the Nissan Armada Test
August 28, 2008
Filed under Trailer Reviews
Always on the lookout for a new slant on the typical travel trailer floorplan, we came across the new KZ Spree 261RKS, a tidy ultralight 26-footer that trips the scales wet at a svelte 5,720 pounds and sports a streetside slide and sleeping for six. It also features an angled wall that hides the bathroom, giving the main living area a feeling of extra room; but this effect is largely visual … until you use the bathroom.
Let me explain. When the slideout is closed, the only people who are able to move from the main room to the forward bedroom are children or high-fashion model types who can fit into a pencil-thin dress – which is typical in many trailers with slideouts. In other words, you want that slider out as soon as you park the Spree – especially if you need to use the facilities. Also, with the slideout deployed, the 261RKS opens up and provides plenty of entertainment room on the streetside jackknife sofa or the curbside dinette. The bathroom, thanks to that angled wall, has more room than facilities in many Class A motorhomes – a major plus.
The rear-kitchen layout spans the width of the trailer, and because the refrigerator rides out with the slide, the workspace is much more spacious than you would expect in a trailer of this size. The appliances are configured in such a way that the chef can easily float back and forth between the refrigerator to the right, the stove and the microwave to the left and the double-basin sink in the middle. Located over that sink is a large window that lets in plenty of light to help make the meal-preparation chores a little less claustrophobic. And if the family dining is at the campsite picnic table, the main entry door to the left of the stove and spacious pantry makes transporting the food convenient. Even the dinette is within easy reach of the kitchen area, so this layout gets high marks on food-related functionality.
One problem we noted was the mounting of the flatscreen LCD TV in the main room. It’s bolted down on a shelf high over the dinette, which means the only comfortable viewing seats are in the streetside sofa. In addition, the screen is angled up toward the roof so the picture goes dark when you’re seated. Manufacturers, please, take notice: This is becoming an all-too-common problem with TVs mounted in RVs. The TVs would be better mounted on an adjustable/articulated stand so they can be tilted forward for optimum viewing angle. This would also allow access to the rear so the kids could easily plug in video games.
Luckily, we brought a spare 19-inch LCD TV that we placed on the fold-down TV shelf in the bedroom, so we were still able to enjoy a Saturday-night DVD.
The wood tones and fabrics in our test Spree were easy on the eye. Most of the cabinetry is a medium-maple finish with tasteful cherry-wood accents. Many of the storage-cabinet doors are faced with leaded-glass-like inserts. This, matched with the tan decorator fabrics, coordinated window valances and wall coverings, and random plank-look linoleum in the main living area, add touches of class.
The bedroom is carpeted and sports overhead storage and nice matching mirrored wardrobe closets on either side of the 60 x 75-inch queen bed. The bedroom features the requisite bed, two side windows for flow-through ventilation, and it has a full-sized private exterior doorway of its own.
One thing to note about the Spree line: The trailer comes with what KZ calls a Custom Mandatory package ($4,650) consisting of such goodies as a 13,500-BTU air conditioner, a 15-foot electric awning, a 6.0-cubic-foot double-door refrigerator, a microwave, cable TV hookups, an AM/FM CD player, tinted safety glass and an exterior shower, among others.
Our lakeside getaway proved to be quite comfortable even though the nightly temperatures dipped low enough to fire up the furnace. Unlike many trailers, the need for heat didn’t keep us awake at night, just comfortably warm. All in all, the Spree is a very well-designed travel trailer for a small family that likes to enjoy time together.
Nissan Armada LE
Nissan’s largest SUV is named after a massive force capable of ruling the waves, which is all well and good if you’re talking about ships. The spacious V-8 powered seven-passenger vehicle proved quite capable of taking command of our test trailer, and it did so by providing plenty of towing torque to get things moving, and it had no trouble maintaining legal freeway speeds with more than 300 hp on tap. It averaged nearly 10 mpg while towing the 26-foot Spree 261RKS.
Granted, I’ve seen more luxurious interiors, but the Armada is loaded with functionality. Plush, overstuffed leather seats may provide an initial feeling of comfort; however, I’m more concerned with how my posterior feels when it’s time to finally stop and refuel. After two hours and more mountainous switchbacks than we could count, I was still ready for more time behind the wheel.
Our test Armada came equipped with second-row captain’s chairs, so the four of us on this trip left only three available seats – with not one complaint of needing more legroom. The fold-down rear seat offered a cavernous storage area that we only partially filled with some fishing gear.
Visibility on the road is good, and the 8-inch color display that comes with the Technology/Navigation Package ($2,400) offers a handy view of how you’re doing when backing up toward the trailer, thanks to the rear-view camera (standard on the LE model). And speaking of trailers, the LE tow package ($350) includes the hitch receiver and seven-pin wiring harness, heavy-duty battery, transmission-temperature gauge and 3.36:1 gear ratio, the latter of which no doubt helped get the 5,700-pound trailer up to speed during acceleration tests.
The Armada is built on the full-size Nissan Titan pickup platform, so it’s ready to handle some extra weight, and while we kept our supplies to a minimum, the handling was better than expected while towing, much more so than most unibody type SUVs, in fact. That’s one of the benefits of towing with a full-size SUV. However, the extra overall weight will rear its head when it comes time to fill up.
So if you’re looking for an aggressive tow vehicle that can serve double duty during the work week, take a look at the Armada: you’ll get the soul of the Titan pickup with the interior space of a full-size SUV.
Along with the Spree 261RKS, this is a simple yet workable lashup that provides comfortable and practical living quarters for a growing family, as well as the easy maneuverability of a short-wheelbase tow vehicle.
For more info about the KZ Spree 261RKS and the Nissan Armada, pick up the August 2008 issue of Trailer Life magazine — then subscribe to Trailer Life, so you can stay informed on the latest tests, previews, tow vehicles, and technical and RV-lifestyle information. Trailer Life is also available in digital-issue format.