Staycation Getaway

Photo Credit: Scott Hirko

by Chris Hemer
March 2, 2017
Filed under Top Stories, Trailer Reviews

 

The Grand Design Solitude 360RL puts an interesting spin on tradition with unexpected features and long-term value

“Extended stay.” Sounds nice, doesn’t it? No plans, no reservations, no concerns. Maybe we’ll get there, maybe we won’t. Maybe our journey will lead us on a path to discovery no one expected. New places, new faces, a chance to start anew. These are the aspirations of the next generation of RVers, the ones who embrace change and are driven by wanderlust but aren’t ready for retirement or full-timing just yet. They love staying at a lake property all summer long or spending autumn on the Eastern Seaboard, watching the leaves turn from brilliant green to glowing gold.

They’re the customers that Grand Design (GD) hopes to court with its Solitude, a line of fifth-wheels designed for that gray area between weekend travel and full-time living.

Tradition runs deep with fifth-wheel design, and manufacturers have to be careful where, and how, they choose to differentiate themselves. This is where Grand Design has always excelled — delivering the familiar in a thoughtful, elegant fashion — and the Solitude 360RL is exemplary of this ethos. Walking up to this trailer, you’ll notice the high-gloss gel-coat exterior walls with tan-and-black graphics that are indicative of GD products, along with enough details to make a statement of quality.

The kitchen looks like it was plucked from a contemporary condo, with stainless-steel appliances and lots of solid-surface counter space for food prep. At the end of the island, a small table with a blackboard backsplash provides a country feel.

The kitchen looks like it was plucked from a contemporary condo, with stainless-steel
appliances and lots of solid-surface counter space for food prep. At the end of the island,
a small table with a blackboard backsplash provides a country feel.

For example, the mandatory Peace of Mind package includes a Trailair Rota-Flex pin box, Equa-Flex suspension and Correct Track suspension alignment, while the Max Built Construction Package includes slam-latch baggage doors, frameless tinted windows and 16-inch aluminum wheels. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find other desirable features, like 50-amp service for the two 15,000-Btu air conditioners, 7,000-pound axles and a TPO roof with an impressive 12-year warranty. The Weather-Tek package, meanwhile, equips the Solitude for cold-weather livability with a fully enclosed underbelly and heated tanks, heated storage compartments, extra insulation and other details.

The 360RL’s residential-style bath features a large shower with a sliding-glass door, glass-vessel sink and generously proportioned linen closet. A cabinet and drawers underneath the vanity provide more storage options.

The 360RL’s residential-style bath features a large shower with a sliding-glass door, glass-vessel sink and generously proportioned linen closet. A cabinet and drawers underneath the vanity provide more storage options.

Hold on, there’s more. The fourth and final bundling of equipment is found in the Residential Living package, which includes most everything we’re going to talk about inside, but starts at the front door with Torklift aluminum quad steps (awkward to set up and stow initially but functional in use and very well made) and a feature we’d like to see more of: Keyed Alike. That’s right, folks, just one key operates the entry door and all baggage doors, which greatly reduces frustration during setup. Speaking of which, the 360RL also comes standard with a Lippert electronic leveling system with auto level, and the controls for it are just inside the street-side baggage door, where they should be.

Once inside, you’ll find the floorplan features a typical rear-living-room and front-bedroom layout, but to keep things interesting, the traditional seating and entertainment roles have been swapped: theater seating is on the street side, and the LED television and fireplace are in the opposing slideout. Aside from being a little different, we imagine it makes adding the standard exterior entertainment center (LED television, refrigerator and storage cabinets) a little easier during the manufacturing process, since it’s just on the opposite side of the wall from its living room counterpart.

The overall interior design is one that has become somewhat of a GD trademark found across all of the company’s products, with dark furniture and cabinetry, cream-colored solid-surface countertops, stainless-steel appliances and vinyl flooring that mimics bleached hardwood. It still looks good, but it would be great to see GD create a new and inspiring interior design, even as only an extra-cost option. And, while we appreciate GD’s attempt to keep the interior sleek and modern, we found the hidden switch placement to be maddening. Instead of being near the entry door, the switches were located underneath the forward cabinet, forcing the user to employ the Braille method to determine which switch is which, and turning other lights on and off in the process. That part isn’t so elegant.

Clint Eastwood may look angry, but we enjoyed the Solitude’s entertainment center with flat-screen TV, electric fireplace, audio system and loads of storage.

Clint Eastwood may look angry, but we enjoyed the Solitude’s entertainment center with flat-screen TV, electric fireplace, audio system and loads of storage.

The rest of the controls, for things like the tank heaters, monitor panel and slideout switches, are located inside a cabinet above the front steps, and while they’re on the small side, everything is clearly labeled and easy to read. The rocker switch labeled Slideout 1 actually opens all four living-area slideouts in succession, and Slideout 2 opens just the bedroom slide. While opening all rooms with just one switch may be fast and convenient, we always prefer to have individual control over each slideout. Depending on the campground or parking lot, you may not be able to open all of them, or some only partially. Having independent control of each slide makes it easier to compensate for exterior obstacles and other issues. Of course, we wouldn’t mind an “all-in/out” master switch in addition to individual switches — that would be the best of both worlds.

Once we leveled the trailer and deployed the slideouts, we unpacked the large, nicely finished pass-through front storage compartment and began to relax. Grand Design is very good at making an interior feel warm and welcoming — the small aforementioned annoyances notwithstanding. In addition to the electric fireplace on the curb side, there is sconce lighting on either side of the rear couch, mood lighting underneath the rear cabinets, and an interesting design element overhead: a simulated wooden truss. Though the inside of the truss is hollow and has no structural benefit, it contains LED lighting so it can be shown off for dramatic effect. Leaving this light on when we left the trailer, as well as the sconce and mood lighting, was our choice for returning to a cozy home.

Above the fireplace and TCL flat-screen television is an AM/FM/DVD player that was easy to operate and provided decent sound quality, courtesy of the overhead speakers. We enjoyed the two heated theater seats located directly opposite, which offer remotes to control the heat but are manually reclined using a cable-operated handle on the inside of the arm. Most of the time, they’re comfortable, but even with the air conditioning on, they felt warm on a hot afternoon.

 

Plenty of storage is afforded by cabinets on both sides of the entertainment center, and the frosted-plastic inserts look nice, but the doors were a little flimsy feeling and shuddered after opening. At the rear of the trailer, the large couch converts into a bed and has shelves on either side for placing drinks, phones, remotes or whatever. There is also plenty of storage above the couch for extra blankets, pillows or anything else you’d like to keep handy.

As the day gave way to night, our thoughts turned toward preparing dinner in the Solitude’s clean and well-organized kitchen. Solid-surface counters are used throughout, and the center island has lots of prep space and a large double-bowl stainless-steel sink featuring a high-rise residential faucet with a sprayer. There is a large, deep cabinet at the forward end of the island, plus additional drawers at the aft end and under-counter storage (with a trash can!) in the center.

On the street side, there is even more counter space to the left of the Suburban stainless “gas-on-glass” three-burner stove, which features a standard oven and a marble-look subway-tile backsplash. The stainless-steel residential-size High Pointe microwave with integrated lights and vent has more than enough room to heat full-size plates of food, and we found the small cabinet above the microwave perfect for storing extra paper plates and cups. Underneath the counter, two drawers and a cabinet with shelving are perfect for pots and pans. A drawer underneath the oven houses plastic pet bowls, which is a nice idea, but as we noted on a previous GD test, the drawer needs to be lined to make cleaning up spills easier and prevent bacteria buildup.

The Norcold refrigerator should keep even ambitious chefs satisfied. This unit has more space in the main box and freezer than many residential appliances we’ve seen. And, as is customary in GD floorplans, it is accompanied by a walk-in pantry that is large enough for a family of four or more. To its right is an overhead cabinet that would be a perfect spot for serving plates and platters, as there is a small table underneath that is ideal for placing prepared foods. A nice design touch is that the table appears like it is freestanding, and its backsplash is a black-framed panel that looks like a chalkboard (for the evening menu, perhaps?). Overall, we found the area perfect for entertaining, and we rounded out the evening enjoying dinner at the freestanding dinette in the small curbside slideout. The table had plenty of room for the two of us and, with the extensions deployed, would have adequate room for four.

Up the forward stairs and to the left is the nicely appointed bathroom, which can be accessed only via the pocket door in the hallway. We preferred this, as there’s no need to step back down the stairs or scoot down the hallway to enter, as with an ordinary door, and we don’t think walking to the hallway (instead of through a second door in the bedroom) to use the bathroom is an inconvenience.

Once inside, the first thing to get your attention is a large shower with a molded seat and shelves, a sliding-glass door and a residential-style stainless-look detachable showerhead that works well. The vanity offers plenty of counter space, and the large glass-vessel sink with a contemporary brushed-stainless faucet is another nice touch. There is lots of storage as well, courtesy of three good size drawers and an open cabinet, a medicine cabinet with a mirror and a generous linen closet next to the porcelain toilet with foot-flush.

The cozy living area offers plenty of room  for entertaining guests, and if two decide to stay, the rear couch converts into a bed. Cushy theater seating reclines and offers heat for chilly evenings.

The cozy living area offers plenty of room
for entertaining guests, and if two decide to stay, the rear couch converts into a bed. Cushy theater seating reclines and offers heat for chilly evenings.

The bedroom feels very roomy, thanks to a deep street-side slideout, and even though the optional king bed is a tight fit, there are still shelves on which to put your phone, book or glasses. The platform lifts to reveal storage space for extra blankets or pillows, and another nice surprise is found at the foot of the bed: a pull-out ottoman that is the perfect place to sit and put your shoes on in the morning.

On the curb side is a good size chest of drawers with a window and TV above, and a washer-dryer-prepped cabinet to its left that has shelves and room for hanging clothes, if not used for its intended purpose. There is also a smallish but usable closet at the front, with more shelves and room for hanging clothes. It isn’t cedar-lined, but this would be an easy fix for any DIY RVer.
Finding a fifth-wheel that will suit weekend plans as well as long-term travel can pose a challenge for many RVers, but the Grand Design Solitude is a solid choice for livability, build quality and budget. It may just turn your extended stay into a permanent one.

Grand Design RV | 574-825-8000 | www.granddesignrv.com

The handsome black-and-tan color scheme has become a Grand Design trademark. Exterior speakers and a power awning make for a patio area that’s perfect for relaxing on a sunny afternoon.

The handsome black-and-tan color scheme has become a Grand Design trademark.
Exterior speakers and a power awning make for a
patio area that’s perfect for
relaxing on a sunny afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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