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Road Test: Ford Flex & Trailmanor Elkmont

July 31, 2009
Filed under RV & Trailer Reviews, Tow Vehicles, Trailer Reviews

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TrailManor has mastered the art of creating well-made, hard-sided folding travel trailers that are lightweight, and when in travel mode, slung low and easy to tow. The company has also managed to make them roomy and luxuriously appointed. Looking to try something different and take its craftsmanship and know-how into a new realm, TrailManor has now introduced its first full-wall non-folding travel trailer, the 24-foot-long Elkmont 2417.

There is much that is new; however, some things have remained the same. The use of top-notch appliances and materials, as well as its quality construction and easy-towing lightweight nature, are all carry-over features.


We matched the Elkmont to the new Ford Flex Limited AWD, Ford’s hot new crossover vehicle. No matter what you think of it, one thing’s for sure, the Flex draws its share of long, second looks. Between the Flex’s boxy shape and the somewhat Spartan visuals of the Elkmont, the pair won’t win any beauty contests, yet both are delightfully functional and that’s what truly counts.

SIX-SEATER

As a six-person people mover, the Flex succeeded admirably. Low-profile bucket seats that offer firm support provided comfort up front; and the four passenger positions in the middle- and back-row seats provided full-size space. The dash and cabin design maintain the Ford truck family look, but are softened a bit with wood and leather trim. A standard Sony audio system including an MP3 connection, Sirius satellite radio, and a dozen speakers delivered the music sweetly. The system’s voice-activated Sync system helped keep the driver’s eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Full safety equipment, including air bags and a first- and second-row safety canopy, are standard.

Overhead was a large and optional panoramic vista roof ($1495) that gave the aft-seat occupants a lot more light and an open feeling to their area. The optional navigation system ($2375) with voice activation included a backup camera. The centrally-mounted camera was a great aid for hitching. Within minutes, the driver was making accurate and otherwise unassisted trailer-ball alignments first time, every time.

The 3.5L V-6 was powerful enough to move the Flex in a surprisingly spry manner once you really put your foot into it; but was moderately economical. Without the trailer, we managed 13.9 mpg around town; the very best we could squeeze out of it was 24.4 on the highway. And its six-speed automatic is the only available transmission, but it did a fair job with out any great objections from any of us.

Independent suspension and coil springs all the way around, plus four-wheel power disc brakes, kept the carriage under control. The AdvanceTrac traction control system worked with the rig’s Roll Stability Control (RSC) to enhance the driver’s control over the vehicle. The AWD system is always engaged so no input from us was called for to get the system working, it simply kicked in when the road surface became loose or unstable. Overall, the Flex handled it all with a blend of characteristics—firm and steadfast; yet smooth enough to please demanding occupants.

HITCHED UP


There’s nothing too tricky about the new Elkmont, but thanks to the hosting dealer, we did learn about the separate black and grey water dump outlets before we had to figure it out for ourselves at the dump station. Our Elkmont had a moderate 540-pound hitch weight, so an equalizing hitch was a must-have for the Flex’s soft rear suspension. Once the hitch was tweaked and adjusted to suit the pair, the trailer felt natural behind the Flex.

The Elkmont weighed just 3220 pounds wet, but empty. That’s pretty trim for a 24-footer. Trailmanor uses polystyrene foam, aluminum-skin-laminated structures throughout, and no chipboard or particleboard anywhere.

We know from experience that the low-profile fold-down TrailManor models tow effortlessly; and the solid-wall Elkmont behaved no differently. Our road trip encountered some hail and snow in the Oregon coastal mountains and thankfully, the rig’s AWD system kept us straight and steady as we motored cautiously ahead through the slush.

Our intended destination, Riley Ranch County Park, was just a few miles north of Coos Bay, and getting there can subject visitors to a variety of road conditions. But with the Flex in charge, we arrived stress-free; and the compact size of the Elkmont made backing into a campsite easy.

Once we cranked down the corner stabilizing jacks, plugged in, offloaded our firewood and prepared for a quiet evening. Oregon’s swiftly changing weather ensured we enjoyed a rain-free campfire.

The Elkmont packed a lot into its familiar, but effective floorplan with an island queen-bed up front; the kitchen, fridge and pantry arrayed curbside; the L-shaped dinette streetside; and the bath in the aft streetside corner. Muted fabrics and maple cabinets work well with the marble-look countertops (actually laminated and foam-filled for less weight) that add a touch of class.

We used the space under the lift-up bed for camp chairs and luggage, and stowed our remaining gear in the cabinets near the bed. This trailer didn’t have a lot of overhead storage spaces, apart from those over the galley and the head of the bed, so if you take a lot of cargo, storage could be tricky.

The giant stainless-steel sink was flanked by plentiful working counter space and the galley offered drawers and cabinets liberally placed nearby. The drawers were molded plastic pieces with a wood face.

We used the kitchen and enjoyed its well-thought-out design, but also cooked outside over the fire under a partly starry sky with the cheery crackling fire for entertainment. Back inside after the coals died down, we stretched out on the bed and the L-dinette for some before-bed reading. Two posts support the removable 42-inch-long table, and it appears as sturdy as one could hope for. Our only real beef about the Elkmont came at bed time. The mattress was thin and not very supportive for us. The good thing: the mattress can be replaced.

Exterior accessed storage was slim on the Elkmont, with the exception of a front portal to some interior space, but the Flex’s generous rear cargo area handled the overflow. Plenty of interior space and the good use of it are, thankfully, something the Elkmont had going for it. The bathroom area measured 35×69 inches overall, and offered a spacious area for bathing and general primping. Note for tall folks: Legroom was not lacking in front of the toilet, and the shower fit a real adult. There was also enough cabinet space to handle a stack of linens and other toiletries.

Overall, we enjoyed our time with the eye-catching pair. The TrailManor Elkmont 2417 is a slick new entry from a well-known builder, and the Ford Flex presents a capable tow vehicle option for those who haul smaller trailers. If you’re interested in something different, this could be the combo for you.

Performance

FUEL ECONOMY, MPG:

NON-TOWING: 19.1

TOWING: 10.5

0-60 MPH, SEC:

NON-TOWING: 8.1

TOWING: 14.3

40-60 MPH, SEC:

NON-TOWING: 4.0

TOWING: 7.8

Specifications

2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD

ENGINE: 3.5-LITER V-6

HP: 262 @ 6250 RPM

TORQUE: 248 LB-FT @ 4500 RPM

TRANSMISSION: 6-SPD AUTO

AXLE RATIO: 3.39:1

FUEL CAP.: 18.6 GAL

TIRES: P235/5R19

SUSPENSION F/R: Coil/Coil

BRAKES: four-way power disc

TOW RATING: 4500 LB.

GVWR1: 6150 LB.

GCWR: 9521 LB.

REAR OVERHANG, BALL TO AXLE: 54“

WEIGHT AS TESTED: 4880 LB.

PAYLOAD AS TESTED: 1270 LB.

LENGTH: 16’ 10”

WHEELBASE: 117.9”

MSRP BASE: $36,555

MSRP AS TESTED: $43,320

BASIC WARRANTY: 3 YR/36,000 MI

2009 TrailManor Elkmont 2417

EXT. LENGTH: 24’ 3”

WIDTH: 7’ 8”

HEIGHT: 9’ 9”

INT. WIDTH: 7’ 4”

INT. HEIGHT: 6’ 6”

CONSTRUCTION: Wood framing, polystyrene insulation, aluminum skin and roof

FRESHWATER CAP.: 20 GAL.

BLACK/GRAY WATER CAP.: 20/30 GAL.

LPG CAP.: 10 GAL.

WATER-HEATER CAP.: 6 GAL.

REFRIGERATOR: 6 CU.-FT.

FURNACE: 20,000 BTU

AIR CONDITIONER: 13,500 BTU

CONVERTER: 30 AMPS

BATTERY (1): 12V

TIRES: ST225/75R15

SUSPENSION: Independent rubber torsion

WEIGHT: 3220 LB. (freshwater, water heater and LPG full; no cargo)

HITCH WEIGHT: 540 LB.

AXLE WEIGHT (1): 2680 LB.

CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY: 518 LB.

GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING: 3738 LB.

GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING: 3649 LB.

MSRP BASE: $24,872

MSRP AS TESTED: $29,670

BASIC WARRANTY: 2 YR

Manufacturer

TrailManor RV

800/707-7061

trailmanor.com

Ford Motor Co.

800/392-3673

ford.com

Thanks to the crew at George M. Sutton RV (541/342-2993; suttonrv.com) of Eugene, Oregon, for setting us with the TrailManor Elkmont. And thanks to experts at Hitch Pro and Tow (541/434-2403) of Eugene, who found a connection point and location for the controller under the Flex’s dash that kept it out of the way of the driver’s shins. Riley Ranch County Park (541/396-3121), near North Bend, provided the camping facilities for this review.

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