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Sport-Utility Trailer Reviews

January 19, 2006
Filed under RV & Trailer Reviews, RV Reviews, Trailer Reviews

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At first, it was a regional success, started by West Coast builders for their more active trailer-camping constituency. The ability to carry motorized cargo — whether it be in the form of a pair of Harleys, sand rails, or dirt bikes — captured the imagination of Westerners and slowly spread to middle America. Suddenly, every RV builder was in the game.

Before long, however, travelers demanded more amenities for the people onboard, which began a secondary movement toward nicer appointments for the human set. And while the balance between design for both man and machine continues, we’re beginning to enter another phase of the SUT evolution where suddenly it appears virtually any towable can qualify to transport gear.

We are now seeing fold-down campers and lightweight towables able to join the club, with ingenious ways to equip the interior or exterior with a garage area and ramps. Where larger fifth-wheels and travel trailers once dominated the SUT marketplace, it’s suddenly full of pop-ups, ultra lites and lighter-weight towables. This is great news for buyers interested in toting along their must-have motorized vehicles and/or extra items without breaking the bank on a monster truck required to haul it all down the road.

Jayco Talon ZX T28A
Jayco’s newest SUT, the Talon ZX T28A, leaves little to the imagination. For starters, the 30-foot-long travel trailer comes equipped with a pair of queen-size beds (including an in-ceiling version over the cargo space), foldaway sofa, and booth-style dinette. We’re thinking a nightly head count of up to eight passengers isn’t out of the question.

Next comes the novel looks, in the form of chrome racing wheels, diamond-plated exterior skirting, wheel wells and front wall, and not to mention the aggressive graphics, molded ABS LPG tank cover, and smooth fiberglass exterior. By dabbling in one of this segment’s largest lists of options, customers can customize their Talon into either a hard-core extreme machine or one built for true leisure.

Gear heads should appreciate such adventure-aiding items as a 2.5-gallon air compressor (20-foot hose), battery jumper pack, pressure washer, 25-gallon fuel station to keep motorized gear running, and vapor wall to separate machines from crew.

Those looking to elevate life inside should consider the customer Value Package complete with 15,000-BTU central air conditioner, eight-cubic-foot flush-mount refrigerator, water purification system and skylight. An Onan 5500-watt generator, patio screen room, portable RVQ grill, home theater system (DVD, with Dolby surround sound), and even a second air conditioner is also available.
Base MSRP: $27,714
Jayco: 800/RV-JAYCO; jayco.com.

Fleetwood Folding Trailers Scorpion
Those dismayed at the site of a pop-up among the ranks of this year’s sport-utility trailers are not alone. I’m freaking out, too. Of course, Fleetwood Folding Trailers, a division of parent company Fleetwood RV, has been slowly changing the rules of the fold-down camper over the past few years. This year’s head-turner is the Scorpion, which absolutely transforms both the SUT and pop-up marketplace.

A trio of floorplans each comes installed with a rear cargo area, and either swing-out gates and/or fold-down side gates (S1 and S2 models), or a full-swing down ramp (S3) to haul your needed gear. From there, each of the Scorpion models is wholly different. For starters, the S1 features a pair of traditional deployable bunks, front 40×90-inch gear deck, and cassette toilet and shower. The E1 loses the deck area, but does its part to woo buyers with a portable dinette table and seats. The S3 is the smallest of the bunch, thanks to its reduced cargo area and single bunk. A second slide-out bed can be found inside, although sans galley or bathroom. However, at the half the cost, who’s complaining?
MSRP: $5792-$14,147
Fleetwood Folding Trailers: 800/444-4905; fleetwoodrv.com.

Coachmen Adrenaline
With five floorplans (27 feet to 35 feet) for 2006, the Coachmen Adrenaline enters the SUT fold in a big way. The 102-inch, wide-body designs feature sleeping for an entire off-roading crew and room for the machines that make camping in parts unknown such a thrill. Humans will appreciate the space-making features of the electric queen bed that rises to the ceiling when not in use, fold-up sofas and dinettes, as well as an upfront master bedroom on select models.

When it’s time to get dirty, the Adrenaline provides customized options for extended stays engaging in your favorite extreme sport. Start with the 2300-pound power winch with remote to load and unload heavy items, a 28-gallon fuel station, 1300-psi power washer, and three-gallon air compressor. An exterior shower, dual spotlights (with remote), outside speakers, and lighting package aid travelers in their pastimes spent off the grid.
MSRP: $46,000-$52,000
Coachmen RV: 574/825-5821; coachmenrv.com.

Dutchmen Wild Thing
Dutchmen is the most recent manufacturer to enter the lightweight toy hauler game, making a debut with its new Wild Thing, boasting a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of just over 10,000 pounds. As its name suggests, this fifth-wheel SUT is anything but typical — but not in the way you might suspect. The residential qualities of the cargo area, as trends report, isn’t being used solely to haul motorized fare. In fact, travelers are now nearly as likely to use this open space as a mobile office, for extra storage or some other clever inclination.

When not in use for motorcycles or whatnot, the Wild Thing creates a habitable cargo area with the Happi-Jac electric queen-size bed and sofa system, as well as a fold-down sofa bed and dinette. Overhead cabinetry and removable carpet (optional) continue the room’s livable qualities. The Wild Thing’s ramp is angled only 11 degrees off the ground for easy loading/off-loading.
MSRP: $27,000
Dutchmen: 574/534-1224; wildthing-rv.com.

Holiday Rambler NextLevel SL
There was a time, perhaps five years ago or so, when the sport-utility trailer market really began taking off, that buyers were so excited about the concept of toting along their motorcycles and such that they hardly noticed the Spartan conditions onboard. However, with more and more RV builders in the SUT marketplace, those days have passed.

Travelers now expect plush conditions for both cargo and crew. Holiday Rambler’s NextLevel brand name demonstrates the company’s understanding of this. The interior space is well designed for humans with lots of creature comforts and nice touches. Start with an abundance of storage, as seen not only in a host of cabinetry, but the enterprising use of cargo nets above upper compartments to hold gear in place.

Pleasant touches throughout include window treatments, padded valances, brushed nickel hardware and a queen-size bed with headboard. You’ll notice more pleasing touches such as the diamond plate galley and bathroom backsplash, in the bedroom carpeting, vintage oak cabinetry and decorative mirrors. Mealtime got a lot easier with an eight-cubic-foot refrigerator, Touch Control microwave oven, three-burner range, and oven. The NextLevel even features a deluxe entertainment center, complete with AM/FM/CD/DVD player stereo and interior/exterior speakers. Oh, and there’s a nice spot in the back for your motorcycles, too.
MSRP: $31,000
Monaco Coach: 800/245-4778; holidayrambler.com.

Keystone NRG
It is sometimes the things you can’t see that ultimately make the biggest difference. Take your RV’s chassis, for example. You know it’s down there, but what else? Probably not much, since most buyers prefer to put their attention on floorplans, amenities and negotiating the price tag. For its part, Keystone hopes folks looking for a new SUT will look at the company’s NRG brand as more than just a pretty face.

The NRG’s I-MAX chassis by Ziemen is significant, the company believes, for its added strength and durability. Still, the three available floorplans merit attention in their own right. Each favors a queen-size bed, flip-down dinette and sofa, full bathroom and shower, and lots of overhead cabinetry. The drop-down queen-size bed in the cargo area is a smart option, depending on the number of your crew.

In fact, beyond overall lengths, the differences among the trio are subtle; the front kitchen of the 190FK as opposed to the front bedroom in the 230FS and 260FS. Notable standards include: 100-gallon freshwater tank; full walk-on roof; cargo ventilation system; 2500-pound-rated beaver-tailed cargo door; diamond-plated garage area; double sink, refrigerator; and exterior shower and speakers.
MSRP: Not available at press time
Keystone: 574/535-2100; keystonerv.com.

Fleetwood GearBox
A much more “traditional” SUT than its offshoot company’s Scorpion, Fleetwood’s GearBox series is an ideal fit for a first-time buyer. Why, you ask? Because one model measures just 22 feet in length and weighs in at a tad more than 8400 pounds. It’s an inviting choice for a small family with motorized goodies they’re looking to get from Point A to B.

The 180FK sleeps up to four, thanks to a tag team of sleeper sofas (39×78 inches) and a 12-volt electric bed or optional 60×80-inch loft bed in the rear cargo area. The GearBox’s finest features were designed for both the human and motorized constituency onboard. Flush-floor cargo tie-down and a 2500-pound-rated ramp door with non-skid surface should keep your motorcycles or personal watercrafts happy. Meanwhile, the family should enjoy the little creature comforts designed to put some of the niceties back into SUT travel, such as large overhead cabinets, built-in TV compartment, forced air furnace, integrated magazine rack, pantry, medicine cabinet, and fiberglass insulation when temperatures dip.

Those looking to spice up their travels should peruse the option list, full of items like floodlights, patio awning, pump station for gassing up your machines, exterior shower and speakers, roof rack, and exterior BBQ.
MSRP: $17,710
Fleetwood: 800/322-8216; fleetwoodrv.com.

McKenzie Dune Chaser SL 28CK
With nearly half of the 28CK’s 30 feet of length devoted to the cargo area, your motorized goodies should be plenty happy while in transit. Naturally, the space also features nine tie-downs to keep them from moving about, a 2500-pound-capacity, non-skid, 95 1/4-inch-wide ramp door and diamond-plated walls to protect the insides. McKenzie dotes on your crew, too, with a 60×80-inch front queen-size bed, pair of fold-down sofas, full coach-wide bathroom/shower, and galley with nice appointments.

Vintage oak cabinetry with brushed nickel hardware keep the unit from looking like a garage on wheels. Other pleasing features include CD/DVD stereo with six speakers (and a pair outside), exterior lighting (six docking lights and trunk light, too), eight-cubic-foot refrigerator, microwave oven, 10-gallon water heater, 60 pounds worth of LPG tanks and 15,000-BTU air conditioner.
MSRP: $31,000
Monaco Coach: 877/466-6226; mckenzierv.com.

Starcraft Travel Star
Once upon a time, a sport-utility trailer followed a very stringent interior dynamic: people up front, gear in the back. As you might expect, clever RV builders looked for ways to break out of the same-old mold, as seen by a number of enterprising new takes on the design for 2006, such as the Starcraft Travel Star lineup. A diamond-plated, exterior front cargo hold keeps gear outside and people inside. A pair of removable ramps perform the off-loading chores.

One of Starcraft’s top-sellers, the 18SD, can fit a pair of motorcycles, ATVs or camping gear; while offering people a pair of bunks (one that extends out the side), convertible dinette, rear bathroom, and galley. With two new models for 2006 (19SD and 23QBB), the Travel Star series now boasts a total of 11 total floorplans.
MSRP: $13,277-$17,776
Starcraft RV: 800/945-4787; starcraftrv.com.

KZ Sportster S.E.
By the looks (and size) of it, KZ’s toy-hauling fifth wheel is not messing around. The Sportster SE reaches nearly 40 feet in length, and has three slide-out rooms. Obviously, this is for the crew that demands a little elbowroom for both them and their cargo. With 12 feet of garageable space, we’re doubting your Harleys or sand rails will be too put out.

One of the great features about this unit is its rear loft area, accessible via ladder. While most SUTs ask extra passengers to bunk in the cargo hold with the gear, the loft section is completely sequestered from this compartment, giving these sleepy-heads a warm and private nook to call their own. However, with an upfront queen-size bed, hide-a-bed, and convertible dinette, it’ll probably take a coin toss to determine who sleeps where.
MSRP: $31,660
K-Z: 888/829-6320; kz-rv.com.

RAGE’N FK2100
Rage’n offers a broad spectrum of products for 2006, but our favorite is the FK2100 toy hauler. The unit’s 7470-pound GVWR means you’ll be able to tow it fully loaded without having to trade up to a one-ton pickup truck. Its floorplan provides 16 feet, 3 inches of cargo floor length in a package with an overall exterior length of 24 feet, 11 inches.

The layout is family friendly, providing a rear queen bed that lifts up to allow for tall cargo stowage, and a folding dinette table braced by two flip-up couches that seat or sleep a group of people. A full-service galley and well-appointed bath fill the front end of the trailer. A 2800-pound-rated rear ramp door helps loading and unloading toys. For extended stays, the FB2100 offers 40-gallon gray and black water tanks, and a 75-gallon fresh water capacity. The 5.5kW Onan genset and 40-gallon gas tank is our pick for most desirable option.
MSRP: Not available at press time.
Rage’n Luxury Toy Haulers: 800/438-3561; rageninc.com.

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