Thursday, November 30, 2023


RV review: 2021 Grand Design Imagine 17MKE Travel Trailer

These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive. 

By Tony Barthel
Did you know the largest RV show is the Caravan Salon in Germany? Well, when they have RV shows again. And as we sat in the 2021 Grand Design Imagine 17MKE one of the people from Grand Design said that this floor plan specifically came after one of the design principals from Grand Design wandered the Caravan Salon floor. Okay, I might believe that. 

As I see more and more RVs, there are a lot of themes I’m seeing that come back over and over again. That wasn’t true as I sat there on the couch of the 17MKE. In a relatively small space, there was seating for four people in comfort as well as an absolutely huge kitchen counter that we could genuinely use for meal prep. 

Grand Design Imagine 17MKEI realize that RV designers have lots of compromises to make when it comes to RV design and you have a certain space to work with, but sometimes I don’t think some of the designers have ever prepped a meal before in their lives. 

Clearly, that wasn’t the team at Grand Design who covered almost the entire side of this coach with kitchen counter space and usable surfaces. Then that man-made countertop makes a turn and goes a bit further until it reaches the refrigerator at the back of the unit. 

Upfront there’s a Murphy bed (which I really like the concept of) and, on the side, you can get what they refer to as a theater dinette which is theater seating and a table. While you’re seated on these chairs you can watch whoever is preparing the meal as you drool in anticipation. 

Grand Design has really nailed the cabinet design on this trailer with a hanging cabinet, a smaller and a larger drawer on either side of the bed. That bed is a proper residential queen. How Grand Design was able to facilitate all the storage under the Murphy bed was to have a mattress that can be folded in half, so comfort isn’t the greatest. 

As we sat in this trailer and looked around it was apparent that the Murphy bed couldn’t be folded down when the slide room was in but that’s pretty typical of smaller trailers, and the Murphy bed allows you to have a seating area or a bed. It’s a good use of space and I could personally catch some shuteye in those theater seats. 

That Murphy bed has been well integrated into the trailer and you still get pass-through storage in the front, though not as much as if the bed were fixed – but, again, compromise. Grand Design has done a good design with this and they even have motion sensor lighting in that pass-through storage. 

While we’re in that storage area, Grand Design has prewired this for an inverter if you didn’t order it as an option so, down the road if you choose to put one in, the wiring is already there. There’s also a port on the roof for solar as well, so you don’t have to go drilling into the roof structure. Nice. 

I really like that they have a full water station inside this front pass-through storage as well, with a small drip tray and hot and cold water spigots. My own water connection is constantly dripping but that little tray and the access port in the bottom would solve that even if this trailer dripped at the connection. 

This whole access port is a really nice touch. 

The front of the 2021 is not fiberglass but is an .040” aluminum sheet that is matte finished. I suspect this will last a good long while and not fade as some fiberglass caps might. 

On the downside, while it makes sense that the spare tire is under the floor and in the middle of the floor, you are going to get filthy getting to it and lifting that tire while on your back under the trailer. Great concept, bad implementation. I’ve seen racks in some RVs that allow the spare to slide to the edge of the camper at least. 

And I’m not a fan of Lions Gate tires at all, so my opinion is that you’re going to need that spare sooner rather than later. Also, being under there, you’re very unlikely to check the inflation pressure so it could well be flat when you need it most.  

The entire underbelly of the trailer is enclosed and heated and the gate valves for the black and gray tanks are enclosed within that space so they’re less susceptible to freezing. 

Grand Design Imagine 17MKE specificationsGrand Design has really established itself as a manufacturer of quality and one of the reasons for this is that all of their units go from final inspection to a secondary inspection station where they are put through a 250+ point further inspection. Talking to the various Grand Design owners as I’ve traveled around, there is a certain bragging component to this brand and it’s impressive when you think they have only been in business since 2012. 

For a lot of usable space in a relatively short body, it’s going to be difficult to compete with this trailer – it’s definitely on my list of favorite floor plans. 

Tony Barthel has been a life-long RV enthusiast and travels part-time with his wife where they also produce a podcast, write about RVs and love the RV lifestyle.



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Noah Stoops (@guest_132159)
2 years ago

Can you do a test run on the grand design imagine 2970 rl? that’s what I have my eye on now for the last year and It’s about time to pull the trigger.

M_J (@guest_102405)
3 years ago

I hope there quality control, not necessarily the items they buy and put in, but the workmanship of Grand design employees has improved. Our $90,000 2020 solitude is falling apart. Between water lines that bend across ruff cut wood, causing a hole to be worn in the pipe ( two locations). Black water valve that when glued onto the end of the tank had so much excess glue it got into the valve seal and has not sealed properly yet. Our rubber roof was cut short and is peeling back from the molding strip at the front cap. Particleboard valances around the windows that have warped to the point where they have fallen off because of the short/over powered brad nails used, as well as the front moulding around the entire front window in the cap has fallen off because the Brad nails cannot hold up a piece of wood that large. As well as the normal problem items such as fireplace, the electric recliners, one of the AC units, the stove and microwave are all not working to some degree.

Diana (@guest_144801)
2 years ago
Reply to  M_J

WOW. That all sounds awful!

Mary (@guest_102398)
3 years ago

Tony, have you had an opportunity to look at nuCamp products? We purchased an Avia, a 2020 model, in July, and it’s great. We did a few modifications right away to make it ours because it is of such wonderful quality and design that we assume it’ll be ours for a long time. The Avia is not a tear drop which is primarily what nuCamp produces.

RV Staff
3 years ago
Reply to  Mary

Hi, Mary. Here’s a link to Tony’s review of the nuCamp AVIA, which we just published last week: We’re glad you like your AVIA! Have fun! 🙂 —Diane at

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.