By Tony Barthel
Once again readers of RV Travel have come through with a great suggestion for an RV to look at. This time we’re talking about a Grand Design Transcend Xplor 200MK, the smallest trailer in this line.
I was surprised at first to find a “stick and tin” travel trailer at all in the Grand Design line. After all, traditionally this type of wood frame construction with aluminum skin is favored by brands who really want to appeal to buyers looking for the most affordable choice.
As a company working to continually hone their reputation as building premier products, I figured the Xplor line to Grand Design was like the Cimarron line to Cadillac – a lackluster nod to the more affordable and smaller trailers. But, the more I looked, the more I realized that this wasn’t entirely accurate.
What’s the difference?
While there are several ways to build RVs, essentially there are two major categories in travel trailers: wood frame with aluminum skin, and fiberglass skin with aluminum frame. Of course, there are a ridiculous number of subsets of this generality. But typically the wood frame with aluminum skin is designed to appeal to those looking for a less pricey option.
By using a wood frame you don’t need elaborate welding stations and jigs and huge laminating machines, so it’s less expensive to build this sort of trailer. However, the down side is typically that the corrugated skin makes it more difficult to seal windows and baggage doors. So a flexible putty-based material called Butyl is used to fill in the gaps. It’s how things have been done for many decades, and it’s fine as long as you’re good with maintaining these seals.
But the deeper I looked into the trailer, the more I realized they were doing things a little differently than was customary. For example, the skins were a bit thicker than average with the nose being .040 alloy and the sides being .030. This means they lay flatter than typical. Many trailers use an .024 skin, which is pretty thin and susceptible to hail damage and such.
The Grand Design Transcend Xplor 200MK has a 3-year structural warranty
Furthermore, the company uses a four-part seal for the walls and edges. So there’s a Mylar tape where sidewalls join together and then a PVC foam tape. Finally, there’s a silicone cap seal which translates into a lower likelihood that you’re going to have a leak. As with any RV ever built, it’s still very wise to inspect and maintain any breach in the structure. But this is a better way of sealing those holes. Perhaps the better seals are why this trailer has a three-year structural warranty.
Another thing I liked about the Grand Design Transcend Xplor 200MK was that there was a dedicated heat duct in the basement. But, even better, there’s a wet bay inside the front storage compartment not unlike a pricier RV. This is the first time I’ve seen this in a wood-framed trailer. Getting into the holding tanks and other baggage compartments is also easier. This is thanks to magnetic hold-backs on the doors, something you don’t often see at this price point.
There are other things like Dexter EZ-Lube axles and further examples of this trailer not being built to be the cheapest model at an RV dealer’s lot. But it does provide a gateway to moving up the Grand Design ladder – and that’s a wise decision. This is no Cimarron.
What’s inside the Grand Design Transcend Xplor 200MK
In many ways the layout of this trailer is very similar to that of the Grand Design Imagine 17MKE which we looked at last year and which I saw at an RV show before those all disappeared.
Like that model, you enter into the main cabin and are immediately surprised by a hugely long counter that extends down the entire camp side of the trailer. At under 25 feet, this is not a huge trailer – but that countertop says otherwise.
It literally goes from the door to the tail of the trailer and makes a right turn and ends at the refrigerator. This is now a 12-volt DC compressor-based fridge instead of the typical RV gas-electric model.
Along the counter you’ll find the single-well stainless steel sink and a flush-mounted three-burner stove with 17-inch gas oven. Fortunately, they’ve put a convection microwave in the significant number of cabinets that shadow the counter for length.
The right turn in the counter makes for a rather deep and slightly difficult to reach “well” beneath the cabinets. But this turns out to be a great place to keep a coffee maker, if you bring one, or also something like the Drinkmate I recently reviewed.
You get your choice of a dinette or theater seats
Also like the Imagine 17MKE, you can get this in a choice of a dinette or theater seats. Either of these will call their home the single slide room in this trailer. If you do opt for the theater seats, you’ll be right across from the TV. Those theater seats are something I really liked when I sat in them in the aforementioned Grand Design trailer.
Unlike that model, the Transcend Xplor has a permanent bed (as opposed to a Murphy bed), and there’s a curtain for privacy. Furthermore, that’s a full 60” X 80” queen-sized bed.
All the cabinetry in this trailer is genuine hardwood with pocket screwed construction.
I was initially surprised that Grand Design would build a trailer with this construction methodology, and I stand corrected. While this does make for the most affordable model in their lineup, that doesn’t translate into the Grand Design Transcend Xplor 200MK Travel Trailer being cheaply made.
But there are some features that I really liked, as well. For example, the tongue jack is a manual jack. However, there’s a nut on top such that you can use the same driver that you would use for the stabilizer jacks. In my case that would be an electric drill. That means I didn’t have to pay for a power tongue jack with the plastic gearing that’s usually a part of this. But I still get the benefit of such a goodie by employing an electric drill that I brought with me. I actually prefer this thinking to a power tongue jack, knowing how high the failure rates are on those and their plastic internal gears.
The icing on the cake in the Grand Design Transcend Xplor
But the icing on the cake on the Grand Design Transcend Xplor 200MK is the holding tanks. While black and gray tanks are about what you’d expect, the fresh water tank is a full 62 gallons! That is literally double the size in my own trailer. That would extend the time I could stay out by 100% if I had a trailer with this kind of fresh water capacity.
So now a trailer like this actually becomes a choice that has features over some of the more fancy trailers you’ll find on the dealer’s lot. Add in the standard 165-watt solar panel and charge controller and several other features that actually play out to be useful in the real world and I think this is a trailer that should be on more shopping lists.
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.
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