By Tony Barthel
When I first saw the Grand Design 17MKE I actually considered buying it. Now a friend is looking at the Forest River Surveyor Legend 203RKLE and it reminds me of how much I really like this floor plan. I also think the Surveyor has done a better job with it in some respects.
Forest River’s Surveyor division claims to be the “best constructed, most turnkey ready-to-go” travel trailers in the business. I truly dislike superlatives. So if you’re going to make that claim then you should be able to back it up. Or you should let the product speak for itself. Or not have glaring exceptions that are easy to spot. Like Lions Gate tires. Or simple leaf spring suspensions.
Not that the Surveyor doesn’t offer some really good features including some that are definitely going to make a difference in your long-term camping experience. But to claim to be the best – that’s immediately inviting criticism. What a way to start things out. But, as they say on the playground, you started it.
So what I do like about the Surveyor product is their use of Azdel man-made substrate in the wall construction instead of Luan. I also like the PVC roof membrane, which requires less maintenance and has a 15-year guarantee.
For 2021, the company now includes an outdoor kitchen in all models. In this manifestation, that means an outdoor 120vac refrigerator and a griddle that can be mounted outside the trailer. The company also incorporates a 15,000BTU air conditioner (many use the smaller 13,500BTU units). Also, the Surveyor Legend is ducted throughout the coach.
Speaking of ducts, the heat ducts are all in a cabinet or wall – so there are no heat ducts in the floor.
What’s inside the Surveyor Legend
The thing that I love about this floor plan is that the entire camp side behind the entry door is one gigantic countertop. It’s really a great floor plan.
Starting at the door, there is an uninterrupted counter all the way to the sink, so probably more than three feet of just flat countertop. Then is the sink. Next is a three-burner stove with a glass top that sits flush with the countertop. The countertop then extends all the way to the rear of the trailer.
The counter then makes sort of a left turn and ends at the refrigerator, which is a 12volt DC model for 2021.
Above the counter are cabinets and below are drawers, drawers, drawers and more cabinet space. Considering the overall size of this trailer at 24’ 4” this is a tremendous amount of counter and prep space.
The bathroom has an interesting shower door
The bathroom occupies the road side next to the fridge with a walk-in shower and porcelain toilet. There’s a bit more counter space along with a sink the company refers to as resort-style. Another new 2021 feature is the shower door. It’s basically a plastic sheet that rolls up in a roller and is wiped by a wiper seal.
There is a single slide room on the road side which holds a dinette whose table has the knee knocker poles holding it up. Now that I’ve seen the “Dream Dinette” I’m hooked. This does not have that.
During the day, the front of this trailer has a couch with a fabric covering. I really like it and prefer it to the vinyl upholstery that’s so common nowadays.
A Murphy bed has its advantages
On either side of the couch in the Surveyor Legend is a table/night stand that has more drawers and a cup holder. Then there is a hanging closet toward the front of the trailer that’s actually pretty sizable. The bed on this model is of the Murphy type, so you first flip the couch flat and then unlatch the bed platform and drop it down.
The mattress has a split in the upper third to accommodate the folding. Behind each closet is a pretty roomy storage cubby that you can access when the bed is down. This makes a great spot for a CPAP or any noisy electronic gadget.
A windshield is in place above the bed.
While I’m not a fan of folding beds, what a folding bed does offer as a compromise is full pass-through storage, and a decent amount of it.
One of the criteria I add more weight to is whether the RV can be used with the slide rooms in. This one passes with flying colors.
Not only do you have full access to the kitchen, the fridge and the bathroom, but you can even fold down the Murphy bed and use it. That was not true in the competing Grand Design model.
I like the Surveyor Legend and I like this floor plan. I think Surveyor has done an outstanding job with the design and implementation of everything. In fact, I would prefer this model over the comparable Grand Design model for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that you can fold down the bed and use it with the slide room in.
But you also get that outdoor kitchen and Azdel construction. Also, the lights under the awning are in the tube (rather than on the body of the trailer) so you can aim them if you choose to by rolling the tube in and out, and more. The one area where I liked the Grand Design better was the availability of theater seating.
This shows how important it can be to shop for different models. I also think that, in the RV business, shopping on brand alone is a huge mistake. But Grand Design has really curated its brand carefully and that’s smart of them.
However, I think if I were shopping, I’d likely buy the Surveyor Legend over the Grand Design. Then I’d go to the tire shop and get the same tires they put on other travel trailers. So I guess it’s not quite “turnkey and ready-to-go,” if you follow what I would do.
So the issue isn’t really the trailer, it’s the bragging. What did your momma tell you about being boastful?
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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