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RV Review: Grand Design Imagine XLS 23BHE

We already wrote about the popularity of this floor plan in general when covering the Coachmen Apex Ultra-Lite 256BHS and, essentially, the Grand Design Imagine XLS 23BHE has the same basic floor plan. So what’s the point of covering this rig? A lot of things. Of course, one of those is an email from RV Travel reader Joe Z. asking how this compares. 

There’s a joke in the RV industry that new ideas are best sourced from the competition’s brochures. I can imagine someone in a trench coat with dark glasses and a hat pulled down over their eyes at the RV dealership taking brochures and bringing them back to study. 

Of course today we have the Internet, so we no longer need the trench coat. 

But looking at this floor plan versus the one in the Coachmen and you can really tell where a company’s focus is. 

Grand Design Imagine

One of the more thoughtful aspects of this floor plan is right at the front door, where Grand Design has a cabinet to the right of the door that has two sections. Up on top there are shelves, but the company also hid the control panel and monitor panel as well as the stereo behind a cabinet door. 

I like this because the objective in a bunk model is to have folks sleeping on the bunks. So putting light-up displays behind doors makes a lot of sense. 

The lower cabinet also has adjustable/removable shelves. You could hang jackets and such here, which is a logical place – right by the door. 

Further, there’s a shoe cubby under the dinette to the left of the door. Apparently Grand Design’s grand designers have spent some time RVing in the winter, and it shows here. Funny how little details like this stand out. But these are the kinds of things that I think will make a difference over the long haul and, hopefully, what you come here to learn about. 

The dinette in the Grand Design Imagine

On the subject of that dinette, Grand Design is using a nifty table mounting system that reminds me of the days of going to the barber. (We have an outstanding editor here, Diane, who is very likely laughing at this reference as I haven’t been to a barber in decades. [I didn’t even think it until you said it, Tony. But pretty soon you can just comb your beard up and over. 😆 BTW, thank you. –D]) That design is a two-stage pole mount where there are tensioning clips that keep the table up. But when it’s time to collapse the table to convert it to a bed, you just release the latches and press down on the table. Bam. 

The pole has a hydraulic ram in it much like an office chair. So the table raises back up with little effort once it’s time to transition back to eating time. 

Now, this isn’t terrifically different in functionality than the Dream Dinette that I’ve seen in some other RVs. But this mounts to a pole that is screwed in to the floor, while the Dream Dinette hangs from the wall. I wonder if this type of mechanism is less prone to damage by younger operators. You know, the kind who don’t have to make the payments on Mom and Dad’s RV? 

The entire kitchen is in a slide room

While we’re in the living space, I think it’s interesting that the entire kitchen is in a slide room. As someone who is just a bit wary of slide rooms in general, all this makes me a bit nervous. So my caveat about this is to recommend watching the various power, water and gas lines as the slide room goes in and out. 

Fortunately, you can operate that slide either with a button on the control panel or through an app on your phone. I’m sure Grand Design has also thought all this through. But it’s still an area I would keep an eye on if this were my RV. 

While in the galley, know that the counter space in this is pretty good. That includes a counter extension toward the door on the dog leg that extends out. There are also some well-placed cabinets and drawers. Those include a pantry-like cabinet next to the stove and a large drawer for pots and pans under the stove. 

However, that old dead horse I keep beating about the 17” oven rears its head in here again. As I’ve written before, I don’t understand why a company that makes RVs for lots of folks to enjoy at once uses the smallest oven on the market. 

That’s a silly detail to get lost when the company has shown so much attention to detail in so many areas. For example, in the bathroom the skylight over the tub isn’t just a small space but encompasses the entire tub. Further, they use a roll-up shower door that incorporates a squeegee. 

There’s good counter space in the bathroom, as well – all things considered. 

Living area and bedroom in the Imagine

As for the main living area and bedroom, there are a lot of examples of really good cabinet and drawer design and space utilization. 

Like in the Apex, there’s also space under the lower bunk. But this is only accessible from inside the trailer. That is okay, but I really liked that half-height door in the Apex. 

Bouncing around and thinking of storage, there are nifty little cubbies next to the bed on both sides. Those really would be good places to let your noisy toys rest at night, or even a CPAP machine. There are both household and USB plugs here to support whatever’s digital and sleeping next to you. 

I also like the combination of having space and two drawers on either side of the bed. Also, the bed is a proper queen-sized model. 

Water to the outdoor kitchen

One of the gripes I had about the outdoor kitchen on the Apex was that there wasn’t any access to water. But Grand Design does provide water in the form of a spray port. This is essentially a high-pressure water line where you attach a hose (which is included) and have at least cold water. 

But, again, this trailer has a hot and cold outdoor shower. However, it’s over on the road side. I’m sure an accountant can tell me why those few extra feet of Pex plumbing would cause strife somewhere if they ran hot and cold to the outdoor kitchen. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. 

The hot and cold outdoor shower is in the wet bay, which is in the front pass-through storage compartment. There have been readers of RV Travel who have commented on not liking that wet bay and others who like it. It is unusual that it’s in the front pass-through storage, much like you’d expect to find in a fifth wheel. I can respect arguments on either side about this placement. 

Grand Design mastery

No matter what you think of the implementation of this floor plan, there is absolutely no denying that Grand Design’s messaging is 100 percent on point. Your first impression on their website currently shows the results of various surveys. They put them at the top of the brands mentioned in a survey by a dealer’s organization. 

The company has great photos, a huge video library and well-implemented information portals about their products. They’re also really, really good about working with their existing customer base to effect changes and updates to the product line. 

Grand Design does messaging correctly

When I write about other companies and their often-terrible messaging, I can point to Grand Design as an example of how to do it correctly. In fact, Winnebago in general does a really good job with their messaging. 

It’s not overly tough, either. Build a good website (are you listening, Warren Buffett?) and then populate that with information customers might want. Shoot some video and maybe work with some content creators on brand ambassadorship. Then keep in touch with the folks who buy your products. 

As mentioned, I realize that every RV manufacturer out there can sell anything they can kick down an assembly line these days. But that won’t always be the case. The companies who establish a great reputation and develop positive relationships with their customers now are going to come out the winners, in my opinion. 

People who own Grand Design products who I have met tend to be very happy with the experience. Part of that is how the company listens and responds. 

In summary

In all fairness, the Apex is almost three feet longer than the Grand Design Imagine. But there were so many details in that design that I really liked, including the under-bed storage and that half-height door to the space under the lower bunk. I also much preferred the kitchen design of the Apex, but that can be a factor of the greater length of that trailer. 

The dining table and entry way design here are good examples of details that will make a difference in the long haul. That can also be said of the skylight in the bathroom being a full-sized model rather than just a small hole. 

Would I choose the Grand Design Imagine or the Coachmen Apex?

Given the choice, I do like the Coachmen Apex better just for the unusual storage under the bed and the door in the back, plus the arrangement of the kitchen.

But there’s a lot to be said about a company that listens to the customer’s voice and comes out with a Grand Design. 

I would love to read your comments and suggestions over on our new forums, where you can weigh in and start or join a discussion about all things RV. Here’s a link to my RV Reviews Forum.

Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a life long RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife. 

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.

Got an RV we need to look at? Contact us today and let us know in the form below – thank you!

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REVIEW OVERVIEW

Dining table lift mechanism
Entryway storage/cubbies
Bathroom skylight
Leaf spring suspension

SUMMARY

Grand Design's Imagine XLS 23BHE compares well to the Apex reviewed recently but which of these two offers the more grand design?

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Victor
1 month ago

I’m a 23BHE wonder and wanted to add my 2 cents worth. I’ve had it for about a year and have put about 10K miles on her. Overall I’m very happy with the 23BHE…the build quality is good, and I think they used the space about as well as you can…but I do have 1 significant gripe, and it goes to the authors point about the slide out kitchen. Because of the design, the drain on the kitchen sink requires a small bilge pump mounted under the sink, which is very difficult to access, and is prone to clogging. This is a bad combination.

The storage area under the bunks isn’t accessible because the 23BHE’s rather large outdoor kitchen takes up the space…a trade off I’m willing to take.

Pat
1 month ago

I don’t understand why people are happy with a trailer where the only seating is at the dinette. This as with many floorplans will sleep 8 and somehow you all have to fit around a 4 person dinette. And if the weather is poor your sitting on the bed. Our “73” 23ft Terry had a better layout than this. I don’t really think this is such a Grand Design. End rant…

Vincee
1 month ago

For a 28′ TT and looking at the pictures the GD seems like a really nice TT. It views as very fresh and airy looking. The layout is not that much different, more modern than my brother-in-law’s 10-year-old Jayco 26BH but what great-looking upgrades from the look of the Jayco.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

Another trailer that looks like they mixed up their fresh and grey tanks.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony Barthel

Never thought of that. Thanks Tony. I’ll quit ‘harping’ on that.