Sitting unhitched on its dual alloy wheels with the sun reflecting off its elegantly shaped nosecone, the 230RL has a presence. It has excellent ground clearance and like most fifth wheelers, it sits high at the front.
At 3.5 metres high and 8.4 metres long, it is both higher and longer than most Kiwi RVs. That said, the 230RL is the smallest fifth wheeler in the Reflection range. In fact, Grand Designs RVs don’t make them any smaller, only bigger. That’s the way things are done in the US.
For that market, the Reflection 150 Series model 230RL is described as ‘a fifth wheeler for lighter trucks like the Ford F150’. In New Zealand, utility trucks with a rated braked tow capacity of 3500kg and payload around 1100kg (depends on model and configuration) are suitable towing options. For example, the Ford Ranger, the Mazda BT50, or the latest VW Amrock V6 Highline TDi.
Reflecting its US origins, the habitation door is on the driver’s side. So are two vents, one each for the suburban central and water heating furnaces. Forward of these are two locker doors, one for the spare 9kg LPG bottle and a larger one (840x590mm) for the tunnel locker across the front of the RV.
A five-metre electrically powered awning provides shade from the sun and cover from the rain. As it has to be mounted high on the wall to clear the door, an additional control switch allows the outer edge of the awning to be raised or lowered as desired. Because of the 230RL’s high ground clearance, the folding steps and substantial Magna Latch handrail are essential boarding items.
The caravan’s distinctive nosecone is not shaped just to look pretty. Together with the Turning Point Swivel hitch, it allows the tow vehicle to turn 90 degrees to the fifth wheel without the nosecone hitting the cab. Because the driver has a clear view of the turntable through the rear cab window, connecting to the tow vehicle is easy.
Just line up the pin on the fifth wheel with the turntable slot and back up until the pin is at the back of the slot. Make sure the locking handle is engaged, the electrics are plugged in, and the breakaway cable is secured before raising the front steadies and driving off.
These steadies are electrically powered, simplifying the task of hitching/unhitching. Their controls are in the locker below the front overhang. This locker also houses other important equipment items: house batteries (235amp/hr total), Victron 30amp smart charger, Victron 15 amp MPPT regulator, a solar panel on/off switch, and a 230-volt double power point. The 230-volt inlet plug is externally mounted beside the locker door.
A slide-out wall section dominates the kerbside wall. Forward of that are two hatches: one for the tunnel locker and the other for the active 9kg LPG bottle. On the rear wall is a ladder that provides access to the roof and a rectangular steel tube bumper that has provision for fitting a bike rack. Wiring is already installed to simplify retrofitting a rear-view camera.
My impression of the 230RL so far: while aesthetics have not been ignored, robustness and practicality are more to the fore.
As a rule, fifth wheelers have two floor levels with the front section being around 600mm higher than the rear section.
The internal rear section is 4200mm long so when the 900mm deep slide-out is extended, the normal 2400mm internal width is increased to around 3300mm. This creates a very big lounge, dining, and kitchen area with an extra-high ceiling.
It’s only natural then that the interior appointments are ‘residential’ in size and style. To the left of the entry door are side-by-side theatre seats, with footrests that extend when the seat is tilted backwards and each seat has a built-in heater and vibrating massager.
Opposite the door is the slide-out wall section containing the ‘residential booth dinette’ and a Dometic three-way 226-litre double-door fridge freezer. The dinette can be converted to a double bed by dismantling the pedestal fittings, using the table-top as the bed base and rearranging the seat cushions.
Opposite is the kitchen corner. Again, it exudes residential vibes with its full-sized overhead cupboards, a four-hob cooktop, and an oven with a separate grill compartment.
On the wall opposite the dinette is a large cabinet. The top half houses a huge high-definition LED TV mounted on a swing-arm.
It is worth noting here that residential power supply in the United States is 110-volt AC. In New Zealand, it’s 230-volt AC, meaning both wiring and appliances on RVs imported from the US need altering to comply with New Zealand’s electrical standards.
Grand Designs RV factory fit New Zealand-compliant wire and power points along with compliant appliances such as the fridge, TV, and range hood, but leave the oven and microwave to be fitted here by BOP RV.
The primary control panel is conveniently located beside the entrance. It monitors both the house batteries and water tanks. It also houses switches for the entry lights, awning, slide-out, water pump, and central heater.
Control panels for the heating temperature and the MPPT solar regulator as well as the ceiling fan vent controls are across the room by the kitchen bench.
A short hallway past the bathroom connects the bedroom at the front with the lounge at the back. The bathroom boasts a 900x700mm shower with a fixed dome skylight in the ceiling and a faux marble vanity bench-top to match that used in the kitchen.
There is storage space aplenty with medicine cabinets both above and opposite the vanity and a locker and drawers below. The toilet mounted in the corner has a swivel bowl and looks just like the cassette toilets we are familiar with.
This one differs in that it empties into a 148-litre black water tank rather than a cassette. That’s the equivalent of about eight cassettes or around 20 days use before it needs emptying. Rather handy if you are off-grid out in the boondocks. A fan-vent in the ceiling takes care of any ventilation issues.
As you’d expect, the central feature in the bedroom is the 1500x2000mm queen-size bed with its quality inner sprung mattress. Each side of the bed head has a separate stylish reading light, a side table, and a 230-volt power point.
There’s more than enough storage with seven large lockers and cupboards, a king-size wardrobe with drawers below, plus a cavernous space under the bed.
A ceiling hatch and two opening windows provide good ventilation, and it is pre-wired for a second TV.
American and European tastes in RV interior decor are as different as chalk and cheese. As a rule, New Zealand buyers seem to prefer European modernity to the American conservatism the 230RL represents.
What the 230RL offers is good value, space, and capacity—qualities sought after by buyers seeking an RV they can live in for extended periods or full time, on or off-grid. When judged by this measure, the 230RL comes through with flying colours.
As reviewed, the Reflection 150 Series model 230RL retails for $105,000, including on-road charges. For more information, contact Nick Blair on 027 315 6761 or visit boprv.co.nz.
Grand Designs Reflection 230RL Specifications
Vehicle make and model
|Grand Designs Reflection 230RL|
|Approx. overall length||8600mm|
|Approx. overall height||3500mm|
|Gas||2x9kg LPG bottles|
Price (as reviewed)including on-road costs: $105,000,
- Comprehensive specification
- Fifth-wheel manoeuvrability and easy towing
- The conservative interior decor