2008 Keystone VR1 Review

Something fresh in travel trailer layout

By Howard J Elmer, Aug. 28, 2008, Photography by Howard J Elmer
Many RV innovations are hard to notice as they are hidden within the normal outlines of a travel trailer, not so with the VR1, its pointed prow mimics the design of a ship – not something that you see everyday – and supposedly it plows through the air the way a boat slices through water. And that’s the idea Keystone says – though they don’t supply wind tunnel test results – frankly I don’t even know if they did them but it certainly follows that the aerodynamics of a pointed trailer will be better than those of one with a flat front – but that is only one benefit of this design – the other is the added interior space that this change provides.

The trailer that I tested (VR1 310BHS – MSRP $27,527) used this space inside to incorporate a four-bed bunkhouse design complete with a wardrobe and TV cabinet into what used to be simply wasted space, or more likely where the propane tanks were mounted – and rusted.

This bunkhouse location is equipped with a cable TV outlet, lights for each of the bunks, windows on either side, and a solid sliding door. I also noted HVAC vents, as well as a crank-up roof vent, inside the space. This makes it all very self-contained, private and fun for a bunch of kids.

But, this is just one design that incorporates this extra space in the VR1 line. Others feature a V-shaped sectional sofa; a walk-in closet for the master bedroom or a unique wrap-around shaped kitchen design. In fact there are five versions of the VR1 ranging in length from 29 to 34 feet – each with a different layout.

Following the aerodynamic theme of the V-shaped nose, the unit also has a fully enclosed underbelly (which is also heated and protects all the waterlines and tanks from freezing) which also makes it slicker to tow and it runs on full-size 15” rims. Together these design characteristics have to have a positive impact on handling and fuel economy.

I can attest to the fact that from a handling point of view the VR1 tows very well. Its Alko Kober EZ lube axles are set at the widest allowable stance, giving the trailer a solid on-road feel in addition to good following characteristics in parking lots where I did a series of 90, 180 and 360 degree turns with my Dodge Ram 2500 diesel tow vehicle.

At 33-feet in length this is not a small trailer and that is going to impact on fuel consumption (no fuel numbers are available) but interestingly it is not a particularly heavy one. With a GVWR of under 10,000 lb it is still in towing realm of some ½ ton trucks (though I liked the handling with the heavier ¾ ton Ram) and from a price point of view among tow vehicles that’s attractive. The VR1’s weight is thanks in part to the use of aluminum framed walls and gel coated filon fiberglass on the outside of the trailer as well as molded front cap.

Inside the main body of the of trailer benefits from a wide (and long) 37.5-inch slideout that supports the folding couch and the dinette. Both of these also convert to sleeping space as needed.  The slide is deep enough that it features four windows, all with screens. It’s also well supported without any sign of sag when open. The windows throughout are all single-pane glass and the shades are a pull-down night-time material.

These single-pane windows suggest a three-season usage for the VR1 though the enclosed underbelly is meant to protect the trailer to below freezing temperatures. What I didn’t see in any of the product literature was an insulation upgrade option. Check with the dealer on this if you intend to get into colder weather.

The kitchen, directly across from the slideout, incorporates a “dog-leg” counter that kicks out by the entry door. This design feature not only adds a distinct entry area it adds to the counter space as do the double-sink covers. And being that this trailer can potentially sleep ten – you’ll need all the counter space you can get. This unique entry area has the main light switches and slide-out controls organized on the right wall as you enter.  Very neat and smart.

The interior design, called Cinnamon décor in my test unit, featured an antique white color on the wood doors and panels in the trailer. This is something new. I thought the effect of the blanched white worked very nicely with the earth-tone materials and fabrics in the rest of the décor selection that tends to use solid colors on the bottom and striped material on cushions and backrests.

The flooring is a split between carpet in the bedrooms and slideout; while the kitchen is covered with a faux dark hardwood looking vinyl covering. This flooring will provide quick cleanups across the kitchen floor space where foot traffic will be the heaviest and most spills are likely to occur. In contrast to the antique white paint the kitchen appliances are all black and they include an oven and microwave. Mind you these are part of the optional “V” package.

Entertainment is highlighted in this unit with a Stereo and TV built into a custom cabinet for main salon viewing. Speakers are flush mounted in the ceiling throughout the trailer and prewired cable outlets are found in both bedroom spaces.  It should be noted that Keystone tends to “package” together a number of options in an attempt at cost savings to the consumer but also as a convenience.  Rather than choosing individual items from a long list the packages group together the most popular options as well as making sure that items that compliment each other are all in the same package. 

In general the company’s picks for these packages are well thought out – it’s the installation I had a problem with. What I noticed had to do with final finishing, like a cabinet door support that had pulled its screws out of the wood; a loose wall light fixture; and misaligned screws in the bathroom door jamb.  These are not design problems as much as they are production and final inspection problems. The Keystone factory needs to sharpen its Quality Control.

If you do notice these types of oversights when you are viewing a trailer you should be aware that the dealer is more than capable of fixing them. And, they will. But I think pushing these sorts of repairs down the line to the dealer is wrong – the manufacturer is ultimately responsible and should act that way.

Have a look at the VR1 designs; they really are something fresh in travel trailer layout.

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