2002 SunnyBrook 30FKS Review

Dress this trailer up any way you like

By Howard J Elmer, Jan. 07, 2008, Photography by Howard J Elmer
I recently day-tripped down to London, Ont., to check out a trailer that Andy Thomson at CanAm RV Centre has been singing the praises of. I already  knew that SunnyBrook RV (built in Middlebury, Ind.) has been one of the fastest growing RV builders in the last decade, so I decided to see why.

The trailer Thomson had picked out was the 30FKS. With a twin axle and large slideout this SunnyBrook was a substantial trailer, size-wise and otherwise. It had a GVWR of 9,632 lb and was almost 31-feet in length and thus far was the largest trailer that my tow vehicle (my long-term GMC test truck equipped with Quadrasteer) had been hooked up to. This then worked out well, as a trailer and truck test. Fortunately the Sierra Denali with the Quadrasteer system bumps up the manufactures tow limit to 10,000 lb (with the factory installed hitch platform). This is a 1,300 lb increase over the non-Quadrasteer equipped truck; a direct result of a new larger 9.75-inch rear ring gear, heavier rear axle and standard 4.10 axle ratio.

The hookup we used was the factory hitch, with a 2-5/8” ball and a supplied equalizing hitch. The stock 6L V8 moved the trailer out smartly in regular mode and with the tow/haul option activated increased bottom end torque and forestalled any gear hunting. On the highway the combination easily accelerated to the posted limited and maintained it without strain. To test the four-wheel steering we (Thomson was driving) executed several abrupt lane changes at around 70 mph; the trailer tracked a straight line without any noticeable tail swing effect. Thomson’s comment was that the combination was “extremly stable, very impressive, it just needs a stiffer tire.”

At lower speeds through town, the turning effect was the opposite, a short turning radius made oversteering into turns unnecessary. This bonus, though, had one unexpected side effect. Because the truck can turn so sharply it is possible to hit your trailer with your own bumper while pulling forward and turning with maximum deflection. That was a new one on me; I’ve done that in reverse but never pulling forward. Still, once aware of this possibility it’s easy to avoid it. Also a note worthy point is that the twin-axle SunnyBrook comes with four-wheel electric brakes (standard) and while the Sierra is factory wired to accept a brake controller, on the test day I didn’t have one installed. Using due caution I found that on the highway and level terrain the truck’s brakes handled the combined weight without fade or stress.  

Throughout SunnyBrook’s literature are references to “surpassing expectations,”  “better amenities” and “attention to detail” - it’s these statements that I kept in mind as I started to inspect the unit.

From the outside I noted that all edges, seams and corners are poly/plastic applied with screws and caulked. All vents are covered from the elements and fitted with screens to keep nesting insects and birds away.  The city water hookup is separate and has a lockable hatch, as does the shore-power outlet. TV/Phone hookups are covered and easy to access. Storage compartment doors are aluminum framed with rubber sealing gaskets. A point to note, the rear (under the master bed) storage has been enlarged by dropping the floor of the storage to the bottom of the frame rails. It’s accessed by swinging out the spare tire. This is smart engineering, the potential framing for more storage is already there, so why do this in only one place? I say use more of it.

There is an exterior light near all the hookups as well as at the hitch in front, good thinking. The front window has a flip-up adjustable stone guard as well as a poly/plastic cover for the battery and twin LP gas bottles situated on the hitch A-frame (optional).
Liftco leveling jacks (standard on models with slideouts) are easily accessed - in fact the turning nut extends one inch out from the side (measured flush from the wall). The roof is rubber and the walls aluminum. There are also more than a dozen options to dress up the exterior, windows, wheels and appearance accents.

The dump valves for the holding tanks are easily accessed, but they are exposed. Hanging below the trailer frame they are a magnet for dirt and potential damage, I’d rather see these enclosed. The other thing that I noted was the functional but heavy folding steel stairs. I’m of two minds on these, first they’re tough and they’ll last, but they are heavy and you’ll have to oil them; often.

Inside, what jumped out at me was the quality of the cabinetry.  All the trim is hardwood and the cabinet fascia is oak with nicely placed brass accents. I found this level of quality throughout. In fact it’s easier for me to tell you about the problems I found, because that list is shorter. In one spot by the bathroom door I noted that there were air bubbles in the wallpaper border. Really, that’s the only fit and finish flaw I found inside. That speaks to quality control at the plant.

This trailer has two doors. The main is 30” wide (wheelchair accessible) with frosted glass, a deadbolt and lighted grab handle. The narrower second door allows direct access to the bedroom (or exit as the case may be).

The layout of the trailer puts the kitchen in front. With the double sink in the corner, this offers a large counter space to the left and the three-burner stove top with oven to the right (overhead built-in microwave is available, but optional). The single-door refrigerator can also be upgraded to a double-door Dometic. A big part of the kitchen space is the slide. It is massive (140 x 42 inches) so much so that the end windows open and provide a good cross-breeze. Ventilation is also added to the kitchen with a ceiling power-vent and the power range hood. Also in the roof is the cool air diverter that comes with any of the optional rooftop air conditioner. Heat on the other hand is standard, it’s forced air through floor vents where it also heats the holding tanks.

My test unit had the optional free standing dinette, (beautiful hardwood) which I much prefer to the fixed slide-in setup. Of course this cuts sleeping space down to four.  I particularly liked the amount of light in the trailer. Firstly through the windows (two in the corner kitchen and four in the slideout alone); secondly, 12V overhead lights are abundant throughout and I have to point out that I love the nightable lamp. I can’t read with those high-watt overhead lights that most units put in the bedrooms. A softer nightable lamp is more like home.

A trailer of this size and layout is likely to be used for extended trips, and anticipation of that is obvious in the bathroom layout and size. It’s large, meaning two people can move about without elbowing each other. The corner shower is also large, with a ventilated skylight and a magnetic tri-fold sliding glass door. The sliding-door closet will hold plenty of off-season wear, and also looks to be big enough to accommodate a washer/dryer unit. The floor of course is vinyl (as is all but the bedroom and slideout). Doors can be locked out on either side of the bath making it exclusively accessible to owners or guests in turn.

When it comes to entertainment pretty much everything in a SunnyBrook is optional. Maybe it’s this fact that makes the preferred placement of the optional TV set so awkward. My 12-year old, Stephen, was the one who zoned in on this (after all color and cable is his best friend). A mid-height countertop by the entry door is designed to support an angled TV, trouble is you’d brush it as you enter and the slideout controls and some switches are right behind it, blocked. Also, there does not appear to be any type of fastening devices to hold a TV in place. Perhaps these are added if you order the TV; mind you if you choose to add the TV later you’ll have to figure out how to secure it yourself. Again the same is true for the optional shelf in the bedroom - nothing secures the unit.

Items that show more thought are the reclining lounge chair; it is not fastened down (yeah!) instead it has a large diameter steel base that has hard rubber feet. It moves (but only if you pull/push it) and doesn’t scuff the floor. A small thing I noticed is the blinds. They are all aluminum, not vinyl.

The fold-out couch is a metal three-fold hide-a-bed. I did not use it and so can’t comment on it. I just hope it’s better than the one I have at home. The bedroom mattress is a name brand and is probably fine. Unfortunately with only one day (my lack of time - not the dealer’s or manufacturer’s) I can not comment on the specific workings of the trailer components. But, in closing it is obvious to me that this mostly aluminum trailer is built well and carefully checked before shipping. It also seems that the company has taken the approach that it will build a good basic trailer and let the buyer dress it up from a large list of options. This bucks the “more items as standard equipment” trend. If by ordering only what you really want saves money over a “package” than SunnyBrook is on to something.

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