We hitched the Sonic 190 VRB to a 2014 Chrysler Town & Country Limited to create an ideal RV touring combination.
Hitch your Wagon to a Star
Road test and photos by Norm Rosen
For the majority of RV enthusiast families, the key to an affordable vacation lifestyle is to match an RV to their existing family vehicle. In Canada, there is one vehicle that stands out as a perennial favourite – the Chrysler minivans. These vans have been the family vehicles of choice for more than 30 years. Built in Brampton, Ontario, the Chrysler and Dodge vans have evolved over the years, gaining refinements and technological sophistication with every model change. Whether you choose a Dodge Grand Caravan or the upscale Chrysler Town & Country, you benefit from a host of features and options that have established the vans as the benchmark for the category.
To kick-off the 2014 road test season we selected what may very well be the ideal combination for the family on the go – a Chrysler Town & Country Limited van, hitched to a 22’10” Venture RV Sonic 190VRB. With an unloaded vehicle weight of just 3530 pounds, and a hitch weight of 330-pounds, the Sonic is within the 3600 pound towing capacity of the Town & Country, and the van handles the task with ease when suitably equipped with the factory towing package, and a class III equalizing hitch.
Our road test van was provided courtesy of Glassford Motors in Ingersoll, Ontario, a dealership that is very well equipped to meet the needs of the RV enthusiast – their knowledge of hitches and towing accessories is built on a long tradition of serving the RV market.
We have had our eye on the Venture RV Sonic 190VRB as an ideal travel trailer for use with family vans since we first saw the model at the fall dealer preview in Elkhart. Venture RV is a division of K-Z RV, a very highly respected manufacturer of lightweight and affordable travel trailers since 1972. We asked the crew at Ingersoll RV and Trailers, in Ingersoll, Ontario, to assist with this road test of the first 2014 Sonic to arrive in Canada, and it certainly was a pleasure to welcome their enthusiastic crew to our group of Road Test consultants.
In most cases, we suggest that you consult your RV dealer to help you select the best hitch for your needs – in this case, both the automotive and RV dealer teams have extensive expertise in the RV field. In a matter of minutes, the RV techs will show you how the equalizing bars lever part of the weight of the trailer onto the front wheels of the tow vehicle – essential for proper handling and performance of any tow vehicle, especially a front-wheel-drive model. They will also explain why the equalizing hitch should be equipped with sway control to minimize the effects of crosswinds and assist in stability during rapid lane changes, and how you can fine-tune the synchronization of the trailer brakes with the brake control unit in the tow vehicle.
When you combine the features of a well-equipped tow vehicle and a compact travel trailer, the result can be a very comfortable and entertaining touring rig. In this case, the Town & Country Limited van provides supreme comfort for up to seven people – although we recommend this particular combination of travel trailer and tow vehicle for a family of four to five people, based on the sleeping capacity of the Sonic 19’ trailer.
On the road, the van provides all of the comfort you could ask for – ideal for short or long trips, the climate control, seating configurations, and entertainment options make getting to your destination as much fun as the vacation itself. It only takes a few minutes to become accustomed to the “feel” of towing a trailer, and then you can relax and cruise with very little effort. Accelerate and brake conservatively with a trailer in tow, and this rig is a five-star combination. We really like the “Stow ‘n Go” seating feature unique to the Chrysler products – this lets you pack some of your luggage in the van, to let you distribute the weight and bulk of your gear between the tow vehicle and the trailer. Our road test van was dressed to the max for comfort and convenience, with a retail sticker price in the $49,000 range – you can get into a more basic model for about $32,000, but consider your options with an eye to touring, and you will probably want to equip the van with the optional Uconnect Infotainment System, and DVD player, so you will not have to endure the “are we there yet?” syndrome so familiar to parents of small children.
Time to Go Camping!
From the sporty exterior to the spacious interior floor plan, the Sonic line from Venture RV is an ideal choice for active RV touring. The ultra-lightweight design is available in sizes from 17 to 25 feet, weighing between 2,950 and 4,500 pounds. Our 22’10” Sonic 190VRB road test model was selected specifically to match the tow rating of the Chrysler minivan – if you have a family vehicle with a higher tow rating, your dealer will be happy to show you the Sonic 25.
On the road, our Sonic 190VRB test vehicle tracked like a dream, with Wide Trek Axles and optional aluminum rims. This is the first trailer that we have seen with Freestar F-108 Radial S/T tires, so we cannot predict long-term performance, but our research suggests that this is a premium trailer tire that has been engineered to deliver excellent stability and long tread wear characteristics. The ST205/75R14 tire size is readily available in a wide variety of trailer and medium truck tires, so replacement should not be a problem.
Our test unit was equipped with the “Highway Package” including a spare tire, carrier, and cover, and an LP bottle tank cover. The package also includes a black tank flush option.
The Sonic 190VRB is built on a Norco BAL Huck-bolted frame that is electrocoated and epoxy painted for durability. The Huck bolt is a special type of torque bolt that is designed for use in applications that are subject to high vibration or stress. The trailer features a 5/8” tongue and groove plywood floor and laminated sidewalls with aluminum framing. The exterior walls and roof surface are champagne coloured infused fiberglass, and the front of the trailer is protected by a Diamond plate rock guard.
We were very impressed with the fit and finish of the tinted safety glass windows, and the large pass-through baggage doors.
From an RV enthusiast’s perspective, the Sonic 190VRB has all the features you would expect in a well-designed travel trailer. From the LED lighted double entry step and the porch light to the LED lighted power awning, exterior shower, and quad stabilizer jacks, the convenience items are all on board. From a practical perspective, the RV systems incorporate the state of the art components – the LP system has EZ Exchange 20 pound tanks with auto changeover, there is a tank monitor system, a water heater bypass valve, and a marine-style detachable power hookup. Your satellite TV and cable hookups are in place, although the components are optional.
In the Campground
All of your campsite hook-ups are conveniently placed at the rear of the driver’s side of the trailer.
It only takes a few minutes to set your Sonic up in the campground – chock the wheels, level the trailer, connect the water, sewer and electrical hookups, and extend the awning and you have arrived. The Sonic blends nicely into any campground environment – stylish without being ostentatious, elegant without being opulent. It is, in many ways, a trailer that will appeal to everyone. Once you set up your Sonic for entertaining, your guests will enjoy the music from twin marinegrade external speakers, as you cook dinner on the optional exterior grill. You can enjoy the game on the optional LED TV on a swing arm mount. To enhance your campground living space, our Road Test team suggests that you look into a screen enclosure that can be added to your awning.
Inside the Sonic, the décor is very attractive for a trailer in this price range. While the floor plan is limited by the compact overall size of the trailer, there is plenty of space to set up a patio chair or two when you entertain friends.
We tested the Sonic on a blustery winter day, so we could not try out the roofmounted 13,500 BTU Coleman® Whisper A/C, but we have encountered these units on a variety of RVs, and it is an excellent choice for a trailer of this size.
The galley area is large for a trailer of this size with a 6.3 cu. ft. double door refrigerator, double-bowl sink with cover, two-burner stovetop and the optional microwave convection oven with turntable. There is a vented range hood with light to keep the cooking aromas where they belong. Cupboards and drawers are generous in size and the fittings are excellent – with roller ball bearing drawer glides, a ledgestone backsplash and cabinetry with a cognac maple finish, this kitchen has everything you could ask for and more… your dealer can show you where the Safe “T’ek Box is located, so you will never worry about your valuables when you head off for a day at the beach.
Entertaining in the Sonic is a very pleasant experience, with the standard DVD/CD/Stereo/MP3/Bluetooth system pumping out very good sound through the two interior speakers, and the optional LED TV well positioned on a swivel wall mount in the dinette area.
We were impressed with the use of the very latest in RV technology in a trailer at this price point. For example, instead of the conventional 12-volt incandescent or mini-fluorescent lighting, the Sonic engineers have utilized LED lighting – this is a very durable solution, with natural colour light and it is silent – great news for those who find the fluorescent “hum” to be a major distraction.
Our Sonic 190VRB was outfitted with the optional Sleep Tight innerspring Pillow-Top mattress, creating a supremely comfortable residential quality bed. The fold-down dinette provides additional sleeping accommodations for one adult or two children. Flipside cushions provide comfortable upholstery on one side, and easy-clean material on the other – ideal for the active family.
The master bedroom is decorated with a designer pleated headboard, matching bedspread, and window valences. There is overhead storage and under-bed storage, with closet space appropriate for a trailer of this size.
In the Bathroom…
Sonic designers have utilized space very effectively – the bathroom counter is a clever design, much more useful than the typical vanity.
We have always maintained that a welldesigned bathroom is one of the most important components of an RV, and the Sonic passes our tests with flying colours. Not only does this compact ultralight trailer have a generous-sized “Neo-Angle” shower stall with glass door, it has a residential quality footflush toilet and a vanity with a counter large enough to hold your shaving (or make-up) kit and the LED lighting in the area is excellent. The linen closet in the bathroom is large enough for the family’s towels and supplies, and the medicine cabinet is just the right size for a family of four.
Our Road Test Team support crew (wives and children) always insist that the bathroom be equipped with a power vent – the Sonic engineers have provided this, and they have assured more than sufficient supply of hot water thanks to the use of a 6 gallon DSI gas/electric water heater.
The Bottom Line
Whether you are looking for a compact ultralight travel trailer to tow with your family van or SUV, or shopping for an affordable trailer that is built to last, the Sonic 190VRB from Venture RV is an excellent choice. Well designed, attractive, and very well equipped, it is certain to be a very popular model in the 2014 line.