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Old 04-09-2019, 09:31 PM   #1
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Comparing mid-size SUVs for towing -- also factory tow pkg

I am just beginning my search for a very small travel trailer, for just me, and a mid-size SUV to tow it. Will likely buy SUV new, because I tend to keep cars forever and I want a great warranty. My normal yearly mileage is very low

I was strongly considering Hyundai Sante Fe XL or Kia Sorento, with towing capacity of 5000 lbs, and that great 10 yr/ 100K warranty. When I was only perusing Scamp or Casita websites, that looked like enough capacity.

But I need to buy closer to home (So Cal), not thousands of miles away, and as I expand my search, the dry weights get closer to 3000 lbs , possibly 3500 lbs, and tongue weights closer to 400 lbs. And that's without A/C and maybe an awning option on the listed weight, plus of course water and stuff.

So now I'm wondering about SUVs like Dodge Durango (has Mopar MaxCare warranty available for purchase) or Jeep Grand Cherokee. These are rated at around 6200 lbs towing capacity, which seems more like it.

Any comments re possible SUVs for trailers around 15-17 feet max, 3500 lbs dry.

Also, is it best to find SUVs that have factory tow packages that include factory transmission cooling? Any suggestions as to which makers do that? Didn't seem to be true for Hyundai / Kia.

I should mention that I'm a recent widow. We loved our 31 foot class A, but it's too much maintenance for me. And since I'm on my own, I want to have a great warranty, and probably buy at least the vehicle new, and possibly the trailer too. For once I want to make my life simpler, not just be frugal.

Thanks for all help.

Deborah
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Old 04-09-2019, 09:41 PM   #2
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FYI, Dodge/Ram/Jeep products are usually near the bottom of reliability ratings in Consumer Reports. These ratings are based upon thousands of reports by actual owners, and are not a poll of editor's favorites.

The April issue of Consumer Reports is the annual Auto Issue, and should be available now. Do your research before spending big bucks.

For reliability you may want to consider Honda Pilot, Acura MDX, Lexus RX, and Toyota Highlander or 4 Runner.

I have towed tens of thousands of miles with 2 different MDX models, and have had zero problems. 5000 Lb. tow rating with dealer-installed trans cooler on both Pilot and MDX, but staying below 4000 actual loaded weight tows easier.

My Coachmen 192 RBS weighs in at 4800 Lbs, and tends to pull the tow vehicle around in strong cross winds. I believe that this is due to the softer suspension found on SUV models, vs. harder suspension on trucks of similar tow capacity.

Best of luck in your search. Post your questions here. You will get different opinions, but usually more truthful than auto and RV sales people.

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Old 04-09-2019, 11:28 PM   #3
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I'd like to suggest staying away from unibody vehicles for towing. Just my opinion, but I would look for a used Chevy Tahoe or Yukon for SUV towing.
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Old 04-09-2019, 11:45 PM   #4
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But why, for such a light trailer?
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Old 04-10-2019, 02:11 AM   #5
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Durango (with strong warranty) and 4Runner would be first on my list. Good luck and have fun.
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Old 04-10-2019, 04:44 AM   #6
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Toyota makes 3 BOF SUVs, any of which would be fine. At the top of the range is the Land Cruiser. It’s big and expensive. This is Toyota’s most reliable vehicle and designed to last for decades. It’s also is a more capable tow vehicle than you need and would allow you to step up a few trailer sizes before needing to be replaced. Stepping down form there is the Lexus GX. It’s a mid-size with a small V8, built on a lighter duty frame than the Land Cruiser. The least expensive option is the 4-runner, which is actually the same vehicle as the Lexus GX with a different body and only a 6 cylinder engine.
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Old 04-10-2019, 06:05 AM   #7
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Quote:
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But why, for such a light trailer?
Because unibody mid-size SUVs tend to be designed such that towing is, at best, an after thought and at worst, simply a number put out by the marketing department.

For example, when Toyota created the Highlander, they started with a Toyota Camry, raised it up a couple of inches, added all-wheel drive and gave it the body of a tall station wagon with a 3rd row of seats. But the frame, axles, transmission, radiator, suspension type, geometry, etc were all unchanged. Nobody would even think about buying a Toyota Camry to use as a tow vehicle, but the Highlander is an SUV and SUVs are good for towing, so the Highlander must be a good tow vehicle, right?

When something is designed, usually the designer starts with "how is this product going to be used?" If the answer is "mom's taxi", a unibody makes a ton of sense. You can use a frame, driveline, suspension, etc already developed for your other vehicles (or you can share the development costs with those folks). And the unibody is lighter and it's use enables a cheaper, faster, and easier vehicle assembly process. But when a designer answers with "it's going to be used to tow trailers on a regular basis", the answer is almost never a unibody frame.

More importantly, when the engineers start with "this vehicle is going to be used to tow on a regular basis", they end up making different choices throughout the vehicle design process. Because they're thinking about "how is this vehicle going to brake and steer in an emergency when all the weight is on the hitch and there's no longer much weight on the front axle and the steering components?" Again, the Highlander started life as Camry, so nobody every thought about that in the entire design process. Sure, it's an SUV, but it's primary role is as mom's taxi. So the only time you ever have any weight in the 3rd row is when there's people in the 2nd row. The designers would have never even thought about you, the little widow in the driver's seat, and the only other weight being 400lbs hanging off the hitch at the extreme other end of the vehicle. The tow rating would've been a paper exercise working backwards; starting with "we have a vehicle, can you pencil heads go figure out how much it can safely tow so we can put a number in the marketing brochure?"
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Old 04-10-2019, 07:17 AM   #8
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Thanks, I get it. Now I have to figure out the best compromise. Won't be getting a larger trailer, won't be towing for long distances (usually 60 miles, occasionally 150), but do want to be safe.
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Old 04-10-2019, 09:02 AM   #9
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So am now going to be exploring SUVs theoretically rated for 6200 lbs. I get what you're saying about truck vs car chassis (at least I get it to a point), and still in absolute terms I think what I'm starting to understand is I need a heavy enough vehicle to not get pulled around by the fact of towing, but unless I'm missing something, with these very small trailers, I am not at all sure I need the most beastly truck known to man.

Happy to keep learning about this, because I want to be safe. I know for some people you'll think they would be upsizing a trailer later, but I won't be. I've been around long enough to know what I want in a trailer. And I drove a full size Chevy Silverado and a full size Dodge Van for years (which towed our boat) and I don't want to do that either full-time. Nor do I want to attempt to find a used truck just for towing.

So, moving up the scale in SUVs, and going to figure this out. If I end up in a Suburban, it's going to be pretty funny.
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Old 04-10-2019, 09:21 AM   #10
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The tow capacity is one factor and another is cargo capacity which becomes more of an issue with SUVs vs trucks which are designed for cargo. You're on the right track with some helpful minds here so I'll ask, with the idea of simplifying things and making life easy, have you given thought to a Class B+ or Class C in the 21' to 25' range? The thought of the cost of buying both a tow vehicle and a trailer vs the above could be a wash or even be in your favor and at face value seems a good fit for simplifying.
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Old 04-10-2019, 09:40 AM   #11
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Class B would appeal but seem to be crazy expensive. Class C no, don't want the roof maintenance, etc. Need a new vehicle regardless, have 2 old vehicles now (99 rodeo and 2007 camry)
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Old 04-10-2019, 09:51 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DebiT View Post
So am now going to be exploring SUVs theoretically rated for 6200 lbs. I get what you're saying about truck vs car chassis (at least I get it to a point), and still in absolute terms I think what I'm starting to understand is I need a heavy enough vehicle to not get pulled around by the fact of towing, but unless I'm missing something, with these very small trailers, I am not at all sure I need the most beastly truck known to man.

Happy to keep learning about this, because I want to be safe. I know for some people you'll think they would be upsizing a trailer later, but I won't be. I've been around long enough to know what I want in a trailer. And I drove a full size Chevy Silverado and a full size Dodge Van for years (which towed our boat) and I don't want to do that either full-time. Nor do I want to attempt to find a used truck just for towing.

So, moving up the scale in SUVs, and going to figure this out. If I end up in a Suburban, it's going to be pretty funny.
As I mentioned earlier, for that size trailer, you'd be fine with a 4-Runner or Lexus GX. Are they truck based? No, but... Full size pickup trucks as we think of them are not sold in much of the world. But there are still a lot of boats and horses and even camping trailers sold in places where Ford, Chevy and Ram don't sell any trucks. What do all those boats and horse trailers get towed with? Toyota SUVs, Land Rovers, and Nissan Armadas (Patrols). This international market is the market that Toyota designed for when creating the Land Cruiser and Lexus GX/4-Runner*. So while they're not actually truck based, they very much are designed and intended to be used as tow vehicles paired with trailers in the size/weight class you're considering. They're a totally different type of vehicle than something like a Highlander...


Is a Suburban/Expedition/Armada/Land Cruiser a better tow vehicle than a 4-Runner or a Land Rover Discovery? Yes. But for one person towing an 18-foot 3500-4500lb trailer, it's a bit overkill.



*I'm lumping these together here because they're both variants of something called the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado which is not sold in the US. The Lexus GX is the Lexus version of the Land Cruiser Prado and is actually sold overseas. The 4-runner is a unique North American body fitted to the same frame, drivetrain, etc. Body-on-Frame lets Toyota put a different body on the same vehicle for a different market.
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Old 04-10-2019, 11:08 AM   #13
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The above is very helpful. This is what I'm trying to learn: what are the various types or classes of SUVs, from what's built on a Camry chassis, to a Land Cruiser, to what's in between, and what are the various steps/ changes / differences in those classes. Any knowledge of that is going to be very helpful
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Old 04-10-2019, 11:36 AM   #14
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I've had a 2000 4Runner (3rd generation), a 2004 4Runner (4th generation), a 2012 Highlander, a 2015 Grand Cherokee diesel, and now a 2018 Grand Cherokee V6 gas, all with factory tow packages and AWD or 4WD. The diesel GC was by far the best at towing my 4200 lb 31 ft boat/trailer combo, and it had a 7200 lb tow rating (6200 lb for the V6 gas). The V6 is strong, but much louder on hills as the engine has to rev higher to pull the same hill at the same speed, which I know because I usually tow at 60 mph, sometimes getting as high at 65 mph but never higher.

The Toyotas felt too squirrely at speed. The GC's also get squirrely at high speed, but at 60 mph, they feel much more stable than any of the Toyotas did. I can also adjust the power steering boost down to "sport" mode, which makes the wheel less sensitive to corrections, which is good for towing. They also have self-leveling rear shocks (passive), which probably help a bit there. No weight distributing hitch, though.

Mine are leased, so I don't care about relative reliability. But for the record, I've had no more issues with my Jeeps than with any of my Toyotas. Actually, fewer warranty claims, in the case of the second 4Runner, which just seemed to like having problems. I was glad to see that one go back.
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