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Old 06-23-2021, 06:45 AM   #1
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Best mid-size SUV for towing

Hi,
I am looking for a ~5000lb towing capacity class SUV, with the idea of occasional towing a small camper. I am thinking a camper something around 3000lb.
We are considering something like an ALiner, or equivalent. This will also be my daily drive so, I don't want a pickup or Suburban size vehicle. I know this limits our trailer/camper choices but that is fine. It is just my wife and I.
I have been looking at the following:
Honda Pilot
Subaru Ascent
Ford Explorer
Toyota Highlander
others??

I have looked at specs on thee but, beyond that, is any one better than another? Any other models I should consider?

Things like chassis/frame design never show up in specs.
Likewise finding specs on max tongue weight and such is liking pulling teethe sometime.

This will be for early next year. I drive a 2009 Pilot right now, with no tow package. It has >250K miles on it and next year I plan to replace it with something I can tow a small camper with.

Thx
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Old 06-23-2021, 07:10 AM   #2
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Others may not agree, but I never felt comfortable with the tow capacity of the various mid-size SUVs. These are typically classified as CUVs, crossover utility vehicles. I believe they are all unibody construction as opposed to body-on-frame.

I know you say you do not want a pickup for your daily driver, but have you considered a mid-size truck? Not as large as a Suburban or a full size pickup, more substantial tow capacity, little better gas mileage than a full size vehicle.

I would look at the GM twins (Colorado/Canyon), Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. The Frontier has a new design coming out soon. Ranger is fairly new, the GM offering is supposed to be refreshed in 2022. I hesitate to suggest the Jeep Gladiator because it can be quite expensive. Honda Ridgeline is a Pilot with a truck bed, unibody construction, fairly expensive as well.

Cost was another issue for me when I purchased my Canyon in 2015. Any CUV or SUV meeting my other criteria would have come in at a much higher price point with fewer luxuries.
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Old 06-23-2021, 07:30 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NH_guy View Post
Hi,
I am looking for a ~5000lb towing capacity class SUV, with the idea of occasional towing a small camper. I am thinking a camper something around 3000lb.
We are considering something like an ALiner, or equivalent. This will also be my daily drive so, I don't want a pickup or Suburban size vehicle. I know this limits our trailer/camper choices but that is fine. It is just my wife and I.
I have been looking at the following:
Honda Pilot
Subaru Ascent
Ford Explorer
Toyota Highlander
others??

I have looked at specs on thee but, beyond that, is any one better than another? Any other models I should consider?

Things like chassis/frame design never show up in specs.
Likewise finding specs on max tongue weight and such is liking pulling teethe sometime.

This will be for early next year. I drive a 2009 Pilot right now, with no tow package. It has >250K miles on it and next year I plan to replace it with something I can tow a small camper with.

Thx

SUVs make great tow vehicles. They’ll handle better than any of the above small pickups.

The Honda is great, as is the Toyota. The Nissan Armada, BMW X5, and Audi Q5 should also be on your list. All can be found used much cheaper than pickups which are undergoing a saws surge.
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Old 06-23-2021, 07:42 AM   #4
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If you buy, for example a Toyota Highlander with the factory tow package and a 5,000lb towing capacity and want to tow a A-Liner I think you would be ok.

But I am not a fan of towing with a V6 engine. I tried it sevearl times and moved to a V8 shortly there after.

Trucks are actually nice to drive. So before you poo poo a truck look at the Ford F-150 with the 2.7 V6 Eco-Boost engine. 10 speed transmission and plenty of power with fun to drive DNA with ok milage. This would easily tow the bigger A-Frame type trailers (ones with the dormers) or a T@B 400 or a very big highwall pop-up.

My experience - I tried to tow a 4,800lb. 26.5' travel trailer with a generation 1 Honda Ridgeline 5 speed with a 5,000 lb. towing capacity and 1,500lb payload. I got lousy mpg and the Ridgeline struggled towing into the wind. I also had a lot of sway with just a 122" wheelbase

I traded the Ridgeline on a F-150 5.0 litre 147" wheelbase 6 speed. Get this - the F-150 got better mpg both solo and towing. No sway and faster speeds. It was a night/day difference.

This experience taught me that wheelbase is important.

Again - look at the F-150 crew cab with a 2.7 Eco-Boost engine. If you don't like it then look at the Colorado/Canyon, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Ford Ranger.

I believe all the mid-sized trucks will have a longer wheelbase than a mid sized SUV.
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Old 06-23-2021, 01:40 PM   #5
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We towed a smaller "A" frame trailer all over the US and southern Canada Using a Toyota Solara. It was a 2000 pound gross weight unit. Our actual trailer weight was around 1600 pounds. The Solara was rated to tow 1500 #. Actual weight of a trailer increases with the time you have owned it.

It was a great experience. It was quick to set up and take down. Easy to stop at a road side park and make lunch. It was great for winter camping after a few modifications to poorly designed seals.

My wife did not like using pit toilet seats in the winter.

Later we towed using a Toyota RAV4.

Now we are towing a 20 foot Kodiak Cub weighing in at 4300 pounds fully loaded for travel using a Nissan Pathfinder. The Pathfinder is rated for 5000 pounds towing. This rig is pushing the limits of a 5000 # tow vehicle. We have set a self imposed 60 mph speed limit for safety and gas mileage reasons.

I would recommend staying under 4000 pounds actual weight for a 5000 # max tow vehicle. (Use trailer gross vehicle weight for planning purposes.) Weigh it when you can. Ignore dry weight or unloaded weight. Be sure to verify towing capacity.

I bought the Pathfinder because published tow capacity was 6000 #. The sticker in the door frame said 5000#. The door sticker is the definitive source.

Since you will be towing while the trailer is folded, you will have a much better experience with gas mileage and fewer issues with wind.

What else you put in the tow vehicle will affect how much you can tow. Everything you add to the tow vehicle after it left the factory subtracts from the actual towing capacity.

I wish you good luck and happy trails ahead!
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Old 06-23-2021, 01:50 PM   #6
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For what it's worth we had been towing our Jayco 212 QB with our 2020 Durango RT. It had plenty of power, we could hit the hitch weight by packing carefully and driving with 2 average size adults and a 12 year old did not blow the gross weight budget if we packed lightly. That said, I just never felt comfortable towing like that, which is why we just got a RAM 2500. More than a match for my current trailer, it should easily handle 30' trailers in the 7000 to 9000 pound range if we upgrade.

A Durango should be fine pulling an Aliner, especially since they have so little wind resistance when folded. It's a great daily driver, but if gas milage is important you might consider the Durango with a 6 instead of the Hemi.
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Old 06-23-2021, 01:55 PM   #7
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Maximum tongue weight is the Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight minus the Dry Weight or Unloaded Weight. It is sometimes called Maximum Cargo Weight.

Everything you add to the vehicle subtracts from Maximum Cargo Weight. So, passenger's weight, driver's weight in excess of 150 pounds, luggage, equipment, add on hitch, and possibly weight distribution hitch all count. Weight of absolutely everything added since the tow vehicle left the factory subtracts from Maximum Cargo weight.

The hitch used on the vehicle will also limit the tongue weight. Many use a hitch that has a maximum of 500 pounds. My Cub had a tongue weight of over 900 pounds. I have made changes to reduce that to between 700 and 500 pounds. So I am often overloading the hitch. Get a heavy duty hitch if you can. Tongue weight may be more than you expect.

Actual tongue weight of small trailers varied. Published weights are rarely accurate. Both of my trailers actual tongue weights were more than double the published weight.

I wish you good luck and happy trails ahead!
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Old 06-23-2021, 02:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tuffr2 View Post
If you buy, for example a Toyota Highlander with the factory tow package and a 5,000lb towing capacity and want to tow a A-Liner I think you would be ok.

But I am not a fan of towing with a V6 engine. I tried it sevearl times and moved to a V8 shortly there after.
I've been towing a 4000 lb boat and trailer for about 8 years now, using three different Jeep Grand Cherokees after 1 year with a Highlander 6 cylinder. The first was the EcoDiesel, the second and present are the V6 gas. The Diesel had a 7200 lb tow rating, the first V6 gas had a 6200 lb tow rating, and the new one I just got, which is exactly the same as the previous one, only has a 3500 lb tow rating, all with factory tow option.

The only thing I can guess is that Jeep was getting too many warranty calls on the V6 towing heavy trailers. I believe the hemi's are rated up where they used to be, though.

Other than that, I like towing with them. The self-levelling rear shocks are nice, too.
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Old 06-23-2021, 02:38 PM   #9
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I would look at the Jeep Grand Cherokee with either the Hemi (V8) or the eco-diesel. They both have 7200lb towing capacity and all the power you would need to tow the size trailer you mentioned.

These both get good mileage but the diesel will get 30+ on the highway and 15-18 towing the size/weight trailer you mentioned.
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Old 06-23-2021, 02:56 PM   #10
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My son is a service writer for Chrysler and likes the eco diesels. The only thing he warns against is getting one if most of your driving is just a few miles a day. Diesels don't like that and they have problems with the pollution systems getting clogged.

Quote:
Originally Posted by paul65k View Post
I would look at the Jeep Grand Cherokee with either the Hemi (V8) or the eco-diesel. They both have 7200lb towing capacity and all the power you would need to tow the size trailer you mentioned.

These both get good mileage but the diesel will get 30+ on the highway and 15-18 towing the size/weight trailer you mentioned.
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Old 06-23-2021, 03:20 PM   #11
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I would look at the Jeep Grand Cherokee with either the Hemi (V8) or the eco-diesel. They both have 7200lb towing capacity and all the power you would need to tow the size trailer you mentioned.

These both get good mileage but the diesel will get 30+ on the highway and 15-18 towing the size/weight trailer you mentioned.
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My son is a service writer for Chrysler and likes the eco diesels. The only thing he warns against is getting one if most of your driving is just a few miles a day. Diesels don't like that and they have problems with the pollution systems getting clogged.
I liked it too, but after the first one (lease), I couldn’t get another. Couldn’t this time out, either. Doesn’t look like they’re putting them in GC’s any more; just Wranglers, Gladiators, and half-ton Dodge PU’s.
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Old 06-23-2021, 03:36 PM   #12
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I loved my Honda Ridgeline towing my boat. But a non-areodynamic travel trailer is another animal.

But the natural shape of a boat it is areodynamic.
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Old 06-23-2021, 04:05 PM   #13
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I liked it too, but after the first one (lease), I couldn’t get another. Couldn’t this time out, either. Doesn’t look like they’re putting them in GC’s any more; just Wranglers, Gladiators, and half-ton Dodge PU’s.
You can still get the Hemi which is 360HP/390lbs......still a great option. Mine gets 22-24 on the highway.....not sure about when towing though.
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Old 06-23-2021, 05:00 PM   #14
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Is staying out of the ditch and not parking on the roof important?

They used to be called utility vehicles. Truck frame and station wagon body.

The long wheel base made for stable towing.

I bought my first IH TravelAll because it was practical for my navy lifestyle. Replaced it with a '84 3/4 ton Suburban.

Two down sides. When a practical was needed, I was driving. Second, they are not sports cars. You do not get the sense of speed that you get with a low center of gravity sports car.

So I had a practical car for going camping, skiing, and towing. Go big!

Then I had a different kind of practical car for commuting. Go cheap!
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