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BradLTL New Reader
10/8/09 9:41 a.m.

Good morning-

I need a bit of help. I looking to buy a truck/suv in very short order. I still haven't completely made up my mind on what to get. I need some knowledge to help, then maybe some advice.

  1. What is the difference between "Standard Towing" and "Maximum Towing"?
  2. How much of either should I be looking at for an open trailer and a car?
  3. 2WD vs. 4WD?

Now for the "What car/truck" portion... I can't fit a full size, period, the end. So, I am looking at other trucks and suvs that will fit and tow. Mostly it will be a daily driver, with some short distance towing on no more than a once a month basis. Here are my thoughts, let me know you opinions...

Nissan Frontier (2nd Gen) (might consider an Xterra) BMW X5 Ford Exploder Sport Trac Jeep Grand Cherokee

Each has a maximum towing of > 5000lbs and had 4 doors.


DILYSI Dave SuperDork
10/8/09 9:49 a.m.

2WD will get better mileage and be cheaper. 4WD will get you out of a muddy paddock spot with less drama.

donalson SuperDork
10/8/09 9:52 a.m.

depending on what you are towing... a chebby astro is a fav around here

Gearheadotaku Reader
10/8/09 10:00 a.m.

always 2wd w/ locking axle.

Standard towing = bumper hitch

Max towing = Platform hitch with equalizer, sway control, trailer brakes, heavy trans cooler, etc.

A S-10 or Astro/ Safari van make good budget tow rigs. 5,000 lbs

Don't tow in Overdrive

iceracer HalfDork
10/8/09 10:55 a.m.

My Liberty tows 4000 lbs very nicely and I use the overdrive. No extra cooling and temp light has never come on. I -81 through PA has a lot of hills.

Joe Gearin
Joe Gearin Associate Publisher
10/8/09 10:57 a.m.

We've had a Nissan Pathfinder here around the office for quite some time now, and it tows very well. I'd imagine the Frontier, or Xterra would be a good choice. That 4.0 liter V6 is pretty burly.

mtn SuperDork
10/8/09 11:17 a.m.

If you aren't taking it in snow/mud, stick with 2WD

Buick Roadmonster.
If you're looking at an X5, one of the better tow vehicles we've had was an MB-ML430, but its not that great a vehicle reliability wise.
I haven't heard much good about the jeeps, other than the Liberty.
Chevy Caprice.
Toyota 4runner.
Last generation Cadillac Fleetwood (can you tell I like B-Bodies?)

walterj Dork
10/8/09 11:21 a.m.

A 1st gen Tundra v8 4x4 is good to around 8k towing (more for the 2wd). Its not full size - but its way beefier than the Tacoma/Frontier/Pathfinders. I pulled my open trailer at 80mph up a few pretty big climbs without needing full throttle and now that I have a 20' enclosed it is still "adequate" but its maxed out.

It is a nice daily driver too - good turning radius, quiet cabin and supple ride. The V8 won't leave you wanting for power and it gets the same mileage as all the others (17mpg or so).

joepaluch New Reader
10/8/09 11:57 a.m.

What are you towing? 1. Car? How heavy?
2. Open trailer? Steel/wood or aluminum?

How much crap will you haul when towing? 1. spare tires 2. tools 3. parts

How far will you tow? 1. less than 50 miles around town 2. under 2 hours 3. 6 hrs+ over mountains

How often will you tow?

How many people will you take when you tow? Is security for your gear important?

Too many questions for a real answer right now.

Now if I make the assumtion you are towing a sports car on a open trailer my advice is this.

V8 with at least 300lbs of torque (or small diesel with 300lbs of torque) and a minimum tow rating of 6500 to 7000lbs.

You can "get by" with a 6 and 5000lbs rating, but you will be at the limits of the vehicle. Smart choices can get you a bigger motor in a the same shape with a good rating.

Another option if you must tow with an small vehicle is a flat towing. IE.. what Motorhome guys do when the tow a small car. You put a tow bar on the vehicle to be towed and then you can get by with a mid size SUV with a 6 and be fine.

Now if you tow an open trailer with alot of junk you will need to go full size to get the motor, tow rating and room for junk.

Years ago I started towing my 944 (2500lbs) on a open trailer behind a 98 Jeep Cherokee 4.0L. It was barely ok. I always had to worry about tongue loads and power as well as brakes. Longest tow was 100 miles one way and it sucked bad. 50 mile tows were ok, but was worried I was killing the Jeep. So I got a 2500 V10 Dodge. Overkill, but allowed me to pull alot more junk including 12 spare tires, tools parts etc. I just now moved up to a 24 ft enclosed box and love it.

Autolex HalfDork
10/8/09 12:18 p.m.

I had a similar question as to what truck, and I decided it a while back.

2005+ Nissan Frontier Crew Cab 4x4. 6500lbs of towing capability, will fit 4 adults (5 if 4 of them are drunk ). decent gas mileage, and not a complete driveway killer.

alfadriver HalfDork
10/8/09 12:37 p.m.

One question- does it have to be an SUV? If not, that opens the market up to a bunch of compact pick ups- Ranger, S10, Toyota, etc- all have models capable of 5500lb.

(BTW, most truck tow ratings is based purely on cooling capability.... just sayin)


joepaluch New Reader
10/8/09 12:58 p.m.

Of course the important part of towing in being able to control the load in hard stop or nast cross wind sitution. Small tow vehicles can easly be pushed around by moderate load. Thus you can get throw in a ditch if the sh$t hits the fan so to speak.

alfadriver HalfDork
10/8/09 1:02 p.m.
joepaluch wrote: Of course the important part of towing in being able to control the load in hard stop or nast cross wind sitution. Small tow vehicles can easly be pushed around by moderate load. Thus you can get throw in a ditch if the sh$t hits the fan so to speak.

Load trailer correctly = solved stability problem. (had to take trailer training- got to run a very unstable trailer on a dirt road, and then induce swaying- what a BLAST that was!!!!, but the answer is proper loading)

joepaluch New Reader
10/8/09 1:34 p.m.

Proper trailer loading is a given. However smaller tow vehicles have less stabiltly and margin to control the load in emergency or dicey situations.

Towing my 944 with a Jeep Cherokee vs 2500 dodge made it crystal clear that with Jeep if something bad happen I would be hanging on for dear life. With the dodge I had the trailer brakes fail (wiring issue) and never even noticed. If the trailer brakes failed on the Jeep I would have wrecked.

When you are towing having a large, long wheelbase, heavy tow vehicle is always better than a small light one with a short wheelbase. Factory tow ratings do take this into account to some degree, but if you are going to two a car on a trailer with any thing less than a full size SUV or truck you need to do your homework carefully. Many platforms can handle it, but sadly many cannot. Choose wisely.

The sad thing is most good tow vehicles really stink as daily drivers.

Salanis SuperDork
10/8/09 1:43 p.m.

Joe, How did the flat towing work for you with the 944? I'm thinking of starting 944 spec, and having limited space, a midsize Truck/SUV/Van (DD/tow vehicle) and flat towing or using a dolly seems like it would make sense for my needs.

MedicineMan New Reader
10/8/09 3:18 p.m.

Just to give you some real world numbers

My 08 frontier tows our camper great. It is about 18ft (so not a monster) but fully loaded it weighs around 5k. I average about 18mpg highway with that load, and 24-25 highway(taking it easy). It is a NISMO 4x4 by the way with the 6 speed manual

joepaluch New Reader
10/8/09 3:34 p.m.
Salanis wrote: Joe, How did the flat towing work for you with the 944? I'm thinking of starting 944 spec, and having limited space, a midsize Truck/SUV/Van (DD/tow vehicle) and flat towing or using a dolly seems like it would make sense for my needs.

I have never flat towed, but I know many 944 spec guys that do. The 944 is easy to flat tow and most guys get a spare bumper from a jund yard and mount the gear to it. Then just swap the normal bumper with their flat tow bumper at the track. It is a two bolt swap.

I do feel it puts more wear and tear on the driveline and if you have suspension issue at the track you can't drag it home as easily. However it allows you two major advantages.

1) Smaller tow vehicle 2) No need to store a trailer which is big deal for some guys who don't have yard large enough and don't want o pay storage fees.

I believe most would rather tow, but given the tow vehicle limitations and storage issues flat tow and make the best of it. One of the fastests 944 spec cars in Az is flat towed and another of the fastest actually drove his car 550 miles to Utah for Nationals and pulled a small tire trailer. He was on outside pole for the 34 car field and lead 5 laps. Finished in 3rd.

andrave HalfDork
10/9/09 12:54 p.m.

there have been so many tow recommendation threads lately that you should look through them and see what people say.

1) 2wd's generally have better towing capacity than 4wd and sometimes get marginally better mpg, but you would be surprised how easy it is to get stuck even in wet grass when you are weighed down with a few thousand pounds. I've had to use 4wd to get a trailer moving a few times. If you will trailer at all in winter conditions its not even a question.

2) a double axle car hauler weighs in the area of 2000 lbs. aluminum less, heavy duty models more. typical car is 3000 lbs. So minimum of 5000 lbs.

3) maximum is the most you can tow, and you may only be able to reach this number by adding optional equipment (see above: typically weight distributing hitch, trans cooler, etc). Standard is how much it will tow the way it comes from the factory.

You didn't say what model years you were looking at, but for the frontier and the xterra, the 3.5 and the 4.0 are great motors, but the earlier 3.3 motors are total crap, even supercharged, and I wouldn't want to tow with one.

I'd avoid the explorer sport trac. I've heard the explorers aren't great towers, and uhaul won't rent you a trailer with one.

Why can't you "fit" a fullsize? An F150 standard cab short bed would take up about as much room (maybe less) than a sport trac, and probably be a more desireable tow companion (as well as much cheaper).

Trans_Maro HalfDork
10/10/09 11:46 p.m.

Watch state laws when flat towing.

In B.C. if your trailer is 1/2 or better of the tow vehicles weight, it requires trailer brakes. This includes vehicles being flat-towed.


BradLTL New Reader
10/14/09 8:14 a.m.

Ok, so we made the purchase yesterday.... we went with a 2006 VW Touareg V8. It checks the boxes we needed:

  1. Fits in the garage
  2. Strong motor
  3. 4wd
  4. 7700lbs towing capacity
  5. Got a good deal 6 (Probably the actual most important one) Wife likes it

Thoughts? Experience? Advice?

cwh Dork
10/14/09 8:33 a.m.

One interesting way to beat the towing problem is to drive your race car to the track. The owner of the car I crewed for would occasionally drive from Boca Raton to Sebring in a Trans Am/ GT1 "Camaro", open pipes, all painted. Never got stopped.

BradLTL New Reader
10/14/09 2:19 p.m.

Only problem with driving your car to the track is that if you break you car... you walk home.

Trans_Maro HalfDork
10/14/09 7:39 p.m.
BradLTL wrote: Only problem with driving your car to the track is that when you break you car... you walk home.

Fixed that for you.


Vigo New Reader
10/14/09 7:48 p.m.

I towed my Dodge Aries with my Dodge Dynasty all the way from Texas to Florida and back for the challenge, ~2500 miles round trip.

It was actually the best towing experience ive had in all the years ive owned my tow dolley. I only recently came across a hitch for the dynasty, so towing with it is a relatively new thing to me.

If you tow with a trailer, you have to be aware of tongue loads, so you may well need a truck, but if you use a dolley like i do, its really more an issue of stability and brakes. I think the distance from the hitch ball to the rear tires makes a difference. That would favor something with a short rear overhang like an Astro. My Dynasty has the biggest brakes dodge ever put on a k-car (daytona and spirit r/t stuff) and felt adequate in the braking department. A stock dynasty would not have been.

Previously, ive mostly towed with an extended cab short bed 2wd dakota. Ive had more stability issues with that truck than the dynasty. I think if you add up the distance from the rear tires to the hitch ball, the side to side slop in the tall sidewalls and the relative lateral sloppiness of leaf springs without a track bar, its just bound to be less stable than my dynasty.. talking about wind gusts and direction changes here... but it does have stronger brakes.

Ive also towed with a cherokee a few times and i feel its a great way to kill yourself. Dont bother trying. Cherokee's are ridiculously unstable to begin with and towing just makes it worse. Ive had 2 and been around others, and while i like them for a lot of things.. towing is NOT one of them.

pinchvalve SuperDork
10/14/09 8:42 p.m.

The Kia Borrego tows 5000 lbs, has a 10yr/100,000mi warranty and has tons of standard features (great for a daily driver) and is a better price proposal than the competition. If you are looking for new, I would check that out.

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