By Garth W. Cane
As demand for RVs surges throughout North America, many first-time RV travellers are looking for the ideal tow vehicle to suit their recreational needs, as well as filling the role as everyday family transportation.
The Tow Vehicle Class of 2021 spans the full gamut from compact SUVs that can tow fold-down camping trailers and compact lightweight travel trailers, up to the one-ton duallies that can handle the largest of the fifth wheel toy haulers.
Here is a synopsis of the most popular tow vehicles currently available across Canada – please note that while the automotive dealers will try to help you select the ideal tow vehicle for your needs, your best source for advice on the perfect tow vehicle for the trailer of your dreams is your local RV dealer, whose experience in towing generally exceeds the knowledge base available to the automobile sales staff.
The latest SUV from Ford Performance – Explorer ST – returns for 2021 as the most powerful, most fun-to-drive Explorer to date. Its specially tuned 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine produces 400 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque2, enabling a top track speed of 143 mph. With 10-speed automatic transmission, available intelligent four-wheel drive plus a Terrain Management System featuring seven selectable drive modes. Explorer equipped with the 3.0-liter EcoBoost® can tow up to 5,600 pounds with the Class III Trailer Tow Package, while 2.3-liter EcoBoost-powered Explorer can tow up to 5,300 pounds with the Class III Trailer Tow Package.
The only midsize pickup Built Ford Tough, the 2021 Ford Ranger is ready for adventure and packed with driver-assist technologies to enable easier driving both on and off-road. Powered by a 2.3-liter EcoBoost® boasting 270 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque paired to an efficient 10-speed automatic, the all-new Ranger is available in either SuperCab or SuperCrew configuration. It can be optioned with 4×2 or 4×4, and comes in three trim levels – XL, XLT and Lariat. Tow rating 7480 pounds
The 2021 Ford Expedition three-row SUV and the extended-wheelbase Expedition MAX are built with family in mind. All series levels get a boost in size with the available MAX version – With its beefed-up 3.5-liter EcoBoost® engine, the Platinum edition churns out 400 horsepower and 480 lb.-ft. of torque, while the standard 3.5-liter EcoBoost delivers 375 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft*. When equipped with the heavy-duty Trailer Tow Package, Expedition delivers a best-in-class 9,300-pound towing capacity. Available Pro Trailer Backup Assist™ helps take the stress out of lining up a trailer or boat to make maneuvering more enjoyable.
The all-new F-150 raises the standard for all light-duty trucks. The Ford F150 is available with a 3.3L Ti-VCT V6, 2.7L EcoBoost, 5.0L Ti-VCT V8, 3.0L Power Stroke, and an available all-new 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid powertrain with Pro Power Onboard – an integrated power generator. It can be ordered with a 6.7L or 7.3L diesel engine, with maximum gooseneck towing of up to 37,000 pounds, maximum fifth-wheel towing of 32,500 pounds, maximum conventional towing of 24,200 pounds and maximum payload capacity of 7,850 pounds
The new 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat is the most powerful SUV ever – powered by the proven supercharged 6.2-liter HEMI Hellcat V-8 engine with 710 horsepower and 645 lb.-ft. of torque: The new Durango R/T AWD equipped with the Tow N Go Package leverages SRT’s menacing looks, 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 performance and unmatched towing with best-in-class towing of 8,700 pounds, an increased top speed of 145 mph, Track, Sport, Snow and Tow drive modes and a retuned SRT-performance exhaust with an unmistakable iconic Dodge exhaust rumble.
Ram 1500 – The 2021 Ram 1500 is the no-compromise benchmark for durability, technology, efficiency, performance, and convenience with features never before offered in a pickup. The Ram 1500 features up to 5,783 kilograms (12,750 pounds) of towing capability and 1,043 kilograms (2,300 pounds) of payload. The eTorque mild hybrid system delivers improved fuel efficiency in both V-6 (standard) and V-8 configurations. The Ram 1500 is North America’s most powerful half-ton diesel pickup with 480 lb.-ft. of torque, and is rated at an unsurpassed 7.1 litres per 100 km highway, delivering over 1,600 kilometres of range on a single tank of fuel.
Ram 3500 – The Ram Heavy Duty blends extreme performance and towing capability with the segment’s most refinement and operator comfort features. The 2021 Ram Heavy Duty offers a towing capacity of 35,100 pounds and a payload capacity of 7,680 pounds. Driving it all, the pickup segment’s first 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque engine – the Cummins I-6 Turbo Diesel. The Ram Heavy Duty also sets benchmarks in comfort, luxury materials, innovation and technology extending well past any competitive offerings. Gooseneck Towing capacity is 37,100 lbs.
General Motors / GMC
The new GMC Canyon Denali and AT4 are powered by a best-in-class 308 horsepower 3.6L V6 gas engine. Additional power comes from an available 2.8L Diesel engine, offering 369 lb-ft of torque. max trailering rating is up to 7,700 lbs, StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation technology, trailer sway control and hill-start assist.
Terrain – Three available turbocharged propulsion systems, including a turbo-diesel — and two efficiency-enhancing nine-speed automatic transmissions matched with the gas engines. Stop/start technology is featured on all systems. Thanks to the GMC First Electronic Precision Shift transmission, a larger centre console with pass-through storage underneath and side-by-side cupholders enhance Terrain’s functionality. Tow rating is 3500 pounds.
For 2021, Chevrolet engineers increased the max towing capacity of the Silverado 3500 by 500 pounds for an available best-in-class max tow rating of 36,000 pounds. The Silverado 3500 HD Work Truck, Regular Cab, dual-rear-wheel, two-wheel-drive models equipped with the available 6.6L Duramax diesel and 10-speed Allison transmission and gooseneck hitch with a Max Tow Package.
The 2.7L Turbo adds thousands of pounds of trailering capacity to every configuration. The popular Crew Cab Short Box model increases its rating by 2,500 pounds to a max capacity of 9,300 pounds in two-wheel drive. The available Multi-Flex Tailgate offers Silverado customers six unique functions, allowing for easier access to bed cargo, enhanced loading solutions and a standing workstation.
The proven Duramax 6.6L turbo-diesel engine offers high torque, high power, low noise and exceptional durability. For the 2020 Sierra HD, the Duramax offers an SAE-certified 445 horsepower and 910 lb-ft of torque. This already powerful engine performs more efficiently thanks to increased cooling capacity delivered in part by improved air induction. The bigger frame, stronger propulsion and smarter technologies are expected to deliver dramatically greater towing capacity than previous models, well in excess of 30,000 pounds.
The Hyundai Sante Fe with Turbo engine has been redesigned inside and out and equipped with an extensive suite of available Hyundai SmartSense™ safety features. Drivers seeking greater power can opt for the Turbocharged traditional gasoline powertrain with 277 combined horsepower / 311 lb-ft torque. Trailer preparation package provides 3,500 lbs towing capacity.
The Infinity QX60 is powered by a 3.5L V6 direct injection engine that develops 295 hp and 270 foot-pounds of torque. It has a continuously variable transmission with manual shift mode, hill start assist, speed sensitive steering, independent front and multilink rear suspension. It can tow 5000 pounds. The QX80 with a 5.0L V8 can tow 8500 pounds.
Jeep Gladiator’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine with ESS delivers 285 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque and is engineered to provide a broad torque band. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission is optional, 1700 pounds of payload and up to 7,650 pounds of towing capacity. Gladiator will offer the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine, rated at 260 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque, with ESS. The new Mopar trailer brake controller will give Jeep Gladiator owners the ability to activate the electronic brakes on properly equipped trailers.
Jeep Wrangler Powertrain options include a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine with engine stop-start (ESS) technology, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 with ESS and mild-hybrid e-Torque technology, and Wrangler four-door models offer the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine with ESS. One of the few SUVs to offer a six-speed manual transmission in addition to its available eight-speed automatic. Tow rating for the 2.0 L turbocharged is 4000 pounds, the 3.2L V6 is 4500 pounds.
For 2021, the Grand Cherokee lineup continues to offer a variety of models, including the Trackhawk, the most powerful and quickest SUV ever, as well as the most capable factory-produced and most luxurious Grand Cherokee models ever with the Trailhawk and Summit. Legendary Jeep capability comes courtesy of four available 4×4 systems, Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension system and class-leading Selec-Terrain traction management system. Grand Cherokee boasts best-in-class towing of 7,200 pounds and a crawl ratio of 44.1:1.
The new Discovery is among the world’s first full-sized seven-seat premium SUVs with RDE2-certified and Euro 6d-Final-compliant diesel engines. Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive automatically distributes torque to the axle that needs it most for optimum efficiency. Best-in-class 3,500kg towing capacity and Advanced Tow Assist take the stress out of difficult reversing manoeuvres.
The Lexus GX460 with the 4.6L V8 engine develops 301 peak horsepower and delivers powerful and smooth on-road performance. Its 329 lb-ft of torque makes the GX 460 an excellent tow vehicle with a 6,500 lb rating. It has a six-speed super electronically controlled automatic transmission. the GX460 has full-time four-wheel-drive with active traction control that allows you to go off the beaten path, while the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System enhances the driver’s mastery over any terrain.
The Lexus LX 570 features full-time four-wheel-drive enhanced with a multi-terrain select system, adaptive variable suspension, and active height control. And when adventure requires a trailer, the LX 570’s low end torque and trailer sway control system lets guests tow up to 7,000 lbs. It has a 5.7-litre V8 that generates 383 peak horsepower and 403 lb-ft of torque – ideal for stress-free towing.
The 2021 Navigator is built on the Ford Expedition platform, but it is ahead of it in size – more than five meters in length and two meters in width and height. The Navigator’s suspension is extremely smooth. Unlike its predecessor, it does not have a rigid rear axle – it has an independent rear suspension. The Turbocharged 3.5L engine in the Lincoln Navigator is capable of producing 450 horsepower and 510 lb.-ft. of torque and it has a 6,200-pound Heavy-Duty Trailer Tow Package.
The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder is all-new from the ground-up. Every 2022 Pathfinder features a 284-horsepower 3.5-litre Direct Injection V6 with 259 lb-ft of torque. The engine is matched with an all-new 9-speed automatic transmission, which provides a smooth, strong, direct vehicle response. The all-new 2022 Pathfinder offers an available 6,000-pound maximum towing capacity.
The Nissan Frontier, with standard 310-horsepower 3.8-litre direct injection V6 engine, was all-new for 2020 with 93 percent new or redesigned parts. This pickup offers best-in-class horsepower. Torque is rated at 281 lb-ft. Matched to the engine is a 9-speed automatic transmission designed to maximize efficiency and provide strong acceleration. The transmission offers quick, crisp and direct shift response throughout the entire gear range. Tow rating is 6,490 pounds.
The new Nissan Titan boasts a significantly improved powertrain and is available in different versions with a unique styling. The Titan is powered by a slick 5.6-liter Endurance V8 engine rated at 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque, and is paired with an all-new 9-speed automatic transmission. Tow rating is 9,370 pounds. The Titan XD with the tow package can haul 11,000 pounds.
The new 2021 Stellantis Pacifica is redesigned with a more deeply sculpted, athletic and modern exterior expression and utility-vehicle-inspired design cues on the inside and out. The 2021 Pacifica offers the most advanced all-wheel-drive (AWD) system in its class and is the only one to deliver AWD along with Stow ‘n Go seating, as well as 97 standard safety features – the most standard safety features in the industry. The Pacifica gas model can tow 3,600 pounds.
Highlander gas models are built around a powerful and efficient 3.5-litre V6 coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain delivers a peak 295 horsepower and a fuel efficiency rating of 10.3L / 100km (city/highway combined). Tow rating is 5,000 pounds. The Highlander Hybrid model can tow 3,500 pounds.
Outdoor adventure for seven is about to go farther off the beaten path than ever with the 2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro, unveiled today at the Chicago Auto Show. With a chassis fortified by a TRD-tuned Fox shock absorber suspension, plus an array of proven off-road equipment specially designed or selected by Toyota Racing Development engineers, the full-size Sequoia TRD Pro offers room for the whole family and an affinity for thrills. Tow rating with the 5.7L engine is 7400 pounds.
Tacoma pickups are becoming a favourite among RV enthusiasts across North America. Every model features Toyota’s powerful and proven 3.5L V6 engine, generating up to 278 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. This is mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic super electronically controlled transmission with lock-up torque converter. The Tacoma can tow 6,500 pounds.
Tundra – the pickup that towed the Space Shuttle – has proven itself to be an excellent RV tow vehicle. Tundra’s powertrain is also ready for any task. Tundra’s powerful and proven 5.7-litre i-FORCE V8 generates an impressive 381 peak horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. This engine is equally sophisticated, with many advanced technologies to maximize horsepower and torque while managing fuel use and emissions. Tow rating is 10200 pounds.
At the Dawn of Electric Tow Vehicles…
This year, we have several electric powered cars and trucks available for the RV’ers who can organize their trips in shorter sections between high volume charging stations. The electric tow vehicles have high start-off torque with quick acceleration, but most have a lower tow rating than similar size gas or diesel models. Some gasoline stations located along major highways have begun installing these facilities, but most of the charging bays that I have seen would require unhooking your trailer, since there is not enough room to back a trailer into the charging stall. As it stands today, you have to be prepared to wait at least an hour to recharge on a 240-volt charging station, while you are waiting in your RV, car or truck while the charger is topping up the batteries. At the charging facilities I have seen, there are not many places that have lounges for your comfort – so take a book to read while you sit in your vehicle.
Charging your electric car or truck at the campground will be an overnight task, as only 120 volt charging systems will be available. The current range of gas-powered vehicles are still the Go-To tow vehicles for long distant trips.