By on January 21, 2010

A recent test by Autobild sought to find the German-market vehicle that could tow the most kilos per euro. Third place (at€13.36 euros per kilo) went to the AWD 1.6 TDI Golf Variant, which is tow-rated at 1.8 tons on the German market (first and second went to the Tiguan and CR-V). Though the American-market Golf TDI has far more power than Autobild’s value-hauler podium finisher, Volkswagen continues to send tow-rating curious Americans messages like this one:

Thank you for visiting the Volkswagen website. We appreciate your
inquiry regarding the capability of using your Volkswagen for towing
purposes.

Volkswagen does not recommend a passenger vehicle be used to tow.

Bastards! Incidentally, this image is from a post on the British Caravan Club’s voting the Golf 2.0 TDI as “Overall Towcar of 2009.”

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67 Comments on “What’s Wrong With This Picture: The Great American Towing Conspiracy Lives Edition...”


  • avatar
    TEXN3

    It was an issue with a lot of vehicles I considered recently (car, CUV, SUV). It has alot to do with the legal system here and automakers/insurance companies not willing to take blame for a lack of driver education relative to towing. The CRV, in the US, is not rated to tow more than 1500-2000 lb (I believe).

  • avatar

    From what I see in Texas and what (little) I’ve seen in Europe, we tow WAY more, for far longer distances and at far faster speeds. If VW had the stones to promote their TDI’s towing prowess, they’ll have a flood of transmission warranty claims about 2 years after.

    And, more importantly, lawsuits for not installing adequate brakes for towing at US highway speeds…

    • 0 avatar
      littlehulkster

      And from what I’ve seen, living my life in the Midwest, we buy a 1 ton diesel dually with towing package and trailer mirrors to haul a 18 foot fishing boat, 2 snowmobiles or a motorcycle. All of these could be towed by a Subaru Forester, let alone a small pickup.

      Unless you’re a contractor or a farmer, the towing argument just doesn’t work.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      Clearly, you’ve not seen many Dutch tourists while visiting Europe. Scenes like the header pic on this article are very common. European freeways are very high speed, too. You might be right about common distances towed though.

    • 0 avatar

      Towing anything over 2000lbs over long distances at 70+mph is a receipe for disaster in any passenger car…especially on hills and ATF killing heat…not to mention I seriously question stopping power at those speeds.

      Getting trailer brakes and a brake controller (how many people actually have one?) is mandatory in these situations. Or you could just get a full size truck.

    • 0 avatar
      littlehulkster

      You don’t need a fullsize truck for 2000 pounds, either. I towed more than that daily for many years with a 1984 Nissan 720, which had a thunderous 104 horsepower (When the bizzaro smog compliant computer carb was running right, that is) and was made mostly of rust by the time I got it.

      Wasn’t the fastest thing in the world, but I got there every time with no problems.

      The new small trucks, which are a lot bigger and more powerful than my Nissan was could handle that sort of load with ease.

    • 0 avatar
      Dsemaj

      Any passenger car can’t safety tow? Might want to tell us that here in Australia, where the most common tow cars are Holden Commodores, Ford Falcons, Mitsubishi Magnas and Toyota Camrys.

    • 0 avatar
      Mirko Reinhardt

      The speed limit for towing anything with anything in Europe is 80 kph (50 mph). There are a few exceptions and with lots of tech some exotic tow rigs can be certified for 100 kph, but for most tow rigs in Europe, 80 kph is the limit. And you are only allowed to tow if you have a license for towing, which requires extensive driver training.

    • 0 avatar

      And you are only allowed to tow if you have a license for towing, which requires extensive driver training. Sadly that’s not a pan-European truth Mirko, there’s certainly no requirement for UK license holders to undergo special testing or hold a towing license… there should be, but there isn’t.

  • avatar

    When we lived in the UK I routinely towed a loaded horse trailer with a Volvo 440td, a car never sold in the USA, but roughly the same size, shape and capability as a VW Jetta TDI. It did the job quite well and we hauled horses all over England.

    It boggles my mind how Americans are universally convinced that they need a full-size truck to tow anything. Especially boats, which are relatively lightweight and unlike horses generally don’t move around on their own when under tow.

    Any small car, especially when powered by Diesel, is quite capable of towing anything the average person needs to tow.

    Oh wait, CARB won’t let us drive Diesels. =

  • avatar
    stroker49

    From Sweden: My car is an Oldsmobile Alero 1999. I think it is rated at 1000 lbs (454kg) in the US. Here in Europe GM rated it at 1400 kg (approx 3000lbs). Chrysler do not give most of their vehicles a new rating when selling them here, one more reason not to buy them. Chevy Caprice could tow approx. 4000 lbs but a Crown Victoria can only tow 1300lbs (the victoria has never been imported by Ford in Europe, we import them ourselves). I think all this is because everything must be foolproof in the US and besides Baseball the national sport is to sue each other? Basically in europe you are normally allowed to tow the same weight as your car and with an extra letter on your license you might tow more.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Any small car, especially when powered by Diesel, is quite capable of towing anything the average person needs to tow.”

    A lot more to towing than simply having the power to move the load. You also need the brakes to stop it and enough wheel base and curb weight to control it in the event of a panic stop or high speed manuever. Maybe you’ve heard of the tail wagging the dog scenario. You also want a chassis and drive train that isn’t being pushed to its limits if you keep your tow vehicle well past its factoy warranty period.

    My boat tips the scales at 4 tons and many trailered boats sail right past the 2 ton mark. Still too much for any smaller diesel powered car by a long shot.

    • 0 avatar

      Trailer brakes. Wonderful invention.

      Your 4 ton boat is an exception. The vast majority of boats I see towed are ski, or fishing boats that likely weigh a less than a quarter (with trailer) what yours does.

    • 0 avatar
      littlehulkster

      You have a 4 ton boat and it’s not docked at a marina?

      Did you spend all your money on buying what is apparently a small battleship, then have none left over for a marina? Even a 32 foot party cruiser only weighs 5000 pounds, and that’s well within the towing capacity of a Toyota Tacoma.

  • avatar
    Styles79

    Wow, here in NZ (and Australia) it’s very common for people to tow using passenger vehicles. Even the Tiida (Versa) is rated to 1000kg for a braked trailer (2200lb). The Maxima can take up to 1500kg (3300lb). The Commodore (Pontiac G8?) can be uprated to tow as much as 2100kg (4630lb). And people here actually do tow these kind of loads alot, we’re especially fond of trailer boats and some people have some pretty big boats!

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      And, it used to be common here too. Back in the 50′s and 60′s, it wasn’t all that unusual to see a car towing a small camping trailer. What happened? No more body on frame cars? Increased litigation?

  • avatar
    Syke

    A lot of it has to do with the manufacturer’s perception of their car’s image. I still have wonderful memories of the time, ten years ago, when I went to the local BMW dealer with the (European) part number for the tow receiver for the E30 series 3′s. Parts rather indignantly told me that, “BMW does not allow their cars to be used as tow vehicles.”

    Well, maybe not in America. However, I learned of the existance of the receiver through an issue of The Roundel (the monthly magazine from the BMWCCA). Obviously, German registered BMW’s are able to tow, within reasonable parameters.

    • 0 avatar
      Spike_in_Irvine

      That’s crazy. In Australia I had a BMW 535 which could be fitted with a BMW tow bar and wiring harness. The benefit being that the on board computer monitors all the trailer lights and has messages (which must have been programmed by BMW) to tell which bulb on the trailer might be faulty.
      I also had a 4.4l V8 BMW X5 which came with a tow kit and was the best tow vehicle I ever had. I towed a dual horse trailer and barely noticed it was there.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    I tow two motorcycles on an open trailer with my North-American-spec Jetta TDI. It’s fine. Towing has accounted for 15%~25% of annual kilometers for years. The brakes are more than up to the task. No tranny issues (manual).

    By the way, VW does want trailer brakes if the trailer is more than 600 kg (1320 lbs) and that makes sense. Trailer brakes are much more common on smaller trailers in Europe. No trailer brakes on mine, but I wouldn’t want to tow much more through mountains without them.

  • avatar
    James2

    Obviously VWoA not watched the epic Top Gear episode where, I believe it was a Kia, the guys towed a camper all over England. The camper wasn’t a small pup tent, either. No need for a stinkin’ F-150!

  • avatar
    dswilly

    Europeans will tow a “Caravan” with anything, it’s awesome. You will see a 5m trailer behind a Renault.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      For a time, Americans were quite adept at towing their Carvans – to the Dodge dealer to get the transmission replaced … (no word on whether the transmission failures were due to them towing caravans behind their Caravans.)

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Somewhere on YouTube is an absolutely hilarious video of a Renault 5 laboring up a rather steep hill, pulling a (too large for it) caravan . . . . . . and then the caravan pulling said Renault 5 backwards down the same hill and over the embankment. All from the point of view of a few cyclists who were stopped to fix a puncture on one guy’s bike.

    • 0 avatar
      lawstud

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    I still think it’s a conspiracy to steer the Americans over to trucks for towing. I mean, if a BOF Crown Vic is out of the question, then it’s clearly something wrong. If you read the English article, they say the Golf was best because it was the one that handled the best whilst towing. A truck ain’t always the right answer to every question.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    What’s wrong with this picture is that the advisory from the VW page, “Volkswagen does not recommend a passenger vehicle be used to tow,” is the opening clause of a two clause sentence that will soon end with “therefore, we recommend you buy the VW robust pickup.”

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    UK VW Warranty:

    A 2-year unlimited mileage manufacturers warranty
    A further (after the 2 years expires) 1 year / 60,000 miles (whichever is soonest) retailer warranty.
    This means you’re covered for a total of 3 years or up to 60,000 miles, whichever comes first.

    US VW Warranty:

    Basic Limited Warranty
    3 years / 36,000 miles (whichever occurs first) New Vehicle Limited Warranty. Wear & tear items and adjustments excluded after initial 12 months / 12,000 miles
    Powertrain
    5 years / 60,000 miles (whichever occurs first) Powertrain Limited Warranty.

    Similar warranties, but the VW Golf 2.0 TDI is rated to tow 3,300 pounds in the UK, while every US Golf is rated to tow zero. And it’s not just the diesel engine, the Golf GTI can tow 3,100 pounds in the UK.

    Interestingly the roles are reversed for the Toureg. The US Toureg is rated to tow 7,700 pounds, 1.5 times its weight. If this was about personal injury lawyers the Toureg wouldn’t have a tow rating 1.5 times its weight. This goes along with the conspiracy: you can’t buy a bigger VW than the Toureg, so VW doesn’t have to sandbag the Toureg’s tow rating.

    In the UK the highest tow rating on the Toureg, all the way up to the V10 TDI, is 5,900 pounds.

    We can debate what it is actually reasonable to tow, but it seems the US tow ratings really are just about getting customers to upsize.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynamic88

      Interesting post. I suspect you’ve nailed it.

      In Europe there is little chance of getting someone to buy a monster truck. In the US, one might consider a 1 ton v10 dually even w/o plans of towing anything.

      We are being led to buy more vehicle than is really needed.

  • avatar
    Redshift

    One of the guys I race with locally tows a Formula Ford with a Mini Cooper S. Makes a great image. (The guy that paddocks beside him went big and uses a Jetta TDI to tow his.)

    He’s been towing for 5 or 6 years now with no issues.

  • avatar
    rogertheshrubber

    A decent quality 18 ft fiberglass fishing boat weighs 1800-2000lb sans motor. A 150hp D.I. two-stroke or 4 stroke V-6 weighs 5-600lbs and the trailer (usually tandem) another 900. Not counting the 50 gallons of fuel, and 40+ gallon livewells. Despite the prevailing attitude on this site that the commenters “know” who needs a full size truck, this is the right tool for the vast majority of trailerable non-PWC boats.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    This is hilarious to me. At one point in my life I had a LandRover 88 rustoration project that I needed to get home. I owned a Volvo 740 Turbo wagon with a good sturdy trailer hitch on it. Rented a car trailer from U-Haul. Since U-haul won’t let you tow those with a car I had a buddy with a GMC Jimmy pick the thing up and bring it to my place. This is a medium size SUV, body on frame construction, rated to tow something like 6000lbs. My Volvo towed the trailer with the LandRover on it better than the Jimmy towed just the trailer! Far less sense of the cart dragging the horse, IMMENSLY better brakes (that crap SUV has drums on the back), and a suspension worth of the name vs. a tall tippy-feeling pile of mush. Total load was ~4500lbs. Power was certainly more than adequate for the job. Nobody should be towing at 70mph anyway! I kept it to 50-55 and everything was quite happy. All it takes is a little common sense, which, of course, is anything but common in this country.

    Let’s face it, the tow ratings on cars in this country are entirely on account of trucks and SUVs being FAR more profitable to sell.

  • avatar
    Loser

    While stationed in Germany I was surprised by how many station wagons were towing campers and open car haulers. It reminded me of the days when people here would use full sized wagons to tow large boats and campers. Now everyone needs a full sized truck to haul a small 4-wheeler.

  • avatar
    vantucky cajun

    I’ve been pulling a tent trailer with my 90hp 02 Jetta TDI (5sp) for several years. It’s lightweight, less than 700lbs, and I barely know it’s there on the road.

    I did spring for the Euro market towbar that bolts to existing holes the body channels, rather than the aftermarket “drill holes in the trunk floor” type commonly available in the US.

  • avatar
    Dr. Nguyen Van Falk

    Why isn’t there an AWD Golf TDI available to me in Chicago? That would be perfect. Maybe selectable AWD so I can still hit the highway at optimal efficiency and turn on the AWD in the winter. One can only dream or move to Europe.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    It’s funny how in the US (80 mph maximum speed limit!) people claim they need a big 8-cylinder SUV because they have 2 children and a dog or need to go on the highway. The same goes for trailers.

    you wonder how the rest of the world is able to raise children and go camping?

    Every else a Mazda 3 with 1.6 l motor is considered a sporty car and capable of Autobahn driving. Here they ram that 2.3 l motor into my throat since the hatchback is considered a sports car. It’s all perception and marketing obviously makes money by selling us more than we need. Unfortunately it is not only marketing, we don’t even have the choice to begin with. and you wonder that SUV and truck sales are so high even when not everyone is off-roading or a construction worker.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I routinely do 100 mph on the autobahn with my 75hp Smart ForTwo … key here is to driving responsibly … and, as dad used to say, “keeping an assured clear distance”… I never bought one or used them, but there are homologated trailer hitches available here in Europe (the manufacture, installation, and use of such things are highly regulated and enforced here in Europe.)

  • avatar
    Becomethemedia

    Having been to Europe several times in the past 15 years I’ve seen the many ways they use small cars,and not just with pulling caravans.
    In particular those little 6′x8′ trailers, pulled by 4 cyl cars that are all over the motorways on the weekend, used to pick up oversize items at IKEA, rubbish to the dump and everything in between.
    And they’re not exactly holding up traffic either.
    Whereas in NA we’ve been fed the lie you need a truck to tow and because you need a truck you’ll need a big caravan,or boat, just because you can.
    Euro spec Caravans are cleverly designed and engineered for both function and less weight. In NA it’s the exact opposite, everybody has to drag around a freakin’ apartment around on their vacation.
    This is why so many people cite this reason on why they must have a large truck, so it’s able to tow the gargantuan caravans that are made here.
    In Europe they happily stay in the slow lane except to pass. Whereas in NA we get someone in a F350 Super Duty pulling a large box passing everyone in sight only to tippy toe around the next corner, and then punch it again on the straights.
    There’s a disconnect here.
    Europeans bug me sometimes – like expressing shock over the Seal hunt in Canada’s North while chowing down on Horse meat or attending bull fights – but they got us beat on this one.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      What’s wrong with horse meat? It slots between beef and bison on the flavour and leanness scale … what humans choose to eat as meat is (somewat like sports) rooted in history but often as well predicated on the utility (do you need it to pull a plow, or do you relate to cowboys? this may determine preference of horse over cow) and scarceness of a certain animal (is it easy to keep? is it adapted to the local climate? how quickly does it multiply?) or just on how cute it looks… (that said, I’m not too keen on bullfighting, or Afgans playing dead-goat-polo-soccer on horseback…)

  • avatar
    50merc

    Back in the day, Americans pulled big Airstreams using cars powered by flathead engines with maybe a third the power available in today’s Camry or Fusion. The brakes were terrible, too.

    For proof, watch the 1953 Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball movie, “The Long, Long Trailer.” They drove a Mercury. (Though if you look carefully, you’ll see the movie makers switched to a Lincoln for scenes involving some long, steep mountain grades.)

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “Despite the prevailing attitude on this site that the commenters “know” who needs a full size truck, this is the right tool for the vast majority of trailerable non-PWC boats.”

    Good to see at least one person on this website has a “clue” when it comes to towing.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      I think there may be more than one.I’m just laughing at some of the stories being tossed around. I see it every summer some moron pulling more trailer than they have car.

      Our very own Sajeev complete with his Enginering degree thinks you got to be nuts,not to match the vehicle to the trailer.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      I don’t think anyone is arguing that a car is superior to a truck for towing: just that they’re more capable than people give them credit for, and much nicer to drive the other 95% of the time.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Another thing to consider, in many European countries, there are speed limits for car and trailer combos. Like, you are not allowed to drive faster than 90 km/h, regardless if the speed limit for the road itself is higher. In Sweden, there are weight penalties for car and trailer combos, a car plus trailer may not exceed 3500 kg total, or you need another kind of license permitting heavy duty driving. So, using a bigger car than necessary only limits the capacity of the trailer. All these things are made to make driving a car and trailer safer.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Let’s see… Ford just told us to trade our Ranger for a Fiesta. I guess it must have towing capacity to pull a 4′X6′, rated at 1000 lb, or not.

  • avatar
    George B

    There may be three big differences in towing conditions in the US relative to Europe. 1) higher Summer daytime temperatures, 2) longer towing distances, and 3) ubiquitious automatic transmissions. Combine these three together with a heavy load and you exceed the temperature limits of the transmission. Expensive failure. In the US pickup trucks and related SUVs offer improved transmission cooling and control of trailer brakes as part of a towing package on top of an already very rugged vehicle. In addition, I’ve heard that a long wheelbase pickup and long trailer combination is easier to control in strong crosswinds than shorter wheelbase Ford Expedition, etc and trailer combination. If big trailers and strong wind can wag a heavy Ford Expedition, imagine what happens with the big trailer passenger car combination.

  • avatar
    ktm

    2006 Subaru Impreza Wagon – 2000 lbs towing capacity
    2006 Subaru Impreza Sedan – 0 Subaru does not recommend towing with the sedan

    From Wiki (take it with a grain of salt) regarding the STi:

    “The latest-generation of the STi (which will be in hatchback guise only) debuted in the Tokyo Auto Show in October 2007. The release date for a US launch is expected to be in March 2008. The US STI Chassis code is GR, different from the GH used for the 2008 WRX chassis. The impreza STI six speed manual spec r reaches 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds and features a manual variable center weight differential.

    Also changed for this model, for North America, was the absence of an approved towing capacity. Identical models elsewhere in the world maintain a tow rating for the vehicle.”

    It definitely seems it is just a US issue only. TTAC should know better than to spout Un-truths about Cars.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    I could be wrong (might be an optical illusion), but in the picture the VW looks like the backend is squatting plenty.

    While the engine and transmission may be fine for towing ‘heavy’ loads, a vehicle with a long wheel base, heavy duty suspension/brakes and weighs more than the trailer it is pulling – makes for far safer towing.

  • avatar

    I wonder how many of the people saying you don’t need a truck to tow have ever towed anything. I used to have a small popup trailer that I towed with first a Chrysler AWD minivan and then a Ford Explorer with a towing package. I wouldn’t want to tow more than a utility trailer with a Camry.

  • avatar
    don1967

    I am amazed by these high European towing limits, having experienced near-death experiences with only HALF the weight here in North America.

    That said, I am curious as to where an older North American Hyundai Elantra stands in this comparison with a 3,086 pound towing limit.

    http://www.edmunds.com/reviews/list/top10/102426/article.html

  • avatar

    I just had a towbar fitted to a 2005 Civic and the man slapped a 1200kg sticker on it (2,645 pounds). This is New Zealand. I saw how it was attached to two very thick channels on the floor of the car.

    I would tow 1200kg happily, although I wouldn’t drive like my hair was on fire.

  • avatar
    lawstud

    VW is in the conspiracy to get people to buy pickups?

  • avatar
    geggamoya

    I don’t think anyone here is advocating towing huge boats and 30-foot campers with a golf? Smaller loads are prefectly fine.
    There is a lot of stuff you need a big car for, but a jetski / atv / bike / small boat aint it.

    Here in Finland there’s two types of trailer, total weight under 750kg is not required to have brakes and pretty much anyone can tow one.. Any trailer rated for over 750kg has to have working antilock-brakes.

    A normal car-licence allows you to tow the first category of trailers, you need a truck-licence for the bigger tone. Like you need for any car with a total(fully loaded) weight of over 3500kg.

    The truck liccence is quite expensive, at least 1200€ extra above the normal car-licence which is about 1500€ or so.

  • avatar
    The Fop

    What a lot of nonsense. It is very simple – if you have a boat the size of the Queen Mary then you’ll need something big to tow it – whether you live in the US or anywhere else. But if you just want to tow a trailer with a couple of jetskis, a small boat, a caravan or whatever then you simply don’t need a huge truck. In Europe you can get a mid size diesel car with self levelling rear suspension (so no sag) and trailer stability control (so ESP designed to cope with and compensate for a trailer) and you can tow 90% of what is typically seen behind a vehicle in any country. These cars share platforms with their US equivalents so no TECHNICAL reason you folks can’t have them over there. No worry about brakes – they are designed and tested so that they cope with a full alpine descent with max trailer load. No need to worry about heat – they are designed to cope with sustained use in southern euopean hottest summer (a lot of the testing, ironically, done in the USA…). No need to worry about speed – though there are limits over here, in many countries they are widely ignored (any UK motorway will have caravans doing 70mph plus behind a normal midsize car). Whatever the reason you don’t get to tow with smaller vehicles it really isn’t technical. I can’t help assuming it’s down to lawyers…

    PS – no idea if it’s on Youtube, but I’ve seen the chassis engineers doing stability tests on car/caravan combos and it’s hilarious. Blatting down a test track sideways doing an eight wheel drift – genius.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Bought a pop-up camper weighing 1400 pounds new 2 1/2 years ago, and made sure the Hyundai Sonata 4 cylinder could legally pull it. It was rated at 1500 pounds, so no problem. (Hyundai’s Elantra is likewise rated at 1500 pounds, as is the tough little Toyota Corolla; the Camry? 1000 pounds).

    Ironically, in other worldwide markets, the Hyundai Sonata is rated for WAY more tow capacity than in the states, yet is one of the only cars sold in the states (as opposed to SUV’s and huge trucks) which can even tow 1500 pounds.

    To be on the safe side, I put a transmission cooler on and last year, we pulled the trailer for six hours to our camping destination, running generally about 60-65 on the 70 limit areas and around the speed limit otherwise.

    No problems.

    But then, some caveats.

    I’ve lived long enough to recall when Americans used cars to tow plus I’ve lived in Europe and seen what can be done with small tow vehicles, as long as common sense is used.

    I take responsibility for myself and my family; I’m careful, and have had towing experience.

    I drive defensively (and put AIR HORNS on the Sonata). This is to “wake up” the apparently blind who pull right out in front of me (it happened three times in 12 hours of driving to our destination and back – pretty poor odds, really, but it reflects the lack of driving standards of Michgan drivers).

    When we bought the unit, and brought the car to the dealer, their tech said “uh oh”. He imagined that I and the salesman hadn’t done our homework and established the car’s capabilities. He’s used to seeing 5000 pound SUVs and trucks to tow 1400 pound pop-up trailers and 3/4 ton diesel rigs to tow anything much bigger.

    When we went for our first camp-out, we were virtually the ONLY car towing anything in the campground, and I’m not kidding, people literally stopped and stared at us as we drove by.

    The sales guy at the trailer place absolutely refused to sell me a vehicle which would have been 75 pounds over weight for the car. (I’d already been aware of the international tow capabilities of the Sonata so figured it’d be okay). I’m kind of glad he did, because a friend of ours had a smallish (???) V6 powered Suzuki on-frame SUV and was towing his trailer (well within his vehicle limits) and a Michigan or County mounty cop stopped him and hassled him about towing too much weight. He was able to prove with his documentation that he was NOT over capacity so was let off.

    • 0 avatar
      farmwrench

      OEM ratings are NOT law. It is legal to tow more than your vehicle was rated for by the manufacturer. Get too crazy you may end up liable in court, but the charges will be something else, like negligence.
      I’m the guy who re-built the ’84 Trans Am to tow a 4500 pound gooseneck. I also upgraded a 4.3L C1500 pickup, rated to tow 4800#, I’ve had 13,500# behind it without incident, after nothing more than a custom hitch, higher rated and better geared rear axle with big disc brakes in place of the original drums, plus higher-rated rear springs and rear tires. I’ve repeatedly towed 12,000 pounds with it at speeds up to 60 MPH each time, and on grades up to 8%, where my speed did drop to 45 MPH, but so what?
      Rich guys with 400-horse turbodiesel dually pickups will argue that your vehicle is struggling if you can’t do 80 MPH up a 50% grade in sixth gear, but as long as the slowest big-rigs ( lorries ) are dropping down to 20 MPH, the cops don’t care if you also drop to 20 MPH, so long as you use your hazard flashers and keep right.
      Towing safety is all about the driver’s thinking, far more than the equipment used. I’d never tolerate a 1 liter turbodiesel anything, or anything under 200 HP. There should be international laws against cars under 200 HP. But we have new 426-horse Camaros with 14″ ( 355 mm ) Brembo brakes only rated to tow 1000 pounds! Insane!
      The worst thing is the cops are so brainwashed into the mentality of needing a dually to tow anything that cars get pulled over for towing anything more than a lawnmower! You Euro folks don’t realize that it’s worth the cost of a dually to avoid that.
      Besides that, while V8 ponycars are great fun to drive, you can’t deny the fun of driving a ’91 Chevrolet 454SS or a ’92 GMC Syclone whether towing or not. I own a sports car. I own the late model large pickup I already described. But the most enjoyable drive is my ’81 Chevy C-20, even though it is ponderous and a bit thirsty. Character always wins. And NOTHING built since ’92 has any.

  • avatar
    Banger

    Pig_Iron:

    “Let’s see… Ford just told us to trade our Ranger for a Fiesta. I guess it must have towing capacity to pull a 4′X6′, rated at 1000 lb, or not.”

    Stupidest. Move. Ever. As the proud owner of a 2006 Ford Ranger, I know these trucks are far more capable than Ford’s conservative (litigation-conscious?) marketing and “tow capacity” ratings let on. Though mine is the 2.3-liter Duratec four-cylinder, it has the exact same frame, suspension and M5OD manual trans as the 4.0 V6-equipped model that Ford advertised, at the time, as being “capable of towing 6,000 pounds (when properly equipped.)” Since then, the tow capacity has been slowly downgraded to 5,760 pounds.

    And no, they won’t “certify” the Fiesta or even the new “Euro” Focus for even 1,000 pounds of towing capacity. They, like practically all others in their size/weight category in the U.S., will carry a “Ford does not recommend towing with this vehicle” disclaimer.

  • avatar
    radimus

    There is one related point that I don’t think any of the commenters have discussed yet: Tongue weight.

    In the US trailers are designed to put 10-15% of their weight on hitch. IIRC, in Europe the trailers are designed to place far less on the hitch. Hence, when you look up the towing capacity of a VW Passat with the European hitch installed you find a rating of around 4500lbs. However, if you look you’ll probably also find that you must limit the tongue weight on the hitch to around 180 lbs. Now, if you use that hitch with US trailers you’ll be limited to a trailer of no more than roughly 1000-1500 lbs. Anything heavier than that will load too much weight on the hitch. Dddly enough, that is right around what the max towing capacity is on most US passenger cars.

    The way I see it, it’s not so much that the drivetrains or marketing reasons for the lowered towing capacities of cars in the US. It’s seems more because the car bodies are not designed to handle the kind of load US trailers will place on the hitch ball.

    • 0 avatar
      Spike_in_Irvine

      A related point that no-one seems to have mentioned is FWD vs RWD or AWD.
      In Australia we have the best (or worst) of both worlds. Long distances to travel and fairly high fuel costs. Most people tow something even if it’s just the 6×4 to take rubbish somewhere. This is probably the reason that fairly large RWD drives continue to be the family man’s choice of vehicle here. Why the top selling cars are the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore.
      Most FWD cars have a fairly light rear suspension which does not deal well with a large tongue weight. Also when this extra weight is over the drive wheels (rear) it is better for towing than when it tends to relieve weight from the drive wheels (FWD).

    • 0 avatar
      radimus

      That’s a good point, Spike. Most of the issues with FWD towing are fairly easy to mitigate, though. Weight distributing hitches can be used to spread the tongue weight across all of the axles, so long as the trailer’s tongue frame can support one. That replaces the weight that would have been pulled off the front tires by the trailer, and adds on some of the tongure weight as well.

  • avatar
    JMII

    As someone who tows a bunch (approx. 200 miles a week for the last 10 years) I can offer this info: First off I tow in Florida, its ruler flat but jungle hot. I tow a 16′ skiff w/90 HP, I’ve estimated the rig (boat, engine, fuel, trailer) at 2000lbs but never confirmed, I could be off 500lbs in either direction.

    I had a Ford Ranger Splash, 4.0l V6, rated at 6,000lbs and it couldn’t handle the load. It was always hunting for gears on the slightest slope (highway over-passes) and overheated twice in traffic on me. I switched to a 4.7l V8 Dodge Dakota Quab Cab. The difference was night and day. The longer wheelbase was a huge help as well, it no longer felt like the boat was going to rip the bed off while going over bumps or around turns. I drive at 65mph and get 12 mpg. I think wind resistance is big factor with boats, the shape of the hull is pretty much the worst aerodynamic shape you can have.

    I can’t imagine even attempting to tow my small boat with anything less then a V6 truck or an AWD V6 CUV. No way any FWD vehicle could handle it. Like others said, acceleration is one thing, but stopping and controlling the load in the wind would be a white knuckle adventure.

    I’d love to try towing with a small AWD TDI wagon, the HP and TQ numbers say it would be similar to the old Ranger’s V6, but about the only car-like thing I’d trust is a Dodge Magnum.

    Now a buddy of mine did tow a very light boat (14′ I think) with a Ford Focus hatchback with no problems. However he didn’t do it for very long (less then an year) so I have no idea what the long term effects would be.

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      Wow, another guy that knows what he is talking about. My buddy has a 16ft with a 70hp.He tried once to pull it up north with his Montana. He told me it took him three beers to settle his nerves when he got to the cottage.The Montana got traded for a used Yukon.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    @JMII & Mikey

    Have you considered that the issue is that you (or friend) were trying to tow with a crappy vehicle? I mean a Ranger or a Montana, Good God!

    Comparing my Volvo to my friend’s heap of crap Jimmy, the Volvo wieghs nearly as much, had about the same HP and Torque, HUGELY better brakes, HUGELY better suspension, a radiator about half-again as big, a transmission cooler from the factory, and on, and on, and on. Yet that craptastic truck is rated to tow 6000lbs! As I mentioned, my Volvo towed 4000lbs or so more stabily than the Jimmy towed 2000lbs. It certainly would have made short work of towing your boat.

    I also towed 2500lbs on many occasions with a Saab 9-5 wagon. Never even the slightest drama. In fact one of my Saab Club pals tows a Saab Convertible (on a tow dolly with electric brakes) OH to FL and back every year with a Saab 9-5. Been doing it for many years. Again, never an issue. Go slow, think ahead, and pay attention. You will get there safe and sound.


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