The Truth About Cars » Tow http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:58:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Tow http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Tow Rig Capsule Review: 1999 GMT800 Silverado 2500 3/4 Ton http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/tow-rig-capsule-review-1999-gmt800-silverado-2500-34-ton/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/tow-rig-capsule-review-1999-gmt800-silverado-2500-34-ton/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=832305 The last time I looked at my 1969 Chevrolet CST/10, it was a pile of disappointment. After reviving it and replacing a freeze plug, it proceeded to pop three more freeze plugs during warm up. Time was beginning to run out, my dad’s house had gone up to market and quickly sold. The truck was […]

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The last time I looked at my 1969 Chevrolet CST/10, it was a pile of disappointment. After reviving it and replacing a freeze plug, it proceeded to pop three more freeze plugs during warm up. Time was beginning to run out, my dad’s house had gone up to market and quickly sold. The truck was a long way away from driving out of Houston, and I needed to get it out of town. Time and money were a factor, I didn’t have time to spend money running a truck and trailer to Houston, just for the CST/10. Thankfully, three things lined up: A truck, a trailer, and a reason to drive to Houston. The truck is a customer’s, who loans the truck out in return for a few favors on the truck’s maintenance. The trailer came from my friend’s rally shop, which I moonlight at. And the Lone Star Region Porsche Club had invited me to partake in their refreshed autocross program at Houston Police Academy just before the closing deadline on my father’s house. Win-win, right? I packed the suitcase, tools and dog, hemorrhaged a gas pump to fill the truck, and blasted to Houston.

The biggest tool for this expedition was a venerable 1999 GMT800 Silverado 2500. A tried-and-true work truck, with no options other than power locks. Extended cab, with an eight foot bed – this is one of the longer wheelbase configurations, superceeded only by the four door “quad cab” with the eight foot bed.

The drivetrain is a gas 6.0L V8, the early all-cast iron version. Later 6.0’s and “LSx” truck engines moved to iron block and aluminum heads. The all-iron build of the early ones is a bit more stout against abuse. 300 hp and a flat 360 ft lb of torque work well at sea-level, providing excellent passing power and low end torque. To this day, it’s one of the friendliest gas engines in towing with its flat torque curve and excellent midrange power for highway use, and returns excellent fuel economy for a gas engine. I find the Ford 5.4 Modular and Dodge 5.7 Hemi from the GMT800 era were never quite as comfortable under load.

The transmission is a 4L80E, essentially a modernized overdrive version of the Turbo-400, the racetrack and workhorse hero for GM since the late 60’s. It also features a Tow/Haul mode, which changes the transmission mapping to ensure an easier day for the transmission and driver. Primarily, it holds third gear longer during climbs, and waits to lock the torque converter during hill climbs allowing the torque converter to torque multiply, allowing the 6.0L gasoline V8 to work harder under load. Four speed automatics seem archaic, but the gearing is well matched to for the 6.0.

Despite the air conditioning needing a recharge after a compressor replacement, the weather was pleasant enough for windows-down driving. In the GMT800’s, extended cabs do well with the rear vent windows open, which smoothly pull hot air out of the cab, negating the buffeting and noise with fully open windows. Cruise control was set at 70 mph, and three hours later, I arrived in my dad’s driveway.

trucks That weekend happened to be an impromptu Chevy truck convention. The charcoal short-cab/short-bed is my godfather’s, serving duty in Houston with my dad during his move. It’s a plane Jane Silverado 1500 half ton, with a 4.3L V6 and a 5-speed NV2500. The NV2500’s gearing allows the 4.3 to work well in its torque band, and even makes for a great short-distance tow rig with its compact dimensions and small turning radius. These positive attributes in the city detract from its appeal on longer drives. It simply doesn’t have the wheel base and weight for highway towing in adverse conditions. That said, it has towed 7 cars for me in the past six months.

Around town with the trailer unhitched, the Silverado 2500 rides well. The chassis soaks up irregular roads, never bucking and kicking -the rough and overly-stiff ride often associated with 3/4 and 1-tons is nowhere to be found. Think of something that rides like a firm Cadillac: It has the big-body teutonic feel with firm, well-controlled suspension movement. Brakes are excellent, with a firm and progressive bite from the hydraulically assisted power brakes — unique to the Silverado 2500 and 3500, as the regular Silverado 1500 uses traditional vacuum assist. This provides stronger brake boosting, and constant boost under heavy load where engine vacuum is low. The steering is well weighted, and with a direct but soft feel when centered. It’s never twitchy or sensitive, but does translate minor adjustments accurately. Sway bars thicker than Goldberg’s neck ensure that the Silverado 2500 feels well planted on the road.

And here’s the real trick of the GMT800 pickups: Supreme visibility. With a low belt line, and shorter overall height than most modern pickups, the GMT800s are very easy to drive in tight situations. Even when hitched to our 24 foot deck trailer, vehicle placement is a breeze. Interior ergonomics have always been great, for me. Everything is in excellent reach of the driver, and there’s ample storage. It’s basic GM plastics, but this 290,000 mile Silverado 2500 managed to stay pretty quiet inside. The gauge cluster is comprehensive and very easy to read. Real oil pressure, water temperature, voltage, and transmission temperature gauges flank the speedometer and tachometer. Dummy gauges, like “Cool” to “Hot” gauges you commonly see, are useless to me. They are often highly inaccurate, and wild swings in readings are not accurately counted by them, at times. With a comprehensive set of numbered gauges, a driver can spot a problem before it becomes detrimental. While mostly sharing the same cluster with the Silverado 1500 1/2 ton, the additional transmission temperature gauge for the Sivlerado 2500 and 3500 models is very much welcomed.

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But where these ingredients truly shine is on the highway with a load. Sunday, after the LSRPCA autocross, my dad and I packed up the CST/10 with boxes of spare parts, and loaded it onto the trailer.

The CST/10 weighs just under 5,000 pounds, and the trailer is about 2,400 pounds. Properly loaded, the chassis is largely unaffected by the weight. There’s more heave in the suspension over large movements, but the truck is rarely jarred by trailer movement. Braking stability is excellent “panic” stops proved stable, dead-straight, and with aggressive and effective ABS action. Everything is well-managed in poor weather, high winds and wet roads do not easily upset the Silverado 2500.

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The drive out of Houston was smooth. Thankfully, over the weekend my father and I recharged the A/C system. Life was much better after that, happily trucking along with the windows sealed tight. I took a 20 mile jog  to Cypress to visit my mother’s place, and stayed the night with a fresh start on Monday. This ended up being a good choice, as 15 miles outside of Cypress my trailer lost a wheel bearing – the hub cap had fallen off somewhere along the way. With no grease, the outer bearing fell apart, dumping the outer race and rollers on Highway 290, and quickly began to overheat. I caught it early after glancing at the mirrors to find plums of smoke coming out of the fender, and pulled aside.

Thankfully, I was only 2 miles past Hempstead, a podunk farming town off the main highway. And with an extra dose of luck, I managed to break down in front of a custom golf cart shop, which managed to have tons of space to drop trailer and backtrack to Hempstead. My dog, Quesa, happily wondered around the gravel parking lot, taking in every smell possible. Hempsted is still the old south, in the “yes sir, yes ma’am” tradition. It’s a place where you can leave a truck running while inside a parts store, to keep your dog cool, and not have to worry about anyone tampering with it.

 

10313830_10152176743973579_8805478268548247443_nBack on the highway, the Silverado 2500 is a smooth towing missile. With the cruise set at 70, we hummed down to San Marcos, where the truck would stay at a friend’s rally shop. A sleeping dog is a good sign of a smooth drive. Even with 20 mph crosswinds, the Silverado 2500 maintained a steady heading at all times. The overall fuel mileage for the entire trip, about 75% highway and 25% city, was 16.2 mpg, roughly $120. Not terrible.

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Though late, I rolled into San Marcos around sunset, and quickly unloaded the CST/10. Back to back, you can see the strong styling elements of the CST10 in the GMT800 Silverado.

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The price for one of these? Just a few grand, near me, anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for a fantastic and livable budget tow rig. Excellent road manners, ease of service under the hood, and low running costs — these old GMT800 trucks are one of the best used-truck buys out there. With only a minor compromise in ride softness compared to the Silverado 1500, the additional hardware is worth the 2500 nameplate and both are valued near the same. Truly the last of the modest fullsize pickups.

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Piston Slap: Say “Audi 5000″ to your Tow Vehicle! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-say-audi-5000-to-your-tow-vehicle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-say-audi-5000-to-your-tow-vehicle/#comments Mon, 16 Sep 2013 12:17:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=518609 TTAC commentator Trend-Shifter writes: I have a 1984 Audi 5000S Avant that is used as the wife’s car and our traveling/towing vehicle. Here is my dilemma… The air conditioning works as designed in 1984 (still using R12) but it is not to the standards of a modern “Merican” car. It is only comfortable at freeway […]

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TTAC commentator Trend-Shifter writes:

I have a 1984 Audi 5000S Avant that is used as the wife’s car and our traveling/towing vehicle. Here is my dilemma…

  1. The air conditioning works as designed in 1984 (still using R12) but it is not to the standards of a modern “Merican” car. It is only comfortable at freeway speeds and without too much sunlight in that expansive greenhouse. The wife complains loudly all summer!
  2. The engine is only 110 horsepower. So when the air is turned on it dramatically impacts drivability. If I pull any kind of grade I need to turn the air off as not to impact drivers behind me.
  3. Right now I tow my jet ski with the car. It pulls it great at any speed as long as the air condition is off. (Refer to item 2, Wifey is not happy when the air is off!)
  4. I also have an 18 ft boat that I will need to tow in 2~3 years as my Grandsons get of age.

So based on the fact that the Audi 5000 Avant will not pull the boat, I think my best plan is to replace the Audi 5000 Avant in the next two years to fix all the problems I identified rather than modify the air conditioning or the engine.

I have looked at various SUV’s for towing. I want just real RWD, not some wannabe FWD disguised as AWD. The big ole freighter SUV’s are really expensive, not good at high speeds, and suck a lot of fuel. So I started to lean towards a 2006~2009 Cadillac SRX with the Northstar V8. (engine issues resolved in 2005) I think a 2000~2010 low mileage (under 40,000 miles) Lincoln Town Car is the best choice for all my problems. (Can’t handle the Grand Marquis & Crown Vic styling)

The Lincoln Town Car is RWD, has a V8, sits lower, cuts the wind, is very reliable, and gets decent mileage compared to other RWD frame SUVs. A set of plus wheels, Michelin Pilot Sports, and a transmission cooler should complete the package.

Does this sound crazy –OR- crazy as a fox (I mean Panther). If you agree, what years are the best?

Audi 5000 pair

BTW… My other car is also an Audi 5000. It is an 1987 Audi Quattro. (I drive it 110 miles round trip everyday to work on the Deeeetroit freeways) So the RWD Lincoln can sit in the garage on those snowy days.

Sajeev answers:

I’m impressed with your Audi 5000 collection (sorry I couldn’t do a Vellum Venom remotely) but I had no clue der avant was a tow vehicle! Good to hear this rig is saying Audi 5000 to THAT job! And your wife has the patience of a Saint to put up with situations that inhospitable for 110 horsepower. But I digress…

“The Lincoln Town Car is RWD, has a V8, sits lower, cuts the wind, is very reliable, and gets decent mileage compared to other RWD frame SUVs.”

I found this quote interesting, as I should also find it appealing. So you need a tow vehicle for bulky things, but you want one with a design aesthetic as your 5000. Longer, lower and wider than an ordinary truck?  More fuel-efficient too, right? So why not?

This is a fool’s errand. You WANT a bigger and taller nose/face when towing to punch a bigger hole in the air for your trailer! A Panther can do the job adequately, but it will struggle more because the boat will make it its bitch. I’d recommend a full-sized conversion van to maximize the size of the hole punched for that 18ft boat.

Not that you NEED a conversion van to punch an adequate hole for a boat that small, but why the hell not?  SUVs and real pick-em-up trucks lack the aero of a van, are overpriced, and vans are so frickin’ great for road trips. Keep the 5000 Avant for your wife’s normal commute, buy a nicely depreciated custom van for towing.

A 1994-2003 Dodge Ram Van, 1996-present Chevy Express Van and the 1992-present Ford Econoline are the proper successors to your Audi 5000 tow vehicle.  Find one with a towing package and the options you’d like.  I’d go with a mid-90s Econoline for it’s most Bauhausian Styling to appeal to your Audi-conscious style, get it with the torquey (but thrifty!) 4.9L big six, modernize/upgrade the brakes/wheels/transmission cooler for light towing duty and lose the conversion van paint job for a stark, Germanic gun metal gray. Yummy.

A perfect machine for one’s Piston Slap pragmatism and one’s Audi 5000-worthy Vellum Venom demands.

And for you Best and Brightest peeps who thought I’d take the Panther Love bait: I never did, son!

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

 

 

 

 

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Review: 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/review-2011-volkswagen-touareg-tdi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/review-2011-volkswagen-touareg-tdi/#comments Wed, 25 May 2011 19:50:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=396099 The Touareg TDI is not your father’s Oldsmobile. I know, because I unfortunately drove my father’s 85HP, 1983 Cutlass Cierra diesel when I was a kid. Since my dad was a glutton for punishment, this was not his first unreliable GM diesel; we also had a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser with the infamous diesel V8. […]

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The Touareg TDI is not your father’s Oldsmobile. I know, because I unfortunately drove my father’s 85HP, 1983 Cutlass Cierra diesel when I was a kid. Since my dad was a glutton for punishment, this was not his first unreliable GM diesel; we also had a 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser with the infamous diesel V8. After about 30,000 miles, both our diesels smoked like a 60 year old hooker. Since potential clean diesel shoppers seem to fall into the 30-60 year old demographic, this is still the image that diesel brings to mind for many, not the reliable but low-volume European diesels from the 70s and 80s. If sales numbers are any indication however, BMW Mercedes and VW have been changing the tide of public opinion.

VW has been trying hard to overcome perceptions of diesels for some time with varying tactics. The old V10 TDI in the previous Touareg proved that a diesel could be fast and thirsty, the previous generation Jetta TDI proved diesels can be terribly slow but incredibly efficient. The new Touareg TDI is VW’s latest attempt to prove that 90% of Americans could live with a diesel every day. At 225HP, and 406lb-ft of twist they might just be on to something. For reference this more torque than the 380HP supercharged hybrid Touareg we tested in January SUV making it the “torquiest” Touareg on these shores. (European buyers are able to spec a 4.2L V8 which wins the torque award by a hair.)

The diesel Touareg receives the same high quality interior as the Touareg hybrid we recently reviewed. Dash parts are suitably squishy, panels are aligned with Germanic precision and if it weren’t for the two-letter logo on the steering wheel you’d think you were inside a modern Audi. American shoppers are unable to buy a Touareg on these shores with VW’s “Driver Assistance Pack” which in the Euro-zone contains radar cruise control and a blind spot warning system. This omission seems contrary to the obviously high-class interior and fairly hefty price tag.

Speaking of pricing, our Touareg TDI came with the $9,950 “Executive package” raising our tester to $57,500 from the $47,950 sticker worn by base TDI models. While this may seem a tad spendy, the 2011 Touareg TDI is a far cry in pricing from the last oil-burning SUV VW sold on these shores. One of the ways VW has accomplished this price reduction is by discontenting and bundling options together into packages. The base model is fairly well featured as it stands; the $3,850 “Lux” package adds 19-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, walnut trim, leather seats with 12-way adjustable driver’s sear and electric rear seat releases. Stepping up to the “Executive package” we tested gets the buyer 20-inch rubber, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, keyless entry & go, parking sensors and the up-level Dynaudio sound system. All Touareg TDI models regardless of package have the easy-to-use VW RNS 850 navigation system with iPod/USB integration, Bluetooth and Sirius satellite radio.

VW’s latest Navigation uses a bright, high resolution eight-inch color touch-screen display that is easy to read even in direct sunlight. The latest version of VW’s navigation software continues to be touch-driven in contrast to Mercedes’ COMMAND system, BMW’s iDrive and even VAG’s own Audi brand’s MMI. The screen layouts are logical and easy to follow, the 3D mapping is on par with most systems as well. I would prefer such a system to be mounted higher on the dash thereby increasing the ease of use (and lowering distraction) while driving. Compared to BMW’s latest iDrive however the VW system seems less polished. One of the oddities that turned into something of an annoyance during our week was the traffic notification system. It’s great that the Touareg’s telematics system receives traffic information, however unlike most modern systems VW chose not to overlay the map with colored lined to indicate traffic speeds on major highways.

The Touareg TDI uses the same engine as its close cousin the Audi Q7. First released in 2004, this 3.0 liter, 24-valve DOHC powerplant is well known in Europe and found under the hood of vehicles such as the Phaeton, Audi A8, and Porsche Cayenne. With luxury brands using this engine refinement is the name of the game. While I was unable to test cold-winter starts since I live in sunny California, morning temperatures were around 31 degrees the week the TDI slept in my driveway. Unlike diesels we all remember the TDI cranked just like a gasoline engine. On cold mornings I did notice a tiny hint of vibration and clatter when the engine first started, but after a few seconds the engine quiets down to a purr smoother than I thought a diesel was capable of.

Out on the road the 225HP and prodigious torque are more than adequate to get the Touareg moving on a short freeway onramps. Our own 0-60 test executed in 6.97 seconds which is fairly close to what other publications have recorded and significantly faster than VW’s own 0-60 claims. I can only conclude that VW doesn’t want to show up the base Cayenne which is advertised at [an untested] 7.1 seconds to 60 with a professional driver and a manual and 7.4 seconds to 60 for slushbox drivers. Even if Porsche has underrated the stoplight performance of the Cayenne, these are some impressive numbers for an SUV that tips the scales at 4,974lbs as tested. Turbo lag is minimal for a diesel, that is to say it reminds me of driving a 1980s turbo car: the lag is there but it can be a pleasant companion. Probably the biggest reason the 3.0L V6 is so livable is the new 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. The ZF 8HP45 employs close ratios to help keep the engine in its relatively narrow power band (compared to a turbocharged gasoline engine). The resulting feel seems well suited to the diesel engine while the same transmission in the hybrid left me occasionally asking what was wrong with the 6-speed.

Off road, the TDI is (as one would expect), an excellent companion having well suited gear ratios and abundant torque at low speeds for crawling up steep inclines. The problem of course with the Touareg as a true off-road vehicle is the sales demographic in the USA: buyers of the previous go-anywhere SUV thought “anywhere” meant suburban outlet stores instead of the downtown mall. Because of this lack of demand and a desire to keep weight and costs down, all the fun off road bits aren’t sold in the USA. Not only did VW decide to keep the more capable 4xMotion 4WD system with low range a Euro-only option, but the adjustable-height suspension remains off-limits for American Shoppers. US buyers are also treated to a fairly ridiculous looking collapsible spare tire. Still, the factory ground clearance of 7.9-inches and full-time AWD 4Motion system are more than adequate for even a journey on the Rubicon Trail.

With the demise of the old Explorer, and the death of all GM’s GMT360 variants, most mid-size SUVs sold in the US no longer contain the RWD based drivetrains that permit moderate towing capacities around 7,000lbs. If you are searching for a vehicle that is suitable for commuting on weekdays and towing your Eddie Bauer Airstream or horse trailer with two ponies on weekends, a mid-size diesel SUV makes plenty of economic sense. The diesel Touareg is rated to tow a segment leading 7,700lbs which is nothing to sniff at. In comparison: the Mercedes ML350 BlueTEC is rated at 7,200lbs and the BMW X5 xDrive35d is rated at 6,500lbs.

If American metal is more your thing, the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango twins can tow almost as much (7,400lbs) but must be equipped with the thirsty 5.7L V8 to do so. Rounding out the tow-capable SUVs, are the V8 Nissan Pathfinder (7,000lbs) and Lexus GX460 (6,500lbs). Our tester was not equipped with a class three hitch, but my local VW dealer as kind enough to loan me a Touareg TDI properly equipped for some mountain towing fun. 4,000lbs of bricks in a 2,100lb trailer proved no problem for the Touareg’s 406lb-ft of torque. Again making the Touareg the livable to tow is the 8-speed ZF automatic. Anyone who has tried towing a heavy trailer uphill with an old Dodge Ram with the old Cummins engine and 4-speed transmission knows the pain of finally hitting the power band only to have the transmission upshift and leave you back at square one.

Of course any of the competition we mentioned will tow a trailer comparably well, but the Touareg TDI’s advantage is fuel economy. While the new Durango is average for the pack with EPA numbers of 14/20, the Touareg boasts an EPA rating of 19/29 which is a touch higher than the BMW and Mercedes diesel SUV offerings. During out week with the Touareg we averaged 27.7MPG in mixed driving on the first tank, an impressive 30.5MPG on a 160-mile road trip, and 16.5MPG while towing two-tons of bricks. Compared to the base V6 Touareg, this represents a 24% increase in observed fuel economy for a $3,000 premium. Out here on the left coast, the cost of premium to fuel your base Touareg averaged $4.41 on 4/18/2011 and diesel was $4.48 (according to the CA Energy Commission), making the break-even point somewhere around 75,000 miles depending on your driving style.

As our 1050-mile week with the Touareg drew to a close I realized that it had only visited the diesel pump once during the week for an expensive 22-gallon fill-up eking 610 miles out of the first tank. VW has managed to create what GM failed to with the Tahoe Hybrid: An SUV that delivers good mileage with or without a trailer attached that has a bit of off-road cred tossed in (just in case). That being said, the high cost of diesel and the relative uncertainty of what is undeniably still a niche market in America should be a concern for shoppers. Still, if the era of high-fuel prices turns out to be our permanent future, VW’s TDI SUV makes a compelling alternative. If you’re shopping for a Touareg, just walk right past that base V6 model on the floor and give the TDI a try.

Volkswagen provided the test vehicle, insurance and a tank of diesel.

Performance statistics as tested:

0-30: 2.2 seconds

0-60: 6.97 seconds

Average economy: 27.7MPG (observed:30.5MPG Highway)

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