tow vehicle – done!

I didn’t get a chance to write about tow vehicles before we bought one; oh well :)

We went to the Hamilton RV show last Saturday and crawled around in a bunch of pop-up trailers. The data so far:

  • Fleetwood is very expensive. The quality and features are there, but I’m not convinced that they’re worth the price tag.
  • We want a 10’ pop-up trailer. 12’ would be nice on rainy days, but they’re freakin’ heavy and much larger than the 2’ difference would lead you to believe; I’d rather have the slightly easier to drive with smaller trailer. On the other hand, 8’ trailers are too small for the four of us, especially as the kids get physically larger.
  • Rockwood and JayCo both have nice 10’ models. Palomino (same company as Rockwood) has some nice designs too, but for some reason they’re about 20% heavier than the Rockwoods.
  • We decided to go with cargo space in the tow vehicle over a “box” on the trailer. We’d be hauling stuff in and out either way, and this way we have the cargo space without the trailer too.

The Rockwood and Jayco models that we like all weigh in at around 2000 lbs. Manufacturer tow ratings only include a driver, so add 400-500 lbs of passengers and 400-500 lbs of gear. Follow the “75%” rule of trailer/cargo mass vs. tow rating, and that means we’re looking for a vehicle with a 4000 lb (or more) tow rating. Strangely, there aren’t very many of those! There’s a big gap between minivans and small SUVs at 3500 lbs, and full-size SUVs and trucks at 6500 lbs and up.

We also wanted something that can carry our friends, and the kids and their friends, on normal trips (i.e. our regular kite festivals), up to and including carrying two adults and four kids on a camping trip. That ruled out the myriad 5-passenger compact and mid-size SUVs (probably just as well, because selecting from that many options would be challenging).

We also wanted to, at a minimum, attempt to a passing wave at fuel economy, as our lives require two single-passenger vehicles during the week. You can’t really get an eight-passenger, tow-capable truck that isn’t a fuel hog, but we wanted to try…

Michaéla’s extensive research narrowed us down to a couple of the new CUVs, which can be described as scaled down minivans or scaled up station wagons. They’re designed like SUVs, but have car-inspired unibody construction so they handle better and are more fuel efficient.

The only one we really liked, that met all of our criteria, was the new Saturn Outlook XR FWD. While I’m very nervous about purchasing a new-model vehicle, Saturn has a reasonably good reputation for quality, particularly after purchase. Most manufacturers seem to be revamping their entire vehicle lineups anyway; there are lots of new-model cars and trucks on the market right now! Besides, it’s a very nice vehicle :-).

The Outlook also comes with all-wheel drive, but everything I’ve read says that AWD either doesn’t help with towing, or actively makes it worse. It makes the vehicle heavier, and it’s one more thing to go wrong. AWD also uses 5-10% more fuel.

Anyway, we’ve ordered one with the options we like; the heated leather seats, the trailering package (of course :), and we splurged and went for the built-in rear-seat DVD player. Everyone I’ve talked to with kids who didn’t buy the DVD option has regretted it. We could get a couple of portable DVD players for similar $$$, but there are advantages to the built-in. We didn’t spring for the “luxury” package (heated mirrors, seat position memory, yadda yadda) or the backup/parking assist (which would primarily tell us that we’re too close to the trailer :). The “Cold Weather Package” (heated windshield washer fluid, remote start) sounded cool, but we decided not to be frivolous. Ditto the sunroof; I think we use the Maxima’s sunroof a handful of times each year. Finally, we left off the built-in GPS navigation system; we can get equivalent system for 1/4 of the price, which also means we can upgrade if the technology gets better (and move the GPS-nav to the other car when required :).

It’s supposed to take 6-8 weeks for the vehicle to show up here in Toronto. We still have to choose a colour, though!

posted at 8:53 pm on Saturday, February 10, 2007 in Personal | Comments (4)


  1. David Brake says:

    I can understand that they wouldn’t want to give a lot of publicity to their fuel economy but I am surprised to find it seems they haven’t put the fuel economy on the site anywhere! What is it? (Dare I ask?)

  2. chk says:

    Micki noticed that too. They show it on their ads, though, so I think it’s an oversight.

    According to

    2000 Daewoo Lanos: 9.8 / 6.4 l/100km
    2001 Nissan Maxima: 10.7 / 8.7 l/100km
    2007 Saturn Outlook: 13.1 / 9.0 l/100km

    Viewed another way, the “best” non-Hybrid 2007 SUV does 25/29 MPG, while the Outlook is 18/26 MPG. So the city performance is relatively low, but highway is quite good. On the gripping hand, that 18/26 MPG figure seems to be about average for minivans, and slight above average for SUVs, according to the 2007 auto guide.

    Of course, compared to the Lanos, my fuel costs are going to jump substantially…

  3. David Brake says:

    Did you look at hybrid SUVs or would they be too expensive or otherwise unsuitable?

  4. chk says:

    We looked at a bunch, but they tended to get eliminated either because they had crappy towing capacities…

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