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Old 08-04-2008, 11:00 PM   #1
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Question Chrysler Aspen Hybrid to tow 16ft int'l

Hi Airstreamers,

I am new to the RV world and I see that there are many here that have quite a bit of experience and may be able to help.

I own a 16ft Int'l dry weight 2850lbs. It's a small one and I travel lightly, myself and 2 dogs. I need a better tow vehicle but I don't really want to get into a full truck or large SUV's. Now that I have started researching options I see the larger wheel bases are safer so I am now thinking of hybrid options.

I have strongly considered the Toyota Highlaner Hybrid and have read a variety of reviews on this vehcile. As I travel through mountainous terrain and the price tag on that vehcile i feel I really should have more towing capacity to be safe even though I have read that some have stated it does tow fine on that vehicle. It has a rating of 3500lbs.

I am leaning towards the Aspen Hybrid as it is slightly smaller then some of the full size SUV's and has a tow capacity of 4500lbs. Does anyone have any experience with this hybrid model or any other hybrids?

I have read that the Hybrids are not great for towing but I am not sure if some of the info is dated and I am towing a relatively light trailer, currently with a small mini van.

My other consideration is a small used truck for towing and hybrid compact car for commuting. If the hybrid's can't pull I think I can still purchase this combo in the same price range which does provide some environmental compromise?

I have been researching extensively and at this stage real experience and advise would be greatly appreciated.

Also on another note, my airstream is brand new. My battery seems to have a short life before requiring a charge at 12 hours max with minimum use. I think it should last quite a bit longer? Any input on this also would be most helpful.

Thank you in for any advice provided. dani
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Old 08-05-2008, 06:08 AM   #2
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How many miles do you plan to tow each year? What percentage is that of the total miles you drive? If you plan to tow exclusively, then finding a tow vehicle that gets maximum mpg while towing will save you the most money. If you, like most of us, tow less than 3,000 miles a year, but drive more than 20,000 miles, then buy a Prius, Civic Hybrid, or similar and find yourself an inexpensive half ton van, pickup (or whatever) of your choosing to tow with. Your real savings will be in your commuter miles.

Buying "green" is more than gas mileage. The real environmental expense in vehicles are the raw materials and energy consumed in their production and dismantling at the end of their useful life. You've done well buying a trailer that has an indeterminate lifespan. Stickies use as much energy and materials in their production, but last less than ten years. Select your vehicles for longevity and total cost of ownership as well. It's been estimated that if you can keep the same car for twenty years, you can save over $30,000 in depreciation and financing alone over trading cars every three years.

Since mid April, I've been commuting by bicycle. My wife's daily driver is an '06 Civic gas. She commutes 40 miles each way, and all highway at 60mph. She gets a solid 40mpg and drives 30,000 miles/year. When I drive, my daily driver is an '02 Tundra 6cyl 4WD pickup that gets 17mpg combined, 21mpg highway and I put 10,000 miles/year on it (in addition to my regular employment, I have two apartment buildings and need the truck for hauling). Our tow vehicle is an '01 Born Free 23' motorhome that actually gets 8-10mpg towing (depending on the wind), and allows us to travel with our dogs in absolute comfort, but we typically drive it less than 5,000 miles a year. I also use it to tow the Toyota pickup the 600 mile round-trip to one of my buildings every couple of months, and use the little moho as an "apartment" while I'm there doing maintenance. The total cost of per mile of the motorhome is substantially less than the Excursion we used to tow with. The insurance, license, and payments are substantially less (like 1/3 less), even though it gets about 30% less gas mileage (3mpg less towing).

Don't just buy a vehicle because of fuel efficiency. You really need to look at the entire financial picture; the projected longevity of a specific make and model, how you use the vehicles, and total cost of ownership of each vehicle including depreciation, maintenance, insurance, and license fees to figure out what works for you. Read the fine print in those "as long as you own the vehicle" warranties as well. You may find some surprises.

Roger

ON EDIT: AND, having driven a number of the original '78 Dodge Aspens in the San Diego PD patrol car fleet way back when, it amazes me that Chrysler chose to resurrect that name. I'd avoid ANYTHING from Chrysler named "Aspen" like the plague!
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Old 08-05-2008, 12:19 PM   #3
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First, a hybrid isn't gonna do it. My Ridgeline gets about the same mileage as my daughters hybrid Highlander but I can tow 5000#. My towing is above 7000' and it does a great job. Emissions are the lowest around.
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Old 08-05-2008, 02:56 PM   #4
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The hybrids are not really that green when you look at what goes into making those batteries and how long they last... I read an artical that the greenest most enviromentaly friendly car you could get was the mini cooper.

As for fuel mileage. my wife drive a 4 runner down to work and back every day. 14 miles and 2,000 vertical feet. We have a friend with toyota highlander hybrid that does the same thing.

We get 18 mpg average up and down in the 4 runner and the Highlander gets only 22 mph up and down. only 4 miles per gallon difference and our 4 runner is an 01' not worth the price for a hybrid in my opinion. At least for where we live. You can get just gas vehicles that do better than that..

Hybrids are really designed for city driving not pulling or highway driving ...
If we lived in the city I may consider getting one... But would probably get the mini...A lot cheaper ..
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Old 08-05-2008, 03:22 PM   #5
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Have you looked at the European SUVs?
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Old 08-06-2008, 10:58 AM   #6
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Thanks for all of your replies to my questions. It has provided plenty to think about. Based on the responses I think I am looking at a two car purchase rather then 1 very expensive hybrid that doesn't cut it towing. I have been really wanting a mini cooper for quite sometime. I don't think I will abandon that. I think I will buy a mid size not North American used SUV for towing only as I am a relatively small load.

Again I appreciate your knowledge and advice. I am not very automotive savy so all opinions are helpful.
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Old 08-06-2008, 01:56 PM   #7
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Choices, choices....

While I haven't towed with one, a friend has towed with the last generation Highlander and current Lexus RX hybrids. (They're rated to 3500 lbs.) They towed rather well - that electric torque is rather nice. (FWIW, I've heard good things from folks who have towed with Tahoe hybrids.) But yeah, you'd push the weight limit of a Highlander hybrid if you carried a lot of stuff and had full tanks in the AS.

A 06-07 Highlander Hybrid is around $26k here. A new one pushes $40k.
You'd get around 24 mpg with a new Highlander hybrid when you're not towing. Considering that you're not towing most of the time, that's pretty impressive for the size of vehicle.

Given some of your concerns, you might actually do better to buy two vehicles for the price of that one new Highlander. An used Mini Cooper for the daily grind and, say, an used 05+ Nissan Xterra tow vehicle (great engine, available stability control) could be had for about the cost of the Highlander. Given the high fuel economy of the Mini, and relatively low miles you'd put on the Xterra, your total fuel use might be less than the Highlander hybrid.

The math changes somewhat if you go onto the used market, but if y ou shop around you could still buy an used Mini plus (say) a 2001 Toyota Sequoia for the price of an used 06 Highlander hybrid.
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Old 08-06-2008, 06:15 PM   #8
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Thanks for the additional information on the Hybrid towing mutcth. What was the weight load your friend was carrying? I think I am around that 3500lb weight when loaded and I have read that you should carry 30% less then the manufacturer recommendation and that is why I started looking at alternatives to the Highlander Hybrid?

I have read a posting on here where someone was carrying my exact same unit with the HI HY and did fine. Elsewhere I have read complaints about the towing capacity. However it was by someone that typically tows with a pick up but they stated they had to bring in the pick up to rescue the tow on a gravel hill?

The Hi Hy starts at $53,000 + in Canada. I will do US price comparisons? Not sure how easy it is to bring cars across the border but I bought my AS in Montanna and it was a breeze. I feel bad for not supporting my own countries economy but not so bad that I would turn down a $10K savings.

Anyway, it is great to know someone is towing successfully with hybrids. Thanks again for the info.
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Old 08-06-2008, 07:17 PM   #9
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i would suggest a Nissan pathfinder ether V6 or upgrade to the V8 it small enough to drive everyday but has the power and torque to pull your trailer or possible the Xterra i heard there really up grading them for 09
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Old 08-07-2008, 07:53 AM   #10
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Quote:
Thanks for the additional information on the Hybrid towing mutcth. What was the weight load your friend was carrying?
He was towing pretty close to the 3500 lbs - his SCCA race car and a (lightweight) car trailer. Different aero than the Airstream, but similar weight.

Quote:
I think I am around that 3500lb weight when loaded and I have read that you should carry 30% less then the manufacturer recommendation and that is why I started looking at alternatives to the Highlander Hybrid?
There are lots of "rules of thumb" about towing, and I sure don't want to start any spats. But having worked at a vehicle manufacturer, and knowing several other vehicle engineers who worked on validating vehicle towing, I'm OK with towing to the manufacturer recommendation. (Consider that an awful lot of folks tow way over it.)

You do need to read the fine print and do the math to figure out if you're within the 3500 lbs with cargo and passengers. Manufacturers will specify a total vehicle + trailer weight. For instance, I did the math on my Honda Odyssey (same 3500 lb tow limit) and figured out that, to stay under the limit with my passenger load and cargo, my trailer could max out at 2900 lbs.

Quote:
However it was by someone that typically tows with a pick up but they stated they had to bring in the pick up to rescue the tow on a gravel hill?
That's tough without reading the context. Sounds like the Highlander got stuck - if it was a front-wheel-drive (not AWD) Highlander hybrid or if it lost traction, I could see that. The AWD system works well on road, but you can overheat the electric motors that drive the rear wheels on sand or gravel in severe conditions. They'll cut out to protect themselves, but then you're stuck. I wouldn't be concerned about traction in most situations though....

Quote:
The Hi Hy starts at $53,000 + in Canada. I will do US price comparisons? Not sure how easy it is to bring cars across the border but I bought my AS in Montanna and it was a breeze. I feel bad for not supporting my own countries economy but not so bad that I would turn down a $10K savings.
It will be easier to import a trailer than a vehicle - different regulations. Certainly lots of people do import cars to Canada for the price savings, but manufacturers are making it harder. Recently I've read that they're cracking down on dealers near the border who knowingly sell cars for importation. You could also have warranty issues trying to get the car fixed at a Toyota dealer in Canada.
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