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Old 06-07-2012, 04:04 AM   #1
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SUV Towing: The Next Generation

We're getting ready to return to the U.S. after 4 years overseas, and revive our poor Sport 22 sitting on jackstands, in a garage, all this time. We sold our previous tow vehicle back in the US, and began looking at something that could carry family, luggage, and light utility work over here, yet still be able to tow when we got home.

The Sport line was optimized for smaller TVs, and we had good performance with a 2003 Ford Explorer V8 and the Hensley Arrow hitch. Just ditching the white box R-Vision TT and joining the Airstream family raised our towing MPG from 9-10 to 13-14 with this truck-like SUV. And brought us into a whole new RV realm, of course!

Being in Germany, and just up the road from the makers of the newer turbo-diesel SUVs (MB ML 350, VW Toureg, Porsche Cayenne, BMW X5), we decided to have a look at these choices. Yes, they're all premium priced lines, but they're not as "fancy" here, and better deals are possible. The mix of power & torque output, non-towing diesel fuel economy, and road handling were good in all of these models. But based on size, feel, and overall performance (BMW says "Sport Activity Vehicle") we ended up with the X5.

The German dealer just installed the OEM US hitch package, which I had shipped over. It includes the bumper/receiver assembly, wiring harnesses, trim strip, and a Tekonsha P2 brake controller without the brand label. I think it was the first US towing system install this team had performed, and in German fashion, they followed the tech spec exactly - which places the brake controller in the console, and requires a wide bumper cutout for the receiver assembly.

The crossover/car-like SUV looks to be the smaller TV trend, and I've greatly appreciated the discussions here on choosing, evaluating, and towing with them. When we rejoin the A/S family in the US this fall, and get on-the-road, we're looking forward to enjoying this well-matched setup.
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Old 06-07-2012, 06:35 AM   #2
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Nice setup! I don't know why US car makers don't jump on the turbo-diesel bandwagon. I can't see towing a trailer with a hybrid or electric vehicle. It seems like that's the US strategy. Oh well! Welcome home!
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Old 06-07-2012, 06:59 AM   #3
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X5 4.4i w/Dinan Since 2001

The X5 is an excellent tow vehicle; reference my avatar and search on "withidl".
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Old 06-07-2012, 07:12 AM   #4
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Old 06-07-2012, 07:14 AM   #5
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withidl:

Your's was one of my very first sources, when we started this search.

Thanks for your insights on setting up the X5.
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Old 06-07-2012, 07:19 AM   #6
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Old 06-07-2012, 08:27 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by asianmack View Post
Nice setup! I don't know why US car makers don't jump on the turbo-diesel bandwagon. I can't see towing a trailer with a hybrid or electric vehicle. It seems like that's the US strategy. Oh well! Welcome home!
Consumer demand is still low in the USA for diesel... And your higher sulphur content in diesel makes it hard to meet emissions.
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Old 06-07-2012, 09:02 AM   #8
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Sweet! A premium Turbo SUV+Airsteam is my retirement dream.
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Old 06-07-2012, 09:08 AM   #9
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Because the US determines the emissions different than Europe does. We are behind on so many things is pathetic. my brother gets 50+ mpg with his diesel vw rabbit in England. The stupid Prius "I hate them" gets that, or less where we live in the mountains. Hybrids are not "Green" just get could mpg in the city or flat highways. Batteries are not GREEN!!!!!! Sorry about my rant.
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Old 06-07-2012, 09:09 AM   #10
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Consumer demand is still low in the USA for diesel... And your higher sulphur content in diesel makes it hard to meet emissions.
Only because most people don't know about them. Americans think 30 mpg is great. In Europe that is bottom line... my brother cries when he gets less than 50 mpg
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Old 06-07-2012, 10:07 AM   #11
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The diesel "Euro-SUV's" can outperform the conventional pickup in many categories of towing Airstream trailers and we will see more of them. Ford has slipped a V6 Ecoboost into a new Explorer; that will be interesting although they would rather sell you a pickup. Grand Cherokee/Durango have high tow ratings and mentioned a small diesel.

These are great handling passenger vehicles with towing ability. I wish they had more utility and less luxury in their finishes and accessories, but it's been hard for us to see them as the work horses they can be.

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Old 06-07-2012, 11:05 AM   #12
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withidl:

Your's was one of my very first sources, when we started this search.

Thanks for your insights on setting up the X5.
Your welcome!
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Old 06-07-2012, 12:21 PM   #13
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I switched from an F-150 to the Touareg TDI back in January and have never regretted it. The F-150 was good, but the VW is phenomenal.

Last week I towed from St. Louis to Jackson Center, 366 miles at 16.2 mpg without stopping for fuel (the computer showed 17.1 mpg). 66 mph at 2,000 rpm on I-70 to Indianapolis and 60 mph at 1,750 rpm on US-36 the rest of the way.

On the return trip into the wind I got my worst mileage yet... 14.9 mpg. That's better than the best I ever got with the F-150. Not to mention, I get 27 mpg commuting and no longer need a truck for towing plus a car for commuting. I love this vehicle.

I'm towing a 25 foot Safari SE which is 8.5 feet wide. Your Sport is much narrower and will have a lot less wind resistance. It will be an absolute pleasure and you'll never regret your decision. Keep us posted.

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Old 06-07-2012, 01:40 PM   #14
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That's better than the best I ever got with the F-150. Not to mention, I get 27 mpg commuting and no longer need a truck for towing plus a car for commuting.
Exactly! I still have trouble believing one vehicle can do it all, but it's been a series of pleasant surprises. The non-towing mileage is amazing: 24 MPG commuting 20 miles, and touching 30 highway-if you keep it around 65 MPH on flat ground. Of course, it's a bit tough to drive this sensibly on the Autobahn.

But as folks note in this thread, if market trends change and Detroit would build us a smaller-sized turbo-diesel, I'd be happy to buy one.
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