I recently wrote a "final report" post about the tow vehicle we used for the first 4 years of towing our Airstream. That particular truck was chosen as a tow vehicle, well, because I owned it when we bought the Bambi. As with all vehicles, it was a mixture of awesome and not so awesome...just like most things in life.
It was time for a change though and this was an opportunity to start with a clean slate!
Everything from vehicle genre to engine type, from brand to color was up for consideration here... What an opportunity! What fun! I've been shopping...and it's the kind of shopping I like! I researched, we discussed, I wrote, we looked, we test drove...
Believe me when I say that I considered everything.
Having spent my life surrounded by automobiles in my work, I have shed most of my brand allegiance. All car companies have had successes and failures. "You pays your money and you takes your choice"
This meant our slate was full. One at a time, we slowly whittled away at the list. Some vehicles were eliminated and then later reconsidered (we ended up with one of those...)
Information gleaned from one search was added to the list of criteria and everything reconsidered again... I tried to keep the search rational but I also allowed a healthy mix of emotion into the mix. What is life without a little emotion? So how did we decide?
One of the most important lessons learned in the 6 1/2 years that we owned it was that we both loved being in a truck while on the road. There is just something nice about sitting up a little higher and the associated ability to see more around you. There is something nice about the way a long wheelbase vehicle (even a stiffly sprung one) soaks up the miles on the road. There is something nice about the space in a crew cab truck...room to spare! There is just something nice about being able to haul all of our important camping stuff along for the ride and not have to feel like you are living with it!
We liked our truck!
So, what truck? I considered the new Ridgeline. In the end I was concerned about the height of the bed. We want our Big Green Egg MiniMax along with us! It's important. Although the new Ridgeline isn't out yet I am fairly sure that the MiniMax will not fit in that bed under a tonneau. Why a tonneau? I don't like toppers. Why not? I don't know. I simply don't... Anyway, scratch the Ridgeline. It's not even out yet. I did take away one thing from my Ridgeline research though, the importance of turning diameter. The old Ridgeline has a turning diameter of about 42 feet. That is more than 5 feet less than our last truck. That would have been nice! Getting our Airstream turned around in our driveway has always been a challenge and a tow vehicle with a smaller turning diameter would be a bonus! Also, one with a larger turning diameter would be a disaster.
Gone from consideration where the Fords (I was tired of ours anyway, but I considered one anyway) the large GMC's (very large turning diameters! Some of the largest!)
What's left? The GMC Canyon, Toyota Tundra and the Ram line of trucks.
The Canyon line is interesting. It should have been higher on my list. Somehow I let that emotion thing got in the way and although I like the trucks, they were not for us. The same thing happened when I looked at the Toyota. Just because I wanted something other than emotion as a reason to reject a vehicle I used the "Payload" card for the GMC Canyon. This also cleared the Ram 1500
out too. I've read all of the rationalization and arguments for and against paying attention to payload ratings. In the end, our experience with our own overloaded truck and the way it felt when hauling a big load both with and without the Airstream being towed gave me reason to pause. It just doesn't feel good to drive it with too much weight in it. I also always had an uneasy feeling when towing and loaded up... The truck felt so good when it wasn't loaded compared to when loaded that I simply don't want to ignore payload ratings.
That was too bad as I really like the Ram 1500! Small turning diameter, air suspension, good looking interior and an interesting Diesel engine kept it at the top of the list. The payload rating and the apparent lack of headroom made it a doubtful list topper.
So that leaves the Toyota. They are reliable, they have a decent payload rating, they are available, they have headroom, they, they...left me cold. Sorry, nothing against Toyota owners, I simply do not want one.
So, this is getting long, what did I buy? Well, I kept going back to Ram dealers and sitting in trucks to see if I could find the headroom I wanted. Come to find out, if I adjusted the seat properly, I seemed ok. Close but ok...
Then there was the payload thing...what to do?
Well here is what we did. We have only driven it about 900 miles now, 450 without the trailer and 450 miles with but wow, what a truck! It is overkill in terms of towing but it sure is fun.It pulled our little Bambi up the hills around Asheville like it wasn't there. The exhaust brake is like a dream to use, it is incredibly comfortable, it has the RamBox option that swallows up all of our stuff, the stuff that we used to keep in plastic containers or "somewhere" in the bed of the truck.
And it makes the best engine sounds I've ever heard! Really!
Anyway, to be fair there are negatives. It does ride a bit rougher on the small "stutter bumps" that cause those big axels to hop. The rest of the time the ride is nicer than our F-150 though.
The steering is recirculating ball rather than Rack and pinion so the feel is different. I am not a fan of most electric rack and pinion steering anyway, I prefer the old hydraulic type every time...
Anyway the steering is not as crisp as the steering we had in the Ford.
That's about it for now.
Remember, we bought this truck for us, not for you. I'm not being critical of your tow vehicle at all. If it works for you I am happy for you. I came away from his exercise with greater understanding of why people do what they do and I think it's great. Many thanks to the people who wrote here and other places of their experiences. It all helps!