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Silvercamper 03-30-2006 12:19 AM

Durango and Armada. Good or Bad TVs
Hi Friends
Our tired and underpowered Chevy Tahoe is now one year closer to the end of the lease and we have to think of another TV to lead our 28 ft. Safari. Are there any members out there who are happy towing with the Nissan Armada or the Dodge Durango with the 5.7 Hemi? Your opinions and ideas will be very helpful.
Thank you
Sharon & Winston

myoung 03-30-2006 01:47 AM

When we first purchased our Durango to tow a Safari 25 FB LS with a gross weight with options of nearly 5,400 pounds, we were advised that it would be marginal. However, in actual use so far, we are very pleased with the performance of the Durango, the ease of towing, and the reasonable gas mileage. Sure we've only towed about 500 miles over rolling California coastal terrain and haven't driven other combinations of trailers and tow vehicles for comparison.

I should also say that the Equal-i-zer hitch has been astonishingly good. It cost only about 1/6 of a Hensley, but again without any basis of comparison, I can say that sway, wind buffetting, and effects from passing trucks or buses has been virtually non-existent. It's hard for me to imagine that the Hensley could be any better and the economics are a no-brainer.

We considered the Nissan Armada when we first ordered a Safari 28 SO. The SO is considerably heavier than a non-SO model. Look at the specs and you'll see that the 25 FB and the 28 are nearly identical in weights. If that's the case, then our experience with the Dodge Durango, should also be relevant.

Some people have suggested that the shorter wheelbase of the Durango is a drawback. That is not our experience. The turning radius of the Durango is quite good and that probably accounts for how easily I can maneuver the trailer when backing. Adjustments are quick and easy.

I have now learned to trust the smarts of the Tow/Haul setting on the Durango's automatic transmission. Much to my surprise, I get better gas mileage with the Tow/Haul setting on than off-- 13.2 mpg with it on versus 12.2 mpg with it off. I suppose I should also say that our Durango has the standard rear axle ratio not the higher ratio that would have increased the towing capacity about 400-500 pounds. In retrospect, the higher ratio which seemed necessary based on the trailer specs isn't really needed. Also, the gas mileage would have suffered with the higher ratio.

We haven't towed in hot weather or with the A/C on, so I don't know whether that would have much effect on performance. The Durango tow package has lots of beefed up systems, so perhaps this won't be much of an issue either. Be sure you have all the bells and whistles.

Silvercamper 04-01-2006 01:17 PM

Hello Mike and Rosemary

Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences with us. We live and travel around New York City every day and although we will have that diesel pick up one day, the Dodge Durango will be on our short list of possibilities.

Now we need someone to share his or her Armada story with us.

Sharon and Winston

myoung 04-01-2006 01:22 PM

Sharon and Winston,

By the way, the Durango makes a pretty good everyday car. Our mileage around town is nearly 17 mpg and on the highway holding steady at 55 mph we've been able to get as much at 23.8 mpg. All that in a 5,300 lb SUV ain't half bad.

CanoeStream 04-01-2006 04:53 PM

28' & Armada? Absolutely not!
I'll stick my foot in the door and respond better when time (and basketball) permits.

I did the math on tow vehicle load capacity for what was the 1st Nissan Titan owned by an ASForums member. The Titan has slightly higher capacity than its heavier Armada cousin. Let's just say I sold the Titan 3 months ago because it was not within specs for towing my 25' Safari. The powertrain was mostly up to the task .... But any newer Airstream at 25' or above will exceed the low load capacity of these vehicles in any real-world application.

I do know you will read quite a few threads if you use the search function on Armada -- and especially Titan.

Silvertwinkie 04-01-2006 05:20 PM

None of the vehicles you've asked about should be considered with a 28' coach with a GVWR of 7300lbs, cargo, passengers, fuel, etc. On some or all of the items asked about, the wheelbase is fart too short as well.

CanoeStream 04-01-2006 05:31 PM

Silvertwinkie, I agree fully.

See Towing with an Escalade regarding how you can do the math on potential tow vehicles. Manufacturer's websites usually have load capacity if the vehicle is truly up to any reasonable towing task (some smaller SUV webpages don't even post load capacity). My advice is to pay minimal attention to tow capacity or GCWR until you add up some numbers on load capacity!

A fraction of my posts on the Titan (and probably one of the most balanced): Nissan Titan towing. ...and I actually, really and truly enjoyed my time with that truck! It was a pleasure to be inside and drive (though a hog on gas).

Chuck 04-01-2006 05:40 PM

you guys must be doing "new math", or something. the tow rating on a durango is 8850lbs. you could fill it, and the trailer, and be within specs.

munimula 04-01-2006 05:57 PM

i have an '04 armada (off road model) and tow a 31 and 34 footer. caviat - i also have a hensely arrow. the tow rating on the armada is 9900#'s with a tonge weight of 1100#. it has plenty of power (305 HP) and offers a tow mode. i've been very happy with it's performance over the past 40k miles.

it has an inflatable rear suspension that levels the truck out nicely when hitched up. transmission feels as good as the day i drove it off the lot.

flame away.

Silvertwinkie 04-01-2006 06:06 PM

No new math in my book. I hear lots of folks talk about upgrading the tow vehicle cause they found the limitations we've all encountered already, having been there and done that. You rarely see folks that get the correct type vehicle talk about downgrading.

The Nissan Titan has a generous tow rating as well for example and Canoe Stream will be the first to tell you there is nothing like the right tool for the job having upgraded from the Nissan to a real 3/4 truck.

The issue is not just power, clearly Durango has power, the issue for me is that he's clearly in the 3/4 ton sandbox. Durango is not a good choice for a 28' Airstream with a 119" wheelbase. Additionally, there are far more equations than just power. Brakes, axles, transmission, etc. All are 1/2 rated in the Durango.

That all aside, if the Airstream is loaded, and is at 7300lbs, he has 4 passengers (150lbs each), thats 600lbs bringing down the 8850 to 8250. Add 18 gallons of gas (say 7lbs per gallon), now that's down to 8124. Add gear, say a few hundred pounds (generator, iPods, DVDs, tools, toys for the kids), you are now down to about 7900. If you try to use the 80% of capacity we all try to follow, it's not going to make it.....and all this is moot, cause the wheelbase is too short and the brakes, trans, axles, frame, etc are all 1/2 ton.

As for what MicSupply does, most folks wouldn't do it, and frankly, it shouldn't be done as the Hensley will not overcome the laws of physics of larger, heavieer object controlling smaller lighter objects. There is a difference between moving something and towing something.

2airishuman 04-01-2006 06:30 PM

hi silver camper, micsupply and other armchair tow'backs....

the new durango has a gcwr of 14000lbs......that's the big number to keep in mind and not violate....yadda, is the sum total of everything rolling dragging or otherwise moved....

durango curb wt is 5000lbs and payload 1600lbs....for a combined 6600....

back to 14000 subtract the 6600 and you are left with the max for towing....

yes the tow rating is 8900 but that goes down as the durango is calculation above assumes the durango is FULL (people, fuel, cheetos, trailer tongue wt, options...)

obviously if the durango has one skinny driver and a tank of could tow more....but the gcwr is still 14000lbs......that's the big picture figure.

an 05 28 safari has a dry wt under 6000lbs....and a total trailer wt limit of 7300lbs....

so if the tv isn't overloaded and the trailer isn't overloaded.....the combo will work.....barely.

if the trailer is closer to dry weight......then the combo is well within the durango capacities.

the wheel base is an issue and like micsupply opting for the hensley will improve this factor....

so if you are considering the durango.....add the hensley and get to a weigh station and check the figures for everything....there isn't any room to fudge...

the armada has a gcwr of 14800 so it's about the same range as the durango......the durango looks beefier to me.....which is subjective.....of course. i don't recall the curb wt or payload for the nissan....the hitch did not look as stout either....again subjective


thanks for are wise to go with the hensley....

did you try the combo with a sob hitch prior to the haha?

how does the air suspension work with the haha load bars....does it still function correctly...
have you cat scaled the setup?

it has been pointed out that few do what you are doing.....i disagree....

many do what you are doing, they just don't post about it here......

i wonder why?


munimula 04-01-2006 06:58 PM


Originally Posted by 2airishuman

thanks for are wise to go with the hensley....did you try the combo with sob hitch prior to the haha?

how does the air suspension work with the haha load bars....does it still function correctly...have you cat scaled the setup?

it has been pointed out that few do what you are doing.....i disagree....many do what you are doing, they just don't post about it here......

i wonder why?


2air - you bring up an excellent point regarding the air suspension and the hensley. it's never an issue hooking up but it did take some math to figure out what height to have the jack at to disconnect. early on i was disconnecting with the trailer too low and it would cause a little jump on the jack once disconnected. now i have it figured out good and the separation is usually smooth going. oddly - hensley doesn't like to talk too much about their system with air suspension. they did offer taking a mathmatical approach to figuring what height to have the jack at when disconnecting. formula looks like this. i needed to measure the rise in the rear end once trailer was connected and full weight was on the rear end of the truck. i then need to add that distance to the jack height from level when disconnecting for a smooth separation.

regarding the beefiness of the armada. if you get a chance - climb underneath and look at the axel, shocks, springs, etc. my tire guys, who are hard core four wheelers, were blown away by how overbuilt everything underneath is. 17 inch wheels and oversized discs all the way around. compared to chevy or ford in similiar class the undercarriage on the armada is way overdone.

i have yet to bring it to the scales but eyeing it up the bars and the lifting rear distibute the weight pretty good. my only other tow vehicle was a chevy 2500 van. the armada blows that away in terms of power and handling. and the four wheel drive has come in handy getting the trailer our of soggy fields at least three times now in two years.

the braking on my '93 34' if far smoother than the brakes on my '78 31'. believe it or not , the armada handles better when towing the 34. not sure if it's the three axels or not.

we'll be pulling (or as silvertwinkie suggests - the trailer will be pushing us) the '34 to the cherry blossom rally this coming week. can't wait!!!

oh yeah - 10.5 MPG with either trailer.


myoung 04-01-2006 07:37 PM

There is quite a bit of math going on. As much as I appreciate mathematics, it's awfully hard to quarrel with the empirical evidence. While I don't know what the experience of towing our 25FB LS might be with at 3/4 ton truck, I can certainly attest to the success we have had with our Dodge Durango. We've rolled up and down the 6% and 7% grades around the coast here with absolutely no feeling that we were underpowered or otherwise in difficulty.

The 28 is virtually identical in weight to our 25 Safari. I'm guessing that the wheelbases are similar too. In fact the 25 might be a bit longer owing to the placement of the kitchen farther back.

The published figure on the towing capacity of the Durango Hemi is 8,650 with an automatic transmission, but this is only with the higher 3.92 rear axle. Our Durango has the lower ratio 3.55 rear axle that limits the towing capacity to 7,150. This would indicate that we are beyond the limits, but, I repeat, we have had no adverse performance using this rig. The real world results belie the paper theorizing.

IMHO, the arguments in favor of the Hensley are overblown too. I'll say again. We have not experienced any sway, pulling, you name it unacceptable motion with our far less expensive Equal-i-zer hitch. I wonder if the Stockholm Syndrome is at work amongst the Hensley owners. It's hard for me to believe that something costing 5x or 6x as much can reduce zero much below zero. Nada is still nada.

Silvertwinkie 04-01-2006 07:39 PM

No offense, but I have crawled under one. There is nothing 3/4 ton about an Armada, or any Nissan for that matter. Additionally, if you look at what features they add to the Armada to get the additional towing capacity, not a whole lot there. They play with the planetary gears in the trans to get the higher "axle" rating, which means the rest of the driveline is the same as the average Armada with no "big tow" package...same brakes, same rear end, same driveshaft, etc, same trans.

Folks will do as they like. Personally, I think it's unsafe to tow larger than a 19-22' coach with the mentioned vehicles and I would challenge the statement that most folks tow with these vehicles do not post about it. We've had polls on this very topic before and clearly, by a wide margin, most folks do not tow with these vehicles. I don't think folks need Peterbilts, but I think common sense somehow evaporates when some car manufac stick a number on a car or truck and folks don't question it. What is even more interesting listening to some folks play both sides of the fence, saying things are marginal at best, yet still themselves tow with a 3/4 themselves and probobly would if they had anything more than a 25'.

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