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Old 02-23-2014, 07:19 PM   #41
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We should simply stop calling these vehicles "mini-vans". They are a far cry from the original K-car based Dodge product. With many (like the Honda Odyssey) having the capacity to carry 4x8 sheets of building materials inside, they are hardly mini anymore. With hundreds of horsepower, they have more power than muscle cars of the not too distant past. I've suggested that Honda offer a commercial version with a raised roof-I'll get right in line. I think we should just call them "front wheel drive vans".
Nice to see the capabilities of these vehicles fully utilized.
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Old 02-23-2014, 08:40 PM   #42
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Maybe "mid size" vans would also be a good name for these vans - especially since there are now 4 cylinder compact vans on the North American market like the Ford Transit Connect and Mazda5 that I think are deserving of the name "minivan." They're small, 4 cylinder vans with sliding rear side doors. Grand Caravans, Siennas (which can come with All-wheel-drive), Odysseys, etc, should really be called mid-size vans when taking into account the size of those smaller vans on the market today, as well as the traditional full size vans. But, old habits die hard, including the names we gave certain segments of vehicles decades ago.

The Grand Caravans, Siennas, Odysseys and even older models like Chevy Uplander, Astro, Ford Windstar and Freestar, etc, could easily pass as mid-size vans today. With the except of the Astro (rear wheel drive) and Sienna (the can come with all-wheel drive), these are usually mid size to large front wheel drive vans that are very capable of hauling lots of cargo, including - as far as I know - sheets of plywood, and towing larger trailers - certainly most Airstreams under 28 feet. Maybe even bigger, but that's pushing it.

Looking back 30 years, it's incredible to see how the original Dodge Caravan has evolved into a much more refined, larger, vastly more powerful and reliable, better built and more fuel efficient van packed with modern and reliable technology that can do just about everything its original model did, only better, and probably for less or comparable money when the money is adjusted for inflation. I think Dodge is giving away the base model American and Canada Value Price Grand Caravans too cheaply. And even the higher end trim levels and the Town & Country seem like bargains when you consider what you get and what the vans are capable of.

It's too bad more people don't realize, or believe that these vans are capable of more than they think, especially trailer towing. I bet there are many people who bought a 3/4 ton or 1 ton, or even diesel dually pickup or Suburban to tow a trailer that a modern "minvan" could tow - all with the added benefit of being smaller to park and more fuel efficient to drive when not towing.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:01 PM   #43
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Maybe "mid size" vans would also be a good name for these vans - especially since there are now 4 cylinder compact vans on the North American market like the Ford Transit Connect and Mazda5 that I think are deserving of the name "minivan." They're small, 4 cylinder vans with sliding rear side doors. Grand Caravans, Siennas (which can come with All-wheel-drive), Odysseys, etc, should really be called mid-size vans when taking into account the size of those smaller vans on the market today, as well as the traditional full size vans. But, old habits die hard, including the names we gave certain segments of vehicles decades ago.

The Grand Caravans, Siennas, Odysseys and even older models like Chevy Uplander, Astro, Ford Windstar and Freestar, etc, could easily pass as mid-size vans today. With the except of the Astro (rear wheel drive) and Sienna (the can come with all-wheel drive), these are usually mid size to large front wheel drive vans that are very capable of hauling lots of cargo, including - as far as I know - sheets of plywood, and towing larger trailers - certainly most Airstreams under 28 feet. Maybe even bigger, but that's pushing it.

Looking back 30 years, it's incredible to see how the original Dodge Caravan has evolved into a much more refined, larger, vastly more powerful and reliable, better built and more fuel efficient van packed with modern and reliable technology that can do just about everything its original model did, only better, and probably for less or comparable money when the money is adjusted for inflation. I think Dodge is giving away the base model American and Canada Value Price Grand Caravans too cheaply. And even the higher end trim levels and the Town & Country seem like bargains when you consider what you get and what the vans are capable of.

It's too bad more people don't realize, or believe that these vans are capable of more than they think, especially trailer towing. I bet there are many people who bought a 3/4 ton or 1 ton, or even diesel dually pickup or Suburban to tow a trailer that a modern "minvan" could tow - all with the added benefit of being smaller to park and more fuel efficient to drive when not towing.
Check the manufacturers' tow ratings for the old vans, I'll bet most are 3,500lb, the same as the current day Mid-Sized vans (I like that term)
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Old 12-24-2014, 07:38 PM   #44
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Resurrecting an old thread here, but I figured a few people might like an update and a review on how a 2012 Chrysler Town & Country (with a Can-Am custom hitch) towed a 1990 Airstream Excella across Canada, from Toronto to Vancouver. Sorry I didn't reply sooner. Almost immediately upon getting to Vancouver, I put the Airstream in storage as I don't have room to park it at my new condo. And then there has been a lengthy and challenging time with my elderly parents where I had to go back (without the trailer). I just returned to Vancouver, but have to go back to Ontario in a month - I might be going back for a few months actually, this time possibly with the trailer, although it's a bit cold to stay in a travel trailer at this time of year. But it will get warmer in a few months, and I may be there for a while.

Anyways, in case anyone was wondering how my maiden voyage went, it was pretty good. Just to recap, the tow vehicle is my new used 2012 Chrysler Town & Country Touring-L (like a Dodge Grand Caravan) with a 3.6 Pentastar V6, 6 speed automatic and Can-Am special hitch. The handy dash-mounted transmission gear selector worked nicely with the ability to tap it left to manually downshift and tap it to the right to manually upshift. It was recommended that I always tow in 5th gear, not 6th or overdrive.

The trip was in mid-May 2014. I drove from the Toronto area, through northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and finally British Columbia. I should mention that the water tanks were about half full and I had a bit of cargo in the back of the van, plus a bit of canned food, bed sheets, etc, in the trailer, and in the van, two passengers and my dog. I would have taken more, but did not want to overload the van or trailer, especially being my first time towing.

The back end of the van was squatted down quite a bit, but then again, it was like that with the van empty, and I asked about that at Can-Am RV. They told me it was fine, and since they are the towing experts (with a few Chrysler minivans in their fleet), and having set up over 2000 front wheel driving minivans over the years, I took their word on it that it would be fine. And it was. I made it. A 3/4 turbo diesel pickup or full size V8 SUV may have handled the payload and super steep hills in the Rocky Mountains a bit better, but overall, my van got the job done and is a great compromise between an every day vehicle for times when I'm not towing (most of the time) and being able to tow the trailer when I need to.

Going through northern Ontario was fine. The hills weren't too bad if I downshifted to 4th gear as I recall. The new Pentastar V6 has a decent amount of power and torque. Through the Prairie provinces with their nice, flat land, it was even easier and fuel consumption was a bit better. Leaving Alberta, I started my trek through the Rocky Mountains. Definitely steeper than any hills in northern Ontario. With manually downshifting and pressing the accelerator a bit more, I was able to go through there. I can only imagine the challenges people had when towing travel trailer 20 or 30 years ago with less powerful V8 family sedans and station wagons. I would not have wanted any less power or torque than I had with my 2012 Chrysler Town & Country.

Not feeling comfortable pushing the van, the trailer or myself beyond our limits, I kept to the speed limit, or a bit less, especially as it got more hilly and twisty. Keep in mind, this was my first time towing. It was at this point where I figured I had just enough power, torque and towing capacity, but not much else in reserve. Then I made the decision to take the Coquihalla since it has two lanes in each direction and people could easily pass me, so I wouldn't hold up traffic driving slowly. Plus, you save about two hours driving time going that way. But, if I had to do it again, I would not take the Coquihalla towing my 25 foot Airstream with this van. There were several times, especially leaving Kamloops, that the van did not have enough power or torque to even make the speed limit. Then again, neither did most of the tractor trailers, so I wasn't alone. But some of those hills are so steep that even shifting to third gear, the engine was screaming and I was going about 50 or 60 km/hr. Not wanting to overheat the transmission or engine, I tried to find the best compromise speed. Going down some of those hills, I decided to gear down, like the truckers have to, so that my brakes would not heat up and become useless.

So, all in all, I think a recent model Chrysler Town & Country or Dodge Grand Caravan with a Pentastar V6 makes an OK tow vehicle for my 25 foot 1990 Airstream Excella. I think the newer Airstreams are wider and heavier, so your mileage may vary. Most of the time, I felt the van was adequate or more than adequate. Going through the Rocky Mountains, I felt like I was at the limit of what the van could do. And through the high mountain roads with super steep inclines and declines on the Coquihalla, I decided that when I need to cross the Rockies again, while towing with this van, I will take the longer, but less hilly Crows Nest highway a bit further south, or better yet, the nicely engineered Interstate highways in Washington state as it approaches the Idaho panhandle. I have driven all of these with the above mentioned van, driving solo (not towing) and the van seemed to have loads of power and torque in reserve.

I might be going back east for a few months in 2015, and if I decide to take the Airstream with me, I am definitely staying off the Coquihalla and taking a southern route (be it in Canada or ideally the US). Otherwise, I'd say a minivan like this is great for people towing occasionally in the Rockies, or even better if you live in the US Great Plains, Canadian Prairies or even areas like northern Ontario. And when you're not towing, this is a great van for driving in urban and suburban areas as it fits into smaller parking spaces easier than a 4 door crew cab 3/4 pickup would.

Solo driving, fuel consumption in the city is on par with most large V6's. But on the highway, when driving solo (not towing) I find the fuel economy to be exceptionally good, considering the size of the vehicle and the engine. Only slightly higher fuel consumption than a 4 cylinder compact or midsize car. I can count on at least 25 MPG or 11 litres/100 kms, sometimes even better, depending on weather, road conditions, descending hills rather driving up hill, etc. Of course, expect a bit less if you're speeding, driving into a headwind, going up a lot of steep hills, etc.

And when towing, I found it pretty consistent that I used about twice as much fuel when towing my 25 foot 1990 Airstream Excella. But that's to be expected, and I think you can pretty much count on using twice as much fuel when towing a travel trailer like this, no matter what kind of vehicle you're driving. I would need to add up all of my gas receipts, but if you'd like a rough idea of what I used for fuel, it averaged about $25/hour. In some cases less, in some cases more. There was about 52 hours of driving time, and fuel was about $1.35 a litre on average (less in some places, higher in others). So, 52 hours of driving at $25/hour = $1300 worth of fuel. For comparison, I had to drive back to Ontario (solo, no trailer) a few weeks later due to a family emergency, and I went through the US mid-west (WA, ID, MT, ND, SD, MN, WI, MI and entered Ontario through Sault-Ste-Marie). I forget what the gas prices were, but they're always cheaper in the US, and with an empty van and no trailer, I only spend about $400 US on fuel.

While in Ontario, I had to take a load of furniture to Montreal (from Barrie, north of Toronto) and rented a tandem axle 6x12 foot U-Haul enclosed cargo trailer. Just under 1200 km return trip, a mixture of flat and gently rolling hills, in 5th gear (again, did not use overdrive when towing) and this was just before gas prices fell. I used about 25% more fuel than driving solo. That's about $200 for the 1200 km return trip, towing the trailer both ways (cheaper to return to the same place than a 1-way rental). I did that drive with the same van, empty, and it was about $120 return trip, give or take. Fuel prices keep changing, so it's hard to be consistent. But now that fuel prices are below a dollar a litre in much of the country (and around $2 a gallon, give or take, in much of the US with 2.35 being the national average), driving and towing should be a lot more economical than if you go by the prices I've posted here. Let's hope the fuel prices stay down for a while!
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Old 12-25-2014, 05:15 AM   #45
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Nice report. Thanks.


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Old 12-25-2014, 05:44 AM   #46
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A well written reasonable report by someone who has done it. Points out the pluses and minuses of towing a mid weight trailer with a mini van. Thanks for all the info and good camping. Peace, jim
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Old 12-25-2014, 07:05 AM   #47
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Was that towing set-up made by CanAm? Could the hitch not be adjusted to eliminate the nose-down attitude of the trailer? The description you provided of your trip is exactly why I would never recommend towing a larger trailer with a small tow vehicle. I would bet that after not too many trips like that, the minivan will be ready for the scrap heap. I like the way CanAm reinforces the receiver hitches on tow vehicles, but I'm not a fan of their tow vehicle recommendations.

Glad you made it to your destination.
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Old 12-25-2014, 11:41 AM   #48
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Thanks for the honest report. IMO this report confirms that the 3500# rating auto manufacturers put on minivans is indeed accurate.

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Old 12-25-2014, 12:32 PM   #49
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Thanks for the honest report. IMO this report confirms that the 3500# rating auto manufacturers put on minivans is indeed accurate.

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Funny you would make that summary. This report is very close to the performance we experienced with our former 2006 Tundra 4.7 rated to tow 7100#, twice the minivan.

Twice the towing rating, similar actual towing experience. My take is the tow ratings are anything but accurate.
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Old 12-25-2014, 12:42 PM   #50
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Gosh. It sounds like people will just read into this report/post what they want. Human nature, I guess.

The main complaint seemed to be power pulling up a big hill. I bet a gas-powered truck or truck-based SUV with a similar power to weight ratio would experience the same lack of performance.

Andy Thomson has mentioned many times that the vehicles his clients drive might be slower up a big hill, but they save time by not stopping for fuel so often. I know that my Odyssey was far better dynamically towing my Argosy than my higher capacity SUV - but yes, torque is addictive.

Man, I despise these threads, or at least where they end up.
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Old 12-25-2014, 07:43 PM   #51
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I LOVE these threads that report real-world experience, and the honest responses and input that are provided.
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Old 12-25-2014, 10:21 PM   #52
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I LOVE these threads that report real-world experience, and the honest responses and input that are provided.
These threads are great! Very entertaining at times ...
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Old 12-26-2014, 06:24 AM   #53
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So, in a nutshell, it worked really well but was a bit slow going up larger mountains. Apart from the low trailer nose, which puzzles me and surely is fixable, this sums up my own experience towing with a minivan.

Given that there are several people now full timing with their vans, reporting no problems, there appears to be zero reason to assume the van should be ready for the scrap heap anytime soon.
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Old 12-26-2014, 06:41 AM   #54
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I think the op said the van squatted down, that doesn't mean the front of the trailer was low. The trailer can be level and the tow vehicle can squat. Not necessarily a problem depending in the original profile of the tow vehicle. Peace, jim
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Old 12-26-2014, 06:52 AM   #55
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Looking at the pictures, it seems to me the nose is down a little, but that might just be the angle. The T&C has a soft suspension with tons of travel, which might explain the squatting.
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Old 12-26-2014, 07:50 AM   #56
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Funny you would make that summary. This report is very close to the performance we experienced with our former 2006 Tundra 4.7 rated to tow 7100#, twice the minivan.

Twice the towing rating, similar actual towing experience. My take is the tow ratings are anything but accurate.
2006 was before Toyota adopted SAE's J2807 towing standard. I would not be surprised if the tow rating of your Tundra was inflated. As an example, Toyota Sequoia had a 10000# tow rating; After Toyota adopted J2807, the rating was dropped to 7400#. J2807 has made life easier for everyone. It allows apples-to-apples comparison of vehicles from different manufacturers. Customers know the vehicle was tested for pulling/stopping/cooling/etc. using a set of standardized tests. There is much less ambiguity now.

Given that there now is a standard for determining the tow rating, subjective opinions of what is fine cannot be used anymore. You guys are all entitled to your opinions, but the only way to show that the 3500# rating of the minivan manufacturer is incorrect is by having J2807 tests run by a heavier trailer in tow and showing the minivan actually passes those tests. I have not seen anyone do that yet. Until that happens, the claim that minivans can tow more remains just an unsubstantiated claim.
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Old 12-26-2014, 07:57 AM   #57
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Well, more than a claim. There is substantial experience that they do quite well. The regular posters here are examples, and didn't I read that Can-Am Airstream has set up hundreds of minivans this way.
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Old 12-26-2014, 11:22 AM   #58
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... You guys are all entitled to your opinions, but the only way to show that the 3500# rating of the minivan manufacturer is incorrect is by having J2807 tests run by a heavier trailer in tow and showing the minivan actually passes those tests. I have not seen anyone do that yet. Until that happens, the claim that minivans can tow more remains just an unsubstantiated claim.
I doubt there's been any formal testing of a minivan's actual tow capability, by a manufacturer, or an independent body. Sure, minivan manufacturers will test tow something up their stated rating but, as there's no incentive at all to see if it's capable of more, they simply won't bother.

We are left, then, to rely on the evidence of people who actually tow with these vehicles and the report above seems to be a fair account. The author's not guessing or claiming, he's just saying it as he found it; slow on the hills but capable all the same, which pretty much accords with my own observations whilst towing with a minivan.

Short of the formal testing I mentioned above, you're stuck with people's personal accounts of their actual towing experience; unscientific for sure, but it's real world experience that can't simply be dismissed as unsubstantiated claims.
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Old 12-26-2014, 12:43 PM   #59
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Until that happens, the claim that minivans can tow more remains just an unsubstantiated claim.
Here we go again.

People towing with minivans (thousands and thousands of miles, across the continent): "It works well, few if any problems to report."

People not towing with minivans: "Unsubstantiated claims, your real world experience means nothing."

Sigh. It's like the Middle Ages, when the first scientists dared to claim that the earth perhaps rotated around the sun, not the other way around.
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Old 12-26-2014, 01:34 PM   #60
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Was that towing set-up made by CanAm? Could the hitch not be adjusted to eliminate the nose-down attitude of the trailer? The description you provided of your trip is exactly why I would never recommend towing a larger trailer with a small tow vehicle. I would bet that after not too many trips like that, the minivan will be ready for the scrap heap. I like the way CanAm reinforces the receiver hitches on tow vehicles, but I'm not a fan of their tow vehicle recommendations.

Glad you made it to your destination.
Yes, the entire set-up was made by Can-Am. It also included a weight distribution system. I noticed that it really did spread out the weight when I parked near another Town & Country or Dodge Grand Caravan that was empty with no trailer attached. I noticed that my van sat lower at the front as well as at the back. And yes, the back of the van squatted down. I didn't like the look of that, but Can-Am assured me it was fine. I'm not sure if there's a way to adjust that, but if there was, I'm sure Can-Am would have done that. I'm not close by anymore, but if I happen to be in their area with my van and trailer, I'll see if they can do something about the nose-down stance of the trailer.

They also told me I have a factory transmission cooler. Since they have a few of these vans in their fleet, and have apparently set up over 2000 front-wheel drive minvans over the years (presumably V6 equipped), I felt reassured. In fact, they told me I could tow even a larger trailer. Being new to towing, I'm not sure I would try that just yet.

But what I was happy about was that I could have a versatile and reasonably fuel efficient minivan for a daily driver (which it is used for most of the time) and also be able to tow my trailer with it. Sometimes those parking spaces in urban areas like Vancouver seem to be just big enough for a compact car, and even parking the minivan is a bit tight. I can only imagine what it would be like parking a large pickup. For the same money, I could have bought a 3/4 ton turbo diesel pickup or truck-based V8 SUV. For regular trips through the Rockies, knowing what I know now, and if I could have a smaller car for city driving, I might do that.

As fate would have it, I just inherited my mother's Toyota Corolla, since she had a stroke and can't drive anymore. It's a perfect car for city driving, but now I'm stuck with two vehicles in the city - something I really didn't want. That's why I chose the Town & Country since it could so everything I needed, albeit in a compromise since it was a bit large for city driving and parking, but a bit small and lightweight for towing through the mountains. Had I known I would inherit my mother's Toyota Corolla, I might have picked a different tow vehicle. But at the time, I wanted one vehicle that could do everything.

My plans for the Airstream were (and still are) to spend some time with it in the Okanagan Valley. Of course, I will stay off the extremely steep hills and high mountain roads of the Coquihala. There are other, less steep ways of getting there. And I would also like to go to the US south-west. My online research shows me that there are a few ways of getting there which don't seem to be too steep, and US Interstate highways tend to be well engineered without too many steep hills or sharp turns.

And in the event my van blows up and is ready for the scrap heap, I'll take that opportunity to get a 3/4 ton turbo diesel pickup or a full size V8 SUV. Or a gas V8 Class B motorhome, like a Roadtrek, based on a full size Chevy van. That would make the ultimate tow vehicle, and great for weekend getaways when I don't want to take the Airstream, or go places where a trailer won't fit. Now that I have the Corolla for city driving, I could do that. The down side is I have to register and insure two motor vehicles now, and I had to find parking for the Corolla (not always easy in busy urban areas). And the Airstream is kept in storage at an RV dealer. If I can get 10 years of use out of my Town & Country minivan, and then it's ready for the scrap heap and I only get scrap value for it, that's OK. I'll feel like I got my money's worth out of it.

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Well, more than a claim. There is substantial experience that they do quite well. The regular posters here are examples, and didn't I read that Can-Am Airstream has set up hundreds of minivans this way.
Yes, that's true. I recall reading somewhere that Andy posted they've set up over 2000 front wheel drive minivans over the years. I read about some of Can-Am's past customers (here and in private blogs) who have successfully used their V6 minivans of various makes to tow their Airstream travel trailers. Because it's not commonly done, and I think Can-Am is the only one who has been willing to research this, and push the envelope a bit, they and their customers are often the recipients of criticism and negative comments.

Occasionally when I stopped, people would come up to me and tell me that my tow vehicle is too light weight or I can't tow that trailer with that van, not knowing that it was set up by a company who carefully researches and tests less common, lighter weight tow vehicles. It does get a bit annoying, and that alone is perhaps reason enough to jump on bandwagon and get a 3/4 ton turbo diesel pickup or full size truck based SUV. And, one of those would certainly be more appropriate for towing through the mountains. But the V6 minivan can get the job done too, and be a great daily driver when you're not towing. And if you're not towing through the mountains, even better. The back end of the van may squat down a bit, and I wish there was a way to address that issue. But it seems to look worse than it really is.

Anyways, it can't be that bad, since Can-Am has blazed the trail for setting up uncommon vehicles for towing. With their custom hitch assemblies, and their blessing on vehicle choices, as well as a lengthy track record of using cars and minivans as tow vehicles, I feel OK with using the minivan as a tow vehicle. Just not for high mountain roads with steep hills in the Rocky Mountains. Now that I know how it performs in those circumstances, I will plan my route accordingly to take roads with less steep hills when going through the Rockies. And when travelling through other areas like the Great Plains or Prairies which are flat, that's nice and easy. Or mixed terrain with rolling hills like in northern Ontario, even that's OK.

I like to think about the 1970s and 1980s when people would use their Chevy Caprice sedan or Ford Country Squire station wagon with 150 hp V8 engines and soft suspension with the back end really squatted down and the front end sitting really high. I figure I can't be that badly off with my almost 300 hp and almost 300 pound feet of torque, sophisticated high tech transmission, stability control, traction control, etc, I have in my modern minivan.

Having said that, if someone can afford to have a dedicated tow vehicle, or you can drive a large 3/4 ton turbo diesel pickup or V8 SUV as your daily driver, then do it. Probably easier in the suburbs or rural areas, and you'll be paying more for fuel, even when not towing. Or keep this large vehicle strictly for towing and use something smaller and more fuel-efficient for your daily driver. If not, then a minivan may be a decent compromise, but I would recommend that Can-Am sets it up, since they know what they are doing.

I found a few more pictures that show the "nose-down" of the trailer, or the back end of my van "squatting." Interestingly, it looks less noticeable in some pictures, and more pronounced in others. Not sure why, as the ground seems to be flat and level in all of the pictures.
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