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Old 12-26-2014, 01:40 PM   #61
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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.
Well put. Summarizes what I said nicely. I can't seem to be brief, always giving lots of details, but this really cuts to the chase. The frustrating thing is having to try and justify this online and in person all of the time. Almost makes me feel like getting a big diesel pickup just to avoid all of the comments about towing with a minivan, lol!
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Old 12-26-2014, 02:21 PM   #62
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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.
The point I am trying to make is actually pretty simple: There is only one way to measure the tow ratings: J2807 towing standards. You are claiming that minivans/sedans/station wagons are under rated, yet you have no J2807 test to back it up. This makes your claim unsubstantiated in my book.

With all due respect, your subjective personal experience cannot be used as a reference, as what you consider "fine" might be considered "white knuckles" by someone else.

I think we should stop this discussion now, as its clearly going nowhere.
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Old 12-26-2014, 03:44 PM   #63
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I think you mean the discussion is not going where you want it to go.
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Old 12-26-2014, 04:30 PM   #64
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Almost makes me feel like getting a big diesel pickup just to avoid all of the comments about towing with a minivan, lol!
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Old 12-26-2014, 04:51 PM   #65
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JustSomeGuy... first, I want to say that I really do appreciate all of the time and effort you put in to the update. I really do think your trip really did give a good report of what to expect when towing with a minivan. On the flats it'll do well, on hills no so well. Even though the van has extra cooling for the transmission, I would wonder if the entire drivetrain of the van is heavy-duty enough to last as long as you'd like the van to last. If your trailer was in the 20' range, I probably wouldn't be as concerned. Regardless of that, though, I hope it works for you and didn't mean to come off as "bashing" your setup. I need to be more diplomatic, I guess.

Here's what I say about me and Gina..... "I'm frugal, she's cheap!" So, I can relate to your want/need/choice of finding a good vehicle, and you/I don't shy away from used vehicles. If you want some more sage advice from me at this point.... I'm glad you now have a Corolla to drive in town, but I hate it that it came to you that way. Our thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. From experience, I know you can find a good deal on an older 3/4-ton diesel (or gasoline) pickup if you are patient and ready to pounce on a good deal when it presents itself. I paid $6850 for my 1995 F250 PowerStroke 3 years ago. It had only 70,000 miles on it, and it hadn't towed more than a small fishing boat. Now that was a good deal!!! Unless and until something shows itself, enjoy the van, keep your experience in mind, and enjoy your travels. In the meantime, you can pray for the day when you can enjoy the beautiful smell of diesel!!!!

(I would also see if you can adjust your hitch so that the van and the trailer sit level when hitched together.)
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Old 12-26-2014, 05:03 PM   #66
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JustSomeGuy... first, I want to say that I really do appreciate all of the time and effort you put in to the update. I really do think your trip really did give a good report of what to expect when towing with a minivan. On the flats it'll do well, on hills no so well. Even though the van has extra cooling for the transmission, I would wonder if the entire drivetrain of the van is heavy-duty enough to last as long as you'd like the van to last. If your trailer was in the 20' range, I probably wouldn't be as concerned. Regardless of that, though, I hope it works for you and didn't mean to come off as "bashing" your setup. I need to be more diplomatic, I guess.
Agree with this 100%, specially the highlighted part Thanks PaulnGina.
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Old 12-26-2014, 05:53 PM   #67
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Thanks for all of the feedback everyone. No offense taken. I know this is a controversial topic and everyone has an opinion on it. I'm realizing that more and more as time goes on. Although a minivan may not be the optimal tow vehicle, as long as it's set up correctly by people who are in the know (like Can-Am), and you're not planning on towing a large trailer on super steep high mountain roads, it's a great all around vehicle - otherwise a 3/4 ton or larger turbo diesel pickup or truck based SUV would be better. A minivan gives you the interior space, reasonable fuel efficiency for a vehicle of that size, easier to fit into tighter urban city parking spaces and can tow reasonably well in most situations.

As my time with the Airstream goes on, I'll see what my needs are and how the van holds up. I really don't want to buy a dedicated tow vehicle, even if I get a really good deal on an older low mileage diesel truck. Then I'll have to find a place to park three motor vehicles, unless I sell one. For sentimental reasons, I don't want to sell the Toyota Corolla I just inherited from my mother. And if I sell the minivan now, I would certainly lose money. I saved a lot by buying it two years old used, but now it's three years old with more mileage on it. I need to keep it a while to get my money's worth out of it. Or until it blows up from all of that towing, lol!

I know the benefits of diesels. I used to drive 1 ton turbo diesel Ford and Chevy trucks and vans at a previous job. And I've personally owned a Toyota Land Cruiser diesel and a Volkswagen Jetta diesel (both older non-turbo models - they had the torque, but without turbo, not the power for good acceleration). There's nothing I'd like more than another diesel. If I could have found a decent low mileage Jeep Grand Cherokee V6 diesel when I was shopping around almost a year ago, I would have bought that, but they were all high mileage and I hear they become a maintenance money pit at that point. So, I got the low mileage Town & Country minivan, based a lot on the recommendation from Can-Am RV.

Incidentally, I think my Town & Country minivan is a better tow vehicle than my former Chevy Astro minivan would have been, which came with a 5000 pound factory tow rating. Back in the 80s, 90s and even early 2000s, that was the minivan to get if you had to tow and needed a minivan (or a Ford Aerostar, another truck based rear wheel drive minivan which is non-existent today). I loved that van and wanted to keep it forever. But the Town & Country has a lower, wider (read: more stable) stance, traction control, stability control, about 100 more horsepower, more torque, more fuel efficient, and I love all of the modern conveniences such as integrated bluetooth, satellite radio, steering wheel controls, back up camera, etc. Automotive technology has come a long way in a very short period of time.
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Old 12-26-2014, 06:08 PM   #68
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Actually, I was thinking of using something smaller, like the guy in this video:



The good part starts at 15 seconds. Make sure you watch to the end to see what happens, after he gets to the top of the hill. Or maybe you've already seen this video before, but I thought I'd share it in case anyone hasn't seen it.

Looks like a Reneault 5. Maybe Can-Am could try setting up one of those to tow my 25 foot 5000+ pound trailer!
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Old 12-26-2014, 06:43 PM   #69
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Now THAT was FUNNY!!!!
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Old 12-26-2014, 09:41 PM   #70
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The point I am trying to make is actually pretty simple: There is only one way to measure the tow ratings: J2807 towing standards. You are claiming that minivans/sedans/station wagons are under rated, yet you have no J2807 test to back it up. This makes your claim unsubstantiated in my book.

With all due respect, your subjective personal experience cannot be used as a reference, as what you consider "fine" might be considered "white knuckles" by someone else.

I think we should stop this discussion now, as its clearly going nowhere.

I can assure you that I am a cautious family man who doesn't take any unnecessary risks, especially when my kids are involved. There is no white knuckle driving. There is no risk taking. There's just controlled, stable towing.

This is real world experience, not just mine but many others, that demonstrates quite clearly that modern vans make excellent tow vehicles. Those who disagree have only their opinions and speculations to back them up, not any actual experience.

On this forum alone there are several members demonstrating the capabilities of vans every summer, I know several others who don't post here but travel extensively with their vans and experience no issues. To suggest that we are all sugar coating our towing experience, or just not telling the truth, is really quite patronizing.

The doom and gloom crowd has yet to proof one single problem yet continues to belittle the real world experience of those who choose to tow with vans. Unless you've got your own first hand experience to back your opinions up , your concerns are mere speculations.
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Old 12-26-2014, 10:08 PM   #71
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I'm very happy with my minivan tow vehicle, and I tow a bigger trailer than JustSomeGuy's Excella. It works for us, fulfills our towing and non-towing needs and I wouldn't trade it for different TV anytime soon. We've just finished our fourth year of towing, experienced no TV problems (other than a couple of nail-in-the-tire flats) and are looking forward to our fifth in 2015.

You can tell me that I "can't tow that with that", but you're wrong; I can and I do.
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Old 12-27-2014, 06:37 AM   #72
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I'm very happy with my minivan tow vehicle, and I tow a bigger trailer than JustSomeGuy's Excella. It works for us, fulfills our towing and non-towing needs and I wouldn't trade it for different TV anytime soon. We've just finished our fourth year of towing, experienced no TV problems (other than a couple of nail-in-the-tire flats) and are looking forward to our fifth in 2015.

You can tell me that I "can't tow that with that", but you're wrong; I can and I do.
I am 100% for you using the tow vehicle you like and am glad that you are happy with your set up. What I take issue with is you (and your friends) justifying your decision at the expense of the car companies. "Minivans are intentionally underrated by car companies", where even you agree no none has done any tests to show this. Or "Car companies do not understand towing". I agree that most dealerships are clueless, but do you for one second believe that engineers at Mercedes (the biggest manufacturer of commercial trucks in the world) do not understand towing? Or "European car makers do not understand weight distribution hitches", where WDH is just a fancy form of crowbar, but apparently the engineers at Porsche and Volvo, that makes some of the most complex vehicles on earth, somehow do not understand it. And the list of rubbish claims goes on and on and on and on...

I appreciate how the OP was upfront on why he chose a minivan and the experience he has had using it.
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Old 12-27-2014, 07:33 AM   #73
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Originally Posted by MrUKToad View Post
I'm very happy with my minivan tow vehicle, and I tow a bigger trailer than JustSomeGuy's Excella. It works for us, fulfills our towing and non-towing needs and I wouldn't trade it for different TV anytime soon. We've just finished our fourth year of towing, experienced no TV problems (other than a couple of nail-in-the-tire flats) and are looking forward to our fifth in 2015.

You can tell me that I "can't tow that with that", but you're wrong; I can and I do.
Well, I'm happy you're happy, and I'm glad it works for your needs.

Not so much, "can't tow that with that", more like, "wouldn't tow that with that."

Happy, happy, happy....!!!
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Old 12-29-2014, 08:19 AM   #74
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May I can fill in a couple of blanks here.

The low ride height at the front of the Airstream is due to a couple of factors. The Town and Country van comes with relatively soft rear springs which are augmented by Nimovac Shocks. These shocks have a hydraulic pump in them that is powered by the movement of the axle over bumps in the road. These are also common on Suburbans. When you set the hitch you intentionally set it up slightly low so the Nimovacs build pressure on the highway. This gives the best handling. So though the combination may look low parked it will level up on the highway. As well the owner was moving west and was carrying considerable weight in the van that he would not be normally travelling with which contributed to the lower ride height.

I am sorry if we gave the impression that the Van would climb hills like the Coquihalla at posted speeds. The Coquihalla is an 8.5% grade, the maximum grade on the US interstate system is 7%. Climbing an 8.5% grade at 65 MPH is not realistic with many tow vehicles and on some vehicles that can climb at posted speed it is not necessarily a good idea as you are putting a lot of heat into the drivetrain, things you would not think of like the rear axle can easily overheat but you won't know in the drivers seat.

The Town & Country and Caravans have a 6 speed transmission. 6th is for solo driving or long gradual down grades when towing. It tows 80% of the time in 5th gear at 2400 RPM at 62 MPH. Most moderate grades it will climb in 4th gear at 3200 RPM at 62 MPH. When climbing steeper hills it operates nicely between 3500 and 4200 RPM. The 3.6 is a high rpm engine so this is still relatively low in the RPM range. Most of the time it will climb in third gear at 45-50 MPH, when the hill is steeper or there is a head wind combined with the grade which is common heading west on the Coquihalla you may need second gear with climbs at 35-38 mph. If the hills are steeper then you go to first gear at 25-30 MPH, usually these hills are twisty enough that winds up being your maximum speed anyway. On 12 - 15% grades the climbing in first gear is easy and you won't need your foot on the floor to maintain speed.

If you want to be able to climb at highway speed then you need to go to a much larger engine but remember your costs for getting that 20 MPH extra a few times a year. When it comes to choosing vehicles logic is rarely the motivation so I won't pretend that everyone is driven by that. I remember speaking with a customer that refused to pay the $25.00 toll charge to take the bypass around Toronto and save an hour in traffic but he bought a 2500 diesel at a huge expense so he could save a few minutes climbing hills once in a while.

I actually kept track one year we were heading to California and I was towing a 2002 30' Classic with a 2002 Intrepid with a 3.5 Litre and only a 4 speed transmission. From Ontario to San Francisco on I80 I needed second gear 22 times and first gear twice. So 22 times I need to slow to 50 MPH in second and twice I climbed at 30 MPH in first. Both of those times we lost momentum due to heavy traffic, though I might have wound up in first at the top of Donder Pass anyway. At the time we had a traded in 2500 Suburban sitting on the lot with a 454 that I could have taken instead. I figured I would have saved 22 minutes of driving time with the Suburban but I also figured I would have spent most of the 22 minutes putting fuel in the Suburban. With the extra gears in the Caravan that 22 minutes would likely be closer to 11 minutes with similar fuel mileage.

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Old 12-29-2014, 01:44 PM   #75
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Well put, Andy! Thanks, I was hoping you might come across this thread and reply. I appreciate getting some of that additional information, as it makes me understand my set-up, and my tow vehicle a bit better now, and why the back end of the van squats low and the nose of trailer sits low. Unless someone takes video or pictures of me driving down the highway, I had no way of knowing it levels out at highway speeds. And I feel better about my choice of tow vehicle now that you've explained what you did. I hope others can benefit from it too. One of the hardest parts about using the Town & Country as a tow vehicle is all of the comments I get from people, both online and in person who say I can't tow that trailer with that vehicle. I can appreciate that, on the surface, and going by common conceptions, and perhaps people's own experience with towing using larger vehicles, some people may jump to conclusions, basing it on opinions rather than fact.

Overall, I'm really happy with the van. It makes a great daily driver with lots of space for cargo or passengers, so very practical for a vehicle to use when not towing (which for me, at this time, is most of the time, unless I can start getting away for the winter every year in which case I'll be using it as a tow vehicle a lot more often - and at least now I know more about towing through the Rocky Mountains). As you mentioned, a larger truck based SUV (or even a pickup) will do a better job on those steep hills, but at the expense of fuel consumption - both when towing and when driving solo. I really didn't want to be stuck driving a large pickup or truck-based SUV - and pay the additional fuel - when I only make use of its good towing capabilities occasionally.

The trip across Canada went well, but I've learned that I want to stay off the Coquihalla - at least when towing, even knowing what I know now. And yes, I admit that experience took me by surprise. But, now I know. Granted it would be easier with a 3/4 ton turbo diesel pickup, I might still be inclined to take a longer, but less steep route. I just didn't enjoy that stretch of highway even when driving solo. It saves two hours driving time, but I find the alternate routes to be more scenic, and in retrospect, easier to handle - especially when towing. And with me being a towing newbie, I'm sure that with a bit more experience I'll feel more comfortable towing on steep grades. Even after your explanation and assurance, I still feel bad putting a vehicle through such a challenging workout when I have to downshift to second (never had to use first, but I see you did in the 4 speed automatic Intrepid). I'm generally an easy going driver, so revving up the engine and putting the engine and transmission through its paces like that on the steep mountain roads of the Coquihalla worried me. I thought I was torturing the van. It may not be as harsh as I thought.

For anyone planning on extensive towing through the Canadian Rockies, especially the Coquihala, or steeper secondary roads, maybe you're full timing, a 3/4 ton turbo diesel pickup will be a better choice for you. But if you're only towing a few times per year, or even more often, but not on super-steep mountain highways, then a minivan may work out well for you, especially if you need the passenger and cargo space for a daily driver the rest of the time. I thought I would be towing more, but circumstances have changed. I hope to be able to be a part time full timer in the near future and go to the US south-west for 3 to 6 months a year, maybe tour around a bit with the trailer in tow, but most of the time, unhitch the Airstream at a campground and drive the van solo until it's time to go back. I think the Town & Country minivan should work out well for that.

OK folks, for those of you who don't know who Andy T is, he is one of the owners of Can-Am RV in London, Ontario - one of the top Airstream dealers, and the place where I got my trailer and hitch set-up. I didn't know it at the time, but I've come to realize and appreciate that Andy, and all of the people at Can-Am really, really know their stuff when it comes to towing. They are trailblazers when it comes to towing with (what most people) would consider non-conventional tow vehicles. They've been in business for decades, and set up thousands of tow vehicles. I really don't think they would want to risk their good reputation to just make a sale. At the time I was buying my Airstream Excella 25 from them, I had made the choice to buy a new tow vehicle. For what I paid on the 2012 Chrysler Town & Country, I could have bought a decent 3/4 ton diesel pickup or V8 Suburban (or similar) SUV, etc. But Andy personally took the time to talk to me about vehicle choices and had very high recommendations on the current, and recent model Chrysler minivans.

The general gist is that if you read any of Andy's posts, you can be sure you are getting information from someone who is very well informed on what he is saying, and can back it up with real world experience. Dare I say, he is one of the most trusted and informed people on towing.
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Old 12-29-2014, 09:23 PM   #76
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One of the hardest parts about using the Town & Country as a tow vehicle is all of the comments I get from people, both online and in person who say I can't tow that trailer with that vehicle. I can appreciate that, on the surface, and going by common conceptions, and perhaps people's own experience with towing using larger vehicles, some people may jump to conclusions, basing it on opinions rather than fact.
Just snipping out this one sentence from your post, JSG, I can certainly commiserate.

When I first joined this forum, I was hounded by the doom, death and destruction brigade ("you'll kill us all!") but, knowing that my TV had been set up better than most I tried to just bat the criticism and mis-conceptions away. I've learned over time that there are those who will never be convinced that bigger isn't always better, so I smile wryly, drop in the occasional posting to counter the dis-believers and carry on camping (fellow Brits will understand that reference ).

When I'm out on the road, most people will make a friendly enquiry about the TV and raise their eyebrows when I go over the minivan's various modifications. I've rarely encountered outright hostility but I do recall a fellow in a campground near Macon in Georgia telling me outright that there was no way that I could tow my trailer with a minivan. I showed him the Ontario plated Sienna and the towing set up that stood right in front of him but he wouldn't be swayed. I made sure that I gave him a big wave as we towed out of the campground the next day

Good luck with your Airstream adventures!
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Old 12-30-2014, 05:22 AM   #77
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I always try and remember that most comments are well meaning often based on their experience. I estimate that fewer than 5% of the trailers on the road are set up properly so they know how their trailer feels with a larger vehicle and cannot imagine that a smaller one can be anything but worse.

What commonly happens when someone is not comfortable with their combination is to change to a larger tow vehicle. If the tow vehicle is large enough and stiff enough they don't feel the trailer anymore but unfortunately they may not really be any more stable or safer. However psychologically it feels better.

I have driven some very scary handling 3/4 ton tow vehicles that the owners thought were fine.


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Old 12-30-2014, 06:16 AM   #78
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I think I may have posted this before but it is a great article that speaks to the Psychology of why people feel they need tall large vehicles to be safe. It was written in 2004 but the feeding frenzy has continued.

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Old 12-30-2014, 08:50 AM   #79
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I think I may have posted this before but it is a great article that speaks to the Psychology of why people feel they need tall large vehicles to be safe. It was written in 2004 but the feeding frenzy has continued.

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Thanks for that, Andy, an interesting read.

Marketing has a big role in perpetuating the mis-conceptions; trucks are big and powerful but minivans are for soccer moms. It's how the auto manufacturers turn a profit, of course; tables of safety statistics just don't sell cars or trucks.

One point that the article raises, and has been mentioned here before, is that with a "smaller" tow vehicle, you're certainly very aware of the trailer behind you and you drive accordingly. When people say "It drives like the trailer's not there" then you have to wonder how attentive that driver's going to be when hauling it.
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Old 12-30-2014, 04:34 PM   #80
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I remember when I stopped at an RV dealer in Saskatchewan, on my way across Canada. The guy there was clearly of think "bigger is better" thinking. He genuinely seemed concerned and almost felt sorry for me, saying that my minivan is too lightweight for my trailer. He said he wouldn't tow that trailer with anything less than a Chevy Suburban (or similar SUV) or preferably a 3/4 ton pickup. I told him about my setup, and that Can-Am had done it. I don't recall if he knew of Andy, but I think he's heard of him (being in the RV industry) and if memory serves me, he said he didn't agree with Andy. If it wasn't him, I had that conversation with someone else. In any case, I pointed out that I've already driven 3000 kms towing that trailer with my minivan, so it can't be that bad. He still wasn't convinced, and probably never will be.

I prefer meeting people who really aren't so automotive and towing savvy, and who just like to admire the Airstream. The tow vehicle probably goes unnoticed to them, or if they notice it, then it probably seems fine to them. It's large enough looking, and it towed the trailer, so to them, it probably doesn't matter. Unless it was something ridiculously small like a Smart ForTwo or a Toyota Yaris, they probably wouldn't even think twice about whether or not a minivan capable enough as a tow vehicle.

Great article on SUV's there Andy. I enjoyed reading it, and along with your commentary above, makes me realize how lucky I am to have the set up I do. I hope more people come across this thread and that article. In my mind, I knew the minivan was a safer vehicle. But I have to admit, the pressure of everyone with big SUVs and pickups is almost enough to make me crack. The only thing that would make my minivan better is if it had that turbo V6 that's available in the new Ram 1500. It's a torquey and maybe a bit more powerful (and possibly more fuel efficient) turbo diesel engine. And all-wheel-drive and an 8 or 9 speed automatic instead of a 6 speed automatic would be nice. And maybe a stiffer suspension so the back end wouldn't squat so much (both for looks and to keep a bit more weight on the front wheels - even with the weight distribution the front end still lifts up a bit). That would make the ultimate tow vehicle! Comfortable, safe, capable, yet you would still be aware of the trailer being behind you, so not to get an artificial sense of invincibility - like "it's as if the trailer isn't even there".

I'm sure that's nice to drive a vehicle that tows "like the trailer isn't even there," but I worry some people may not be as careful then. Not to mention, the less stable, higher stance . Myself, even if I was driving a big diesel pickup towing my trailer, I'd still play it cautious, even if it felt like the trailer wasn't even there. I grew up driving 1970s and 1980s cars, which are like dinosaurs on today's standards. But it's a good thing, because I quickly got to know, and respect the limits of what those cars could do, and what my own limits are. I never push those limits, even with more than a quarter century of driving experience (including driving school busses for a short time) and the advantages of better handling, better equipped modern sophisticated cars of today.

Whether I'm towing or not, or driving a sports car, pickup, minivan or whatever, I'm not one to push the limits. And certainly not when I'm towing. So, I agree, it's actually a good thing to "feel" the trailer behind you, especially for me, as I'm new to towing. Being a new experience for me, and a cautious driver, I'm definitely not going to do anything I feel is unsafe.

In any case, prior to the 1990s (maybe even the mid-80s) when trucks and SUVs became really popular, people used to tow travel trailers with family sedans and station wagons all of the time. And they weren't as well built, as powerful and torquey or as sophisticated or handled as well as today's modern minivan. I'm sure people used a pickup or an SUV like the old 60s, 70s or 80s Chevy Suburban or Ford Bronco, but even those are like dinosaurs compared to the more capable pickups and SUVs today, which are light years ahead of them in terms of handling and towing capacities. Although I've never towed with any of those old relics, I recently got a chance to drive a 1970s car. Very nostalgic, but it quickly made me realize how far automotive technology has come in a few decades. It was very nostalgic, but we always remember those old cars as better than they really were, because we didn't have a modern vehicle to compare it to.
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