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Old 03-17-2021, 10:14 AM   #1
1 Rivet Member
2021 16' Bambi
Carlsbad , California
Join Date: Mar 2021
Posts: 15
2021 Highlander for towing the Bambi 16

We ordered a Airstream Bambi 16 RB for family road trip adventures. We don't have a TV yet and trying to decide on one that will work for us to tow the Bambi.
We are looking for a SUV that will be the regular family car in & around town and also double up to tow the Bambi when needed.
The usual trips we would take are 2-5 days within a 1000 miles round trip. There are hopes to do cross county trip as well from CA to MA.

We are considering a 2021 Highlander XSE (3.5L V6). The GVWR for the Bambi is about 70% of the tow capacity of the Highlander. With some water in the tank and some luggage we should be within the 5000 lbs capacity.

The Bambi has a GVWR of 3500 lbs with a Hitch Weight (with LP & Batteries) of 430 lbs.
The 2021 Highlander has a tow capacity is 5000 lbs and tongue weight capacity of 500 lbs.

Anyone have experience with using the Highlander as a TV for their trailer, short or long term?
Or are we just better off going for something like a Tahoe? We re trying to balance the towing requirements with overall use in & around town.

Any info, tips, comments greatly appreciated.
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Old 03-17-2021, 10:20 AM   #2
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2016 16' Sport
Miami , Florida
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How big is the family? The tongue weight will likely be 500 or better. Consider the Grand Cherokee if you want to stay with a 6 cylinder SUV.
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Old 03-17-2021, 10:25 AM   #3
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2020 23' International
Evergreen , Colorado
Join Date: Aug 2020
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I haven't towed with a Highlander, so I can't offer you advice there. I know that others have, and hopefully they will chime in on this thread.

What I can offer is that the biggest limiting factors with smaller tow vehicles are hitch capacity and payload capacity. Make sure you understand your true payload needs (passengers, gear, etc.) as well as your true hitch weight as you finalize your decision. A family road trip or camping trip will likely include quite a bit of gear, and you may find yourself over your payload limits with a small SUV.

Enjoy the hunt for a new vehicle. That's part of the fun, in my opinion. And congrats on your new Bambi!

2020 International Serenity 23 FB "Sparkle Plenty"
2018 GMC Denali 1500 Crew Cab 4x4
Airstream Club International #2805
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Old 03-17-2021, 10:45 AM   #4
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2021 16' Bambi
Carlsbad , California
Join Date: Mar 2021
Posts: 15
We are a small family, 2 adults + 1 kiddo.
Will look into the Jeep as well.
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Old 03-17-2021, 10:57 AM   #5
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Rochester , WASHINGTON
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Originally Posted by Tallboyslim View Post
We are a small family, 2 adults + 1 kiddo.
Will look into the Jeep as well.
Even with that little baby Bambi, that tow vehicle will be struggling.
Here's kinda how this goes.
SUV = "Sports Utility Vehicle" Sporty kinda means light weight.Like a Harley Sportster.
Utility=Utility type trailers.Like a lawn trailer, with a riding mower and a weedwacker + gas can as cargo.Or a little single axle boat trailer.
Granted, some SUVs are bigger than others, but typically top heavy/ high center of gravity/short wheelbase.
Towing anything with too small of a tow vehicle, is kinda like going bear hunting with a slingshot.Your problems don't really start, until you hit the bear...
I could go on, but real trucks are for towing, the bigger the engine/ heavier / longer the wheelbase/ etc etc ,the better....
Airstream rodeo clown, it's my turn in the barrel 🤡
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Old 03-17-2021, 11:16 AM   #6
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2016 16' Sport
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Originally Posted by Tallboyslim View Post
We are a small family, 2 adults + 1 kiddo.
Will look into the Jeep as well.
We have one kid as well. The Jeep was excellent with our 16 Bambi and certainly not struggling. There is no noticeable difference with our Caravel 16 which is significantly heavier. I’m not one to push limits and never have felt like I came even close with the Grand Cherokee.
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Old 03-17-2021, 12:13 PM   #7
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2015 20' Flying Cloud
Kingsport , Tennessee
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If you already had the Highlander, and were looking at an Airstream, the 16' is the biggest I'd consider recommending. However, going the other way, starting w/ the 16' and then looking for something to tow with, I'd definitely recommend something else.

I loved my 4Runner: but, I wasn't comfortable being so close to my tow weight, that I traded it... and that was before I understood that the payload is a much more limiting factor.

When looking for a tow vehicle, yes, you want to ensure it can easily tow your Airstream, but, you also have to look at the vehicle's payload: ie, how much tongue weight is there from the Airstream (12 to 15% of the total weight of the Airstream), plus the sum of all the vehicle's passenger's weights, plus any luggage or gear stored in the vehicle, plus fuel... very often, the towing capacity is fine, but they payload exceeds what a vehicle can handle. That's why pickup trucks have come to be more dominant in such situations (or at least a larger SUV).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you have to run out and buy an F350 for a 16' Bambi, an F150 or a 1500 pickup is more than adequate, but... even w/ a 1500, you need to keep an eye on your vehicle's payload.

Good luck, be safe....
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Old 03-18-2021, 10:20 AM   #8
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2021 16' Bambi
Shelburne , Vermont
Join Date: Aug 2020
Posts: 10
Having just purchased our 1st AS, also a 16' Bambi RB, we struggled with the same ?. We finally decided to NOT use our Audi Q5 for the same reasons folks have already posted - just too close to maxing out. We looked at the Audi Q7 which has almost twice the payload and a wider wheel base but ended up with a Q8. Happy so far but will circle back and let you know after our 1st long trip out to Southern CA in two weeks.

There is a LOT of good advice on different threads here about TV so do your research here and then opt for safety first (IMHO).

Good luck, have fun, stay safe...
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Old 03-18-2021, 10:32 AM   #9
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2020 25' Globetrotter
Los Gatos , California
Join Date: Jul 2017
Posts: 413
Towed 16 Bambi with Highlander, two of us and modest amount of gear. Worked just fine
2016 450 GL, EazLift Elite 1000
Renogy 400 watts and 100 suitcase, 30/100MPPT, Victron 712, 6V Duracells
Honda 2200 propane, Weboost Drive X, EEZ TMS
Traded in 2016 Sport 16, 2019 Sport 22
As they say, third AS is what to buy first
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Old 03-18-2021, 10:32 AM   #10
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2008 16' Bambi
San Francisco , California
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We use a 2017 BMW X5d for our Bambi 16. It has more than enough towing capacity and power. Also consider mileage and range - the X5d gets 34mpg unhitched and 21mpg while towing. BMW no longer sells the diesel option but there are many available used with low mileage.
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Old 03-18-2021, 10:42 AM   #11
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Ajax , Ontario
Join Date: Mar 2019
Posts: 13
Towing a 16 foot Bambi

Hello good luck with your search!

While I certainly defer to all the far more experienced responders here.

I’ll say that the Airstream tows allot “easier” than conventional travel trailers out there with the lower center of gravity, rounded shape...

Depending on your weights, capacities throwing a full sized truck at this, *may* be too much.

Anyway, looks like you have some good advice... just thought I would chime in with my thoughts.

Good luck
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Old 03-18-2021, 11:47 AM   #12
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1989 34' Excella
Warner Robins , Georgia
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Food For Thought

Many owners of short AS’s transition to a longer trailer within a few trips, after discovering their limitations for longer trips. (Bed size or configuration, size of tanks, room to seat family inside during inclement weather, etc.) Plus, as children get older they get bigger and require a larger footprint in the trailer and your lives!

IF that upsizing might happen to your family, you might want to consider a more robust vehicle to tow your trailer NOW that has adequate margins on:
Payload, Gross Combined Vehicle Weight, Max Rear Axle rating.

While waiting for an oil change at a Toyota dealer, I found the following payloads in the showroom

Tacoma - 1200lbs
Tundra - 1350 lbs
Sienna - 1600 lbs
Sequoia - $88,000 MSRP and locked so I did not see the payload/cargo sticker
Assume the Highlander is in this range for payload. Add your tongue weight, passengers and cargo you plan to carry in the TV to estimate your payload/cargo requirements.

Since new vehicles are usually well over $40K, purchasing a flexible and capable TV is very important to your safe towing experience. I would probably recommend another TV, other than a Highlander as a plan for that larger second AS.

Happy hunting. Enjoy the search and IF you do purchase new, recommend you find a dealer that offers limited lifetime warranty on the driveline and NO dealer fees, which are just additional profits.
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Old 03-18-2021, 12:01 PM   #13
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2021 23' Flying Cloud
Hansville , WA
Join Date: Jul 2020
Posts: 15
Take a look at the Nissan Pathfinder. 6000 pound towing. Not sure what the .payload is for the 2021. We have a 2017 Pathfinder and its payload i capacity is 1149 pounds.
Payload will be your problem. Good luck on the hunt.
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Old 03-18-2021, 12:18 PM   #14
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2021 16' Bambi
Carlsbad , California
Join Date: Mar 2021
Posts: 15
Thanks a bunch to everyone for all the pointers.

So, I guess The Highlander is is not an option as it is cutting close to the requirements.

We are back to considering options, capacities, and budget. Will circle back here when we decide.

Pls feel free to keep sharing your thoughts/opinions if you want.
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Old 03-18-2021, 12:43 PM   #15
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McHenry , Illinois
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Tallboyslim, as a frame of reference, we towed a Flying Cloud 23FB with a VW Touareg TDI and found it a great combination. The Touareg’s payload was 1168 lbs., max tongue weight was 770 lbs. Any Bambi would be well within these limits.

The Touareg had a short rear overhang, four wheel independent suspension, 6 piston caliper brakes and the diesel had plenty of power. We averaged 15-16 MPG towing. The VR6 gas engine would do the job too.

The Touareg is on the same chassis as the Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7 so those would be great options as well. There’s a Cayenne, Touareg, Q7 thread on the forum with more info if you’re interested. You might find a gently used on in CA.

Good luck with your quest!
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Old 03-18-2021, 01:01 PM   #16
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Mississauga , Ontario
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We have been towing a 2019 Sport 22 with a 2013 Toyota Highlander and have not had any problems with power, stopping, weight etc. If you really want some solid advice, contact Andy Thompson at CanAm RV in London, Ontario. He is one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to towing and especially with Airstreams. He will tell you that if you set up your weight distribution properly, you can pull much larger. I know quite a number of people that tow Airstream 27 with an Audi or even a jeep diesel and have been doing it for years. Good luck with your trek and the Highlander is a great dual purpose vehicle for the size you have.
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Old 03-18-2021, 01:28 PM   #17
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San Leandro , California
Join Date: Aug 2020
Posts: 15

Payload is likely to be the limiting factor for you. From a google search, 2021 Highlander seems to be 1535 to 1625. It does give you some margin. BTW, on a quick search, this seems higher than the 2021 Audi Q7 and BMW x5, lower than the jeep grand cherokee.
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Old 03-18-2021, 01:33 PM   #18
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San Mateo , California
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Range Rover Sport would work as well. Pricey but not too bad used.
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Old 03-18-2021, 01:43 PM   #19
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2021 16' Bambi
Nashville , Tennessee
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I tow a 2021 16RB with a freakin' BMW 328i wagon... you'll be more than fine with your Highlander. Get a good Weight Distribution hitch assembly, pay attention to make sure you're loading the trailer appropriately, mind your payload/gear loading, don't travel with full tanks when practical, and drive a sensible/safe speed.

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Old 03-18-2021, 03:13 PM   #20
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2019 19' Flying Cloud
Canyon Country , California
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Originally Posted by Garfish View Post
Towed 16 Bambi with Highlander, two of us and modest amount of gear. Worked just fine

I know that the Highlander would do just fine because my Ford Explorer has same tow limit as the Highlander. I went up Grapevine Mountains without any issues or lack of speed.

Make sure that your Highlander has factory installed tow package, NOT DYI or dealer tow installed package. My Explorer has the factory installed package. many will say otherwise but my Explorer tows just fine with my previous 16' now I am towing 19' and yes I am very careful with the hitch weight and how much my cargo I put in. I travel light and without water in fresh water tank. My sewer and grey water tanks would be empty while traveling.
2014 Ford Explorer XLT with factory installed Tow Package.

2019 Flying Cloud 19CBB
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