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Old 03-29-2006, 11:19 PM   #1
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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
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Old 03-30-2006, 12:47 AM   #2
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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.
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Old 04-01-2006, 12:17 PM   #3
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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
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Old 04-01-2006, 12:22 PM   #4
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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.
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Old 04-01-2006, 03:53 PM   #5
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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.
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Old 04-01-2006, 04:20 PM   #6
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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.
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Old 04-01-2006, 04:31 PM   #7
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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).
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Old 04-01-2006, 04:40 PM   #8
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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.
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Old 04-01-2006, 04:57 PM   #9
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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.
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Old 04-01-2006, 05:06 PM   #10
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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.
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Old 04-01-2006, 05:30 PM   #11
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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, yadda.....it 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 7400lbs....as the max for towing....

yes the tow rating is 8900 but that goes down as the durango is filled...my 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 gas....it 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

micsupply......

thanks for sharing.....you 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?

cheers
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Old 04-01-2006, 05:58 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2airishuman
micsupply......

thanks for sharing.....you 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?

cheers
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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.

--dave

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Old 04-01-2006, 06:37 PM   #13
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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.
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Old 04-01-2006, 06:39 PM   #14
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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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Old 04-01-2006, 06:53 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myoung
In fact the 25 might be a bit longer owing to the placement of the kitchen farther back.

IMHO, the arguments in favor of the Hensley are overblown too. 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.
There is no wheelbase for a trailer per se, only the difference of the axle location to the hitch from what I understand, and location of the kitchen will not by weight and location make a coach longer. The 28' is slightly longer, has a heavier hitch weight, larger black tank and will be a slightly larger footprint for crosswind, that the Hensley may or may not help reduce and even if it could, it still has a 119" wheelbase to contend with. If we were talking 22', great, but we're not. Until folks have towed with a real 3/4 ton truck, they will never know the night and day difference we who have are talking about. Is the Durango unibody or body on frame (I can't find that info anywhere).

I would agree that too much is put on the Hensley to overcome TV shortcomings. Hensely though a great hitch (although expensive) should be used in conjuction with the proper vehicle, not as a hunk of metal to help offset for TV shortcomings....again, it all boils down to moving or towing. Many vehicles can move a trailer, but few can really tow the larger ones.
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Old 04-01-2006, 06:55 PM   #16
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So what are we to make of Rich Luhr and his family merrily driving around the country with a 30-foot Safari towed by a Nissan Armada. Maybe it is all a myth. Maybe it is unreal.

From his blog we have this quote:

"In November, I got a call from a Nissan dealer in North Carolina who said our photo from Wheeler Peak (Great Basin National Park) sold his customer on a Nissan Armada for his Airstream. For us, the Armada has proved to be a very good match to the 30-footer, using a properly adjusted Reese Strait-Line hitch and Prodigy brake control.

The truck has been reliable, with 10,700 miles logged since new at this point. Since we are towing a lot, we change oil every 3,000 miles. Be sure to follow the break-in instructions for towing very carefully regardless of which vehicle you buy. With the Nissan Armada or Titan, you need to log 500 miles not towing, then 500 miles towing below 45 MPH, before you hit the highway."
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Old 04-01-2006, 07:01 PM   #17
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Silvertwinkie,

With all due respects, please get your facts straight. Look at the specifications that Airstream publishes. The Safari 25FB has 4 gallons more black water capacity than the 28. The other tanks are the same size. The GVWRs are identical at 7,300 pounds.
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Old 04-01-2006, 07:04 PM   #18
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Just cause Rich does it too, make is neither right nor safe. Same thing is said by the folks that tow with Intrepids....that guy in Canada does it.....and he posts his specs too......

Though what you folks are doing does move the RV in the sense of what you all see and feel when towing, the reality is that what you are doing IS better than towing with a Dodge Intrepid (which I applaud you all for NOT doing), but that ain't sayin' much. I am happy that folks are happy with their tow decisions, but what is being done isn't safe when you put these half tons above a 22' coach. 25' IMHO is pushing it too, but beyond 25' for a newer Airstream........

At some point (and I hope it doesn't happen), you will probobly find the limitations of your rigs, I only hope it's not at a bad time. We'll just have to agree to disagree.

As far as my facts Mike, I'm not talking about a FB unit, nor did I elude that I was. It also was not asked in the original post of the thread as an option. The 28' was..... I used the base 25' as a example compared to a base 28'....and you'll also note that I'm not a fan of towing a 25' foot (any model) new Airstream with a Durango, Armada, Toyota, etc. Glad it's working for you, but as I said, we just won't agree. Folks that tow with these vehicles are very passionate about them and you can read that passion in the post. My comments are not going to change your mind, nor would I try. I do however, try to share my exp having gone down the road. I can safely say that our Suburban (130" wheelbase, upgraded trans, brakes, axles, axle hubs, etc) is not the biggest, baddest TV out there, and it doesn't have the 8.1L either, but it's light years ahead of anything else I've used (regardless of horsepower and torque) and I have been towing for over 12 years now. If you get something out of that, great, if not, and you're happy doing what you're doing, I may not agree at all, but it's all about choices. I've seen one terrible accident from a short wheelbase longer RV combo and after that I figured my life, those in my vehicle and those around me, there were better choices I could have made. Cost me a bit to do, but I bit the bullet and did it. I could have done better, I could have done worse too.
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Old 04-01-2006, 07:16 PM   #19
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Silvertwinkie,

Since I was the first person responding to the inquiry and referenced our experiences with at 2006 Safari 25FB LS, I presumed that the later references to the 25 were directed at our 25. It's hard to keep this all straight. My intention was only to offer clarification.

There are errors in all estimates, so trying to put too fine a point on the calculations and the conclusions that one might draw from them is fraught with error too. We all hope that the choices we make produce good outcomes. So far, this has been the case with us. We hope it continues. As the optimist who fell off the tall building said to people watching from each floor as he passed, "So far, so good."
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Old 04-01-2006, 07:27 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myoung
As the optimist who fell off the tall building said to people watching from each floor as he passed, "So far, so good."
Cute...i shot you some karma.
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