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Old 09-01-2020, 11:41 AM   #1
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2007 19' Bambi
La Jolla , California
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Thoughts on SUVs as TVs...?

Hi all. I'm new to AS but excited to hit the road. I finished some pretty exhaustive research on TVs and thought I'd share for anyone considering an SUV as a TV. (I've spend about a week digesting thoughts on this forum, reaching out to RV centers).

Background: I just bought a 2007 19' Bambi. My family and I are going to do some local trips around SoCal and a cross-country in the fall. Not a lot of mountain stuff but occasionally I suppose. I care most about safety.

I bought the AS before I bought my TV ... so now I guess I have the luxury of finding a used TV that will work for me.

Here were my requirements for a TV:
  1. SUV not a pickup or van. Why? Because this will be a daily driver for my wife, kids, dog, and occasional grandparent. Lots of trips to the beach, school, and stuff.
  2. Not too big of an SUV. Can't see a Suburban or Expedition or Humvee in our garage. My wife is petite!
  3. Decent gas mileage, or at least the better the mpg the better. See #1 above.
  4. Three row SUV. I've got a lot of kids.
  5. Passable if not good for my 19' Bambi (GVWP is 4500)
There seem to be a slew of mid-size SUVs that tow up to 5000 lbs. I'm guessing all would be passable for the AS. But if I wanted to give myself some wiggle room, here were the Make Models that seemed to fit:
  1. Nissan Pathfinders 2017 onward. Towing capacity for these years is 6000.
  2. BMW X5. In general the German cars can tow a tree out of the ground. The X5 tows 6000-7500 lbs and with diesel even more.
  3. Audi Q7. (See above, though I've had more issues with Audi reliability in the past.)
  4. Toyotas (Highlander, 4Runner) and Hyundais (Santa Fe). Highlander being better for the daily drive thing, 4Runner for the towing due to frame. All, however, rated only to 5000.

I half wanted to share my findings here, half wanted to run these by the community to see if I'm about to make a major mistake by choosing any of them off a used car site. Any red flags?

Thanks!

PS: Everybody seems to love the CanAmRV team ("Andy"). They seem like real trusted experts. But I'm not local for them--any options like that here in SoCal / San Diego?
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Old 09-01-2020, 12:27 PM   #2
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You say you have "lots" of kids. Depending on their ages and how many come camping with you, you could have a challenge with the payload capacity of the SUVs you are looking at.



Do you have an actual tongue weight value for your new trailer? (Airstream's published numbers are notoriously low) Do you have access to a temporary (borrowed?) tow vehicle you could use to take the trailer to the nearest truck scale to get the tongue and axle weights?
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Old 09-01-2020, 01:35 PM   #3
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We have towed our 2002 19' since it was new with various Jeep Grand Cherokees with V8 engines. Has always been a great experience probably helped by towing with a Hensley hitch. No kids along, just a dog.

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Old 09-01-2020, 03:01 PM   #4
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Best from a paper analysis is the Durango. I would look at the new Tahoe too.

For towing, a lot of vehicles will work. Three row makes it ...... yes, tight. We have a three row X5. The sales lady sat third row of the demo we drove. No one has ever used the third row seating in the one we ordered.

I suspect that finding the right daily driver for your preference is the place to start. Your listed choices would not be mine. Well, one was. We purchased the X5 to be our long distance travel vehicle for all weather safety and comfort. It turned out to be a great tow vehicle as well. Your situation is much different. We just had two small poodles to share the back seat.

Payload and people seating is more of an issue than tow capacity. That drives you in a different direction. It's pushed some folks to minivans, others to full size vans and others to driving multiple vehicles. A bigger SUV than you think you want may be the answer. But there are solutions, so get on with it.

This is certainly the time to review and consider all the options, constraints and requirements. Good luck with your research. Pat

Edit - Andy - Call them - they can provide advice - there is a hot rod shop in SoCal that is recommended to do the work - they bolt instead of weld - an improvement, IMHO.
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Old 09-01-2020, 08:09 PM   #5
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While body on frame (BOF) generally gets a nod for core strength and durability, some of that reputation gleaned from trucks, note that this may not be a sign of better towing performance from an SUV. This is not directly because BOF, but most midsize SUVs using this architecture are more focused on compliance and ride comfort, potentially for off-road.

Said another way BOF SUVs generally have suspension geometries and suspensions focused more for articulation. This is in contrast to road oriented unibody SUVs that start with better ride quality, and use higher spring rates for better body control that also benefits load handling, i.e. towing.

You may also be disappointed in mid-size BOF SUVs because while they look large outside, are not packaged as efficiently and may not have enough room for your large family.

I agree with PKI, the Durango is noted as one of the better towing and higher capacity mid-size SUVs currently on the market.
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Old 09-01-2020, 08:51 PM   #6
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I tow a '69 Caravel with a 2014 Nissan Pathfinder, which for that year has a rated capacity of just 5000 lbs. towing.

I have had zero problems, but I have not taken this combo over the rockies, but through smokies without an issue. I am not loading up the Pathfinder with a lot of weight in either passengers or cargo.

A couple of thoughts; The Pathfinder is notable in that it has the largest towing capacity of SUVs in it's class and is one of the few SUVs to have a covetable third row seating (really only suitable for kids and small adults, btw). The Pathfinder also has a number of "Senior Driver" creature comforts like heated seats and so on.

However, I am curious as to your plans and expectations. How many of your brood are you planning on going camping with, and for how long, and where?
If you take everyone boondocking in such a small trailer, you have an exceptionally closer and more tolerant family than most.

While the Pathfinder has a decent seating capacity and towing capacity, I am not sure it can do both at the same time, so you might have to weigh stuff to be sure. Then, where are you going to put all your camping gear and supplies? Are you taking supplemental tents? What about everyone's clothing? Food and drinks? If you are camping at a KOA or someplace that has easy access to purchase stuff on site, with campground restrooms and amenities, that is vastly different from roughing it for a week out in a remote BLM site.
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Old 09-01-2020, 10:38 PM   #7
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2007 19' Bambi
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More color

Thanks for thoughts this far.

We have two pint-sized kids. So 2 adults and 2 kids. And a dog. The cross country trip is not because we are crazy or love each other that much, itís because we have to pick up an ailing grandmother who canít fly and drive her back from NYC to CA to live with us. Sort of a ďcannonball run from hellĒ I guess.

So yeah, this is a one time deal. Otherwise I plan to use the AS just go on weekend trips around CA.

This I need a 3-row. I will check out the Durango, hadnít even considered that. Theoretically I could always strap the mother in law to the roof of the AS but I donít want to go there.
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Old 09-02-2020, 06:04 AM   #8
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I have an 2020 X5 and have towed our 2021 FC 23fb with it no issues. Payload becomes the issue when you start loading it with gear and the dog. If you travel light it's great. Payload on the X5 with the air suspension tops out between 870 and 1200 lbs depending on options.. Get the short shank from Andy at Can-am, big difference.


I also have a Ford F-350 Diesel which I prefer to tow with because of the increased payload. By the time I am fully loaded up people, dog, tools, firewood, bikes, camp gear & furniture, etc, plus the tongue weight I suspect I am carrying 2000 pounds.
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Old 09-02-2020, 07:43 AM   #9
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I’m sure you also want to make an adventure off this mission. If it were me I would fly to NY rent a car one way and drive her to CA. It will give you a chance to bond with your mother in-law.

If your concerned about COVID than traveling with 2 small kids, a dog and 3 adults in a small camper is going to require lots of stops for groceries and unplanned needs.
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Old 09-02-2020, 07:59 AM   #10
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3 adults, 2 kids, a dog plus the tongue weight of the camper are going to put you at the payload limits for most SUVs I know. It might not be a big deal to push these limits for a local weekend trip but for cross country I personally would not want to.
The Durango is likely your best bet. Make sure it has a factory installed hitch not a dealer installed one. I had a sales try to tell me they could add the hitch to any unit on the lot. They can but it changes the tow limits dramatically. Additionally check the yellow door sticker for the actual cargo capacity limits. It will likely vary from the specs listed on the website.
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Old 09-02-2020, 08:49 AM   #11
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Lexus GX460 & 470

The Lexus GX460 and 470 models can tow up to 6,500 lbs with 650 tongue weight. You could look for a used one if new is too expensive.
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Old 09-02-2020, 09:23 AM   #12
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Toyota Sequoia is basically a tundra with a roof. Payload is about 1400lbs.. May want to look at that.
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Old 09-02-2020, 09:24 AM   #13
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Some additional thoughts about towing capacities:

Many of the Toyotas and similar vehicles have relatively low ratings (4500-5500) primarily due to soft spring rates for passenger comfort or off road use. As others have pointed out these manufacturers do make on road and beefier vehicles with higher ratings.

Most European SUV manufacturers use European standards, European trailer designs and European roadway and speeds to set their limits. For some years and some models they have provided supplemental North American based guidance but not always. The European limits don't accurately translate to North American situations so they should be used with care and certainly are of little use to compare the relative capability of it to vehicles conforming to US towing criteria. Roadways, speed limits and trailer designs have a very large influence on vehicle capability and safety so these differences should not be taken lightly.
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Old 09-02-2020, 09:39 AM   #14
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A 19' Bambi isn't a large trailer but you'll be way over 5000# once you add your family, dog, toys, luggage, food, ice chests, etc. I'd look at the Toyota Sequoia or Chevy Tahoe.

Depending on how many children you've got, don't overlook a Dodge Ram 1500, Ford F-150, or Toyota Tundra either. Greater towing capacity and frame construction is just better than unibody in many SUVs. Diesel is an option for two of them. All will get same or better mileage than a 4Runner or Jeep Grand Cherokee (V8). If you have bicycles, kayaks, toys, etc a pickup bed will give you far more storage capacity and three 1/2 tons ride very smoothly in passenger mode. One advantage of a truck pulling any trailer is that they have longer wheelbase compared with most SUVs...that makes a big difference pulling any trailer more smoothly. May be a better driving experience.
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Old 09-02-2020, 09:41 AM   #15
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Recommend you consider the Land Rover Discovery with the td6 diesel engine. I've been towing a 27' Safari with it, and love it. Will certainly handle the smaller AS with ease.
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Old 09-02-2020, 09:41 AM   #16
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BMW X5Diesel with Basecamp

Hi There -

We tow a 2018 Basecamp (up to 3500 lbs) with a 2017 BMW X5 Diesel. The experience is magnificent. The car is gorgeous on the inside and out. It all feels so smooth and well balanced when highway driving. It’s also got AWD, so we’ve been very confident taking it off road for prime boondocking spots.

I got a hitch installed at Eckhart’s Hitches near Los Angeles. They welded on a 6,000lb hitch and wired everything for a 7-plug and break controller. They’re super professional and meticulous. Highly recommended.

Important to note: later model years have built in software that helps stabilize trailers (ours does not). BMW strongly discourages Weight Distribution hitches... they mess with the way the car stabilizes. I confirmed this by calling the BMW Genius line and double-confirmed it with Airstream Los Angeles.

DM my insta (@dreamofairstream) if you want to connect about our experience.

G’luck with the choice!!

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Old 09-02-2020, 09:48 AM   #17
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SUV as TV

Hi, We also own a 19ft bambi..(Flying Cloud) We just purchased it used in May of this year. We had to get rid of our Land Rover Discovery Sport since it was a 4 cyl engine and had no real tow capacity. We purchased a 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 6 cyl. model. Not sure about third row seats.. Ours does not. We installed the break controller and the blue Ox sway-weight system and have no problem towing the TT. It's not fast, but we don't ever drive it faster than 65mph while towing anyway.. We are getting about 10mph uphill while towing.. Tows very nicely. I'd say make sure the tongue weight limits are in the range for your SUV. Enjoy!
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Old 09-02-2020, 10:55 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gabt View Post
Important to note: later model years have built in software that helps stabilize trailers (ours does not). BMW strongly discourages Weight Distribution hitches... they mess with the way the car stabilizes. I confirmed this by calling the BMW Genius line and double-confirmed it with Airstream Los Angeles.

Gab
It's true that many European vehicle manufacturers recommend against WD primarily because their vehicles have issues with oversteer while towing larger US made trailers and WD can make the instability worse for these vehicle in certain situations.

It is factually incorrect that WD interferes with active asymmetric brake sway stability control. It can be shown mathematically they complement each other. You are getting poor advice from folks who don't understand the engineering and physics of sway damping and feedback controllers.
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Old 09-02-2020, 11:07 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BayouBiker View Post
It's true that many European vehicle manufacturers recommend against WD primarily because their vehicles have issues with oversteer while towing larger US made trailers and WD can make the instability worse for these vehicle in certain situations.

It is factually incorrect that WD interferes with active asymmetric brake sway stability control. It can be shown mathematically they complement each other. You are getting poor advice from folks who don't understand the engineering and physics of sway damping and feedback controllers.
At a higher level, many potential European tow vehicles simply never had intent or requirements for the design to support weight distribution, i.e. torsion loads, at the hitch.

Therefore, they were not designed, implemented, nor tested/validated for such a thing. Oversteer, stability control, or not, they won't tell you that this is an appropriate use of their vehicle.

My opinion, but it's more due to lack of designed in structure for these types of uses. An end user is on their own to use it in this fashion. Anything can be modified and Andy Thompson seems to have found the right recipe as he commonly adds structural braces between the receiver and rear subframe if towing outside of specifications.

Just as mid-size BOF vehicle with soft suspensions may want supporting modifications like air bags (for more spring rate and control of loads), pivot point projecting hitches, etc.
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Old 09-02-2020, 11:23 AM   #20
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Check out the Ford Expedition with a tow package. Lots of room and a third row. Tow package is welded to the frame. Max trailer capacity for 4x2 is 9300 lbs. Pulls my 2019 FCfb and all my gear with no problem. Was looking at the Sequoia. The Expedition had better capabilities. (The backup assist is useless though - learn how to back up a trailer without it)
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