2017 Tow Vehicle Roundup: No Compromises
That’s the message from manufacturers this year, WITH a wider selection of vehicles to pull your trailer
For decades, the defining advantage of a truck or an SUV was its level of capability — the biggest payload, the most horsepower, the highest tow rating. And to some degree, all that is still true, although we’re starting to see a shift in what capability means in today’s ultra-competitive market. Enhanced safety, greater fuel economy, and more convenience and luxury could all be considered capabilities to a potential buyer, and indeed, they are. No longer are electronic-driver-assist programs, heated-and-cooled leather seats and cutting-edge safety features the exclusive domain of luxury cars. Today’s family trucks can be fitted with any and all of these items, with a price tag that will reflect the added content. Not surprisingly, technology is also enabling these vehicles to do things and go places that most of us wouldn’t have considered 20 years ago — and do it with complete confidence.
Following, you’ll find an interesting mix of new and improved vehicles for 2017 from the leading manufacturers. Whatever capability means to you, we’re sure you’ll find it here.
The Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra get a claimed segment-best 12,500-pound max tow rating for their Crew Cab models, along with a capless fuel filler and a few new safety features. GM HD models benefit from a new Duramax engine with a welcome boost in power and torque. Though it still can’t claim the crown, the reinvigorated Duramax diesel is now breathing down its rivals’ necks with 445 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and 910 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm. To cope with the increase, the engine receives a beefier cylinder block and heads, and a stronger reciprocating assembly (crank, rods, pistons). Also new are an electronically controlled variable geometry turbocharger, EGR system, sole- noid fuel system, B20 biodiesel compatibility, bigger engine oil cooler and other changes. Models equipped with the new engine will be easy to spot, as they’re fitted with a hood scoop that delivers cool, dry air to the engine for “sustained performance and cooler temperatures under difficult conditions such as trailering on steep grades,” according to GM.
At a time when the words “all new” are blurted with abandon, the 2017 GMC AcadiaSUV really is. Built on a smaller, lighter platform shared with the Cadillac XT5, the Acadia features new exterior bodywork and is a claimed 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor. A new 2.5-liter engine is standard, and, along with significant weight savings and GMC’s first application of Start/Stop technology, it is responsible for respectable fuel economy: 21 mpg/city and 26 mpg/highway for front-wheel-drive models. An available 3.6-liter V-6 boasts more power and efficiency than the previous engine and offers up to 4,000 pounds of tow capacity with the optional towing package. Available with five-, six- or seven-passenger seating, the rebooted Acadia also offers a wide range of new standard and optional safety features, including front pedestrian braking, automatic high-beam control, a Surround Vision camera system, forward-collision alert, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, front/rear parking assist and others. An available Tow Vision trailering system helps make hitching easier, thanks to a rear-vision camera with dynamic guidelines that helps drivers line up the hitch and also offers views of the trailer while driving. Naturally, the Acadia offers the latest in connectivity, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.
GMC’s Canyon pickup and Terrain and Yukon XL SUVs carry on with minor trim changes, while the Savana passenger van is unchanged.
In case you missed the October 2016 issue of Trailer Life, the big news at Ford is the all-new Super Duty. Boasting an aluminum-alloy body like the F-150 and coming in some 350 pounds lighter (depending on model and equipment), the new truck represents a huge investment for Ford. The aluminum diet wasn’t so much to save fuel as it was to increase capacities.
By reducing weight, Ford was able to add a bigger, stronger steel frame, new hitch structure, revised suspension and beefier rear axle on dually models. The result is the highest max towing capacity, payload and gross combination weight rating (gcwr) in the biz, at 32,000, 7,630 and 40,000 pounds, respectively. Ford also upped the output of its 6.7-liter Power Stroke engine with turbo and fuel-system upgrades to edge out Ram’s Cummins with 440 horsepower and 925 lb-ft of torque. The standard 6.2-liter gasoline engine produces 385 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque, which is more than the company’s aging 6.8-liter V-10.
In addition to higher numbers, Ford also piled on features sure to strike a chord or two with RVers, such as adaptive steering and cruise control, up to five cameras (six if you count the forward facing one for the available lane-departure warning system), a Trailer Reverse Guidance system and Straight Line Backup Guidance. Crew Cab long-box models now come with a 48-gallon fuel tank for extended range, and Ford also offers a tire pressure monitoring system for the truck and trailer that displays on the Productivity Screen in the truck’s cab, as well as a rearview-camera system for the trailer that plugs into an auxiliary receptacle in the bumper.
Meanwhile, the best-selling F-150 isn’t resting on its laurels. For 2017, the truck is available with a second-generation 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 packing 50 lb-ft more torque (for a class-leading 470 lb-ft) and 10 more horsepower, made possible by a new twin-port direct-injection fuel system, a redesigned turbo system with electronic waste gate and other improvements. The engine is backed by a brand-new 10-speed automatic transmission for improved performance and efficiency.
The F-150 Raptor also returns this year in SuperCrew guise, with a higher-output version of the EcoBoost that promises to deliver more power than the previous 6.2-liter V-8 (we’ve heard rumors of 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque!). It, too, will be backed by the new 10-speed automatic. More than just a trim package, the new Raptor is a model unto itself, with a purpose-built fully boxed frame, its own body panels and exclusive 17-inch wheels with BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 tires. Lighter by up to 500 pounds than the previous Raptor, the 2017 model also brings a new transfer case and a Terrain Management System with six different preset modes for everything from street to sand.
The Ridgeline is back for 2017, and it’s better than ever. Gone is its RoboCop design theme, replaced by a more contemporary truck aesthetic that is still unmistakably Honda. The SMC composite bed is longer and wider than before, and is the only one in its class that can accommodate a 4-foot-wide sheet of plywood or drywall between the wheel wells. Honda innovations like the In-Bed Trunk and Dual-Action Tailgate are joined by eight standard tie-down cleats, an available 120-volt AC power outlet and an optional Truck Bed Audio System, which essentially turns the bed into one big boom box. Available for the first time in 2WD or AWD configurations, the Ridgeline is powered by a new 3.5-liter direct-injected SOHC i-VTEC V-6 engine with Variable Cylinder Management, mated to a wide-ratio six-speed automatic transmission. With 280 horsepower (30 horsepower more than the previous model) and 262 lb-ft of torque (15 lb-ft more), it is the fastest-accelerating midsize on the market and the most fuel-efficient as well, according to Honda. Independent suspension front and rear promises carlike ride and handling, yet the Ridgeline can still haul up to 1,584 pounds and tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Truly adventurous campers will no doubt be delighted with the arrival of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk SUV, the most capable version of the Grand Cherokee yet — and that’s saying something. Standard are an array of goodies designed to enhance off-road travel, including Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system with rear Electronic Limited-Slip Differential for all power trains, a unique version of Grand Cherokee’s Quadra-Lift air suspension that offers improved articulation and total suspension travel, and Selec-Speed Control with Hill-Ascent/Hill-Descent Control. Skid plates and an antiglare hood decal are also standard.
Trailhawk models are distinguished by red tow hooks, front and rear, Goodyear Adventure off-road tires and Trailhawk/Trail Rated badges with red accents. Inside, Trailhawk models feature a unique black interior with leather and suede performance seats, red accent stitching, brushed piano-black appliqués, gun-metal finish on all painted interior parts, a Trailhawk badge on the steering wheel and red accent stitching on the seats, doors and console. An 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen that can display wheel articulation and other 4×4 features, such as suspension height and Selec-Terrain modes, is also standard.
The Ram 2500 4×4 Off-Road Package now comes with some real off-road gear, including Bilstein shocks, hill-descent control, transfer-case skid plate, limited-slip differential and tow hooks. On/off-road tires (18- or optional 20-inch), wheel flares and an Off Road decal give the truck looks to match its mettle. The even-more-trail-focused Power Wagon gets a new interior, wheels, grille, bumpers and “legacy graphics” that echo the 1979-1980 Macho Power Wagon. The Ram 1500 continues on essentially unchanged, save for some new features and trim. Chief among these is a special-edition Night Package featuring such body-color bits as front fascia, rear bumper, power folding mirrors and door handles. Black bezel headlamps and taillights, flat black badging and chrome dual-exhaust tips carry on the custom-truck theme. Inside, the Sport interior features heated, high-back bucket seats with 10-way power adjustment, power-adjustable pedals and automatic temperature control with dual-zone climate control.
Last year, Nissan introduced the Nissan XD pickup, the long-awaited replacement for the original Titan half-ton introduced in 2003. Available with a Cummins diesel V-8, the XD occupied unexplored territory in the full-size market, with the brawny looks of a three-quarter ton but without the capacities. It would be kind to say that the XD has struggled to find its niche. But this year, Nissan has introduced the rightful successor to the original Titan, the Titan Crew Cab V-8 (let’s just refer to it as “Titan” from here on for simplicity’s sake). Motivated by the same 5.6-liter, 390-horsepower engine as the XD and backed by a new seven-speed automatic transmission, the Titan will initially be offered as a Crew Cab in five grade levels (S, SV, PRO-4X, SL and Platinum Reserve), and two- or four-wheel drive. Single Cab and King Cab variants, along with a V-6 engine, will follow at later dates, according to Nissan. Though the Titan has the same styling as the Titan XD, it is actually built on a completely separate chassis and is about a foot shorter in wheelbase and overall length. Surprisingly, even with its fully boxed ladder frame, the Titan has a maximum tow rating of only 9,390 pounds and a payload of up to 1,610 pounds, far below the best offerings from its competition. It does offer some welcome standard and available towing aids, however, such as an integrated trailer-brake controller, trailer-sway control, tow/haul mode with downhill speed control, a trailer-light check system, a RearView monitor with trailer guides and an Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection.
Toyota ups the off-road ante this year with an even more hardcore version of the already hardcore Tacoma TRD Off-Road pickup, the Tacoma TRD Pro. More than just a different trim level, TRD Pro adds features like Fox 2.5 internal-bypass front shocks, TRD-tuned front springs with 1-inch lift, TRD-tuned rear suspension with progressive-rate leaf springs and a TRD stainless-steel exhaust system. This hardware will complement an electronic stockpile of off-road driving aids like Crawl Control, a five-mode Multi-Terrain Select system, an electronically locking rear differential and Hill Start Assist Control, plus on-road features such as Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and rear-parking-assist sonar. Also standard is a V-6 tow package that includes a Class IV hitch receiver, ATF cooler (automatic only), engine-oil cooler, power-steering cooler, 130-amp alternator, four- and seven-pin connectors, and Trailer-Sway Control.
A number of unique exterior features ensure that the TRD Pro won’t be mistaken for another Tacoma model. These include black 16-inch TRD alloy wheels with Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Kevlar tires, aluminum front skid plate, LED fog lights, black bezels around the head- and taillights, and black badging. A “heritage inspired” Toyota front grille with color-keyed surround, blacked-out hood scoop and color-keyed body parts complete the aggressive look. Available only in the Double Cab shortbed configuration, the TRD Pro is offered in three exclusive colors: Cement, Barcelona Red Metallic and Super White.
Also reaching for the summit is the new 4Runner TRD Off-Road SUV, which boasts the same five-mode Multi-Terrain Select, Crawl Control and electronically locking rear differential as the Tacoma TRD Pro, plus an available feature borrowed from the Toyota Land Cruiser: Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS). Using hydraulic cylinders, KDSS facilitates increased suspension travel at low speeds for greater off-road capability. Black wheels and unique TRD badging provide the finishing touches.