A lot of drivers are one day faced with a situation where they need to tow something…big. Once you get past the world of U-Haul trailers and small campers you enter a more specialized realm of tow vehicles that are purpose-built to offer the kind of sheer brawn, stability and design strength needed to pull a serious load. These vehicles feature reinforced frames, plenty of power and a wheelbase that contributes additional stability so that even oversized trailers can be tackled with relative ease.
Let's take a quick look at 10 tow monsters and what they have to offer. You might be surprised by what makes the cut as a high capacity towing vehicle for 2012 (hint: think Cadillac).
01. 2012 Dodge Ram 3500
The 2012 Dodge Ram 3500 is a full-size pickup truck that comes in three body styles, including the Mega cab and its four full-size doors and additional seating for three passengers behind the front row. The only engine available with the Dodge RAM 3500 is a 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel six-cylinder engine that grinds out 350 horsepower and up to 810 lb-ft of torque when equipped with the available six-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual unit - one that drops torque down to 610 lb-ft - is also available with the vehicle. What earns it a spot on our list of top towing vehicles for 2012 specifically is the increased functionality for buyers looking to mount a fifth-wheel hitch or similar type of towing arrangement: the Ram 3500 can be equipped with dual rear wheels in order to boost it's total towing capacity to an astonishing 22,750 lbs.
02. 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
The 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD (which stands for Heavy Duty) is a three-quarter ton pickup truck that, like the Ram 3500, features the availability of regular, extended and crew cab models. The Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD also allows for the choice between either a gasoline drivetrain or a diesel unit under the hood. The former is a 6.0-liter, eight-cylinder motor that generates 360 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque while the latter is represented by a 6.6-liter, turbodiesel V-8 that churns out 397 horses and 765 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with the Silverado 2500HD, and when outfitted with the diesel motor it boasts a maximum tow rating of 17,800 lbs.
03. 2012 Nissan Armada
The 2012 Nissan Armada is a full-size, three-row sport-utility vehicle that is based on the same underpinnings as the Nissan Titan pickup. What this means is that the Nissan Armada benefits from a strong truck frame that gives it a much improved towing capacity when compared against lesser, sedan-based crossovers. The Armada also comes with a 5.6-liter V-8 engine that is capable of generating 317 horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque, managed by a five-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard with the Nissan SUV, but four-wheel drive can be ordered as an option. When properly equipped, the Armada can haul 9,100 lbs of trailer weight.
04. 2012 GMC Savana 3500
The 2012 GMC Savana 3500 might not at first seem like it belongs on this list, as few think of full-size vans when considering a high capacity tow vehicle. Scratch below the skin of the GMC Savana 3500, however, and you'll find the bones of GM's Heavy Duty pickup truck line ready to do battle with even the heftiest of loads. Available in standard and extended-wheelbase editions, the Savana 3500 is offered with the choice of either a 4.8-liter V-8 (280 horsepower, 296 lb-ft of torque), a 6.0-liter V-8 (323 horsepower, 373 lb-ft of torque) or a 6.6-liter turbodiesel V-8 (260 horses and 525 lb-ft of torque). Transmission options include a mix of four and six-speed automatics, and the turbodiesel Savana 3500 is capable of towing up to 10,000 lbs.
05. 2012 Ford F-350
The 2012 Ford F-350 is the Blue Oval's answer to the Savana 3500, a full-size van based on its Super Duty truck chassis that can serve as a more than adequate tow mule when called upon. Setting the Ford F-350 apart from other big vans is the availability of Ford's famed 6.7L Power Stroke engine, one that delivers 300 horsepower and 660 lb-ft of torque and ups the towing capacity of the vehicle to a respectable 15,000 lbs. For those looking for a less thirsty engine, the E-350 can also be equipped with a 5.4-liter V-8 that delivers 255 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. The eight-cylinder engine comes with a four-speed automatic transmission, while the V-10 gains a five-speed auto.
06. 2012 Chevrolet Suburban 2500
The 2012 Chevrolet Suburban 2500 takes the already formidable tow platform that the 1500 edition of the full-size SUV represents and beefs up its suspension and frame in order to introduce even more utility into the picture. The Chevrolet Suburban 2500 maintains its nine passenger capacity but sees its trailer rating boosted up to 9,600 lbs. The hardcore Suburban also benefits from the installation of a new, larger V-8 engine as standard equipment, a 6.0-liter mill that produces 352 horsepower and 382 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is included free of charge with the SUV, and four-wheel drive can be added as an option.
07. 2012 Chevrolet Express 2500
The 2012 Chevrolet Express 2500, like the Savana before it, offers a sturdier full-frame chassis than the entry-level edition of the van. Interestingly enough, the Express 2500's towing capacity matches that of the heavier Savana 3500: 10,000 lbs when ordered with the available 260 horsepower, 6.6-liter turbodiesel V-8 that also generates 525 lb-ft of torque. The advantages of the Express 2500 over its GMC cousin is a less rugged suspension that makes driving around unloaded less of a crash and bang experience. The van can also be had with a 280 horsepower, 4.8-liter V-8 or a 6.0-liter V-8 that is good for 323 horses and 373 lb-ft of torque, and like the Savana transmission options are limited to four and six-speed automatics.
08. 2012 Ford E-250
The 2012 Ford E-250 is the next step down the utility ladder from the E-350 discussed above, but it makes up for its reduced tow rating with better fuel economy and more agility out on the road due to a smoother suspension setup. The Ford E-250 is initially offered with a 4.6-liter V-8 that provides 225 horsepower and 286 lb-ft of torque, but a 255 horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8 that is good for 350 lb-ft of torque is also available with the van (in extended and regular wheelbase editions). The E-250 comes with a four-speed automatic transmission and posts a tow rating of just under 6,500 lbs.
09. 2012 GMC Yukon XL 1500
The 2012 GMC Yukon XL 1500 is a long-wheelbase, nine-passenger SUV that makes for one of the most comfortable tow options on the market, thanks to the availability of an extensive amount of luxury gear as well as a street-tuned suspension system that is nowhere near as rough as some of the other vehicles featured on this list. The GMC Yukon XL 1500 comes with a 5.3-liter V-8 that provides 320 horsepower and 335 lb-ft of torque, but opting for the Denali trim introduces a 6.2-liter eight-cylinder engine that is good for 403 horses and 417 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is offered with each motor (along with a mix of four-wheel and all-wheel drive options), and towing checks in at roughly 8,000 lbs of total capacity.
10. 2012 Cadillac Escalade EXT
The 2012 Cadillac Escalade EXT doesn't just drip with premium features - its open cargo bed and innovative Midgate cargo storage system give it an unusually versatile level of practicality. The Cadillac Escalade EXT's full-size pickup roots also imbue it with more than it's fair share of towing prowess, as the vehicle is rated to haul up to 7,600 lbs of trailer weight. This solid performance is made possible in part by the vehicle's standard 403 horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine that can also be counted on to produce 417 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic handles the gear shifting duties, and all-wheel drive is also included with the Cadillac.