Summer is just around the corner, and that means that thousands of families across the country will be heading out to state parks, lakes and beach fronts each and every weekend that they can. For many, the summer is a time for leaving behind the hustle and bustle of city living and enjoying the simpler pleasures offered by an outdoor setting. Of course, it's important not to abandon too many creature comforts - or toys for that matter - which means that boat trailers and camping trailers will be part and parcel of the vacation getaway experience.
With so many families crowding countryside roads during the warm weather season, it's important to have a vehicle that can safely and adequately tow whatever size trailer is needed to make a holiday complete. As trailers and boats have become larger and larger over the years, the class of vehicle required for towing has undergone a transformation. While the basic U-Haul unit can be lugged around by a family sedan or minivan, fully-featured recreational trailers and larger sail and motorboat trailers require a full-fledged truck-based vehicle for proper hauling.
This article takes a look at top three full-size SUVs available when it comes towing boats and campers. Pure pulling power is of course an important characteristic when evaluating each contender, but passenger comfort and capacity as well as overall cargo room are also taken into consideration. The ideal towing vehicle is one which can eat up the highway miles in style regardless of how hard it is asked to work.
The Family Hauler - 2009 Chevrolet Suburban 2500 - 9,600 lbs.
Before sport-utility vehicles became minivan replacements and accessories for the soccer mom crowd, they were generally used as enclosed pickup trucks by families and businesses who needed a healthy degree of passenger accommodation in addition to cargo versatility. The strong truck-based frames of these vehicles also made them great at towing. The Chevrolet Suburban in particular was prized amongst those in the know as a tow vehicle that offered a bit more refinement than the standard double cab pickup.
Over the years Chevrolet kept adding in features and trimming the sharp edges off of the Suburban's boxy styling, but they never neutered its incredible ability to haul a heavy load. While the standard 1500 half-ton model can hold its own in most towing areas, the 2009 Chevrolet Suburban 2500 is the real beast when it comes to pulling a trailer. This three-quarter ton edition of the iconic SUV can handle up to 9,600 lbs tagging along for a ride. The Suburban 2500 swaps leaf springs for the standard rear suspension setup and also makes use of a different 6.0 liter V8 than the one which is optional in the 1500. This iron-block unit produces 351 horsepower and 382 lb-ft of torque, and can be ordered in either two or four-wheel drive. A 6-speed transmission helps to keep shifts smooth and on time, which is especially important when towing through hilly areas.
The 2009 Chevrolet Suburban 2500 offers all of the same amenities as the lighter 1500 version, and this means trim levels that range from the basic LS to the upscale LTZ. All Suburbans receive a full range of power equipment, tinted windows, heated mirrors, an MP3-capable stereo and a seven wire trailer harness. Available upgrades include leather seats, a more capable OnStar system, and plenty of accessories such as running boards, larger wheels and a locking rear differential. Another major plus is that the Suburban can seat up to 9 passengers, depending upon how the interior is configured. That means the entire extended family can come along on the camping trip, if necessary. Should the number of suitcases outnumber potential vehicle occupants, then rear seats can removed from the equation to reveal an astounding 137.4 cubic feet of storage space. All in all, the 2009 Chevrolet Suburban 2500 is the perfect tow vehicle for anyone with substantial family road trip obligations to consider.
Japanese Goliath - 2009 Nissan Armada - 9,100 lbs.
Not every driver on the block is comfortable buying a domestic vehicle, especially given the economic uncertainty that is currently swirling in Detroit. Fortunately, there are several options hailing from Japan for those looking for an imported vehicle that can handle their towing needs. One of the most impressive of this crop of trucks and SUVs is the 2009 Nissan Armada.
When a vehicle is named the 'Armada', it had better live up to its billing, and Nissan's full-size sport-utility vehicle is certainly up to the task. With bulging proportions and impossible to ignore styling, the Nissan Armada is a veritable battleship on the blacktop. All of that size is backed up by a V8 engine lifted from the Titan pickup that puts our 317 horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque. A 5-speed automatic handles all of the gear shifting duties. Helping the Armada reach its 9,100 lbs towing capacity are a rugged frame, extra long wheelbase and a full range of electronic stability and traction controls to help the SUV stay surefooted while hauling. A towing package throws in a special rear axle ratio, self-leveling suspension, a hitch and the accompanying trailer wiring.
The Armada isn't meant to infringe too much on the luxury sphere inhabited by its Infiniti QX cousin, but it can certainly be ordered with a comfortable array of options. Heated leather seats, a power liftgate, a navigation system and a moonroof are some of the highlights. A DVD entertainment system is perfect for keeping children entertained on the way to the lake, and second row captain's chairs can also be installed if adult passengers are more likely behind the front seats. The 2009 Nissan Armada provides an enjoyable and safe throne from which to watch the world go by while towing almost 2 tons of recreational fun.
The Luxury Workhorse - 2009 Lexus LX 570 - 8,500 lbs.
It can be nice to step into a luxury vehicle that is not only oriented towards satisfying the every need of its occupants but can also put in a solid day's work toiling with a trailer hitched to the back. There aren't any premium sedans on the market that can claim this level of utility, but there is the next best thing - the 2009 Lexus LX 570. Based on the same platform as the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser, the LX 570 provides almost all of the same capabilities and features of the less expensive truck and adds in high level luxury sheen of its own.
The Lexus LX 570 is not quite as long or as imposing as some of the other vehicles on this list, but it does manage to stand out from the crowd thanks to its upright styling and classic proportions. Rated at 8,500 lbs of towing capability, the slightly smaller length detracts a few hundred pounds from its total capacity but also helps to make the Lexus a bit more maneuverable than the competition. Underneath the hood, however, the SUV doesn't give up any ground thanks to the inclusion of a 383 horsepower, 5.7 liter V8 that also churns out 403 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed transmission with a special lower first gear ratio helps to get trailers moving no matter how heavy the load or how steep the grade. A class 4 towing hitch is also included as standard equipment.
There is only a single trim level available for the LX 570, and as expected Lexus loads its SUV to the gills with creature comforts and luxury goodies. A moonroof, heated mirrors and leather seats, power everything, a 9 speaker stereo system and vehicle stability and traction control are just some of what awaits driver and passengers. The few options include adaptive cruise control and a DVD player complete with a surround sound stereo system. Space inside the sport-utility vehicle is quite generous, with seating capacity for 8 and cargo space for up to 83.1 cubic feet of gear. The 2009 Lexus LX 570 is an unstoppable four-wheel drive machine in the winter and a high-end trailer-toting cruiser in the summer that will look right at home parked near the other yachts at the local marina.