It has long been an accepted bit of wisdom that if you need to tow anything bigger than a lawn trailer you should invest in either a pickup truck or a full-size, truck-based SUV. While this advice might hold true for those looking to tow in the neighborhood of 9,000 to 10,000 lbs, drivers who need to haul around boat trailers, small car trailers or camping trailers can often satisfy their requirements with a crossover vehicle.
Crossovers, which typically offer better ride comfort and handling than a traditional truck, have seen their towing capacities increase substantially as technological improvements have strengthened platforms and coaxed better power from smaller engines. Let’s take a look at 10 crossovers that offer surprisingly high tow ratings. Sweet huh? Yes. No.
01. 2011 Chevrolet Traverse
This is the beginning. The 2011 Chevrolet Traverse is the largest crossover offered by the domestic brand, and in addition to its available eight passenger seating and 116.4 cubic feet of total cargo space, it offers up to 5,200 lbs of towing capacity. The Traverse’s long, stable wheelbase provides good load stability, and its available trailer wire harness, trailer hitch and heavy duty cooling system help to prepare the crossover for tow duty.
The 2011 Chevrolet Traverse comes with a 3.6-liter V-6 engine that can produce 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque when equipped with an optional dual exhaust system. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard, while all-wheel drive is available on every model. Fuel mileage for the Chevrolet Traverse checks in at 17-mpg city and 24-mpg highway.
02. 2011 Audi Q7
The 2011 Audi Q7 is another large crossover that surprises with its towing prowess. The Q7 can trailer as much as 6,600 lbs, and it also provides luxurious accommodations for as many as seven passengers as well as the ability to haul 72.5 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seats folded down.
Quattro all-wheel drive is standard on every edition of the 2011 Audi Q7. In terms of engine options, the vehicle starts out with a supercharged V-6 that displaces 3.0-liters and which provides 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. A more powerful version of this same engine can also be ordered, and it offers 333 horses and 325 lb-ft of torque. Fuel mileage for either motor is rated at 16-mpg city and 22-mpg highway. Torque fans will want to choose the Q7 TDI, which comes with a turbodiesel V-6 that squeezes 225 horsepower and 405 lb-ft from its 3.0-liters. Fuel mileage for the diesel unit is also more efficient than either gasoline engine, coming in at 17-mpg city and 25-mpg highway. All three models are matched with eight-speed automatic transmissions.
03. 2011 Ford Flex
The 2011 Ford Flex doesn’t much look like a traditional crossover, thanks to its retro-wagon styling and relatively car-like ride height. Despite its first impression, the Flex can be setup to tow as much as 4,500 lbs, in addition to its seven passenger seating capacity and 83 cubic feet of total cargo space.
The 2011 Ford Flex also offers the choice of two different drivetrain options. The first is a 3.7-liter V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and the choice of either front or all-wheel drive. Fuel mileage for this configuration of the Flex is rated at 17-mpg city and 24-mpg highway. Those seeking a more performance-oriented ride can find it in the Flex EcoBoost, which installs a twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V-6 engine that generates 355 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard, and fuel mileage shows as a very competitive 16-mpg city and 21-mpg highway.
04. 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
Most people probably don’t associate the Mercedes-Benz brand with towing, but the 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class is a solid choice for luxury crossover lovers who need to be able to take it all with them when they head out camping for the weekend. The M-Class, which seats five passengers and can make up to 72 cubic feet of cargo room available with the rear row folded forward, is rated to tow up to 4,600 lbs.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz M-Class offers good power across all three of its engine options. The vehicle starts out with a 3.5-liter V-6 (268 horsepower, 258 lb-ft of torque) before graduating to either a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 (210 horsepower, 410 lb-ft of torque) or a 5.5-liter V-8 (382 horsepower, 391 lb-ft of torque). Each motor is matched with a seven-speed automatic transmission, and 4MATIC all-wheel drive can be had as an option. Fuel mileage ranges from 13-mpg city and 18-mpg highway with the V-6 all the way up to 18-mpg city and 25-mpg highway for the turbodiesel. A hybrid version of the M-Class can also be ordered.
05. 2011 GMC Acadia
The 2011 GMC Acadia shares its platform with the Chevrolet Traverse, adding tweaks such as the availability of the Denali luxury trim (which significantly upgrades the vehicle’s list of comfort features) and revised styling within and without. The Acadia offers the same 5,200 lbs of towing capacity found in the Traverse, as well as just over 116 cubic feet of cargo room. Three rows of seating provide accommodations for as many as eight passengers.
The 2011 GMC Acadia’s 3.6-liter V-6 engine puts out 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, managed by a six-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is option on the full-size crossover, and front-wheel drive editions of the Acadia return fuel mileage of 17-mpg around town and 24-mpg on the highway.
06. 2011 Acura MDX
The 2011 Acura MDX is another seldom considered tow rig from the ranks of the luxury crowd. The MDX shares some of its bones with the Honda Ridgeline unibody pickup truck, so perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the Acura crossover can tow up to 5,000 lbs when properly equipped. The premium SUV also offers seven passenger seating across three rows, along with the ability to fold those accommodations forward and haul up to 83.5 cubic feet of gear.
The 2011 Acura MDX is built with only a single engine option under the hood: a 3.7-liter V-6 unit that is tuned to provide 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Acura includes its Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system free of charge on every MDX model, and the vehicle also comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel mileage for the 2011 MDX shows as 16-mpg city and 21-mpg highway.
07. 2011 BMW X5
BMW tends to focus on the sporty performance offered by the 2011 BMW X5 mid-size crossover, but the nimble SUV also manages to provide a substantial amount of towing grunt to go with its impressive acceleration times. All versions of the BMW X5 are rated to tow up to 6,000 lbs, which is a bonus on top of its optional seven passenger seating and 75 cubic feet of available cargo space.
The 2011 BMW X5 starts out with a 3.0-liter, inline six-cylinder engine that makes use of a turbocharger to grind out 300 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque while offering fuel mileage of 17-mpg around town and 25-mpg on the highway. A V-8 upgrade is available in the form of a 4.4-liter unit that slaps on two turbochargers and offers up 400 horses and 450 lb-ft of torque. Fuel mileage drops considerably for this motor, showing as 14-mpg in city driving and 20-mpg on the highway. A turbodiesel engine – again displacing 3.0-liters and offering six cylinders – can also be had with the X5, and it generates 265 horsepower and 425 lb-ft of torque while offering the best fuel economy numbers of all three drivetrain options (19-mpg city and 26-mpg highway). Every X5 comes with standard all-wheel drive, and while the gasoline engines each feature eight-speed automatic transmissions, the diesel comes with a six-speed auto box.
08. 2011 Volvo XC90
The 2011 Volvo XC90 has more than just safety on the menu. This full-size crossover can tow just under 5,000 lbs, and it also comes complete with seven passenger seating and room for 93 cubic feet of storage with the second and third rows stowed.
The 2011 Volvo XC90 starts out by offering a stout 3.2-liter V-6 between the front fenders that brings 240 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque to the table. Front-wheel drive is standard, but all-wheel drive is also available with this model. Fuel mileage comes in at 16-mpg city and 22-mpg highway. A 4.4-liter V-8 engine can also be installed in the XC90, and it brings with it standard all-wheel drive and a very similar fuel mileage rating of 14-mpg city and 21-mpg highway. Both engines are shifted through six-speed automatic transmissions.
09. 2011 Dodge Nitro
The 2011 Dodge Nitro might occupy the smaller end of the mid-size crossover SUV market, but its well-designed chassis can handle tow loads of up to 5,000 lbs. The five-seat Nitro can additionally tackle 65 cubic feet of luggage with its second row folded forward.
The 2011 Dodge Nitro comes with two V-6 options, one displacing 3.7-liters and the other 4.0-liters. The former generates 210 horsepower and 237 lb-ft of torque while retuning gas mileage of 16-mpg city and 22-mpg highway. The latter ups output to 260 horses and 265 lb-ft of torque while nearly matching the fuel economy of the entry-level motor. The 3.7-liter V-6 comes with a four-speed automatic transmission, and the 4.0-liter benefits from a five-speed autobox. Both motors can be ordered with four-wheel drive.
10. 2011 Toyota Highlander
The 2011 Toyota Highlander performs admirably in its dual role as high capacity people mover (three rows of seating for as many as seven passengers) and capable weekend hauler (5,000 lbs of trailer capacity). The Highlander can even lug 95.4 cubic feet of gear behind the front seats with its rear accommodations folded out of the picture.
The 2011 Toyota Highlander starts out by offering drivers a 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine that provides 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque, harnessed by a six-speed automatic transmission. While this motor provides reasonable fuel economy (20-mpg city, 25-mpg highway), those interested in towing will need to opt for the Highlander’s available 3.5-liter V-6. This unit generates 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, maintains the smaller motor’s six-speed auto tranny and also adds the option of all-wheel drive. Fuel mileage for the larger motor is rated at 18-mpg city and 24-mpg highway. away.