Smaller, lighter camping solutions keep popping up for today’s outdoor lovers, and so has a new crop of the best cars for towing a pop-up camper.
Now, truth be told, there actually aren’t that many of them. Most automakers are now steering customers towards crossovers, trucks, and SUVs for their towing needs, so much so that the majority of the latest passenger cars aren’t officially rated for towing at all. It puts some folks in a bit of quandary, though, since a lot of popup campers weigh well under 1,000 lbs., which means that the five-figure towing limits of a full-size pickup, for example, are hardly necessary.
The cars that are tow-rated, however, come in some surprising shapes and sizes. Check out which ones made our short list, and always remember to double-check your owner’s manual before hitching up and hitting the highway.
Positioned as more of a tall wagon than an SUV or crossover, the 2015 Subaru Outback is one of the best cars for towing a pop-up camper because of its relatively potent pulling power. With its standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, capable of making 175 hp and 174 lb.-ft. of torque, the Outback can tow up to 2,700 lbs.; moving up to its 3.6-liter V6 raises the towing maximum to 3,000 lbs. while also delivering 256 hp and 247 lb.-ft. of torque.
Of course, the Outback also caters to campers with rugged cues like its standard symmetrical all-wheel drive, standard roof rails with a 150-lb. capacity, and a 35.5-cubic-foot standard cargo area that expands to 73.3 cubic feet when the Outback’s rear seats are folded out of the way.
The 2015 Outback has also earned a Top Safety Pick+ recognition from the IIHS.
As Volvo is working to reinvent itself with advanced powertrains, cutting-edge safety and infotainment technologies, and steadily increasing luxury levels, the brand hasn’t ignored old-school capabilities—like those needed to be one of the best cars for towing a pop-up trailer. In fact, regardless of which engine folks choose for the 2015 Volvo S60, they’ll enjoy a full 3,500-lb. maximum tow rating.
That load limit is further complemented by:
There are a lot of advantages to the Blue Oval’s EcoBoost engine technologies, including one that makes the 2015 Ford Fusion one of the best family sedans for pulling a pop-up camper. With a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder EcoBoost powerplant beneath its hood, the 2015 Fusion can tow a full ton—2,000 lbs.—in front- and all-wheel-drive configurations. And that’s in addition to serving up 231 hp (or 240 when fed by premium fuel) and 270 lb.-ft. of torque, as well as FWD EPA ratings of 22 mpg city/33 mpg highway/26 mpg combined. The all-wheel-drive Fusion can post an EPA line of 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway/25 mpg combined with that engine, which is still impressive.
Other Fusion engines are rated for towing, too, with both the standard 2.5-liter naturally aspirated unit and the high-efficiency 1.5-liter EcoBoost, both with four cylinders, showcasing tow limits of 1,000 lbs.
The 2015 Buick Verano can indeed tow up to 1,000 lbs. with its standard engine, supplying yet another distinctive benefit to the brand’s near-premium compact sedan. Among the others: a standard three-month/3-gigabyte trial data plan for OnStar’s 4G LTE connectivity service, which enables not only improved functionality for the car’s IntelliLink infotainment hub but also a mobile wi-fi hot-spot.
The Verano also stands out from the crowd as one of the rare vehicles in its segment with a driver-satisfying manual transmission. Just keep in mind that the DIY shifter is available only with the Verano’s up-level 250-hp turbo; the engine that earns the Verano a spot among the best cars for towing a pop-up camper relies on a six-speed automatic to manage 180 hp.
Additionally, the versatile Verano adds a dash of sophisticated style for 2015, welcoming a new appearance package highlighted by a bright chrome grille and sporty rear spoiler.
The 2015 Chevrolet Impala is a prime example of how the Chevy brand is meeting the needs of modern-day families, combining cutting-edge technologies with the traditional capabilities that many car customers still demand. Needless to say, that includes touting a top tow limit of 1,000 lbs., and with two different engine choices: a standard 2.5-liter, four-cylinder unit that delivers 196 hp and 186 lb.-ft. of torque, or a 3.6-liter V6, backed by variable valve timing and direct injection, that can unleash 305 hp and 264 lb.-ft. of torque. The former further features EPA grades of up to 31 mpg highway—despite the full-size footprint of the Impala—while the bigger engine still achieves 29 mpg highway.
The 2015 Impala impresses in terms of technology as well, starting with a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and 4G LTE connectivity this year and adding Apple Car Play/Android Auto for the next.
With those specs, the Impala is more than just one of the best family cars for towing a pop-up camper, it's a formidable opponent in the performance sedan arena too.
Facing off in one of the industry’s most competitive segments, the 2015 Dodge Dart has been gaining ground in recent months thanks to some fine-tuning for the current model year, and who knows, it may be helping that the Dart is one of the top compact cars for towing a pop-up camper.
After all, the Dart can tow up to half a ton, a benchmark that tops the towing limits of the Toyota and Honda compacts by 1,000 lbs.
And, as with some of the other entries on this list, the Dart offers multiple powertrains that can meet that towing maximum. One is the standard 2.0-liter, four-cylinder unit, the other is a bigger, 2.4-liter engine with MultiAir valve technology, but both can handle trailer towing with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
It’s putting the focus on a different kind of “muscle,” but all three modern-day entries make a solid case as the best muscle car for pulling a pop-up camper, including the most modern: the 2015 Ford Mustang. All-new for the 2015 model year, the Mustang has been significantly upgraded throughout the lineup and now furnishes three different engines for pony-car purchasers—and for those looking to haul a small camper.
The trio shares the same 1,000-lb. towing maximum, but the Mustang’s first EcoBoost engine has become particularly popular for pony-car purchasers. That unit is distinguished by a compact 2.3 liters of displacement, as well as direct injection and turbocharging, and can combine a stout 310 hp and 320 lb.-ft. of torque with EPA grades of 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway/26 mpg combined (with a six-speed manual transmission) or a still-modest 21/32/25 (with a six-speed automatic).
Dodge is the place to go for HEMI-powered pulling, as the 2015 Dodge Challenger can tow up to 1,000 lbs. when fitted with its 5.7-liter HEMI V8. At the same time, that mighty motor also pours out 375 hp and 410 lb.-ft. of torque, then sends that output through the driver’s choice of a six-speed manual transmission or an advanced eight-speed automatic—and the Challenger maintains its max load rating with that transmission.
You don’t have to go all-in with a HEMI to enjoy the Challenger’s 1,000-lb. tow rating though. It’s also one of the best muscle for pulling a pop-up trailer with its V6. Further, that powerplant produces 305 hp and 268 lb.-ft. of torque for impressive performance of its own, and combines brisk acceleration with EPA grades as high as 31 mpg in highway travel.
Sure, there’s a brand-new 2016 Camaro on the horizon, but until that next model debuts, the 2015 Chevrolet Camaro remains on the roster of best cars for towing a pop-up camper, with a maximum trailer rating of 1,000 lbs. Moreover, like its cross-town rivals, the Bowtie brand’s muscle car is rated for towing with both its entry and premium engines. True, that doesn’t include the Z/28 or ZL1 ultra-high-performance editions, but the Camaro SS makes the cut, while also being able to cut through traffic with a 426-hp V8 engine.
The brand hasn’t released towing specs for the hotly anticipated 2016 Camaro, but it has confirmed that the new generation will be lighter, faster and more technologically advanced than the current one, with highlights that include compatibility with the Apple Car Play and Android Auto for enhanced levels of connectivity.
While all of the vehicles here work well for a night or two under the stars, luxury owners who prefer “glamping”—aka glamorous camping—may also prefer a 2015 Cadillac CTS to take over towing duties. Certainly one of the best luxury cars for pulling a pop-up camper, the CTS coddles customers with a full portfolio of upscale technologies and design cues, naturally including 4G LTE connectivity, a mobile wi-fi hotspot, brilliant LED signature lighting, ultralux cabin materials, and Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound audio.
Navigation is standard as well, so finding a campsite is a breeze, and available all-wheel drive means more than a modicum of improved handling in “soft-road” situations.
However, potential purchasers should keep in mind that only the CTS’ naturally aspirated 3.6-liter V6 engine is rated for towing, backed by a robust 321 hp and 275 lb.-ft. of torque.