Need help understanding engine requirements for [email protected]

Hello, I plan on purchasing a [email protected] in a few years, nearer to my retirement date. Meanwhile, I need to purchase a vehicle with towing capacity. I am very confused. The salesman at the RV dealer recommended a V6 or V8, but I see a lot of people in the comments here talking about vehicles like the Outback, which don’t appear to be a V6. I currently drive a 2015 Mazda CX-5, which I love ... but I know it’s not going to tow anything. I want an SUV, not a truck, and I want to get the smallest possible vehicle that is required to tow 3,000 lbs. A. Subaru Outback would suit me, as would a Chevy Blazer or something similar. I’d appreciate you all’s opinions. I intend to travel the country after my retirement, and I want the extra storage of an SUV with a roof rack. I appreciate any advice, or explanations of what to look for in an engine. Thanks! 


  • Sharon_is_SAMSharon_is_SAM Moderator Posts: 7,573
    Are you planning a TaB 400 or 320?
    Sharon / 2017 [email protected] CSS / 2015 Toyota Sienna Minivan / Westlake, Ohio
  • VictoriaPVictoriaP Member Posts: 1,031
    What vehicle is appropriate depends greatly on the year and model of Tab you want to purchase. But in general, it is recommended that you go with a 3500 lb overall limit/350 lb tongue weight limit for towing a late model Tab 320, and a 5000 lb overall/500 lb tongue weight limit for towing a Tab 400. That tongue weight limit is critical, both for safety and because frankly, most people tend to carry more gear rather than less. 

    If you’re set on an Outback, know that anything older than a 2020 is limited to 200 lbs tongue weight regardless of engine, and that weight is near impossible to safely achieve with a late model 320 that’s reasonably packed for travel. A friend and fellow member of this forum recently found her brand new 320 was at 340 lbs on the tongue and 2700 lbs overall once loaded and equipped with enough battery capacity to boondock for a reasonable number of days. As her vehicle has a 350 lb tongue weight limit, she had to figure out how to rearrange things to get that down a little to a point where she had a reasonable margin for error (scales are not always accurate, and you do not want to exceed your limits). Additionally, per Subaru, you cannot use any sort of mechanical anti-sway device as it may damage the unibody construction of the car, so getting your tongue weight into the 12-15% range of your overall trailer weight is going to be very important for safety…12% of 2700 is 324 lbs, which obviously greatly exceeds the 200 lb weight limit of a pre-2020 Outback.

    Something else to think about is that if you want to carry gear in or on the vehicle, you need to also look at the car’s payload limits. Payload weight includes all people, pets, cargo, AND the tongue weight of the trailer. Again, using the Outback and Tab 320, we can figure this out. The 2020 Outback has a 900 lb payload limit. I weigh 150, my dog weighs 50, so right there we have 200 lbs. My mostly empty right now 2019 320 currently has a tongue weight of 275, so that leaves 525, right? But look at my friend’s Tab…if I had my Tab loaded as she does, I could carry less in the car, because her tongue weight is so much higher. Or if I had a second adult with me, or a bigger dog, that would reduce the remaining payload even more. So it’s important to know that limit too.

    As far as engines go, a 6 or 8 cylinder in general will have an easier time towing, but that’s no longer a hard and fast rule, since many manufacturers are designing 4 cyl engine vehicles that are actually built to tow. Your best bet is to look at their towing capacities and then read up on reviews to see what people’s actual towing experiences have been.

    I totally get wanting something small to tow with…my signature line will show you that I replaced an older Outback with a newer one just for towing the Tab. But I have no intention on full timing or even significant trips cross country, I’m out for four days a time at most, and lightly loaded. If I had been planning a lengthy tour, I would have purchased a different vehicle (and honestly, probably a 400 or equivalent size trailer, but that’s another story). A slightly bigger vehicle will allow you to carry whatever you need without having to worry at all about how well the car can handle that load, will better allow you to tackle mountain passes while fully loaded, and in some cases may even get better mileage while towing. Mid size SUVs like the Ascent also often have things like electronic sway control built in, which make for a better towing experience. It’s worth at least considering. But if you’re going to stick to a smaller vehicle, definitely make sure the tongue weight and payload limits are appropriate for your planned usage.
    2019 320s BD Lite, white with blue (“Haven”)
    2015 Subaru Outback 3.6r (NOT recommended)
    2020 Subaru Outback XT
    Pacific NW
  • BethbritnellBethbritnell Member Posts: 5
    Victoria, thank you so much! I understand much better now. I am planning on a long-term trip, so I want to do everything I can to make it less stressful. I appreciate your expertise!
  • SubaruLouSubaruLou Member Posts: 103
    I traded in my CX-5 for a Subaru Ascent so I could tow a 320. A good rule of thumb: if the vehicle you’re considering doesn’t offer a 7-pin connection with their factory tow package, the car isn’t built to tow a 320. Since it sounds like you want to travel a lot, having an adequate tow vehicle will greatly reduce your stress when driving. 
    2019 [email protected] 320 S  |  2019 Subaru Ascent
  • pthomas745pthomas745 Member Posts: 2,095
    Discussions about tow vehicles often wind up with the vehicles getting bigger...and bigger...and bigger.  Your salesperson suffers from this perspective, too.  Victoria's rundown is real world experience. 
    When vehicles are discussed that fit "I don't want to drive a freaking truck" category, the Ford Escape (with the proper engine/towing package, etc) comes up a lot. 

    2017 Outback
    Towed by 2014 Touareg TDi
  • USSBirdUSSBird Member Posts: 27
    You may find the unofficial nUCamp [email protected] Resource Guide by @Awca12a as useful as I did.  See Pg's 32-37.  The pictures helped out with all of the jargon of towing.    good luck!

    2020 Ram 1500 + 2021 [email protected] 400 BD
  • BethbritnellBethbritnell Member Posts: 5
    Thank you, pthomas and USSbird! Thanks so much! 
  • lkc001lkc001 Member Posts: 661
    I know you said you don't really want a truck, however, my 2 cents. . . I had a Ford Escape before I purchased my Tab 320S.  I was planning on towing with it until I started doing the numbers.  Can it tow a 320S?  Yes.  Are you going to be pushing the limits of the vehicle in high mountains?  Yes, even though these trailers are light.  I loved my Ford Escape.  My family all live in Colorado so we mostly go to high altitude camping.  I traded for a low mileage, lightly used Nissan Frontier, Crew Cab SV 4x4, 6 cylinder with factory tow package which still had the factory warranty.  I added a tonneau cover.  I can say I have not ever  regretted my decision when I hook up and tow.  The Frontier tows easily even through the highest passes.  I tow with O/D OFF and it very very rarely has to hunt for a gear and even then only for a few seconds and very rarely jumps up to 4000 rpm.  I get almost the same fuel mileage towing as I do in-town driving--the Frontiers are not known for exceptionally good gas mileage--it's a trade off for me.  I feel much more confident in the towing AND BRAKING ability with the Nissan over the Escape.  Since you are planning to do heavy traveling, I would suggest looking at a large SUV or truck, IMHO.
    2016 Nissan Frontier SV V6 4x4
    Finally!  New Owner of a 2017 Tab 320S! 
  • DougHDougH Member Posts: 1,107
    edited June 15
    @Bethbritnell I used a BMW 328d station wagon for four years of 320 towing.  3950lb towing capacity / 350lb tongue weight / 2.0 liter / 4 cylinder / 280 ft-lbs torque.  Could not race up mountain grades at 60mph, but otherwise a very smooth experience (aside from an early problem with the aftermarket hitch).  40-55mpg when not towing. 20-30mpg when towing.

    As others have said, the number of cylinders doesn't matter.  3500/350 towing numbers at a minimum do. That and torque.  I like diesels, and wish someone made a diesel PHEV for even more efficiency and lower CO2 emissions, but the initial cost would be too high for the market to accept. A Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe PHEV might be interesting.

    Somewhere in Utah

    2021 Jeep Gladiator, 2021 tiny toy hauler, Austin TX
    Former steward of a 2017 [email protected] S Max

  • AaronCAaronC Member Posts: 56
    So let's inundate you with info!! It's fun and useful. Just the facts from our experience. We (spouse and I) tow our 16' 320 CSS with a 14' Ford Escape Titanium (Eccoboost 4 cyl. turbo) with factory tow package, rated for 3,500 lbs. Fantastic combination in all conditions EXCEPT steep mountain passes, (like I70 west of Denver) where avoiding overheating in 95 degree heat means using the flashers in the right lane, and keeping it to 10 mph. Otherwise, on a recent 3,700 mile trip through eight states (incl, NM, AZ, UT and CO) we averaged 17.1 mpg and had plenty of power. Doesn't feel marginal in the least. 
  • SusanDSusanD Member Posts: 27
    I have the 2019 Outback 2.5l.  I live in the mountains. I towed the 320 from BC to Ontario last year and will do the same this fall.  I had no trouble towing it but I was really cautious about pushing the engine up big mountain passes and I slowed down considerably - no worse than big trucks and mostly better.  I did manage to run out of gas once because I underestimated how much my fuel efficiency dropped and how few and far between gas stations can be. 

    I love to boondock but not when I'm on the road.  By having hookups, I didn't have to carry the weight of water and if I couldn't hook-up, I had 8 litres of water in the car.  My Outback was just fine for that trip but that's not really my plan over the long haul. 

    When I do it again, I'll probably get a van (not a minivan) so I can carry bikes, surfboards and wind gear and the Outback is really limiting.  Basically, the [email protected] is our house but the van is our storage locker. So, I'd just say, think about how you want to live your life and then decide what fits the bill.
    2021 Tab320S Boondock, 2019 Subaru Outback 2.5
  • CharlieRNCharlieRN Member Posts: 222
    edited July 2
    Folks often concentrate on the towing capacity of vehicles and overlook payload, something that is equally as important.
    There are a lot of SUV's with plenty of towing capacity to handle a [email protected] but that are marginal when it comes to payload. Two adults with luggage, plus camping gear plus the tongue weight of a camper pretty easily gets to 1,000 lbs, a not uncommon payload maximum, even for some mid-sized SUVs. That said, there are lots of mid-sized SUVs with 5,000+ lb towing capacity and payload maximums in the 1,500+ lb range.
    Since our TV is getting a bit long in the tooth, we're looking at replacements right now. All the vehicles we're considering have 6 cylinder powerplants, which while not a must, are a personal preference. The list includes the Highlander, Telluride, Pallisade, Pilot and Passport and possibly the new Pathfinder (sans CV transmission for 2022). If money were no object, I'd go for a BMW X-5 or the new Genesis GV-80, both with turbo sixes and a ton of creature comforts. If neither cost nor reliability are concerns, you could opt for the Volvo XC-90 - only an in-line 4, but both turbo and super-charged, so plenty of power.
    2021 [email protected] 320 S Boondock / 2008 XC-90 V8 Sport - Phillies Territory
  • jimrjjimrj Member Posts: 46
    Another option another is the Jeep brand. We tow a 320 with a v6 Cherokee. Many owners use a Grand Cherokee or a Gladiator. 
    Jim and Robin / 2021 320S / 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk / Oregon
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