Which all- or four-wheel-drive vehicle should we buy for the best gas mileage and mild towing?

We need a vehicle with four- or all-wheel drive for Maine winters, and it needs to pull a small boat (1,850 pounds) short distances.

J. L., Boston

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid seems to be the best tool for the job. With its standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine and all-wheel drive, the Highlander Hybrid earns EPA ratings of 28 mpg for city and highway driving, and it can tow up to 3,500 pounds, enough to handle your boat. The Lexus RX 450h, a luxury version of the Highlander, offers even better fuel economy with a city rating of 30 mpg, but it starts around $47,000, about $7,000 more than the Highlander Hybrid.


Your boat may only weigh 1,850 pounds, but you also have to consider the weight of the trailer and the weight of the people and cargo inside the vehicle when you assess how much towing capacity you need. All of that could come to close to 3,000 pounds, so you will probably need an SUV with a V-6 engine. For example, the all-wheel-drive Chevrolet Equinox with a four-cylinder engine has EPA ratings of 20/29 mpg city/highway, but it can tow only 1,500 pounds. V-6 models can tow up to 3,500 pounds, but fuel economy drops to 16/23 mpg.

The Honda Pilot is one of our highest-rated SUVs and was the Cars.com 2012 Family Car of the Year, and it also deserves consideration if you’re OK with EPA ratings of 17/24 mpg. The all-wheel-drive Pilot tows up to 4,500 pounds.

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Answered by Rick Popely on December 6, 2012 in What Car Should I Buy? | Permalink

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