Which SUV is fuel efficient and can tow 5,000 pounds?

I need to buy a new SUV, but I have a double problem. I drive a 2009 Chevrolet Equinox with 182,000 miles on it. I tow a pop-up trailer but want to upgrade to a larger camper that weighs around 5,000 pounds; I drive an average 300 to 600 miles per day, so I need the best gas mileage as well as towing power. Any suggestions?

Dave G., Seabrook, N.H.

Fuel economy and towing capability are almost polar opposites because to get one you will probably have to compromise on the other.


Among the most efficient SUVs that can tow 5,000 pounds or more are the BMW X5 xDrive 35d (19/26 mpg city/highway), the Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec 4Matic (20/28 mpg) and the Volkswagen Touareg TDI (20/29). All are diesel powered and none are cheap. Starting prices are $48,320 for the Touareg TDI, $52,175 for the ML350 and $57,595 for the X5.

If you're willing to sacrifice some fuel economy, you can tow 5,000 pounds or more with gas-powered SUVs such as the Toyota Highlander (18/24), Chevrolet Traverse (17/24), Ford Explorer (17/24) or Dodge Durango (16/23), which all can be well-equipped for less than $35,000.

Note that all the SUVs listed here are with six-cylinder engines. Though some are available with four-cylinder engines, they won't have the 5,000-pound towing capacity you desire.

In plotting your strategy, you should know how much towing capacity you will need before you buy a new SUV. If your new trailer weighs 5,000 pounds, you should buy a vehicle with greater towing capacity than that to be safe. You not only need to consider the weight of the trailer and its contents but also the weight of the occupants and cargo that will ride inside the tow vehicle.

The Cars.com Vehicle Recommender can help you sort through the dozens of SUV models to find the ones that meet your towing needs and satisfy your desire for fuel efficiency.

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Answered by Rick Popely on May 6, 2013 in What Car Should I Buy? | Permalink

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