Santa Fe XL, Sorento, or Explorer for towing a hybrid camper

Discussion in 'Tow Vehicles, Hitch & Towing' started by GreenEnvy22, Nov 25, 2021.

  1. GreenEnvy22

    GreenEnvy22 Member

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    Hi all,
    We've been popup campers for several years now and are going to be moving up to a hybrid camper. We love the popup style beds to keep all that floorspace available inside, and the fact that it's so much less work packing up/down. Plus then we can use it year round in the driveway, kids will be happy (using internal beds).

    Anyway, our Grand Caravan isn't going to cut it for towing a hybrid, so we're looking for a new tow vehicle.
    The hybrids were looking at are around 3000lbs, so want a vehicle that can tow 5000. Also needs to seat at least 6.

    We've got it narrowed down to a 2014-2017 Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Kia Sorento, Ford Explorer.

    I also like the Toyota highlander, but that is probably out of budget. I also like the ford Flex (we had it's predecessor the Freestyle and loved that car) but it maxes out at 4500 which I think would be cutting it too close by the time you add people/stuff. Honda Pilot is nice too, but also 4500/450 max.


    I'm mostly leaning towards the Santa Fe XL. The XL is the longer wheelbase version of the Santa Fe. With the v6 and AWD it's rated for 5000lbs and 500lb tongue weight. It's got great reliability scores and is pretty roomy.
    The Kia is mechanically mostly the same, same engine/transmission and chassis, but it's 9" shorter overall (same size as Santa Fe Sport). It also is harder to find one rated for 5000lbs, I've seen conflicting reports on the 2014/2015 models between 3500 and 5000. Both vehicles always have a transmission cooler on the v6 AWD models.
    The Ford Explorer of that era is similar size to the Santa Fe XL, a couple inches longer. Engine power is the same (290HP for all 3 vehicles), fuel economy is also almost the same. These seem harder to find once you exclude all the ex-police units, which I am not interested in.

    Anyone have thoughts on these or have one of them now that can comment on how they like it?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Annunzi

    Annunzi Active Member

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    Personally, I wouldn't be comfortable towing a full size hybrid with any of those options.

    You'd be getting pretty close to the tow limits and it's important to remember that towing a full size trailer is a lot different than towing a pop up camper even if they have the same weight. The biggest difference being the additional wind resistance and sway with the hybrid.

    I have a 2017 Volvo XC90 with a towing capacity of 5000 pounds and it tows our Rockwood HW77 very well (GVWR 3900 pounds). However, I would not be comfortable towing a hybrid trailer with the same weight given the increased wind resistance and additional sway.

    I believe most folks on here tow their hybrids with 1/2 tonne pickups or large SUVS like the Expedition.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2021
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  3. GreenEnvy22

    GreenEnvy22 Member

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    Thanks Annuzi.
    We're definitely not looking for a large hybrid, maybe a 17-19 foot. I'm seeing those well under 3000lbs dry, obviously more with people/stuff/tanks, but still should be under 4000lbs I think.
    We're not doing back country camping or anything, just provincial parks, so we're not driving with loaded water tanks.
    Your point about the increased wind/drag is certainly very true, we'll keep that in mind. I've seen a ton of small hybrids and travel trailers being pulled by SUV's in this size range though.
    Something larger for a TV just isn't in the cards. We want something still fairly fuel efficient for the 330 days a year we're not camping. Pickups aren't good for us either with 3 kids. I know they could fit 3 across in the back, but that would be unpleasant for all involved (fighting).
    There are some ford explorers that can go upto 7000lb ratings, but I'll have to do some research into what options were required for that. Probably not too common.
     
  4. Sjm9911

    Sjm9911 Well-Known Member

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    I think the problem you will have is running out of payload on the tv. So, add up the people and gear in the tv, plus the toung weight and add on for a wdh, and see if that number is under your payload number. And I will bet the weight of the hybrid you get will be 750 to 1000 lbs when loaded over the dry weight. Everything adds weight and some isn't calculated into the figure, like batteries (40 lbs), propane ( 40 lbs), you will also always have some water in the tanks even if not full, so add 90 lbs( this number is from having like 1.5 gallons in each waste tank and the water heater full, so its reasonable), etc. It adds up fast.

    I have an older santa fe, and wouldn't tow the pop up with it. It wasnt a xl, but i did think about it. Good luck in the search.
     
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  5. TSQ

    TSQ Active Member

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    I agree, especially if you are planning to tow with six people in the vehicle.
     
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  6. Annunzi

    Annunzi Active Member

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    You could also consider something like the Jeep Grand Cherokee; the gas V6 can tow 6,200 pounds and they also offer a 3.0 litre diesel that can tow 7,200 pounds. I'm not sure about the reliability of that model, but the 3.0 litre diesel would give you the towing power you need along with good fuel economy.
     
  7. TSQ

    TSQ Active Member

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    While the Jeeps have a higher towing capacity, unfortunately I believe they have an even lower payload capacity than the Sante Fe XL.

    My neighbour has a Grand Cherokee that they tow a relatively large trailer with, but there are only two of them in the vehicle.

    GreenEnvy22: do you need to tow with six people in the vehicle? Or just have the capability of moving six people when you are not towing?
     
  8. GreenEnvy22

    GreenEnvy22 Member

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    Would only have 5 in the car while towing (2 adults, 12, 10, 3 year old). The 6/7 capacity is mostly to keep the kids separated, and give flexibility for carpooling to sports and the like.
    Santa Fe XL payload capacity is about 1600 lbs. So add our weights up and 400lbs for the tongue weight, and we're at about 1100lbs. That will go up as the kids age but still some room to grow. The eldest will probably age out of wanting to camp with us in a few years :)
    Usually all we have with us in the car is some blankets and snacks. We keep the food and clothes in the trailer.

    So yea not a ton of room, but I think manageable, payload wise.

    Grand Cherokee doesn't have 3rd row (2021 does but not looking new).
     
  9. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

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    Have you looked at the payload sticker in the particular Santa Fe you are considering or quoting 1600 lbs from the manufacturer?. If so that number is the max. Finding a vehicle with the max is rare.
     
  10. GreenEnvy22

    GreenEnvy22 Member

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    Just going by specs online. I'll review the sticker on any potential vehicle, because yea the equipment options will affect the curb weight so would reduce the payload.
     
  11. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    Not sure where you live, but if your looking at towing in the mountains you probably won't be happy with the setup. I have a Toyota 4 runner 5000 capacity and tow a 3500 popup. Smooth sailing everywhere except in the mountains. My vehicle is working hard in the mountains. Although with the popup it's still doable I know for sure it would really hate me if I was towing a camper with a much higher wind drag in addition to the weight/wind in the mountains. Law of physics comes into play a lot when you tow especially in the mountains. Those 3500 pounds+ wind drag+ 6% + grade hill that weight is going to feel way way heavier. Especially if your having to slow way down to manage curves going down as you lost all your momentum to go up. Just something to keep in mind.
     
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  12. GreenEnvy22

    GreenEnvy22 Member

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    Not a ton of big hills where we are (Southern Ontario, Niagara region). We usually camp within about 6 hours driving, and at most we're going up or down a couple hundred foot hills.
    If we were going to travel out west, I'd probably look into renting a vehicle for towing that far, because yea, those mountains would not be good.
     
  13. TSQ

    TSQ Active Member

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    Sounds like the Santa Fe XL might be a good option then. Maybe browse a Santa Fe forum and look for towing threads.

    edit: make sure it has a towing prep packing if applicable.

    And keep in mind trailer tongue weight always ends up higher than advertised - weigh before you buy if you can (a full 20lb tank of propane weighs ~40 lbs and a group 24 battery weighs ~60 lbs).
     
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  14. Snow

    Snow Well-Known Member

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    Before you get too set on a vehicle.. what is the trailers GVWR? This is the more important weight number then dry weight ( which depending on year of manufacturer has 2 completely different meanings), I'll be happy to explain around a campfire next season..

    Look for a vehicle that can handle the GVWR of the trailer.
     
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  15. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    .
    I agree that one needs to look at GVWR on a camper it is also extremely critical to not max payload on a tow vehicle. So he also needs to take the Gross tongue weight from the max payload numbers on a tow vehicle. One could be way past max payload if they only looked at GVWR. There are a couple single axle 3500 GVWR hybrids that he “may” be able use. No way could he tow a 4500-5000 GVWR unit with a mid weight truck/suv even though technically on paper it falls within specs.
     
  16. GreenEnvy22

    GreenEnvy22 Member

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  17. popup-flyer

    popup-flyer Active Member

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    I know on the explorer there is a "maximum surface area" for the front of what you are towing. Check that against what you want to tow as well.
     
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  18. GreenEnvy22

    GreenEnvy22 Member

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    We purchased a 2014 Santa Fe XL AWD, only 88,000km on it.
    So 5000lb and 500lb tongue. we'll keep the loaded weight below 80% of that with whatever camper we get.
    I know frontage/surface area is going to be an issue, I don't see how any travel trailers or hybrid trailers can meet the recommended, even though brochures of those vehicles show them towing that type of trailer. Most are 8ft wide, and about 9 ft tall, but only about 7ft of that is the trailer (ground clearance and a bit for the AC on top), so I'd guess about 56 ft.
    We'll stick to 80-90kph roads for the most part, and probably only go 90 on the freeway (100 max here anyway).
    Now onto the hunt for a hybrid camper. I thought I got a great deal on the weekend, a 2008 Palomino Antigua. Only $4500. It had some water in the storage bin at the front, which I'd have needed to fix, but nothing in the living compartment. In the hour I was waiting for my wife to get off work and reply, it sold. Doh!
     
  19. davekro

    davekro Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    We have a 2017 Kia Sorento and love it, but tow much smaller and lighter than your soon-to-be hybrid. Given all three of your potential vehicles, you made the best choice. The deciding factor for me would have been the 6" longer wheel-base. I don't have a clue of the percentage of additional 'wind moveage' stability it adds, but it would add some, which is a major factor towing a trailer vs. the lower wind surface pop-up trailer. [edit] Just remembering that heavier TV weight increases stability to not be 'wagged' by the trailer as much. Good choice!

    Our shopping experience to enter towing a trailer was similar to yours. Decide on what trailer size and style we want after considering all options (storage, ease of trailering, amenities we need, TT vs. PUP). I wanted the TV capacity to be well over any possible trailer we'd considered's GVWR. With just two of us and 2 tiny dogs, we were happy with a 10' box PUP (1600 dry/2200max). With ≈ 1900lbs loaded, we are at ≈40% of TV capacity. I would have felt safe tow wise going with a larger trailer, but ultimately, being able to fit it in my garage or side yard storage (where it mostly lives). Also, that just the two of us actually preferred the 10' size over the 12' box PUP. Obviously with a family... size matters! ;)

    Good luck shopping for a hybrid that is a good fit for your family. Our PUP shopping was late summer 2019, so summer prior to Covid. Like you are finding, I read now your best chance is to have the max cash you 'might' need in an envelope at home, you and DW are clear on what features you can and can't skip, agree on degree of 'fixer-upness' that is possibly acceptable, and any other criteria important to you, be combing CL and Facebook marketplace (I hear it's a good option, but never been there), and be ready to call, then go there ASAP (like now ;). Have agreement with DW that you're both ready to pull the trigger fast. You can FaceTime or Duo as you inspect the trailer if she can't go see it immediately. It's like last second bidding on eBay... an adrenaline rush.

    Good luck sir.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2021
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  20. Dingit

    Dingit Well-Known Member

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    There are a few 7' wide hybrids out there. They tend to be lighter (of course). :p
     

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