VW Atlas or Subaru Ascent?

Discussion in 'Tow Vehicles, Hitch & Towing' started by StarSeven7, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. StarSeven7

    StarSeven7 Member

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    OP here again. After doing a lot of research, I’m a bit scared off by some negative reviews I’ve read of the VW Atlas and I’m not sure the CVT on the Subaru Ascent will be great for towing (even though my friend who has one towed their popup over the summer and thought it handled great). So I think we’ll continue to look at other brands. We really liked the Toyota Highlander but it wasn’t really bigger than our Hyundai Santa Fe despite having a 3rd row. We plan to own this vehicle still when our kids are teenagers so we need to keep their growing size in mind. The 2020 Highlanders come out in January here in Canada and those are supposed to be a bit larger so we’ll probably wait to check that out.

    Also, after really thinking it through, I’m not sure if a TT is right for us. I’m nervous about driving one and gas mileage is a definite concern for us. Most of the places we camp we’re perfectly happy in our popup and there are just occasional times when we think it would be nice to have a TT. So maybe we’ll just look into renting one for those every few year trips if we really feel it’s necessary. Then we don’t have to deal with storage since we keep our popup in our garage. But we might look into upgrading our popup to one with a bit more storage (we would love a front storage compartment!) and that would also weigh more than our current popup so I think the 5000 lb. towing capacity is still necessary.
     
  2. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    I second checking out the 4Runner. Some models do have an option for a 3 row seating and what I love is it doesn't drive like a truck. Even has an awesome turning radius. With
    that said I would not want to tow much more than 3500 with it. Payload is still pretty low though so you do have to play with your numbers. My 4 runner is going on 200k miles and the only big repair was the catalytic converter. It's still going strong. I'm now seeing more and more repairs now due to age and the fact it's in the weather 24/7. The biggest surprise for me is how much more expensive taxes are on it and maintenance costs are higher just because it's classified as a truck.
     
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  3. 1380ken

    1380ken Well-Known Member

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    You really can't rely on a friends assessment of a car company. All cars have issues. Currently at my work there are two people with 3 year old Subarus and the AC doesn't work in either car. Another friend of mine has a Toyota pick up that is having issues with the driveshaft. Another guy at work had a honda civic that had rear trailing arms that would cause the tires to wear out and his AC compressor went bad and his engine had to be replaced for a cracked block.
     
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  4. WVhillbilly

    WVhillbilly Well-Known Member

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    Nearly anything that is going to have much towing capability is going to drive like a truck, because it's going to be truck based.
    New Explorers are Taurus platform I think, older ones were Ranger. New ones are rated at 5K with tow package.

    I think towing with a CVT trans is just asking to give it an early death, some of them don't hold up well under normal driving and towing is just going to add stress and heat which are transmission killers.

    My 4Runner tows our 2300lb (dry) pop up just fine, I wouldn't want to tow at the 5K rating, or even 4K.
    If you want to tow a TT you're looking at a truck or full size (truck based) SUV.

    Wife's Armada tows like a champ, (8400 tow rating I think) and gets good mileage doing it.
    It also has a 3rd row that you can actually use and is built very well.

    But it's not cheap, and it's truck based.

    You just need to weigh your vehicle wants/needs against your towing needs and your budget.
     
  5. Minimalist

    Minimalist Active Member

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    I wouldn't get hung up an what technology is used. CVTs are used in commercial vehicles and hold up just fine. It's the implementation that matters.
     
  6. rjhammetter

    rjhammetter Husband, Dad, Engineer & Camper

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    OP, I'm glad you're doing your due diligence on this. It's nice to see intelligence prevail in our society which often lacks it.

    -A truck is a body-on-frame. These are typically (not always) larger vehicles with more space that tow more weight and haul more people, but they typically (not always) ride more harshly and consume more gas during everyday driving. These will be your best towing experience. There aren't a lot of Asian trucks. Like I said, Tacoma/4runner, Tundra/Sequoia, GX, Landcruiser/LX. Titan/Armada/QX56/QX80. Americans like Yukon/Suburban, Expedition and most Jeeps. Nothing Honda, Subaru, Hyundai or Kia in this category, and few Euro except maybe Mercedes G SUVs. Tow capacities here typically around 8000 all the way up to a house. That's what these guys mean by truck based or truck platform.

    -A unibody is an integrated frame/body, which is every other SUV you will find. Most makers migrated this way due ride quality and gas mileage, the Explorer and Durango being the quintessential examples of former trucks that are now, for all intents and purposes, cars. Everything Honda, Subaru, VW, plus Highlander, Traverse/Acadia and minivans fall here. Tow capacities typically around 5000, but some less (minivans like 3500) and some more (somehow Dodge is getting 7000 out of the Durango). GCWR is the key here. Every vehicle has one - that's the weight of the vehicle with passengers plus cargo and the trailer fully loaded.

    You have to ask your salesguy about GCWR for tow capacity. I don't know what the Ascent is. I'll borrow my Odyssey, which is 8500lbs. This is the rating of the van, its passengers, cargo and a trailer in tow combined. Odyssey curb weight is 4500lbs. Add a family, gear, gas and fluids makes it more like 5500lbs (you'd be surprised how fast this adds up). So my trailer should only be 3000lbs. But the published tow capacity is 3500lbs. What gives? Tow capacity for unibodies are typically based on one driver and gas, no passengers, no cargo (no one drives like that), so it's often misleading. You have to watch the tongue weight too. If it's more than 10% or you get a lot of sag, you may need weight distribution. I have it and love it. It helps. If you plan to tow a TT with a vehicle loaded up with three rows of people and their gear, you definitely need to subtract the weight from tow capacity. It won't be anywhere near what is published.

    Don't be afraid of towing a TT. It just feels like a parachute, requires more stopping distance and tops your speed at 60-65 comfortably. I do it with an Odyssey just fine. MPG drops from 21 normal to like 12 towing.

    I personally wouldn't tow anything with a CVT. I feel like that is asking for additional belt wear, friction, slippage and issues.
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
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  7. StarSeven7

    StarSeven7 Member

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    Thanks! That’s really helpful, I’ll check out GCWR on any vehicle we look at!

    As I said upthread, a truck is not an option for us nor do we want a large SUV like a Suburban. If we have to choose between a larger TV or keeping a popup, we will 100% choose the popup. We absolutely love camping and we look forward to it every year but we also do different types of travel throughout the year so we’re not looking to sink all of our money into camping costs whether that be a larger TV or an expensive trailer. Just like I don’t want to buy a cottage because then the only place I would go on vacation would be the cottage! We’re going on a cruise in January and most likely a 2 week trip to the UK next fall in addition to our camping trips over the summer. This lifestyle is one that we really enjoy so we are willing to make concessions with our camping equipment in order to make the rest of lifestyle work!
     
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  8. rjhammetter

    rjhammetter Husband, Dad, Engineer & Camper

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    We are the exact same way. We can only camp so much annually given our vacation time and to us, exploring with camper > cottage. Our Odyssey and mini TT check the boxes for us rather than spending $$$ upgrading everything. If I were in your shoes, I'd check Highlander and 4runner, Pilot (even though you said you don't like), Pathfinder, Acadia, Explorer and Flex. Maybe QX60, MDX and GX too (just to see if they're worth it).
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2019
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  9. StarSeven7

    StarSeven7 Member

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    We went to a private campground near Gatlinburg this summer because it fit what we needed best but we typically prefer to camp in state parks. We were one of 2 popups in the campground and everyone else had these HUGE trailers and the gigantic trucks to tow them with. We were amazed and just how much money those people must have invested in their trailers and TV! My DH was like "Can we afford more than I think we can?" (we're both very frugal!) and then we decided nope, those people probably just decided to invest ALL their vacation money into their camping equipment! [LOL]
     
  10. rjhammetter

    rjhammetter Husband, Dad, Engineer & Camper

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    Seriously! [LOL] We can't help but talk about that same thing sitting in our bag chairs around the fire. I honestly suspect that a) it's all their fun money b) their $70k HD trucks are on 7 year loans and c) their $50k 32' 5W are on 10 or 15 year loans. Makes it affordable. [?:~{][:D]
     
  11. StarSeven7

    StarSeven7 Member

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    Ugh, makes me sad for them!!! I remember when we bought our current vehicle, 10 years ago, we test drove a Ford Edge (I think, definitely a Ford) and the salesguy kept telling us it was $xxx per month so it's really affordable! We had to ask him several times to give us the overall price, not the price per month, and finally he showed us and it was a 7 year loan and the final price was about $10,000 more than the Santa Fe we ended up buying! No thanks!
     
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  12. billbillbillbill

    billbillbillbill Active Member

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    I have had the GMC Acadia as a rental car a few times and really liked it. Chevy Traverse is the same car but different style/badges. They tow 5000#. The latest model shrunk the back seat to only fit 2 but the previous version was a bit roomier. If I hadn't gotten the truck, that was what we would have bought to pull our popup.
     
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  13. WVhillbilly

    WVhillbilly Well-Known Member

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    Yep, they are built for the truck. Car transmission is built for the car, not the car trailer and camping gear.
    We've had one car with a CVT, the transmission was the only thing I didn't like about it.
     
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  14. Raycfe

    Raycfe Waterford Ct.

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    I couldn't find much info about CVTs used in trucks. Could you help?
     
  15. Minimalist

    Minimalist Active Member

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    I said commercial vehicles, not trucks.
     
  16. 1380ken

    1380ken Well-Known Member

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    I don't think many commercial vehicles have a CVT. Maybe a golf cart or a snowmobile. I don't think they can handle to torque of a diesel engine.
     
  17. Raycfe

    Raycfe Waterford Ct.

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    That’s my point also. Trucks don’t have CVT s.
    I always thought that my CDL. Would let me drive trucks.
     
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  18. Minimalist

    Minimalist Active Member

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  19. WVhillbilly

    WVhillbilly Well-Known Member

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    Now farmers can't even drive a standard shift.
    What's the world coming to? [:D]
     
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  20. rjhammetter

    rjhammetter Husband, Dad, Engineer & Camper

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    I guess CVTs in tractors make sense since they typically crawl at low speeds. As far as I know, CVTs really started in snowmobiles, where they existed for decades (like the 1960s?) as a niche transmission. Then they migrated to golf carts and mopeds (since the 1980s?). Then someone (in the late 2000s maybe?) had the idea to start implementing them in cars. I was unaware until this thread that they can now be found in SUVs (Ascent apparently).

    This thread has already been hijacked, so I'll ask this... has anyone towed with a CVT? Like I said earlier, I just have a feeling that will go badly. The whole premise of a CVT is a chain or belt between V gears, which allows the final drive speed to adjust with engine revolutions. Pulling a trailer, especially a TT and its wind resistance, behind a CVT, I can only imagine the buildup of heat, friction and belt/chain wear. Do they make tranny coolers for CVTs?

    I know how hard my engine and tranny work together to pull a trailer. The engine typically cruises well on level terrain, but revs high, often above 4-5k rpms, when the tranny downshifts one or two gears based on wind or road incline. That's just to maintain 60-65mph. We get about 12mpg towing. But at least our tranny has gears. Besides pulling the extra load, the only work it has to do shift between gears. A CVT would be constantly slipping and battling with all that load on the belt/chain.
     

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