The Four-Wheelers' Guide To Getting Hitched
It's difficult to imagine, but there was once a time when fullsize trucks and SUVs were looked upon askance by four-wheeling purists. Conventional wisdom said that if you were going to go off road, then you should drive your rig to the trail and then drive it back home again later. To do otherwise (ie. to tow) was considered somehow...weak - like towing your Harley to Sturgis. It simply wasn't done. How times have changed.
Today, towing your trail rig behind a truck or SUV is commonplace. This is due in part to the fact that so many in the sport include their families when they head out for a trail and simply need more space than a small two-seater allows. Also, technology has allowed us to build trail rigs that are so competent off road that they are either no longer comfortable for long highway drives or are no longer street legal. Either way, towing is here to stay.
Consider the advantages: Fullsize trucks and SUVs are roomy, comfortable, and available with nearly any amenity you can imagine, from leather interiors and captains chairs with lumbar support to CD changers and power everything. You could actually drive for 8 or 10 hours with all your gear in tow and arrive at your destination still feeling like hitting the trail. And if you have children riding along, then you know there is no such thing as too much room.
Beyond the comfort factor, though, is the more practical side of fullsize trucks and SUVs. People may want them to be as comfortable as sedans, but they still want them to haul and tow like real trucks. Fortunately, Detroit has not forsaken us. Many of these vehicles have towing capacities that reach upward of 10,000 pounds or more and can be equipped with complete towing packages direct from the factory or through aftermarket manufacturers. There is virtually no trail rig that can't be hooked up and towed along with ease.
Adding to these options are the dozens of possible configurations that will literally let you build the tow vehicle you need. New, more powerful diesel engines are now available along with big V-8 and V-10 powerplants that produce enormous torque and horsepower. Add to that the spate of new body styles currently available - two door, four door; extended cab, quad cab; longbed, shortbed - and nearly every contingency can be covered. Of course, if you go with a truck, you also have the option of putting on a camper, which adds a whole other level of convenience.
Because we had never pitted a fullsize truck against a fullsize SUV in a head-to-head test, we decided it was time. So we took a 2000 Chevrolet Suburban 1500 4x4 and a 2000 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4, loaded them down with camera gear, tires, and other equipment, and set out for Moab, Utah, for the Easter Jeep Safari. In tow were a Nissan Xterra and a Jeep YJ Wrangler, both on dual-axle trailers. The nearly 2,000-mile trip gave us the opportunity to really see how the vehicles handled and performed under tow, and on the following pages you will find our observations and opinions, as well as the results of our vehicle tests.