Towing an Escape 21: 4Runner or Tacoma? - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 02-22-2014, 08:12 PM   #1
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Towing an Escape 21: 4Runner or Tacoma?

We have a 2011 Toyota 4Runner, with which we plan to tow the Escape 21' we've ordered. (We compared the 19' and 21' Escape closely and concluded that they are both great designs, but that the 21' is the right one for our particular needs).

Now that we are committed to the 21', reading the "Towing and Hitching" section of this forum has me thinking of an alternative tow vehicle if the 4Runner does not handle the 21' adequately, especially in mountain passes.

As a mid-sized, body-on-frame SUV, the 4Runner suits us very well for taking four adults on ski trips all winter, for logging road travel here on Vancouver Island, and for making town and highway trips year-round. Apart from towing, we really have no other reason to own a pickup truck, especially a full-sized one that won't fit in our garage.

In terms of rated towing capacity, the Toyota Tacoma pickup with the full tow package would seem to be our logical Plan B. When comparing the specifications of the two vehicles, though, it's not clear to me why the 4Runner is rated at 5000 pounds towing capacity, while the Tacoma's rating is 6400 pounds with the automatic transmission.

* The two vehicles seem to use the same 5-speed automatic transmission, with the same gear ratios.
* In Canada, both vehicles come with a hitch, a transmission fluid cooler, and pre-wiring for towing.
* The 4Runner produces 34 more horsepower--270 @ 5600rpm vs. 236 a@ 5200rpm.
* The 4Runner produces 12 pound/feet more torque--278 @ 4400rpm vs. 266 @ 4000rpm
* The 4Runner's curb weight is 473 pounds higher--4750 to 4277 pounds.
* The 4Runner's wheelbase is ~17.6 inches shorter--109.8 to 127.4 inches.
* The track and width are nearly identical.

My questions are:
1. The wheelbase of the Tacoma is 17.6" longer. How much of its higher tow rating would be due to the truck's extra length?
2. Am I correct to assume that the 473 pound weight difference would directly account for about one-third of the 1400 pound difference in towing capacity?
3. With their power and torque ratings so similar, would the Tacoma be able to pull the 21' up a steep grade any faster or with less strain than the 4Runner could?
4. What factor(s) am I missing that would see the Tacoma's tow capacity rated so much higher?
5. Would a state of the art WD hitch like an Andersen enable the 4Runner to tow near its capacity more safely? (NOT to tow more than its rated capacity).

The Escape website estimates the actual weight of the 21' at 4300 pounds, ready to camp (86% of the 4Runner's rated tow capacity, and 500 pounds more than the Escape 19'). We would try to keep the weight below that whenever we could by keeping tank volumes lower and not carrying non-essentials.

Before changing our order, we asked Reace how advisable he considered this tug and trailer combination, and he answered, "That would depend on your expectations regarding your towing experience." My towing expectations are as follows:
* to tow safely at all times;
* to be able to tow up mountain passes and at elevation while maintaining a speed that will not unduly inconvenience motorists behind us. Maintaining at least 80% of the posted speed limit on the steepest hills seems reasonable.

Thanks for any answers you can provide to these questions.
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Old 02-22-2014, 11:02 PM   #2
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I have a 19 foot and a 2011 V6 4x4 Short Bed Tacoma if you go over to The Tacoma Towing Bible - Tacoma World Forums it is a Tacoma specific towing thread. With that said I have towed mine some in the hills and would not want to do so regularly fuel mileage suffers greatly 9Mpg up hills , speed is ok but they were short grade hills nothing more then a 1/2 mile or so and not very steep. Some have replaced the stock transmission cooler with good result as the transmission fluid starts to break down at about 300 but it does depend on what fluid you run. Check with the folks towing in out in mountainous areas with a 19 foot see if they have more input.

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Old 02-22-2014, 11:36 PM   #3
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Bottom line, get out there and try it. The vehicle will handle the trailer, but it is a combination of what you carry as in the gross load, the trailer, the tow vehicle, the comfort/experience of the driver, and of course the roads you travel. I had a little 2WD Toyota 4 cylinder, 4 speed truck that I used to trailer a gross load of 4000 lbs. It pulled the hills as well if not better than a full sized North American 1/2 ton. Currently, I have a Tacoma, standard 6 speed, 4Wd that has no problems with a 17b. Slowed a little on the Coquihalla this fall but not unreasonably, and yes the milage drops when trailering, not really a surprise.
This spring, I will be testing the truck/trailer combo with a quad in the back. I'm not an ATV kind of guy but need it for some contract work that I am doing. I expect that that will probably be max for that combo. If it doesn't work out, I guess I will be trading up...
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Old 02-22-2014, 11:59 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Cypherian View Post
I have towed mine some in the hills and would not want to do so regularly fuel mileage suffers greatly 9Mpg up hills...
Instantaneous fuel consumption will always be high while climbing, since you are both overcoming drag and lifting the rig up the hill... just look at the number even without the trailer. If very little power is needed to go down the other side (because what goes up must come down), the overall effect is not so bad. I have found that fuel economy between Edmonton and Vancouver (which means crossing the width of British Columbia, which is largely mountains) is not much different from driving in the flatlands. The details do, of course, depend on vehicle, and my experience is with a van with and without a trailer, cars without trailers, and a motorhome... but not with any truck. While towing, it probably helps that our Sienna entirely cuts off fuel flow under engine braking on the descent; some vehicles don't do that (I noticed my Ford Focus of the same year didn't).
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Old 02-23-2014, 08:47 AM   #5
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Perhaps it would be better to defer your analysis until you get your 21. Try it with the 4Runner and, if you are satisfied with the result, you need do nothing further. If dissatisfied, you will know in which direction to go. In that event, and since you appear to be a Toyota devotee, I'd suggest looking at a Sequoia. We recently opted for one (to replace our FJ) and are well pleased. But I would have waited until we got our 21 had we been driving a 4Runner. Good luck.
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Old 02-23-2014, 08:56 AM   #6
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I am following Abbey's advice and waiting to tow the 21. I spent 21,000 miles towing the 19 without a weight distribution hitch. I have carefully measured the sag and will compare how the 21 handles with the 4Runner. Unfortunately, you do not have a comparison with my 4Runner, as it is a V8 and a bit older. I do not foresee having to change vehicles, only add the hitch.

I have run all the towing numbers and still come out with a 10% safety margin. Of course I had to use other peps trailer weights but they should be pretty close. So much depends on how you load and what you carry. What you have to watch is what you put in and on your tow vehicle.

I would not purchase a different tow because I had to drive slow going up those BC hills. That why there is a truck lane. But try it out first.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:02 AM   #7
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Cypherian brings up a good point, regardless of which tow vehicle you decide, I'd recommend using synthetic fluids in transmission, differentials and oil. Makes a world of difference in wear and tear. Also your 4 Runner, I believe has the same motor as my FJ Cruiser, it has the independent variable timing per cylinder and that causes the differential in specs. But my FJ, like your 4 Runner is topped out at 5000 lbs. Keep in mind these numbers are not the only ones you should be looking at, there are also GCCW and GCWC, carrying capacities as well as others. You mention carrying 4 adults in the 4Runner but if you carry 4 in the Taco with fuel and the tongue weight you may exceed the carrying capacity. Some truck owners feel if the bed is empty they can add firewood and chairs, hook up a 500# tongue weight, add people and fuel and they can end up overloading the vehicle.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:10 AM   #8
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Thanks for your replies, everyone.

Cypherian, that Towing Bible on the Tacoma site is an excellent resource for anyone who's starting out towing anything with any vehicle.

Buddy, we're looking forward to towing with the 4Runner, but can't do so until September. If the 'Runner handles the 21' adequately we'll keep it. I'm just trying figure out an alternative in case it doesn't. Abby, the full-sized Sequoia SUV would solve the problem, but we'd like to stay mid-sized if we can.

Brian B-P, like you I've noticed that during mountain travel fuel consumption pretty well balances out over the uphill and coasting sections. I know our gas usage will climb when we tow, but if that's part of the cost of bringing our home with us, we'll pay it.

Paul, we're trying to think like astronauts here in planning what to carry when we tow. The weight can sure add up fast. We're hoping the Andersen hitch will solve the stability issue, and mainly wonder about the hill-climbing power of the V6 when hauling two tons.

Jim, great tip regarding synthetic transmission and differential fluids. We will review the excellent threads on this site about the realities of carrying capacity. There will only be two of us traveling when towing, but we will do the math before adding extras like bikes and make the weight-conscious choices.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:15 AM   #9
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The FJ handled the Escape 19' quite well, with an andersen w/d hitch. Average gas was 13-14 mpg. Other than not being able to open the rear hatch while hooked up, I had no qualms. I have not towed the 21' with the FJ yet, soon as the snow melts will try it. The Ram hemi naturally handled the 21' without issue with mpg being in 11-12 range, course that number remains the same, towing or not with the Ram.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:31 AM   #10
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Thanks, Jim. I look forward to your impressions of towing the 21' with your FJ Cruiser, which is likely very close to the 4Runner in its towing characteristics.
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