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Old 02-22-2014, 07:12 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, 10:02 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, 10:36 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, 10:59 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, 07:47 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, 07:56 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, 08:02 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, 08:10 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, 08:15 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, 08:31 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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Old 02-23-2014, 10:39 AM   #11
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The difference in tow capacity between the two could be just the hitch. I investigated why my 2008 4Runner had a tow capacity of 5000 lbs where as the V8 version was 7200 lbs. Other than the obvious engine size the power output from both was almost identical, and since I was towing well under the 5000 lb anyway.

It turned out the V8 version has a full width hitch that is bolted to the side frame rails, whereas the V6 has a small hitch block that is just bolted to the rear cross member.

You can see the difference here, the original is on the left:


And here is the installed difference
Before:


After:
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Old 02-23-2014, 11:34 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Catchlight View Post
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.
So I agree with this...
Quote:
Originally Posted by abby View Post
... since you appear to be a Toyota devotee, I'd suggest looking at a Sequoia.
Just as the 4Runner is the SUV in the Toyota range most comparable to the Tacoma, the Sequoia is the equivalent to the Tundra. In fact, they are largely the same vehicle (but the Sequoia has an independent rear suspension). If length is the garage issue with a larger truck, the Sequoia might be an option. If width is the garage issue, then the Sequoia will be out just as the Tundra would be.
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Old 02-23-2014, 11:39 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Catchlight View Post
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.
In general, tow ratings have little to do with anything other drivetrain reliability and rear suspension capacity; however, Toyota is the one manufacturer which has been following the industry-developed SAE J2807 standard for towing capacity rating... so there might be an element of stability considered in the ratings. At a guess, perhaps the greater load transfer to the rear axle with the 4Runner's shorter wheelbase, combined with different rear suspensions, makes rear axle rating the key.

There are so many factors that it is often difficult to identify the determining factor in differences in ratings.
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Old 02-23-2014, 11:41 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
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.
Excellent point.

As for the similarity of the FJ Cruiser and 4Runner: yes, both are based on the Prado chassis (although different generations), are very similar in design, and share drivetrain components as expected within one manufacturer's line of products. As always, the little details can make significant differences.
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Old 02-23-2014, 11:45 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Ian G View Post
The difference in tow capacity between the two could be just the hitch. I investigated why my 2008 4Runner had a tow capacity of 5000 lbs where as the V8 version was 7200 lbs. Other than the obvious engine size the power output from both was almost identical, and since I was towing well under the 5000 lb anyway.

It turned out the V8 version has a full width hitch that is bolted to the side frame rails, whereas the V6 has a small hitch block that is just bolted to the rear cross member.
Interesting comparison - thanks Ian.

I would not assume that a hitch which bolts onto the crossmember is inferior, since that crossmember could be much stronger (in its structure, and in its integration to the frame rails) than the separate hitch receiver frame. For one thing, they are likely different alloys of steel. I tend to trust Toyota more than Cequent in both design and execution, although neither is perfect and both can do good work.
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Old 02-23-2014, 11:56 AM   #16
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We used to have a 2004 4Runner 6cyl, I bought it as it came with a factory hitch and wiring installed good for 5000# and 500#tongue. Dealer told me, and it was in the owners manual, you can tow up to 6400# but to do that you should have the V8, upgrade the hitch and add a good oil cooler. The images above showed you the two different hitches. I don't think you'll have much trouble with the 4Runner, but as many have said just try it first and see how you feel. Definitely noted a difference on gas mileage, sweet spot was about 95 to 100kph where we could easily get about 17mpg Cdn, speed up and it dropped to about 14mpg Cdn.
We get our 19 about the same time you get your 21, enjoy the experience.
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Old 02-23-2014, 02:08 PM   #17
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Thanks for the whack of useful information, everyone.

Ian G., I'll be underneath the 4Runner later today with a flashlight seeing what the factory hitch is connected to, and how.

Brian B-P, your comments make me realize the V8 Sequoia would be a better Plan B than the Tacoma, although I'll stick with the smaller 4Runner if it tows the 21' reasonably well in the mountains.

Astrobuff, I've noticed the 4Runner's 95 to 100 km/hr sweet spot for gas mileage when not towing. I assume it could still be the most fuel efficient speed when towing.
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Old 02-23-2014, 08:43 PM   #18
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I think Reace's comment "That would depend on your expectations regarding your towing experience" is bang on. I think either V6 SUV or pickup would do the job with towing capacity of 5,000 lbs + the V6 being a fair compromise between towing performance and everyday use. I would consider a V8 SUV or truck if I have more towing in the mountains with this size of trailer, full water tanks, few extra's brought along and a vehicle not used everyday in the city.
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Old 02-24-2014, 01:34 PM   #19
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We have a 2012 4runner for our soon to be picked up 17B, so we are in a different league.

You might want to check out this site and thread:
HEAVIEST load towed with 4Runner - Page 4 - Toyota 4Runner Forum - Largest 4Runner Forum

There is some good reading in the thread and there is a lot of recommendations to add a transmission cooler for heavier loads. We are planning on putting a transmission cooler in our rig before we pickup our 17B just to give our transmission a break on long climbs.
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Old 02-24-2014, 05:04 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by smilycook View Post
We are planning on putting a transmission cooler in our rig before we pickup our 17B just to give our transmission a break on long climbs.
I have a suggestion: add just a transmission temperature gauge first, to see if there is anything to fix. If you do decide to go ahead with extra cooling, the gauge and that first bit of experience will let you evaluate how well the added cooler is working.

Extra coolers are extra potential leak points, and if not bypassed when cold they keep the transmission from warming up properly (yes, too cold is bad, too).

I have a motorhome, with a transmission temperature gauge. It is equipped to run under heavy load all of the time (it's like a heavy-duty pickup with a permanently attached large trailer), so Ford gave it a substantial transmission cooler as standard equipment, so the transmission temperature behaves like an engine coolant temperature gauge: runs up to a normal operating point, then stays planted there as the system works, despite changes in speed and grade. If I had added a cooler, there would have been zero benefit to justify the cost and risk.
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