2012 Tow Vehicles
March 16, 2012
Filed under Tow Vehicles
You could say that 2012 is a rebuilding year, one of step-by-step improvement instead of groundbreaking technology. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to report; through sagging sales, rising gas prices and an undulating economy, domestic and foreign automakers have still managed to make 2012 exciting with greater capacity, more features and enhanced capability. So if you’re looking for a new tow vehicle, this could still be your year.
As usual, we’re only going to cover vehicles from major manufacturers that have undergone meaningful changes with potential to improve your towing/outdoor experience — a new paint scheme or different wheels won’t cut it.
Chrysler 2012 Tow Vehicles
The freshly renovated Ram 1500 continues to improve for 2012 with a new six-speed automatic transmission with Electronic Range Select and a new, more efficient torque converter. A segment-exclusive coil spring, multilink rear suspension promises car-like ride and handling, and the 5.7-liter HEMI engine now produces 390 hp and 407 lb-ft of torque, along with 20-mpg highway mileage. Tow ratings for the Ram 1500 reach more than 10,000 pounds in some configurations.
The days of three or four trim levels are also gone. For 2012, the Ram 1500 is offered in 11 models: Tradesman, Express, Outdoorsman, ST, SLT, Sport, Sport R/T, Lone Star, Big Horn, Laramie and Laramie Longhorn, all of which are available with a factory spray-in bedliner. Other cool available features include the highly touted Rambox, in-floor storage bins, and segment firsts like surround sound audio, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats. Standard safety features include ABS, stability control, Hill Start Assist and trailer-sway control.
If you work as hard as you play, the new Tradesman HD model may be of particular interest to you. It boasts an 11,500-pound maximum trailer rating and a 3,100-pound payload, more than any other half-ton truck, according to Chrysler. However, it’s only available one way: 4×2, regular cab with an 8-foot bed. The Ram 2500 and 3500 models may not have as much to report, but what they offer is still significant.
The standard HEMI gas V-8 gets a new six-speed automatic transmission; and the available 6.7-liter Cummins engine pounds out 350 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque, yet meets 50-state emissions requirements without the need for that pesky diesel exhaust fluid. It also comes with a standard exhaust brake. And a new Ram 3500 Max Tow package features a 22,750-pound trailer rating.
Just in case you are wondering … the Dakota is no longer with us.
Ford 2012 Tow Vehicles
The crown jewel of Ford, the F-150, enters 2012 with several new technologies and driveline upgrades beginning with Hill Start Assist. The addition of neutral tow capability on all 4×4 models makes them easier to flat-tow. An optional electronic locking rear axle replaces most of the limited slip offerings on the 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 5.0-liter engines, and is available on both 2WD and 4WD models in a range of gear ratios. A 36-gallon fuel tank will be available on F-150 EcoBoost models. And last year’s electronic shift-on-the-fly has been replaced with a two-speed automatic 4×4 system on Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum trim levels. The system still features four-high and four-low modes, but now also offers a 4×4 auto mode.
As for visual enhancements, the F-150 is now available with an FX appearance package on both FX4 and FX2 trucks. Featuring flat black accents, unique badges and exclusive interior treatments, the most noticeable feature of the FX package is likely to be its flat black, six-spoke, 20-inch wheels. An FX luxury package now offers cooled front seats, which combine with the previously available heated seats. The off-road ready F-150 SVT Raptor gets a new Torsen front differential, and a class-exclusive, front camera that will enable off-road drivers to see what’s in front of them, even when the driver’s view might be blocked. Depending on the powertrain combination, tow ratings for the F-150 can go as high as 11,300 pounds.
The F-Series Super Duty is largely carryover for 2012, but an enhanced receiver hitch and frame upgrades enable best-in-class tow ratings of 17,500 pounds on F-350 and F-450 models with dual rear wheels. Fifth-wheel ratings move up to 22,700 pounds for the F-350 dually, and 24,500 for the F-450.
The Ford Ranger, after years of neglect, has finally been laid to rest with no replacement planned.
General Motors 2012 Tow Vehicles
There’s not much to report on the Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra 1500 front, save for some minor exterior updates, new colors, and the addition of hard drive-based navigation systems. More meaningful for campers is the addition of electronic trailer sway control and Hill Start Assist to the standard StabiliTrak system. Tow ratings in excess of 10,000 pounds can be found with a handful of Chevy/GMC 1500 models.
Having undergone significant revisions last year, not much has changed for the Sierra/Silverado HD in 2012, unless you’ve got some very heavy hauling to do. A beefed up trailer hitch receiver now bestows the 3500 HD dually with a stratospheric 18,000-pound tow rating for conventional trailers, and up to 23,000 pounds for a fifth-wheel, thanks to enhancements to the bed-box sills and structure, leaf springs, U-bolts and box mounts.
The current Chevy Colorado will formally be discontinued after the 2012 model year, to be followed by a new Colorado, based on an all-new midsize truck architecture developed by GM’s Brazilian arm. Launch date is yet unknown at press time.
Toyota 2012 Tow Vehicles
Toyota’s Tundra, most recently named the Most Dependable Large Pickup for the sixth year in a row by the 2011 J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study, is essentially carryover for 2012. The Tundra, in a few configurations, is also capable of reaching tow ratings in excess of 10,000 pounds.
The company’s largest SUV, Sequoia, which boasts a 7,400-pound tow rating, receives trailer sway control and a blind-spot mirror for 2012. The nation’s best-selling compact pickup, Toyota Tacoma, with which the 4.0L V-6 can be equipped to tow up to 6,500 pounds, has undergone several cosmetic changes for 2012 including a redesigned hood, grille, headlamps, front bumper, and several interior updates.
More exciting, however, is the Tacoma TRD T/X Baja Series Limited Edition (Baja) that pays homage to Toyota’s Baja racing heritage. At press time, the Baja is undergoing final testing for application on both the Tacoma Access and Double Cab 4×4 models equipped with the TRD Off-Road Package. Expansion into the PreRunner 2WD models is also being considered, according to Toyota.
Equipped with a 4.0-liter V-6 and either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic, the Baja will feature TRD Off-Road Package goodies like an electronic locking rear differential, Active Traction Control, Hill-Start Assist Control, Downhill Assist Control, plus Baja-exclusive features like BF Goodrich T/A KO tires on bead-lock-style off-road wheels, TRD cat-back exhaust, increased front-end ride height, Bilstein race shocks on all four corners and unique Baja Series graphics.
As you can see, 2012 looks like a year of adjustments and small steps forward, and some of the key manufacturers have kept up the search for improvements in towing capability, offering new models that fit new needs, or just a little more power, a little more capacity, or just a little more efficiency to better serve the customer.
Check out the searchable database of tow ratings on www.CampingLife.com for hundreds more new 2012 tow vehicles with their tow ratings (maximum trailer weight ratings), and tow ratings on thousands of vehicles going back to 1991.