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Towing 2003

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Only new 2003 models (not those 2004 models to be introduced in 2003) or significantly changed vehicles are discussed in this year’s tow-vehicle overview.


The all-new Dodge Heavy Duty trucks are here. A new, quieter Cummins churns out 305 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque in its high-output version (for a tow rating of up to 16,300 pounds!), and a new 5.7-liter Hemi engine is the most-powerful standard engine you can get in a heavy-duty truck, with 345 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque.

Bigger brakes, adjustable pedals and a beefier box-section frame are just a few of the highlights. The Wagon version of Dodge’s full-size van has been eliminated for 2003, and next year the full-size van lineup will be discontinued altogether.


The new 6.0-liter Power Stroke engine and five-speed TorqShift automatic transmission are here, and the 7.3-liter Power Stroke is gone. However, since it was discontinued just this fall, 7.3-liter examples,  with 525 lb-ft of torque, should be available on dealer lots for several months. The new 6.0-liter will deliver 550 lb-ft of torque and 325 hp, but oddly the tow ratings for the Super Duty lineup are not  significantly changed from last year; the F-350’s highest tow rating with the new diesel is 13,700 pounds — more than 2,000 pounds shy of Dodge and GM’s maximum diesel-tow ratings. However, F-350 dual-rear-wheel models may tow a travel trailer weighing up to 13,900 pounds with an optional hitch receiver. The Excursion will also be available with the new 6.0-liter Power Stroke and TorqShift transmission, but after the 2004 model year, the Excursion will cease to exist.

General Motors

Flush with the success of its Escalade and Escalade EXT, Cadillac will introduce its larger, Suburban-based Escalade ESV. Like the original, Tahoe-based Escalade, the Escalade ESV will have luxurious features such as a sunroof, rear-seat entertainment system, towing package and 17-inch chrome wheels. XM Satellite Radio will be an available option.

Chevy and GMC have a lot to brag about in ’03. 1500 Series extended-cab and crew-cab offerings from both divisions will offer GM’s revolutionary Quadrasteer system, as will the full-size 2500 Series Chevy Suburban and GMC Yukon XL. The big SUVs also feature brake-system upgrades and will be offered with optional Stabilitrak stability-control system. The full-size vans, Chevy Express and GMC Savana, will now be available with all-wheel drive, a driver’s side 60/40 cargo door and side access panels.

By now, you’ve likely already seen the extended versions of GM’s popular mid-size sport utes, the Chevy TrailBlazer EXT and GMC Envoy XL. Introduced last spring, both models feature three-row seating for up to seven passengers, and are now available with an optional 5.3-liter V-8 with 290 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. The standard 4.2-liter inline six gets a 5-hp boost, for a total of 275 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. The Silverado SS is Chevy’s new hot-rod truck — an extended-cab, short-bed 1500 series with an LQ9 6.0-liter Vortec V-8 making 345 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive and 20-inch wheels are also part of the package.

More New Releases

Honda has introduced its version of the MDX called the Pilot; the  all-new Hummer H2 went on sale last summer; Isuzu has a new Chevy TrailBlazer/GMC Envoy XL-based SUV called the Ascender; Kia has a new mid-sized SUV called the Sorento; the Land Rover Range Rover has been completely redesigned and is powered by BMW’s 4.4-liter V-8; the Discovery will now use the Range Rover’s old 4.6-liter V-8 in place of its 4.0-liter V-8. Lexus has yet another sport-ute, this one dubbed the GX470, powered by the same 4.7-liter V-8 found in the LX470. The Explorer-based Lincoln Aviator is essentially a shrunken Lincoln Navigator inside and out; Porsche enters the SUV fray with its new Cayenne. Its standard 4.5-liter V-8 makes 335 hp, while a  twin-turbocharged version makes 444 hp. All-wheel drive and an active damping system are standard. Subaru has introduced a pickup/SUV cross-over called the Baja. Finally, Volvo has also introduced a new SUV/wagon called the XC90, powered by either a 2.5-liter inline 5 cylinder or a 2.9-liter inline 6.

Tow Ratings

You’ll find TL’s complete 2003 tow ratings in the December 2002 issue. Pick one up on the newsstand, then subscribe to Trailer Life — so you can stay informed on the latest tow vehicles, tests, previews, and technical and RV-lifestyle information.


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