Family Friendly Dinghy Tow Vehicles
When one thinks about dinghy towing vehicles, it’s not hard to imagine a couple of happy empty nesters arriving at their destination, disconnecting and driving into the horizon to visit old friends or make new discoveries. Increasingly, however, the RV lifestyle is becoming more popular with younger families, as they, too, discover that there’s no better way to explore the country than from the comfort of a home on wheels.
Which begs the question: Since most of us think of dinghy vehicles as being small and lightweight, what are some good choices if you have a large family? With plenty of seating, cargo capacity and a choice of two- or four-wheel drive, SUVs are the obvious choice and there are several to choose from. Just be sure to verify the motorhome’s tow rating (ask the manufacturer or dealer if you don’t know), and always check the owner’s manual to verify that the model you’re considering is approved by the manufacturer for flat towing.
The following are just a few of the dinghy-towable options we like:
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
The Dodge Durango is a midsize SUV (4,814 pounds) that ordinarily seats five, but can accommodate up to seven with the optional third-row seat. Only four-wheel-drive models with a two-speed transfer case are towable, but the pre-towing process is relatively simple, with no battery to disconnect or fuses to remove. The owner’s manual doesn’t clearly specify which models have the required transfer case, however, so be sure to check with the dealer before committing to a purchase.
For the truly adventurous, you can’t beat a Jeep, and this brand has more choices than ever if five seats are enough for you and your crew. Jeeps are extremely popular dinghy vehicles, and the four-door Wrangler is now offered with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 or 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, all of which have Electronic Start/Stop or mild-hybrid eTorque assist (except the EcoDiesel). Both manual and automatic versions are towable, too.
Another possibility is the new Jeep Gladiator, which is essentially a Wrangler with a truck bed. It can also seat up to five, and has fun features like removable doors and top, plus a fold-down windshield. It’s available with a Pentastar V-6 or 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6.
Introduced as an all-new model just last year, the Chevy Blazer can seat up to five and offers a choice of an economical 193-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (FWD only) or 308-hp 3.6-liter V-6 in either FWD or AWD. Both engines are matched with a nine-speed automatic transmission, which allows the Blazer to be dinghy towed at speeds of up to 65 mph, in either FWD or AWD configurations. Pre-tow prep is fairly simple, but the battery must be charged while towing (easily accomplished with a charge-line kit), and Chevy advises against the use of a rock shield that covers the front of the vehicle, as it restricts airflow and could overheat and damage the transmission. The Blazer weighs between 3,810 pounds (FWD, 2.5-liter) and 4,246 pounds (AWD, 3.6-liter).
The Chevy Equinox (3,274 pounds) is another five-seater that is towable in FWD/AWD configurations, and if you need more room, the 2020 Chevy Traverse (4,363 pounds, base) is a midsize SUV that can seat up to eight. The upcoming 2021 Chevy Suburban, meanwhile, can accommodate nine in the LS model with the available front-row, split-bench seat.
Ford Escape Hybrid
Looking for something a little smaller, more fuel-efficient perhaps? The Ford Escape Hybrid gets up to 44 mpg city and 37 mpg highway, is available in front- or all-wheel drive, seats five and offers more rear-seat legroom than the outgoing Chevy Suburban, according to Ford. Weighing in at a relatively scant 3,550 pounds, the Escape Hybrid is easy to tow and starts at less than $30,000.