The Towing Technology Available on New Trucks
Towing Has Never Been Easier
Let’s face it, towing can be stressful. No matter how comfortable you are behind the wheel, it takes some time to not only get comfortable towing a trailer but good at it.
The bigger the trailer, the more apprehensive about towing you may become. It’s especially difficult to become proficient in towing if you only occasionally pull a trailer. While full-timers and avid RVers become pros quickly, going camping monthly or just a few times a year means you simply don’t have much time in the driver’s seat with a trailer attached.
Luckily, modern trucks come with some truly innovative solutions to make towing much easier than it has ever been. Even folks who tow at irregular intervals—or hardly at all—should be able to get the job done thanks to the new technology you can have installed on a truck.
With this in mind, I wanted to take a look at the towing technology available from each of the automakers out there that sell pickups.
We’ll kick things off with Ford. The Ford F-Series trucks have been the best-selling vehicle in America for decades. The Ford F-150 is a popular choice, but so are the Super Duty trucks that can tow everything from a small trailer to massive trailers weighing tens of thousands of pounds. Due to the automaker’s dominant place in the market, we will start here.
I’m going to avoid discussing towing capacities and all of the numbers usually associated with towing; instead, I’ll focus on the technology aspect of what Ford offers. The good news here is that it’s quite a lot.
Ford’s suite of towing technology starts with the company’s Tow Technology Package available on its F-Series trucks. The package includes Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist, a 360-degree camera, trailer reverse guidance, a trailer brake controller, and Smart Trailer Tow Connector that includes blind-spot monitoring for both the truck and the trailer.
So, what is Pro Trailer Backup Assist? It’s designed to make backing up a trailer easier. The system incorporates a knob that you use. When backing up, you will rotate the knob left or right in the direction you’d like the trailer to go. The system controls the steering wheel. While this might sound like you’re simply trading in a steering wheel for a knob on the dash, it’s actually much easier to use than you might expect. You can see exactly how it works on Ford’s website.
The other features are pretty self-explanatory. The 360-degree camera system gives you a look all the way around the vehicle by utilizing multiple cameras and some fancy software, the trailer reverse guidance gives you some lines on your camera view so you can better see where you’re going as you reverse, and the Smart Trailer Tow Connector with blind-spot monitoring will give you updates on your trailer right on the dash of your truck for things like burnt out brake lights or turn signals and let you know if there’s a car in your blind spot.
There are also some other features rolled into Ford’s Co-Pilot360 Technology package that include lane-keeping assist, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, intelligent adaptive cruise control, hill descent control, and more. For a full, comprehensive look at the Co-Pilot360 technology, check out this page on Ford’s website.
I should note that Ford’s midsize Ranger pickup doesn’t come with all of these same towing technologies, though you can get Ford’s Co-Pilot360.
Chevrolet and GMC
I’m lumping Chevrolet and GMC together here because there isn’t much that sets these two General Motors brands apart when it comes to towing technology. The trucks might look different and have some minor changes, but ultimately, they’re built on the same platform and utilize the same suite of technology for towing.
That is a very good thing because General Motors offers one of the best suites of towing technology out there, which is one reason why the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra are some of the most often purchased trucks out there.
I was on the launch of the latest-gen Chevrolet Silverado and the new GMC Sierra, and I found the towing technologies available to be truly impressive. GM has made updates to the technology since I drove the truck, too. The 2021 models are even more advanced.
The suite of technology offered by Chevrolet and GMC is focused on the cameras. Giving you more angles to see what’s going on reduces your stress levels and reduces the need for a good spotter.
There are 15 unique camera angles, including four unique hitch views, six driving views, and five parking views. The most impressive of these views is the transparent trailer view, which utilizes the truck’s cameras as well as a trailer camera to give you what is essentially a see-through trailer. You can view all of the trailer views on Chevrolet’s website.
In addition to the camera views, you also get things like jack-knife alert, trailer length indicator, and trailer angle indicator with guidelines. There’s also GM’s Advanced Trailering System that is a trailering app that provides you with the ability to set trailer profiles, which is handy if you tow more than one trailer—like say a utility trailer for work and then an RV on the weekends.
This app gives you access to all kinds of information, including a pre-departure checklist, trailer lighting diagnostics, trailer tire pressure, trailer sway control, hill start assist, auto grade braking, trailer theft alert, and more. You can check out all of the features by going to this page on Chevrolet’s website.
The truck also comes with plenty of other driver and safety technology, putting it on par or above many of the other trucks in the segment, including lane change alert, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and more.
I should note that Chevy and GMC’s midsize trucks come with many of these features, but not all of the camera angles.
You’ve likely heard good things about the latest Ram trucks, and if you haven’t, let me be the one to tell you. These trucks are good. In fact, they’re arguably the best all-around pickup trucks on the market today, which is why Ram has been slowly creeping up in the sales rankings for the last couple of years.
I’ve driven the latest generation of the pickup, and I have to say it’s a top-quality machine inside and out. While Ford and GM’s trucks offer some features the Ram doesn’t, there are some features the Ram has that Ford and GM can’t match. Notable aspects of the truck include an available air suspension system and a massive 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
In terms of towing technology, Ram trucks offer quite a lot including multiple rear camera views, like cargo view, 360-degree surround view, and a hitch view. You also get a reverse guidance system with a split-screen view that gives you a look down each side of the trailer you’re towing. Blind-spot monitoring, trailer brake controller, and forward collision warning are also there to help you when you’re towing.
If you’re in a truck with air suspension, you can actually lower the truck during the hitch-up process, which makes hitching up a fifth-wheel RV extremely easy. Also, much like Ford, Ram has a special Trailer Reverse Steering Control, which is a small knob on the dash that makes it easier for you to back up. The system works a lot like the Ford system, and the large screen gives you a good view of the trailer in real-time.
While the Ram trucks might have fewer camera views than the GM trucks, it does offer comparable features and technology. To see all of Ram’s towing technology available on their trucks, head to the Ram website. Add to that the superior interior and comparable performance, and it’s clear why a lot of folks are choosing the brand’s new trucks.
Toyota’s trucks are known for their reliability and ease of use, but they’re behind the competition when it comes to new towing technology. The real towing machine in Toyota’s lineup is the Tundra, and it’s the oldest truck in its class, with a design that dates back to 2007 with a major refresh occurring in 2014.
Despite this, it’s still a venerable machine in many ways. It’s not completely devoid of towing technology either. It has a standard backup camera, blind-spot monitoring, trailer sway control, and Toyota Safety Sense, which includes lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.
You’ll find the Toyota Tacoma—the company’s midsize truck—offers similar features as well with some additional things like a 360-degree camera. Obviously, the Tacoma has a much lower towing rating, though. All told, Toyota does offer two good trucks, but the technology is behind the class leaders.
Much like Toyota, Nissan is behind the class leaders when it comes to towing technology. The company’s trucks are completely capable of towing an RV or a heavy trailer, thanks to some fantastic engines, but you’ll miss out on some of the more advanced features offered on Ford, GM, and Ram pickups.
Still, Nissan’s trucks do offer a trailer brake controller, rearview hitch alignment camera, standard backup camera, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and automatic emergency braking. The good news is that Nissan offers these features as standard equipment, whereas other automakers add them on as options.
The mac-daddy towing machine from Nissan is the Titan XD, then there’s the regular Titan, and then on down to the midsize Frontier. Some of these models offer additional features that can be helpful while towing including hill start assist and hill descent control. Still, even with these features, you’ll be relying more on your own personal skill when towing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it will take some practice.
When you think of Jeep you likely don’t think of pickup trucks, but the company has one these days. The Gladiator, which I reviewed this past year, is a great midsize truck. While towing isn’t really its forte, the machine can certainly handle towing a smaller travel trailer, like the Coleman 17B.
In terms of towing technology, the Gladiator isn’t packed to the brim. It’s not on par with Ford, GM, and Ram’s pickups, but it does offer some nice features and qualities, including a trailer brake controller, a backup camera system with a hitch view, and some good safety and convenience features as well.
The safety and convenience features include blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and forward-collision warning with active braking. These features will come in handy when you’re not towing, but they’re also helpful when pulling a trailer.