SUVs are at the summit of this year’s list of new dinghy vehicles, and a familiar icon returns
Short of calling Uber or Lyft whenever you need to leave your site without breaking camp, dinghy towing (also known as recreational or flat towing) is still the most practical way to visit local attractions, sightsee or run daily errands. If you’ve ever tried to shoehorn your 40-footer into a parking space at the local mini mall, you already know what we’re talking about. But beyond deciding what you want to drive, it’s important to understand what you can drive, from a mechanical standpoint, that is. Not all vehicles are designed to be towed with all four wheels on the ground — in fact, doing so can cause expensive damage that won’t be covered by the vehicle warranty unless the manufacturer has explicitly stated that the vehicle is approved. That is why we have always advised potential buyers to ask the dealer for a copy of the owner’s manual before making a purchase,
as this was the only way to know for sure if you can tow the vehicle with the manufacturer’s blessing. Thankfully, almost all manufacturers now have their owner’s manuals available online — all you have to do is an internet search for “2017 (make/model) owner’s manual” and you can download it in seconds. The models listed on the pages following have been fully vetted for your shopping convenience.
Now, you’ve probably noticed that there are other vehicles out there being dinghy towed that aren’t in our guide, and you may have wondered why. As stated earlier, the vehicle must be explicitly approved by the manufacturer for towing. It also must be towable without requiring mechanical modifications (such as disconnecting the driveshaft, for example). And finally, the vehicle must be towable at a speed of at least 55 mph for no fewer than 200 miles before some sort of prescribed start-up procedure is required to circulate fluid through the transmission and/or transfer case.
One last thing to consider: If you will be choosing a brand-new vehicle as your dinghy, make sure that the equipment necessary to tow it is available through the aftermarket. You might find that a baseplate or other application-specific hardware isn’t available yet, which could certainly influence your buying decision. While you’re at it, research what is involved in the installation of a baseplate; some of these bolt on with minimal modifications and others may require the whole front fascia to be removed, along with modifications to the grille or lower valance.
And now, here are some of the newest — and coolest — dinghy choices for 2017.
We didn’t know enough about the Buick Envision at press time last year to include it, but we’re happy to learn that the midsize SUV is dinghy-towable in both front-wheel-drive (FWD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) iterations for 2017. Designed to compete with the likes of premium models like the Acura RDX and Lincoln MKC, the Envision is offered in five trim levels and is available with a 197-hp 2.5-liter direct-injected four-cylinder or a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine belting out 252 horses. Standard features include LED daytime running lights (DRL) and rear LED accent lights, heated front seats, a sliding 60/40 split rear seat, dual-zone climate control, programmable power rear liftgate with hands-free operation, passive entry, pushbutton start with remote-start capability and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility. That’s quite a bit of standard content, but if you opt for one of the higher trim levels, you can nab optional features such as ventilated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, head-up display, panoramic moonroof and more.
Our guide lists the 2017 model, which is dinghy approved, but an all-new, 2018 Chevy Equinox model is due this spring. While it is unknown at press time if the 2018 model will be towable, the equipment list is pretty impressive; the new Equinox will be available with three turbocharged engines, including a diesel option, and will offer GM’s new nine-speed automatic transmission. Available in L, LS, LT and Premier trim levels in either FWD or AWD configurations, the new Equinox includes connectivity features like a standard 7-inch and an available 8-inch-diagonal color touch screen with MyLink infotainment designed to support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as an available OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. A range of standard safety features includes Surround Vision, Forward Collision Alert, Low-Speed Forward Automatic Braking, Lane Keep Assist and Blind Zone/Rear Cross Traffic alerts.
An all-new 2018 Chevy Traverse midsize SUV also will be available by the time you read this. Although little is known about it at press time, we expect it to be similar to its sibling, the all-new for 2017 GMC Acadia/Acadia Denali, which the company claims is more than 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor for greater fuel efficiency. Speaking of which, the base engine is a fresh 2.5-liter inline four with direct injection and variable valve timing that GM estimates will knock out 26 mpg highway in the FWD models. The available 3.6-liter V-6 engine will churn out 310 hp and is rated at 25 mpg highway on FWD models, which makes us wonder what the advantage of the four-cylinder is at this point. An available All-Terrain package includes an advanced Active Twin Clutch AWD system, while Traction Select allows the user to adjust vehicle performance in accordance with prevailing road (or off-road) conditions. Three rows of seating, including second-row captain’s chairs or a split-folding bench, are equipped with USB charge ports for the passenger’s all-important mobile devices. And in keeping with the “utility” theme, the third-row 50/50 split seats fold down to create a completely flat load floor. Of special interest to RVers will likely be the Tow Vision Trailering System, which leverages the rear-vision camera to make one-person hitch-ups possible.
The Jeep brand has been historically friendly to motorhome owners, with icons like the Wrangler, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee having been towable for as long as we can recall. But, we were more than a little bit disappointed that the company’s latest product, the Renegade, was not — even though we were told the manual model would be. Well, we can put that behind us now because the all-new Jeep Compass is towable with a manual transmission in either FWD or 4WD versions — and we think it looks a lot better, to boot. Resembling a small Grand Cherokee, Jeep claims that the Compass is the most capable compact SUV ever, with the most advanced 4×4 systems in its class. A truly global vehicle built on Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA) “small wide 4×4 architecture,” the Compass will be built in Brazil, China, Mexico and India for consumers in more than 100 countries around the world. Some 17 powertrain options are available for those markets, but U.S.-bound models will only be available with the 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder, which delivers 180 hp along with up to 30 mpg. Two full-time 4WD systems — Jeep Active Drive and Jeep Active Drive Low — along with Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system with Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud modes, promise true off-road capability. Those who seek or anticipate more hardcore off-road scenarios will likely opt for the Trail Rated Jeep Compass Trailhawk, which adds a Rock mode to the Selec-Terrain system plus Hill Descent Control, increased ride height, unique front/rear fascias, aggressive 17-inch off-road tires and up to 2,000 pounds of trailer-towing capacity.
Can you recall the last time a Lincoln Continental was deemed dinghy-towable? We can’t either, but this year you can roll into the RV park in style in the gorgeous Lincoln Continental Reserve, which comes standard with a 400-hp twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine and standard AWD — the latter of which is what makes this car towable. Models with the base 3.7-liter V-6 or 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6 and FWD can’t be towed with all four wheels on the ground — but you weren’t interested in those anyway, right? The 2017 Continental brings back the glory days of the marque, when “Lincoln” meant more than the 10-year-old limo you took home from the airport, or a re-badged Ford SUV. As such, the Reserve in particular brings more features to the party than we have room for here — but niceties like 24-way heated/ventilated seats (leather, of course), a 10-speaker audio system, navigation with SiriusXM traffic and Travel Link, power everything and trizone electronic climate control should give you some idea of what you’ll be getting for the nearly $60,000 asking price (which is still a bargain in this segment). Of course, you’ll also get state-of-the-art driving aids like adaptive steering, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert, AdvanceTrac electronic stability control and Continuously Controlled Damping.