SUVs have taken hold of the United States vehicle market and it’s easy to see why. Oftentimes, SUVs provide the everyday space and practicality needed for most occasions while also injecting a bit of luxury into the equation. It’s important to remember that the “U” in SUV stands for “utility,” which is where towing ability comes into play.
SUVs are unquestionably a better option than a large pickup in terms of daily drivability and family-shuttling. Despite the common notion that trucks are superior in terms of their towing capacity, there are still a number of solid SUV options that will be able to tow a substantial load.
In this guide, we’ll outline some of the best modern SUV for towing and discuss what makes them the superior option. We’ll also cover some of the most important considerations when purchasing a towing-capable SUV.
Best SUV for Towing – Understanding Towing Capacities
There are quite a few factors that are considered when a manufacturer sets a towing capacity for a given vehicle. Towing capacity is heavily dependent on a vehicle’s torque, power-to-weight ratio, suspension setup, and drivetrain arrangement. There are also a few simple equations that you can use to determine a vehicle’s towing and payload capacity.
Generally speaking, SUVs with higher torque tend to be the best for towing, as high torque is needed to get a heavy load moving from a stop. High horsepower numbers are important for towing once the vehicle is moving, but high torque is more important initially.
It is also extremely important for an SUV to have suspension components that are up to the task of supporting the additional forces applied to them from a heavy load. When towing a heavy load from the rear, your SUV’s rear suspension is not only managing the load from the object that you are towing, but also the vehicle itself. For that reason, SUVs with stiffer suspension tend to perform better.
Another important factor in towing capacity is drivetrain arrangement. 4-Wheel-Drive or All-Wheel-Drive vehicles tend to be better for towing, especially in poor weather conditions. It boils down to traction. Since power is sent to all 4 wheels in an all-wheel-drive SUV, they are able to grip the road more effectively.
SUV Payload vs Towing Capacity
It is a pretty common misconception that a vehicle’s payload rating and towing capacity rating mean the same thing. While the principle is similar, they do mean different things and are calculated differently.
Simply put, an SUV’s payload is how much weight can be added to the vehicle beyond its curb (or empty) weight. That includes passengers and anything that you can fit into the trunk. An SUV’s towing capacity is how much weight a particular SUV can pull. In general, an SUV’s towing capacity is far more than its payload, as weight is shifted outside of the vehicle when it is pulling a trailer.
Payload is an important factor to consider from a towing standpoint, as the tongue weight of a trailer does use up some of an SUV’s payload. That is the case because an attached trailer pushed down on a vehicle’s rear tow hitch which generally equated to around 10-15% of the trailer’s weight.
There are a couple of simple equations that you can use to calculate an SUV’s payload and towing capacity:
SUV Payload Calculation:
SUV Payload = Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – SUV Curb Weight
Every SUV’s owner manual should contain its gross vehicle weight rating. That is simply the maximum amount of weight that the vehicle can handle internally. As with the GVWR, a vehicle’s curb (or empty) weight should also be documented by the manufacturer. To find an SUV’s payload rating, simply subtract the vehicle’s curb weight from the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating.
SUV Towing Capacity Calculation:
SUV Towing Capacity = Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating – SUV Curb Weight
An SUV’s gross combined vehicle weight rating is the maximum weight of a fully-loaded SUV combined with the weight of an attached trailer or towed item. This is another piece of information that should be provided by the manufacturer in a user manual. To find the towing capacity of an SUV, simply subtract the vehicle’s curb weight from its GCVWR.
Best SUV for Towing – Considerations
In addition to simply understanding how payload and towing capacity ratings are determined, there are some other considerations that you’ll need to take into account before choosing the best SUV for your individual towing needs.
It is important to know the weight of the trailer (fully loaded) or item that you intend on towing before you make a buying decision. If the trailer or item that you are towing is heavier than your vehicle’s towing capacity rating, you could do significant damage to your vehicle’s engine, transmission, frame, and tires.
Proper Tires for Towing
Many people fail to think about the additional strain that towing has on an SUV’s tires. While tires typically have pretty high tolerance under towing conditions, it is important to make sure that they are up for the job. Most passenger sedans and some small SUVs come equipped with passenger, often demarcated as (P), tires from the factory. Passenger tires are optimized for comfort but do not hold up well when towing heavy loads.
Light truck tires, demarcated as (LT) tires, are the better choice for towing with an SUV. Typically, light truck tires have larger sidewalls that flex more over uneven surfaces. They also tend to have a larger contact patch with the pavement which allows for more traction.
Trailer tires function a bit differently. Trailer tires should have rigid sidewalls to prevent any tire-related trailer sway. This is directly opposite to the characteristics that you’ll want from your SUV’s tires when it comes to towing.
An SUV’s wheelbase also makes a considerable difference to what it will be able to tow. The longer the wheelbase of the vehicle, the larger / longer the towed item can be. Autoblog.com claims that the first 110 inches of wheelbase will allow for you to tow a 20-foot trailer without risking the front of the SUV coming off of the ground. Every additional 4 inches on top of that initial 110 inches will garner an additional foot of trailer length.
Proper Towing Package
It is crucial to research the exact model of SUV that you are interested in, paying special attention to whether the SUV in question comes factory equipped with the necessary towing package for your needs. As we mentioned earlier, horsepower and torque figures play a big part in towing, so make sure that the model that you choose has a drivetrain that is up to the task.
Additionally, some models will hide a towing package as an optional extra, meaning that it might not come with a tow hitch as standard. It might cost more, in the long run, to install one after the fact, so make sure that your desired SUV leaves the dealership with one.
Our Best SUV for Towing Picks
Obviously, there’s a lot more that goes into purchasing a new SUV than its ability to tow a heavy load. For that reason, subjectivity is a huge factor in deciding which SUV checks the most boxes for you.
All of the SUVs listed below have a towing capacity of over 7,000 lbs. That is roughly equivalent to the average weight of a fully-loaded 20-foot trailer. They are all extremely capable towing vehicles, but vary in terms of MSRP, focus on luxury and interior quality. If you are considering purchasing a vehicle on this list, it would be beneficial to do some additional research to make sure that it is right for you in other areas as well.
1) Best SUV for Towing – 2022 Jeep Wagoneer
- Towing Capacity: 10,000 lbs
- Curb Weight: 5,960 – 6,230 lbs
- Payload: 1,440 – 1,500 lbs
- MSRP: $58,995
- Wheelbase: 123”
At the top of the list of new SUVs with the highest towing capacities is the 2022 Jeep Wagoneer. Jeep is a company that needs no introduction. Off-road SUVs have always been their bread and butter. In recent years, the old Jeep Wagoneer has taken on a new, more luxurious form. It can also tow up to 10,000 lbs.
A lot of the Wagoneer’s impressive towing capacity can be attributed to its 3.0L Twin-Turbo Huricane inline-6 engine which produces 510 horsepower and, more importantly from a towing standpoint, 500 lb-ft of torque. The Wagoneer’s use of forced induction makes the torque delivery even more potent which is perfect from a towing perspective.
In addition to having ample power to tow a heavy load, the Wagoneer also features an advanced Quadra-Drive II 4X4 system that supplies power to all four wheels. Jeep’s Quadra-Drive system also utilizes a rear limited-slip differential which improves traction even further.
2) 2nd Best SUV for Towing – 2022 Nissan Armada
- Towing Capacity: 8,500 lbs
- Curb Weight: 5,650 – 6,034 lbs
- Payload: 1,466 – 1,650 lbs
- MSRP: $49,150
- Wheelbase: 121.1”
The 2022 Nissan Armada is the runner-up on our list as the second-best SUV for towing. The Armada will still get the job done in most cases despite having a slightly lower towing capacity than the Jeep Wagoneer. It is also significantly less expensive than the Jeep.
It is clear that the 2022 Armada was designed with towing in mind and includes an array of towing-related features. Some of the standout additions include trailer sway control monitors, a specialized tow-haul drive mode, a dash-mounted trailer brake controller and body-on-frame construction for added towing rigidity.
The Armada also features an intelligent around-view monitor. This allows direct visual access to a rear-mounted camera focused on the tow hitch. This allows you to easily align the rear tow hitch with a trailer.
The Armada’s auto-leveling suspension is another important factor in its towing ability. Not only is the Armada’s auto-leveling air suspension extremely comfortable during daily driving, but it also helps to absorb road imperfections while towing a heavy load.
3) 2022 Chevy Tahoe
- Towing Capacity: 7,600-8,400 lbs
- Curb Weight: 5,473 – 5,845 lbs
- Payload: 1,655 – 1,927 lbs
- MSRP: $50,500
- Wheelbase: 120.9”
The Chevrolet Tahoe has been a staple in GM’s lineup for decades at this point. It has always been seen as a workhorse SUV due to its rugged construction and large wheelbase. The 2022 Tahoe is no exception. It is a very well-equipped SUV for towing, especially when equipped with the 5.3L V8 L84 engine.
While the 5.3L L84 V8 is not the most powerful engine option offered in the 2022 Chevy Tahoe, it has the best engine dynamics for towing. This is due to the L84’s immense low-end torque and mid-range horsepower. The 2022 Tahoe is currently offered with both a rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive configuration. Surprisingly, Chevrolet claims that the 2WD configuration is better for towing.
Chevrolet offers a dedicated Max Trailering Package for the 2022 Tahoe that includes features that aid in ease of towing. The Max Trailering Package includes an integrated trailer brake controller, a hitch guidance system with a tow hitch-facing camera, and an enhanced cooling radiator.
4) 2021 Toyota Sequoia
- Towing Capacity: 7,000-7,400 lbs
- Curb Weight: 5,730 – 6,000 lbs
- Payload: 1,300 – 1,370 lbs
- MSRP: $50,500
- Wheelbase: 122”
Toyota isn’t typically a brand that you’d associate with good towing abilities. However, the 2022 Sequoia is a good option for daily driving and towing medium load weights. Like many of the other models on this list, the Sequoia’s towing capacity is dependent on trim level. The SR5, TRD Sport, and Limited models have the highest towing capacity at 7,400 lbs.
Every new Toyota Sequoia comes standard with a hitch receiver and wiring harness with a 4/7-pin connector. The Sequoia also features a dedicated tow/haul driving mode which increases stability and towing characteristics.
The 2022 Toyota Sequoia utilizes a 5.7L i-Force DOHC 32-Valve V8 that produces 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. As we previously stated, torque is more important than horsepower for towing applications. The Sequoia has one of the smallest horsepower figures on this list, but that isn’t what matters. The 401 lb-ft of torque that the V8 produces is more than enough to get the Sequoia and towing load moving under its own weight.
Best SUV for Towing Summary
Despite being mainly focused on family-hauling and comfortable daily driving, SUVs can also be a solid option for towing heavy loads. It is, however, important that you take into consideration a few key factors when it comes to towing heavy loads and large trailers. Understanding how a heavy load acts upon an SUV’s suspension, tires, and chassis is essential when making an SUV purchasing decision when towing is involved.
In general, an SUV that produces a high amount of torque, has all-wheel or 4-wheel-drive, and has a larger wheelbase is the optimal setup for towing. All of those factors are directly related to an SUV’s towing capacity. It is important to pay close attention to a manufacturer’s towing guidelines to make sure that your chosen SUV meets all your needed specifications.
Our top pick for the best SUV for towing is the 2022 Jeep Wagoneer as it has the highest towing capacity, the most towing-related features, and a high degree of daily driving luxury.