Published 7:00 AM EDT Sep 12, 2019
Anyone with serious towing requirements knows pickups can pull the most – many full-size models post maximum trailer ratings beyond 10,000 pounds. But pickups lack much occupant capacity, so if you need to carry lots of people and tow a heavy trailer, an SUV is your best bet.
Which models have the highest capacity? We ranked the top 10 for 2019 by advertised maximum trailer ratings, but not all capacities are equal because not every automaker uses SAE International’s J2807 methodology – which stipulates a battery of tests with two occupants aboard, among other things – for apples-to-apples specs. Of the vehicles below, entries from Ford, Lincoln and Toyota are J2807-compliant, while entries from Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Nissan and Infiniti are not. Dodge and Land Rover weren’t immediately clear, as spokespeople for the respective automakers did not clarify their vehicles’ status when asked by Cars.com.
That said, it’s safe to say this whole group can seriously accommodate trailers.
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1. Ford Expedition, Expedition Max
With an optional heavy-duty trailer package, the Ford Expedition maxes out at 9,300 pounds (9,200 pounds with four-wheel drive). That’s the highest rating for any 2019 model-year SUV. The Expedition Max, an extended-length version of the Expedition, tops out at 9,000 pounds with the same package regardless of driveline.
2. Dodge Durango SRT
You need not get a full-size SUV for serious towing capacity – or leave the driving fun behind, for that matter. The Dodge Durango SRT boasts standard all-wheel drive and a rip-snorting 6.4-liter V-8 with 475 horsepower, enough for our friends at “MotorWeek” to hit 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds; that’s on par with a stick-shift Ford Mustang GT. It won’t post such numbers with a trailer in back, but maximum capacity is a stout 8,700 pounds. Drop down to the Durango’s 3.6-liter V-6 or 5.7-liter V-8, and towing capacity falls to 6,200 to 7,400 pounds, respectively. For a midsize three-row SUV, that’s still very good.
3. Lincoln Navigator, Navigator L
A luxury sibling to the Expedition – Lincoln is Ford’s luxury division – the Navigator maxes out at 8,600 pounds (8,300 pounds with 4WD). The extended-length version, called the Navigator L, maxes out at 8,400 pounds (8,100 pounds with 4WD).
4. Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban
Chevy siblings the Tahoe and Suburban are similar SUVs but have slightly different towing specs. Maximum towing capacity for the Tahoe comes with the 5.3-liter V-8, and it’s 8,600 pounds (8,400 with 4WD); the Tahoe’s 6.2-liter V-8 tops out at 8,400 pounds (8,100 with 4WD). Maximum towing capacity for the Suburban comes with the 5.3-liter V-8, and it’s 8,300 pounds (8,000 with 4WD); the Suburban’s 6.2-liter V-8 tops out at 8,100 pounds (7,900 pounds with 4WD).
5. Nissan Armada
The Armada, Nissan’s full-size SUV, has a standard 5.6-liter V-8. Maximum towing capacity works out to 8,500 pounds regardless of driveline.
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6. Infiniti QX80
A corporate sibling to the Armada (Infiniti is Nissan’s luxury division), the QX80 has a 5.6-liter V-8 with slightly more power but the same maximum towing capacity: 8,500 pounds regardless of driveline.
7. GMC Yukon, Yukon XL
GM corporate cousins to the Tahoe and Suburban, the GMC Yukon and extended-length sibling Yukon XL are truck-based SUVs with big V-8 engines. Maximum towing capacity comes with the standard 5.3-liter V-8, which tops out at 8,500 pounds in the Yukon (8,200 pounds with 4WD). The Yukon XL tops out at 8,300 pounds (8,000 pounds with 4WD). The optional 6.2-liter V-8 tops out at 8,400 pounds (8,100 with 4WD) in the Yukon and 8,100 pounds (7,900 with 4WD) in the Yukon XL.
8. Cadillac Escalade, Escalade ESV
Sibling SUVs to the GMC and Chevrolet models above (Cadillac is GM’s luxury brand), the Escalade and extended-length Escalade ESV have a standard 6.2-liter V-8. Maximum towing capacity is 8,300 pounds (8,100 with 4WD) in the Escalade and 8,100 pounds (7,900 pounds with 4WD) in the Escalade ESV.
9. Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover’s newish three-row SUV, the Discovery, boasts 8,201 pounds’ maximum towing capacity when equipped with a supercharged V-6 engine. An available turbo-diesel V-6 lowers that capacity to a still-impressive 7,716 pounds. Just don’t confuse the Discovery with the Discovery Sport – a separate, smaller SUV.
10. Toyota Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser, an off-road-ready SUV from Toyota, has a standard 5.7-liter V-8 and 4WD. Maximum towing capacity is 8,100 pounds.
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But weight, there’s more
Achieving max towing capacity typically requires an optional trailering package, and advertised ratings don’t necessarily dictate the maximum for your situation. Even under J2807, max trailer weight assumes relatively little mass from occupants and luggage. Cargo, extra passengers or certain optional equipment will reduce how much your SUV can tow, so if you plan to load up on people or luggage and hitch a trailer, don’t expect to hit the maximum towing figure.
How much can you tow for a given situation? Answering that question is a three-step process:
Determine your vehicle’s curb weight, including accessories added since the car left the factory. Manufacturer-published curb weights are a good starting point, but your SUV may not match that exact figure. Our colleagues at Cars.com sister site PickupTrucks.com recommend visiting a truck stop or Department of Motor Vehicles to get your vehicle weighed.
Subtract that weight from your car’s gross combined weight rating, or GCWR – a figure sometimes printed on a label in the driver’s doorjamb – to see how much it can carry and tow. Let’s call this number the total available capacity.
Now that you have the total available capacity, subtract your SUV’s anticipated payload: all occupants and luggage, plus the weight of your trailer tongue. What remains is your towing capacity for the given situation. You could go the other way around, subtracting trailer weight from the total available capacity to see how much payload is left.
You can shift the balance one way or the other, but never exceed the maximum rating for either side of the equation – either your vehicle’s maximum towing capacity or its maximum payload. The latter figure is usually printed on the tire label in your vehicle’s doorjamb, often expressed as the maximum weight for occupants and cargo. Again, remember to include the trailer tongue if you’re towing.
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