When it comes to hauling a trailer, the best vans for towing offer benefits that even full-size pickups or SUVs can’t: like the ability to combine maximum in-cabin carrying capacity with the added bonus of top-level trailering skills. Indeed, some brands continue to showcase full-size heavy-duty vans with five-figure towing maximums. Others, however, are bringing next-gen efficiency to the trailering game, in both full- and city-sized entries, and it’s also important to remember that today’s minivans can make for surprisingly effective tow vehicles.
Readers are reminded, of course, to always check their owners manuals to ensure their vehicles’ fitness for towing.
With a standard 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 248 hp and 250 lb.-ft. of torque, the 2015 Honda Odyssey has plenty of pulling power for pop-up campers, small watercraft, motorcycles and more. In fact, with a tow rating of 3,500 lbs., the Odyssey is one of the best minivans for pulling a trailer regardless of what it’s carrying. Of course, the Odyssey also does just fine when is comes to transporting passengers, thanks to exclusive advantages like Honda LaneWatch and HondaVac. The former is a unique, camera-based technology that provides added passenger-side visibility while on the road, relying on real-time video shown in the vehicle’s infotainment display screen. The latter is the Honda’s handy rear-seat vacuum system for quick clean ups.
Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana
Literally the best vans for towing the biggest loads, the 2016 Chevrolet Express—and its Professional Grade sibling, the 2016 GMC Savana—are true full-size work vans, boasting boxed frames, a multi-leaf rear suspension, and both 2500 and 3500 series heavy-duty models. All can haul, too, by leveraging a powertrain portfolio that features two gas-powered V8 engines and powerful 6.6-liter turbodiesel V6. As a result, the duo can tow up to 10,000 lbs. of trailer, and that’s matched with peak payload ratings of up to 4,120 lbs. and cargo capacities that can reach 284.4 cubic feet. On the other hand, the traditionally trucky Express and Savana can bring some cutting-edge technologies to the table as well, highlight by OnStar’s 4G LTE connectivity and a mobile wi-fi hotspot.
The 2015 Toyota Sienna showed some serious sales swagger during the first half of the current selling season, topping the segment’s volume leaderboard half-way through the year and ringing up a number of regional endorsements. Among them: earning recognition as the “Best 3-Row Vehicle for Families” from the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association and taking home the title of “Family Car of Texas” in the most recent Auto Roundup of the Texas Auto Writers Association. Certainly helping matters are the Sienna’s expected minivan-style merits, including its strong safety ratings and robust roster of infotainment resources, yet Toyota then ups the ante as one of the top vans for towing, with a trailering maximum of 3,500 lbs., and the segment’s only available all-wheel drive system.
Following the company’s success in introducing Euro-styled city-sized vans to the United States with the Transit Connect—which, FWIW, has a towing maximum of 2,000 lbs.—the brand is now part of a wave of full-size workhorses like the 2015 Ford Transit. As such, the Transit covers all of the bases to score as one of the best vans for towing: It can be configured with three different roof heights, two wheelbase lengths, light- and heavy-duty chassis, and gas and diesel powerplants. But the Transit then goes beyond all that with the exclusive Blue Oval benefits of Ecoboost technology, in the form of a 3.5-liter V6 that combines 310 hp and 400 lb.-ft. of torque with a dollop of extra fuel economy.
Although the 2015 Nissan Quest can’t seem to catch up to the sales of the segment’s leaders, it nonetheless led all minivans in one of the industry’s top analyses of vehicle quality. More specifically, the Quest was ranked the No. 1 minivan in the recently released J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Initial Quality Study, based on direct customer feedback from more than 84,000 drivers—and that came after the Quest had likewise bested all other minivans in Power’s 2014 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, designed to gauge “new-vehicle appeal.” It’s that kind of award-winning customer-satisfaction—and a trailer rating of 3,500 lbs.—that guarantee the Quest a place among the best minivans for towing.
Dodge Grand Caravan
The 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan—and its corporate cousin from Chrysler—can furnish more horsepower than any other minivan on the market, and those 283 horses are yoked to 260 lb.-ft. of torque to enable a higher maximum tow rating than any other minivan on the market. But despite packing a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 to remain firmly positioned as one of the best vans for pulling a trailer, the Grand Caravan also achieves competitive EPA grades that include a high point of 25 mpg in highway travel. This year, Dodge further debuted two special value packages for the vehicle, combining some of customers’ favorite content, from hands-free Uconnect technology to upscale leatherette seating, into two low-cost bundles.
The full-size 2015 Nissan NV is an old-school body-on-frame entry, complete with the segment’s traditionally Truck-like towing capabilities. In its cargo-Van configuration, with its standard 4.0-liter V6, the NV enables owners to pull up to 7,000 lbs. worth of trailer; fitted with an available 5.6-liter V8, Nissan ups the ante to a full 9,500 lbs. Both choices are some of the top vans for towing, and they’re complemented by passenger-van versions with tow ratings of 6,200 lbs. and 8,700 lbs., depending on engine preference. The two also team up to serve up multiple roof heights for cargo applications or a highly versatile cabin for passengers, backed by room for up to 12 as well as 324 different seating configurations.
Chrysler Town & Country
Representing a more upscale and refined iteration of its Dodge counterpart, with the same 3,600-lb. max trailer rating and 3.6-liter V6 engine, the 2015 Chrysler Town & Country is indeed one of the best minivans for hauling a trailer. But it’s one of the most luxurious, too. Leather seating, for example, is standard across the lineup, with heated first and second rows, and a heated steering wheel, all available. Additionally, Chrysler’s comprehensive infotainment system can be upgraded with Uconnect web to create a mobile wi-fi hotspot, while other infotainment resources include an available Blu-ray/DVD rear-seat entertainment center with dual screens and HDMI input for gaming. Also in the mix, according to the brand: “more than 40 available safety, security and technology features.”
Sales of the all-new 2015 Kia Sedona were up by more than 400 percent during the first half of the year, and that’s not solely because the 2014 model was moving just a few hundred units a month. Also making a difference is that the next-gen Sedona supplies Kia’s bold approach to exterior design, a cabin that was named to WardsAuto’s “10 Best Interiors List,” and an impressive range of family-friendly technologies. And take note, that includes both a hands-free tailgate and safety measures like forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert. Finally, the Sedona has the strength to be one of the best vans for towing, with a 276-hp V6 and a trailering limit of 1.75 tons.
Along with stylish cars like the FIAT 500 and Alfa Romeo 4C, the Italian branch of the Fiat-Chrysler family also is responsible for one of the best new vans for towing larger loads: the RAM ProMaster. The ProMaster is based on the Ducato commercial van that has been fairly popular for Fiat globally, with Wikipedians claiming that it also underpins the majority of the motorhomes sold in Europe. Be that as it may, Ram offers its version in 1500, 2500 and 3500 models, with diesel and gas engine choices, multiple roof-height and wheelbase configurations, and the ability to tow up to 5,100 lbs. Moreover, the ProMaster provides a segment-exclusive powertrain advantage with a front-wheel-drive setup that further enables the lowest load-floor height in its class.