Subaru's towing specifications make absolutely no sense!! - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-21-2016, 04:57 AM   #1
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Subaru's towing specifications make absolutely no sense!!

The 2013 and earlier Foresters have a towing capacity of 2,400 lbs. with the 2.5 L 4 cylinder engine. The 2014 and later model Foresters have a towing capacity of 1,500 lbs.with the same engine. The CVT is not the culprit as the ratings for the standard transmissions are the same. The 2014 Outback with the same 4 cylinder 2.5L engine and torque specifications and weighing two to three hundred pounds more has a towing capacity of 2,700 lbs. The six cylinder is rated for 3,000 lbs., only 300 lbs. more than the 4 cylinder. I called my Subaru dealer and spoke with the service manager who had no logical explanation. I don't get it! Can anyone explain it?? Tony
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Old 11-21-2016, 05:54 AM   #2
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I can't explain it, but I can add to the confusion. Check out the European specs for the same vehicles. Apparently pounds are lighter on the other side of the pond since you can tow much more there with the same model. At least that was the case back when I was trying to figure out what the Forester I had at the time would handle.

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Old 11-21-2016, 06:39 AM   #3
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Subaru's towing specifications make absolutely no sense!!

To further muddy the waters, the Outback is only rated for 200 pounds tongue weight. That effectively limits you to a 2000# travel trailer if you follow the 10% minimum tongue weight recommendation.

Based on real world postings I've read, 2000# is about right. That makes a 4 cylinder Outback good for a 13' trailer, no more, and expect to take it easy on long grades. The 6 cylinder has a bit more grunt for hill climbing but the same chassis limitations re tongue weight. I haven't read any posts about real world towing with the new Forester.

As to Euro towing, that's a hot button topic. I will observe that vehicles, trailers, towing laws and practices, and other factors are different. If something were to go south, issues of liability and/or warranty coverage will not be decided in Europe.
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:56 AM   #4
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Subaru's 2012 manual says 8-12% (or something like that) for tongue weight. I don't think I'd like the 8% but that may depend on the trailer and it's characteristics re sway. I usually run at 10% or greater so yes, that limits the overall weight, plus you have to have trailer brakes if over 1000 lbs. And at least one person has had problems with the hill holder on the manual (which imho is better for towing- manual, not hill holder)- starting on a hill from a stop is a potential problem. But my manual 2012 Forester tows fine within those limits.
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Old 11-21-2016, 10:06 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Tony M View Post
I called my Subaru dealer and spoke with the service manager who had no logical explanation. I don't get it! Can anyone explain it?? Tony
Usually you can narrow the USA tow rating of a vehicle down to one of four things (in my defined order of probability):

1. Lawyers (specifically, manufacturer liability when you do something stupid and your heirs and assigns sue). If marketability of some classes of vehicles didn't require tow ratings, all vehicles would have zeros for towing capacity because the legal department likes it that way.
2. Sales/Marketing (Pickup trucks and sport utes are much more profitable than sedans and wagons for manufacturers that make both...you figure it out
3. Nobody bothered to test this vehicle to limits according to the SAE standard test, so an arbitrarily low number was chosen (see 1 and 2, above)
4. The vehicle has some engineering limitation that makes it unsuitable to tow more than the rated weights.

As Subaru doesn't make big pickup trucks, I'm guessing that #2 is not a factor. If there was no platform or suspension change between the years, than #4 is not a factor. That leaves 1 and 3.

To muddy the legal waters, you could import a European spec Sube with the appropriate option packages to get the EU tow rating. It would be quite a hassle, though.
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Old 11-21-2016, 10:06 AM   #6
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Are the brakes different on any of these vehicles? Or the suspension? That's about all I can think of that might explain this madness.
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Old 11-21-2016, 10:31 AM   #7
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Subaru towing

You may want to search towing with a Subaru, I recall reading threads where towing was really hard on a Subaru causing premature wear and a lot of stress to the vehicle. I just rented a 4 cylinder Outback for a week in Montana it got great gas mileage but struggled up mountain grades with 3 passengers.
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Old 11-21-2016, 10:33 AM   #8
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Subaru's Towing Specifications Make Absolutely No Sense

Hoping this discussion continues as I am looking at either the Outback or Forester for my next vehicle in the near future.

I have a 4 cylinder Toyota Tacoma pickup truck right now that tows just fine, albeit in 3rd gear (manual) going up any hills, but I'm not in a hurry. It's rated for 3500 lbs. and I like this margin of safety.

Please continue...... I understand the legal bit and knew about the different rating in Europe....????

Thanks for your input all you knowledgeable people. Is there a Subaru forum of some sort where someone might have some input?
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Old 11-21-2016, 10:59 AM   #9
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Maybe I can help (maybe not). We bought a '16 2.5i Outback, and were perplexed/surprised/saddened by the same info.
As a member of the Outback Forum, there are rather lengthy threads regarding the real world towing capacities of the 5th gen Outbacks (with either engine). There seems to be a common consensus that the limit is around 2,000 lb.
That being realistic, that limits us to small fiberglass campers in the 13 foot range.
For us, that's kinda small.....so we'll just tow with our 4Runner, which has a 7,000 lb tow rating.
The Outback has a LOT of virtues - towing ain't among them.
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Old 11-21-2016, 11:07 AM   #10
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Subaru's Towing Specifications Make Absolutely No Sense

Thanks for the input, Bubblehead.

I have a 13 ft. - Trillium - so maybe a Sub. is still a possibility. I love all the other features of the Sub.'s outside of something I read recently about head gasket issues.

Still time to consider other options, like a Honda CRV or Toyota RAV.
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Old 11-21-2016, 11:11 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Tony M View Post
The 2013 and earlier Foresters have a towing capacity of 2,400 lbs. with the 2.5 L 4 cylinder engine. The 2014 and later model Foresters have a towing capacity of 1,500 lbs.with the same engine. The CVT is not the culprit as the ratings for the standard transmissions are the same. The 2014 Outback with the same 4 cylinder 2.5L engine and torque specifications and weighing two to three hundred pounds more has a towing capacity of 2,700 lbs. The six cylinder is rated for 3,000 lbs., only 300 lbs. more than the 4 cylinder. I called my Subaru dealer and spoke with the service manager who had no logical explanation. I don't get it! Can anyone explain it?? Tony
Can't explain your problem with ratings but I'd not try towing with a 4 cylinder. We had a Chev S-10 Blazer and a Chev Trailblazer with 4.2 and 4.3 engines. We wouldn't have wanted anything smaller. Weight plus braking would have been a problem. Usually they don't even put a class 3 hitch on a small SUV so that you won't put to much weight on the vehicle. The suspension won't hold the weight. Class 3 hitch is what most trailers require. Putting the equalizer hitches and all that on to be able to tow with an underrated vehicle is asking for problems plus the weight of the heavy hitches just adds more weight to the underrated vehicle.
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Old 11-21-2016, 11:37 AM   #12
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I towed a 13' Casita, no brakes, with a 2000 Forester for about 1 1/2 years and 10,000 miles.
Never had any towing issues other than feeling pushed a little going down very long grades.
When I upgraded to a 16' in 2010, I replaced the Subaru too, but it was still going strong. I did add an aftermarket tranny cooler to it.

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Old 11-21-2016, 02:30 PM   #13
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Subaru's towing specifications make absolutely no sense!!

Thanks all for your input. I will pick the 13' Scamp up in Backus when it is ready with my Forester and see how it goes. It will either pull the camper adequately in which case I will keep the car or it will not pull it adequately, in which case I will trade the vehicle in for another. Tony
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Old 11-21-2016, 03:12 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by KYBubblehead View Post
Maybe I can help (maybe not). We bought a '16 2.5i Outback, and were perplexed/surprised/saddened by the same info.
As a member of the Outback Forum, there are rather lengthy threads regarding the real world towing capacities of the 5th gen Outbacks (with either engine). There seems to be a common consensus that the limit is around 2,000 lb.
That being realistic, that limits us to small fiberglass campers in the 13 foot range.
For us, that's kinda small.....so we'll just tow with our 4Runner, which has a 7,000 lb tow rating.
The Outback has a LOT of virtues - towing ain't among them.
Would you share with me the year of your 4Runner? I own a 2000 and have only a 5000lb tow rating and don't know of any higher rating for any 4Runner built after that. I'd sure like a higher tow rating and love the 4Runner. Since mine has 281,000 miles on it a more recent and higher rated edition would be idea. Thanks.
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Old 11-21-2016, 06:42 PM   #15
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Jeff, you might be looking for a 4.7L V8 4Runner, I think the gen.4 version was 2002-2009. Or a Lexus GX470, if you want a little more fancy version.
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Old 11-21-2016, 08:22 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Bobbie Mayer View Post
Subaru's 2012 manual says 8-12% (or something like that) for tongue weight. I don't think I'd like the 8% but that may depend on the trailer and it's characteristics re sway. I usually run at 10% or greater so yes, that limits the overall weight, plus you have to have trailer brakes if over 1000 lbs. And at least one person has had problems with the hill holder on the manual (which imho is better for towing- manual, not hill holder)- starting on a hill from a stop is a potential problem. But my manual 2012 Forester tows fine within those limits.
We towed a Scamp 16, weighing 2600 lbs for years with 8% tongue weight all over North America with a 4 cylinder Honda CRV rated in the USA for 1500/220 lbs. Se never had a single issue.

We now have a Honda Odyssey rated for 3500/350 lbs towing the same 2600 lb Scamp 16. We still have about 200 lbs on the tongue or about 8%. Again never a problem though a lot more power.
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:00 PM   #17
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Hi BarbinBC !
We have a 2009 4 cylinder Tacoma
AND
A 2012 Forester 4 cylinder

We also have a 1972 Compact II

We once towed the Compact to Denver from Central California .
Brutal trip on the poor Subi!
15 MPH up the peaks! We felt like a VW bus .
We got passed by bicycles
( well, maybe not bikes, but everyone else)
I felt like we were a traffic hazard on the freeway.
Next trip, Tacoma, easy peasy.

To be sure, we could have cruised the blue hiways with the subi and had a fine time, just taken longer.

"Ya pays yer money
and takes yer choice "


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Old 11-21-2016, 09:19 PM   #18
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I have had 6 Subaru's since 1994. All 4 cylinder engines. Each had almost 200,000 miles when I sold it for another Subi. My current Subi is a 2011 with a CTV transmission. I would NOT feel comfortable towing anything other than a very small trailer with it. Just myho. To tow my current Casita I have a small truck. The manual and even the old automatic transmissions could probably safely handle a small camper. Subi's are great vehicles but with the new CTV transmissions, I would not feel safe.
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:19 PM   #19
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I had just had the brakes done on my Subaru. Was towing my tent trailer, coming down a long steep hill in the slow lane and was approaching a semi ahead going even slower than I. Cars were overtaking me in the centre and left lanes at twice my speed. I couldn't overtake the semi and had no option but to gingerly apply my brakes.
Got home and took it to the shop for another $300 brake job.
Might eventually get to the top, but can it come down?
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Old 11-21-2016, 09:42 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by steelypip View Post
Usually you can narrow the USA tow rating of a vehicle down to one of four things (in my defined order of probability):

1. Lawyers (specifically, manufacturer liability when you do something stupid and your heirs and assigns sue). If marketability of some classes of vehicles didn't require tow ratings, all vehicles would have zeros for towing capacity because the legal department likes it that way.
2. Sales/Marketing (Pickup trucks and sport utes are much more profitable than sedans and wagons for manufacturers that make both...you figure it out
3. Nobody bothered to test this vehicle to limits according to the SAE standard test, so an arbitrarily low number was chosen (see 1 and 2, above)
4. The vehicle has some engineering limitation that makes it unsuitable to tow more than the rated weights.

As Subaru doesn't make big pickup trucks, I'm guessing that #2 is not a factor. If there was no platform or suspension change between the years, than #4 is not a factor. That leaves 1 and 3.

To muddy the legal waters, you could import a European spec Sube with the appropriate option packages to get the EU tow rating. It would be quite a hassle, though.
I fully agree with Item #4 on your list . It is logical ,while the others are pure conjecture. It would seem more likely that 1, 2 , & 3 are based / predicated on #4.
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