Many drivers assume that if you want to tow something, you need a giant truck with a beefy V-8 engine. That may be true if you're transporting a trailer full of race cars, but many smaller vehicles are perfectly adequate for moving light to medium loads. Vehicles in nearly every class come from the factory with tow ratings: minivans, compact crossovers, full-size sedans, and even luxury SUVs.
Still, there are some vehicles that don't seem particularly well suited to towing: would you ever haul a trailer with your luxury sedan, your economy car, or your convertible? We found that numerous automakers have bestowed tow ratings on vehicles that we wouldn't expect anyone to use for trailering. Of course, SUV and truck owners may laugh at the notion of 1000 to 2000 pound tow ratings. While low, those ratings mean the cars listed here could easily pull a small utility trailer, a single jet ski, or pop-up campers like the special Mopar Trail Edition camper sold by Jeep.
There are numerous minivans and compact crossovers that can tow lighter loads, but we've identified 12 vehicles that we didn't expect to have a tow rating at all.
Buick LaCrosse V-6 - 1000 lbsThe Buick brand is meant to offer luxury. Standard appointments on the LaCrosse sedan include ambient interior lighting, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power driver's seat, interior wood trim -- and the ability to tow 1000 pounds. The tow rating only applies to models with the 303-hp, 3.6-liter direct-injection V-6 and six-speed automatic transmission. The LaCrosse's standard engine is a 2.4-liter inline-four with General Motors' eAssist mild hybrid system; versions with that powertrain are not recommended for towing.
The reason the Buick LaCrosse stands out is because there aren't many other luxury cars that are designed to pull trailers. Competitors like the Acura TL and Lexus ES, for instance, both lack tow ratings from the factory. With the average age of a Buick buyer over 59, it seems not very likely that many LaCrosse owners will take advantage of the 1000-pound capability. But the Buick LaCrosse is far from the only luxury vehicle capable of towing.
Cadillac CTS sedan/ CTS Sport Wagon - 1000 lbsThe Cadillac CTS family is best known for its edgy exterior design, refined cabin, and sporty driving dynamics. What's less well known is that the CTS sedan and CTS Sport Wagon can tow up to 1000 pounds, according to Cadillac. As odd as it may seem to use a luxury car for towing, buyers who do so will at least have plenty of power on tap. The CTS sedan and wagon are available with a choice of two direct-injected engines, a 3.0-liter V-6 with 270 hp and 223 lb-ft or torque, or a 3.6-liter V-6 with 318 hp and 275 lb-ft.
In addition to its towing ability, the CTS Sport Wagon offers 58 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded -- only 3 fewer cubic feet than the Cadillac SRX crossover. Add on a small trailer, and you could easily move as much with the CTS Sport Wagon as with a pickup truck.
Sadly for enthusiasts, neither the handsome CTS coupe nor the go-fast CTS-V models are designed for towing. Cadillac spokesman Brian Corbett explained that the CTS coupe's central exhaust exits preclude the mounting of a tow hitch; even if you managed to fit a hitch there, the exhaust would blow directly onto the coupling or the trailer. The CTS-V models likewise aren't recommended for towing duty because their larger exhausts would make it difficult to mount a trailer hitch below the rear bumper.
Chrysler 200/Dodge Avenger - 1000 lbsThe Chrysler 200 was the star of the company's now-famous "Imported from Detroit" advertising campaign, and both the 200 and its mechanical sibling, the Dodge Avenger, have a half-ton secret. The midsize sedans -- and the 200 convertible -- are able to tow 1000 pounds.
The 200 and Avenger stand out because all of the cars' rival midsize sedans, including the Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, and Honda Accord, are not rated to tow a trailer at all. The Chrysler 200 convertible is unique because it is one of just three convertibles on sale in the U.S. that come with a tow rating (the others are the Jeep Wrangler and the Volvo C70).
Though the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger used to have a poor reputation, both were improved thanks to a comprehensive update for 2011 -- and the sales numbers reflect it. The Chrysler 200 last year more than doubled the sales of the Chrysler Sebring in 2010, while the Dodge Avenger saw its sales jump 26 percent between 2010 and 2011.
Engine choices comprise a 2.4-liter inline-four with 173 hp and 166 lb-ft, and a 3.6-liter V-6 with 283 hp and 260 lb-ft. Most trim levels receive a six-speed automatic transmission, though the entry-level 200 LX and Avenger SE models make do with a four-speed automatic.
Chevrolet Cruze / Buick Verano - 1000 lbs (Except Cruze Eco)The Chevrolet Cruze and Buick Verano sedans share their platform, yet neither would typically be described as a workhorse. The Cruze is Chevrolet's popular new compact sedan, and it's designed more for affordability and high fuel economy than hauling. The new Verano is the smallest Buick in some time, and it embodies the luxury brand's attempt to expand beyond its traditional boundaries. Despite their disparate intentions, both the Cruze and Verano are able to tow 1000 pounds. The lone exception is the Chevrolet Cruze Eco, a special version that receives tweaks to help it achieve 28/42 mpg (city/highway) with a manual transmission, or 26/39 mpg with an automatic.
We're surprised the Cruze can tow because small economy cars are rarely the vehicle of choice for pulling trailers; the Verano surprises us because, as with the LaCrosse, towing doesn't seem to fit the upmarket image of Buick vehicles.
The Cruze offers two engines, a 1.8-liter inline-four with 138 hp and 125 lb-ft, and a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-four with 138 hp and 148 lb-ft. The Buick Verano comes standard with a larger, 2.4-liter inline-four engine rated at 180 hp and 171 lb-ft. Whether it's the thrifty and economical Chevrolet Cruze or the upscale Buick Verano, we are impressed that this pair of compact sedans is able to tow 1000 pounds.
Ford Mustang V-6/GT - 1000 lbsIt probably not going to keep the F-series up worrying, but the Ford Mustang is able to tow as well: 1000 pounds, in V-6 and GT trim. (The much more powerful Shelby GT500 and Boss 302 are not recommended for towing.) Still, it is surprising that a car designed for summertime cruising and performance can haul a trailer. No doubt the towing ability is due in part to the Ford Mustang's two powerful engines, a 3.7-liter V-6 with 305 hp and 280 lb-ft, and the GT's 5.0-liter V-8 with 420 hp and 390 lb-ft. Coupled with generously sized brakes to help slow all that mass, it's clear that the Mustang would be perfectly able to tow a small trailer.
Ford Taurus - 1000 lbsMany people in a Ford dealership looking for a family car that also tows would gravitate to the Explorer or the Flex, but buyers who haul only small loads shouldn't overlook the Taurus. Ford's venerable sedan can pull up to 1000 pounds. As with the Buick LaCrosse, the Taurus is a large and roomy sedan that seems more adept at transporting a family on vacation than pulling a utility trailer to a lumberyard.
Ford revamped the Taurus for 2013 with a new face, some updated interior materials, better brakes and steering, and revisions to its powertrains. The base 3.5-liter V-6 has received a power bump to 288 hp and 254 lb-ft. The 1000-pound tow rating even applies to the high-performance Taurus SHO version, which has a 365-hp, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 engine. That could make for a seriously potent and entertaining -- if unusual -- tow vehicle.
Toyota Corolla - 1500 lbs"A wealth of features that won't cost a fortune" is how Toyota introduces the 2012 Corolla on its consumer website, and one of those features is a 1500-pound tow rating. That's an impressive number for a relatively small and light compact sedan. Notably, the Corolla's rating is higher than those of larger and more powerful cars like the Cadillac CTS, Chrysler 200, and even Toyota's Avalon sedan.
The fact that the Corolla can out-tow those vehicles is even more impressive when you consider that the compact sedan is one of Toyota's entry-level models; pricing starts at just $16,890 for a Corolla L with a manual transmission. The car also doesn't seem that well suited to towing given that it has rear drum brakes and a 1.8-liter inline-four engine with just 132 hp and 128 lb-ft. What's most surprising is that, within the Toyota family, the Corolla beats the 1000-pound tow rating of the full-size Avalon, while the midsize 2012 Camry is not rated to tow at all.
Toyota Matrix - 1500 lbsThe unassuming Toyota Matrix hatchback has the same 1500-pound tow rating as the Corolla, which should come as no surprise once you know that the two vehicles are built on essentially the same platform. The Matrix, though, has two key features not available on the Corolla: an larger, optional 2.4-liter inline-four engine with 158 hp and 162 lb-ft of torque, and available all-wheel drive. Because the Matrix is a hatchback, it also offers considerably more cargo room than the Corolla sedan, at 49.4 cubic feet (rear seats folded) compared to 12.3 cubic feet.
Most other similar hatchbacks, however, don't have any tow rating at all. Cars like the Mazda 3 and Ford Focus hatches, for instance, are not recommended for towing. That makes the Matrix a standout in its class, which could be a boon for buyers who need the practicality of a hatchback and the capability to tow small trailers.
Volvo C30 - 2000 lbsVolvo considers the C30 to be its hot hatchback, but in reality the two-door model is as much of a style statement as a performance car. Targeted to younger buyers, the Volvo C30 wears styling touches like LED running lights, a honeycomb front grille, a large glass hatchback inspired by the iconic Volvo P1800, and the brand's elegant waterfall-style center stack.
That's not to say there isn't performance on tap: a turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-five engine provides 227 hp and 236 lb-ft. That's enough to rocket the C30 to a top speed of 149 mph, with the 0-to-60-mph run dispatched in 6.2 seconds with a manual transmission or 6.6 seconds with an automatic.
Still, the reason we're most surprised that the C30 can tow 2000 pounds is that the car's ability is unique among its competitors. No other sporty compact car is rated by the manufacturer to tow any load at all: the Volkswagen GTI, Mazdaspeed 3, and Honda Civic Si all earn a "not recommended" tow rating from their respective manufacturers. For buyers who want to have fun behind the wheel while retaining the ability to tow small loads, the Volvo C30 may be the only choice out there.
Volvo C70 - 2000 lbsThe Volvo C70 is a four-seat convertible with a folding hardtop, which probably summons visions of trips to the beach rather than hauling lumber on a trailer. Yet just like the C30 hatchback, the Volvo C70 can tow up to 2000 pounds. The muscle for pulling trailers comes from the same turbocharged inline-five engine as in the C30, with 227 hp and 236 lb-ft.
We're not sure that towing really matches the stylish and sporty demeanor of the C70; after all, Volvo itself touts the model's combination of "wide-open exhilaration and fresh-air freedom." More surprising still is the fact that the C70 is one of just three convertibles on sale in the U.S. market that is capable of towing.