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.