Can minivans really pull a trailer?

My husband and I have been seriosly thinking of purchasing a minivan, and the 2005 Odyssey Touring and 2005 Grand Caravan SXT are our finalists. (We drove the Sienna, and neither of us really liked it.) We
don't have kids, and aren't planning on them, but we do have big dogs (Rottweiler and Irish Wolfhound) and lots of friends. Our ideal vehicle is one in which we can take 6 adults comfortably with a moderate amount of stuff or 4 adults and the two dogs. We also have a trailer that we pull on a regular basis (average two weekends a month - 50 to 600 miles).
Before we make our final decision, there are some caveats that we would like to be certain of.
1) Can the Odyssey pull a trailer easily and without the gas mileage falling below 10-12mpg? Our trailer (Haulmark Cub, 6' tall, 8' long, single axle) weighs about 2500# when loaded. When pulling the trailer, the van will most likely be full of people. Will the engine still be able to keep up highway speeds? Will the height cause a great deal of wind resistance behind the van?
2) Our trailer has brakes on it, which come in very, very handy. I have seen other posts talking about surge brakes or dash mounted kits and am not sure what those are. When hitched to our truck (99 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad cab, 8' bed), the trailer brakes engage when we step on the truck brakes. The trailer has a 7-pin wiring harness, and I understand that minivans only come with a 4-pin, but I'm fairly certain there's an adaptor for that. Is there?
3) Are the 3rd row seats comfortable for an adult on a long (4+ hour) drive?
Neither of us have ever owned a minivan, but for what we want to be able to do they seem like the best choice. SUVs have lower gas mileage, or can't carry as many people, but they are able to pull a trailer. A minivan seems to have everything we want.
Thanks, Gilyan
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The folks in the RV/pop-up camper groups tend to get pretty fanatical about not exceeding 75% of the towing capacity of the vehicle. If you go by their rule of thumb, and you have a Caravan set up to tow, then 2850lbs is about it. That's going by the 3800lbs towing capacity that is listed. The Honda would be a bit less as it appears to be rated to tow 3500lbs. And keep in mind, the listed towing capacity includes everything in the vehicle PLUS the loaded trailer. Can you get away with loading to near the max capacity? Probably...
Judging by the 1992 Caravan that I have with the 3.0 v6, I would never tow anything with it (mainly afraid I'd tear out that poor transmission), but it's only rated for probably 1500lbs. It's also not an overly sturdy vehicle compared to the Isuzu Trooper we use to tow our 18' travel trailer (2400lbs empty). As for power, I would think you would not have any problems with either. Our 2002 Trooper is rated at 215hp and does a great job with the travel trailer. The 3.8 in the Caravan says 215hp, and the Odyssey is even higher. Yes, height and wind resistance makes a big difference.
In general it just seems to me that minivan's aren't as well suited for towing as SUV's and larger vehicles...always a balancing game between fuel efficiency and towing capacity... If you're towing that much, it might be in your best interest to consider something a little beefier. Have you checked the full-size vans? I know Ford still makes one, not sure about Chevy. Dodge has that funny-looking sprinter that replaced their van. But...there goes some of the gas mileage (when you're not towing).
Brakes - surge or "dash-mounted"? Surge brakes have a unit on the tongue of the trailer that engages the brakes as the trailer pushes on the tow vehicle as it slows down. I'm guessing you probably have electric brakes - is there a box in your truck that probably has a lever on the front and something that lights up when you hit the brakes? That's the electric brake controller. I've never towed a trailer with surge brakes, but I hear they are a pain. If you order a minivan with a tow kit, it will most likely come with the 4-flat trailer connector. You'd need to add a brake controller, run a few wires, and replace it with a 7-pin connection. Not a big deal if you're so inclined, otherwise I'm sure a local RV shop could easily do it for you.
Gas mileage - your results will probably be similar or a bit better compared to our travel trailer. For us, towing with the 2002 Isuzu Trooper (3.5 v6, 215hp, rated to tow 5000lbs), it will get 19mpg on the highway. Toss the trailer on the back, and I've gotten as bad as 9mpg, and as good as 13mpg. 9 was really pushing it, 13 was best ever and taking it easy (no rush up hills, etc). Can't say how that would compare, but probably not a huge difference. I understand bigger engines handle a load without losing as much gas mileage...? That could be an advantage of a van (or truck, etc) with a bigger engine if you're doing a lot of towing...
How much driving will you be doing w/o the trailer in tow compared to how much you will be towing?
Wesley

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I towed a 17 foot Bonair cabin trailer without a problem with my 3.0 Aerostar. Bout a 3.8 TransSport figuring it would be at least as good, and was greatly dissapointed. It's geared for too low an engine speed - even in third towing was problematic. Just sold the trailer.

I have often run the brake and charging wires for the trailer directly to the 7 pin connector, and installed a flat 4 to the 7 pin to plug it into the existing connector. Works well - and allows you to tow the little utility trailer etc without an adapter.

The Aerostar generally gave close to 600km per tank on the highway without the trailer. On a trip from Central Ontario to Vancouver BC and back towing the trailer, we got anywhwere from 485 to 700.
The Pontiac was a different story - the trailer reduced gas mileage by at least half (it does get a bit better mileage empty ---)

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There's anothing thing...the Ford Aerostar and the Chevy Astro are rear-wheel drive vehicles designed to tow more than most front-wheel drive minivan's. The only Astro I ever drove was a work van and that little sucker had quite a bit of power.
I just looked - the specs on Chevy's web site rate the Astro passenger version as capable of towing 5400lbs. I don't know of any other minivan that can do that...even their Venture is only rated for 3500lbs. But...I'm not a Chevy guy... Give me a Ford, Dodge, Or Isuzu.
Wesley
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aerostar? or windstar?
ones AWD with a crappy transfer case and the other is 2WD

But...I'm
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Aerostar is 2-wheel rear-wheel drive, is it not? I believe they had the option for AWD? I don't know anything about the Windstar's...
Wesley

drive
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Wesley wrote:

Windstar is FWD, it's based on the Taurus.
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Go for the Astro or GMC Safari. We have 30 of them on our fleet for Service vans and they stand up exceptionally well...we load them heavy and drive them hard... Good Luck...

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Astro or GMC Safari are built on a truck frame.
Sarge
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All 3.0 Aerostars were 2wd - rear. 4.0 could have AWD. Windstar is a wimpy Taurus wagon with a boxier body and all the Taurus' weaknesses.

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and a transfer cases that spews fluid out through the breather hole

3.0
good,
speed
little
passenger
minivan
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I have a friend that towed with a Caravan and tore the transmission up. The dealer told him when he had it replaced not rebuilt not to tow in overdrive. He towed after that without a problem. If I was going to tow I would make sure I add a transmission cooler to the van. It will help save the transmission.
Jeep is coming out with a new vehicle that is going to be called Jeep Commander. It will have seating for 7 adults. It is set to be introduced in 2006 model line up. http://www.jeep.com/autoshow/commander/ It is compared to the Chevy Tahoo. Choice of three different engines. The 5.7L Hemi has MDS to help conserve fuel when cruising. Both the 4.7 and 5.7 have an optional towing package which includes a different transmission. You press a button when in tow mode. It is fulltime four wheel drive. Third row seating has its own AC controls.
Sarge
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I've towed a lot, with cars, vans, and other vehicles. Something i have noticed a LOT is that american towing ratings are substantially lower than the ratings for the same models everywhere else in the world.
The 7 pin is, i assume, the standard international style (hexagon config). The trailer mounted brakes you have are also international standard (they're requires in the UK, for instance, on any trailer over 1500 - lb, i'm pretty sure its not kg)
Will it tow it? yes, should you? not with an automatic transmission. Auto transmission is designed for two types of people - those too lazy to change gear, and those unable to change gear. You should never use one for towing.
Wesley did come out with a good alternative - the sprinter and its ilk. In europe you can get these (especially the Ford Transit) in3, 4, 7 and 15 seater versions, and they are by far the most common form of commerical vehicle in the roads (they outsell, and out-perform pickups like your ram. They're also extremely easy to modify. Get one, and make and fit your own window, add in some seats from another vehicle, and voila - a nice 6 seater. Its not hard to do - i think it took me and a friend a day to do such mods to a suzuki supercarry he bought, using not much more than a cordless drill, and a jigsaw. These vans are also taller than minivans, and so will help the wind-resistance, better yet, you can buy windsocks, that are basically sheets on a spring-roll, that fasten between the back end of your vehicle, and the outside front edge of the towed vehicle - makes a massive difference. Also, the Sprinter is a mercedies, and the chevvy express is a vauxhall - both long evolved designs through europe - the only main difference is the dreadful engines and transmissions put in them for sale in the US
Oh, and they're not slow either - the BBc's top gear show (now also modified and shown on Discovery) ran a ford transit Diesel around the nurenbourg ring - it managed it in around 10 minutes - but you really have to see the piece.
Basically for towing what you want, your options are either going to be a) minivan - but it might not like the limits you'll be putting on it, in US spec, b) large SUV - but that ill be expensive, and costly to run or c) getting a large van, maybe making some mods if needed,
Obviously, if you have the options, go for manual transmission and diesel engines, where possible. (and manual is more important than diesel, especially since you still can't get a modern diesel in the US)
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The latest I've been seeing and hearing is saying that the auto transmissions are sturdier and more capable of hauling loads than the manual transmissions are these days. Certainly goes against everything I've ever heard before though!
Here in the states you don't see many manual-transmission vehicles around...and those you do you can get a good deal on, cuz most people don't want them. I'm with you on the diesels - I think I would have gotten that in our Trooper had it been an option here in the US - it is everywhere else! Somewhere along the line, Americans have gotten this image of a noisy, low power, black-smoke belching diesel engine. That seems to be slowly changing - ie the Jeep Liberty now has a diesel option...
Wesley

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Go check the figures, they're wrong :-) i'll bet the people saying that couldn't drive a 'stick' if their life depended on it.

Oh yeah. the BMW 330d is now the most powerful, and fastest 3 series they sell (moreso than the 330i), jag has a good diesel in their s-type, VW's had a diesel GTi (which outperformed the petrol one) for about 5 years. They don't smoke, don't rattle, and get a lot better mileage. Biggest advantage dieselshave though, is that their torque is already down low, unlike standard petrol engines in the US that need to be heavily detuned, to make the 'low down torque' americans deem important, require to go with their auto-boxes, and which also provide a quieter ride.

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