2011 Tundra To Adopt New Trailer Towing Standards
During the last 20 years, the manufacturer-stated maximum tow capacity of the typical half-ton pickup truck has skyrocketed. Take a look at the increase in maximum tow rating for America’s best-selling pickup, the Ford F-150:
As you can see, the F-150’s towing power has increased by 66% over the last 20 years…or at least that’s what Ford says. If you think about all the electronics and improved efficiency – not to mention dramatic improvements in transmissions – it certainly seems plausible that today’s F-150 is 66% better at pulling than it was 20 years ago.
However, there are a couple of reasons to doubt these numbers:
1. The engines haven’t improved enough to match the increase in tow ratings. The 2010 F-150 has a 5.4L V8 rated at 310 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque. The 1990 F-150 had a 5.8L, which was rated at 210 horsepower and 315 lb-ft of torque. While the horsepower increase since 1990 is significant (more than 67%) torque is what gets a trailer moving, and that hasn’t improved more than 15%.
2. The trucks themselves have gotten heavier. The curb weight of a 1990 Ford F-150 Regular Cab was 3,900 lbs. Today, a similar 2010 model weighs in at 4,700 lbs. While Ford has added a lot to the truck in that time (the 2010 is light-years ahead of the 1990 in every conceivable way), those features have come with a weight penalty.
Am I picking on Ford here? Yes and no. Ford certainly has managed to make the F-150 a better tow vehicle since 1990 – that much is certain. However, 66% better? That seems optimistic.
Ford isn’t the only company that’s inflated their tow ratings. Every half-ton truck on the market today has seen tremendous “improvements” in towing capacity without any tremendous powertrain improvements to match.
Consider that the 2010 Dodge Ram 1500, which is rated to pull 10,450 lbs, is identical to the 2009 model that was only rated to pull 9,100 lbs. Somehow, Dodge managed to increase towing capacity 15% between 2009 and 2010 after nothing more than a “revision” in their calculations.
All of the evidence tells us that there’s no way of knowing whether Ford, Dodge, Chevy, or Toyota are telling the truth about how much their trucks can safely pull. Obviously, this is a problem.
Finally, Some Tow Rating Standards
As a result of all these dubious trailer tow rating claims, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) decided to come up with a standard. Known as SAE J2807, this standard is intended to measure all trucks in a way that reflects real-word towing. There are dozens of tests and measurements included in this standard, but here are the three that will really impact tow ratings and consumers. The following quote is from some sales materials sent to Toyota dealers:
- The new standard says that the max tow rating must take into account the average weight of passengers and accessories. This is likely to reduce tow ratings across the board by 300 to 500 lbs (give or take).
- Each half-ton will be required to complete a 40 to 60 mph passing maneuver in 18 seconds or less at their maximum trailer rating.
- Each truck will need to meet some handling and trailer control standards, most of which will probably result in better quality OEM hitches being included in tow packages.
Now that all of the auto manufacturers have found a towing standard that they can agree upon, the plan is for manufacturers to begin adhering to the standard testing process by 2013. According to some data uncovered by Mickey, one of our frequent commentors here on TundraHeadquarters.com, Toyota is planning to comply with the new SAE standard on 2011 Tacomas and Tundras – two years ahead of schedule:
Tow ratings for the 2011 Tundra and Tacoma will be revised to comply with the new SAE J2807 guidelines for all truck manufacturers…Until SAE J2807, each truck manufacturer set its own method and standard for establishing tow ratings. This practice was often criticized, especially when automakers increased tow ratings for marketing purposes with no obvious mechanical or power changes [emphasis added]. It made comparing tow ratings very tricky because a fair comparison couldn’t be made…When all vehicles are rated the same way under J2807, then comparing tow ratings will be more accurate…and useful to the customer.
Toyota Taking A Risk By Complying Early
It’s unclear at this point if the Tundra will be able to keep the same trailer tow rating once it’s tested using these new standards. Toyota used the new SAE J2807 standard to test the 2010 4Runner, for example, and the max tow rating between 2009 and 2010 4Runner did not change. However, the engine in the 2010 4Runner has 34 more horsepower and 12 more lb-ft of torque. Based on this fact – and a genuine belief that all half-ton pickup truck tow ratings are over-estimated – it’s our estimation that the Tundra’s tow rating will drop when the 2011 Tundra debuts.
Obviously, this decision to adopt the standard early is risky. If the average consumer doesn’t recognize Toyota is holding the Tundra to a standard that no other manufacturer is adhering to (at least not yet), the Tundra could appear to be weaker than it’s competitors.
What do you think: Will Toyota’s decision to adhere to the new trailer tow rating standards help sales, even if it means a lower maximum tow rating?
Filed Under: Tundra Towing