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Last Post 11 Feb 2012 04:05 PM by  EPcivic
Frontier or Titan for occasional towing?
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IntegraR0064
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30 Jan 2012 01:03 PM

    I've been going all over the place with trying to decide on a tow vehicle for this season. Right now we're looking at new pickups - most likely either a 2012 Frontier or a 2011 Titan (or possibly their Toyota competitors). The purpose of the vehicle will be a) daily driver for myself and fiance, probably around 5k miles per year of mostly city driving, b) tow vehicle, probably 4-5k miles/year towing.

    More info on expected towing usage:

    • Will be towing STR S2000 on an open trailer at about 4800 lbs total loaded weight. S2000 will weigh 2700 lbs-ish. Right now I'm thinking a new 18' econo-trailer at 1550 lbs. I'll probably add a tire rack (floor height on the floor/tongue so no additional drag) and maybe a small toolbox so loaded up maybe another 500 lbs high estimate.
    • In the truck will be myself and fiance, plus very little else...a cooler, a suitcase, couple misc things, that's probably it. So including driver maybe 400 lbs in the truck.
    • We'd tow around 6 times per year round trip (local autocrosses we won't tow to)
      • 3-4 round trip tows per year of short distance on relatively flat terrain, I live in philly and will tow to/from D.C., Northern NJ.
      • 3 round trip towing trips per year that I have to see any remotely significant hills. These would be a philly to central PA, philly to toledo, and philly to nebraska. There are the large hills/small mountains in the center of PA on the turnpike that I would have to deal with (the trip to central PA would probably be on 322 so a little worse). Other than that it's pretty flat as far as I remember.

    The extent of my towing experience is towing my tire trailer behind my miata so I'm not really sure what to expect. I test drove a 2012 F150 and it felt kinda big. Not out of the question, but it felt bigger than I'd prefer. I think to get it equipped how we want it the F150 will be too expensive anyway. Next we're going to test drive the Nissan frontier V6 and the titan this weekend. We're looking for something pretty upscale since it'll be her main vehicle, so it would probably be the SL model of either truck with all the heated seats, leather,etc. It'll be a crew cab with 4WD.

    Price looks like it'll be around $4500 cheaper for the Frontier than the Titan, and it's at kind of a crucial point in our budget so the Frontier is pretty much at the edge of what we had budgeted, whereas the titan is more than we were hoping to pay, but I think I might be able to find the money but it'll eat into our racing budget.

    Tow rating is 6300 lbs on the Frontier, so theoretically we've still got some margin there. The Titan seems like overkill with it's 9 or 10k tow rating. But I know the Frontier won't have as easy of a time. We will get the weight distributing hitch and will have a brake controller with electric brakes.

    Ultimately my question is, which should we go with? On paper the Frontier makes the most sense. I'm guessing it will feel smaller and more nimble. In terms of empty acceleration I think both trucks are comparable (0-60 in the 7.x second range). We'll only be towing maybe 6 times per year, and only half of those will involve any hills and even then they're not too bad. Like I said it fits our budget without having to raid the racing fund unlike the titan.

    So any input on that would be appreciated. Some more specific questions:

    1) Generally I want to be able to drive normally in a pretty relaxed manner while towing. In other words, put it on cruise control, go at least 65 or maybe even 70 mph, leave a decent space in front of me but not have to worry too much about not being able to stop, not have to white knuckle it every time there's a 10 mph wind, be able to listen to the stereo and not be at full throttle at 5500 RPM the whole time, have a pretty comfortable ride quality, that sort of thing. Although of course I'd prefer not to, I'm OK going 50 or 55 mph or whatever and having to concentrate fully on driving for the hilly part of the drive specifically as long as I feel I'm safe. If the frontier is not going to be able to do that then I really need to be looking at the full size. Any experience?
    2) How do you think fuel economy will compare between the two in real world driving and real world towing - anyone have experience with one or the other? I think we'll probably get a tuner but otherwise leave it mostly stock, I want to keep it pretty quiet. If the frontier will be significantly more fuel efficient that also helps quite a bit with the money and from limited anecdotal evidence it sounds like the frontier will be better by a couple mpg while towing, and better still by another couple mpg when not towing.

    Thanks for any help!

    lowside67
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    30 Jan 2012 01:18 PM
    I towed my DSP E36 BMW which weighed around 2800lbs on an open trailer with a 2010 Frontier 4x4 crewcab and it was never a problem, though certainly not like towing behind an F-350 diesel. If you are going to only tow 6 times a year and the Titan is a negative every other day of the year, I wouldn't even think twice - buy the Frontier. It will get better fuel economy unloaded, similar or better towing, much nicer to drive/park the rest of the year, better resale.

    Mark
    JBrettHowell
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    30 Jan 2012 01:24 PM
    I towed for years with a '98 Pathfinder and a weight distributing hitch...by years I mean more than 10...transmission finally took a dump this past fall, but I think I got my money's worth out of it. The Titan should be more than enough. The Frontier I would classify as "just barely enough."
    IntegraR0064
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    30 Jan 2012 02:00 PM
    lowside67 wrote:
    I towed my DSP E36 BMW which weighed around 2800lbs on an open trailer with a 2010 Frontier 4x4 crewcab and it was never a problem, though certainly not like towing behind an F-350 diesel. If you are going to only tow 6 times a year and the Titan is a negative every other day of the year, I wouldn't even think twice - buy the Frontier. It will get better fuel economy unloaded, similar or better towing, much nicer to drive/park the rest of the year, better resale.

    Mark

    Thanks for the input, that's definitely helpful. Do you have the short wheel base? a 5 foot bed seems somewhat useless but going to the 6 foot bed means the truck will be pretty much as long as a normal bed titan. It'd be nice to be able to stick some 8 ft 2x4's in there, but I think for as rarely as I'll be doing it I can kind of angle them out or something. Definitely for towing usage I can't see putting enough stuff in the bed that the 5 foot bed will be that annoying.

    Also, what kind of fuel mileage do you get if you don't mind me asking?

    IntegraR0064
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    30 Jan 2012 02:12 PM
    JBrettHowell wrote:
    I towed for years with a '98 Pathfinder and a weight distributing hitch...by years I mean more than 10...transmission finally took a dump this past fall, but I think I got my money's worth out of it. The Titan should be more than enough. The Frontier I would classify as "just barely enough."

    Thanks. I've heard the newer frontiers tow a lot better than the older frontier and pathfinder, any idea if that's true?

    mlane350z
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    30 Jan 2012 02:41 PM
    It's true.
    JBrettHowell
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    30 Jan 2012 03:55 PM
    mlane350z wrote:
    It's true.

    +1

    Chiketkd
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    30 Jan 2012 03:56 PM
    I don't have much experience with towing (used to tow various things for the house/garden with a SVT Lightning years ago), but I have to agree with lowside67. Given the new Frontier's tow rating, smaller size and better resale, it's a no-brainer.

    In a Grass Roots Motorsports article on towing a few months back (not sure which issue), they mentioned giving yourself a 1,000lb towing buffer. Seems like you'll have this margin based on the estimates you've provided. I'd go with the Frontier and not think twice about it.
    John V
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    30 Jan 2012 05:02 PM
    Last year my co-driver and I towed a very similar load with a Pathfinder V8. I think the Pathfinder and the Frontier are a similar platform, but the Pathfinder has IRS.

    My trailer is a 1900lb Bri-Mar and we towed both the RX-7 (2400 lbs) and the 330 (2900 lbs) obviously not at the same time without much trouble. Add two sets of tires, a big jack and some tools and gear and we're towing about what you are planning to. We have a weight distributing hitch and sway control as well as air helper springs in the rear.

    I think the Pathfinder is barely enough in terms of chassis. I've towed with a Titan and it does a much better job. The Frontier might have more spring rate which is the big weak spot on the Pathfinder. The power is fine, but we have the V8 truck. I am sure the V6 can get the job done but it would be screaming up some of the hills in PA and Iowa. I know John Winchester used to tow (maybe still does) with the V6 version of this truck - I imagine it wasn't much fun.

    I've towed out a few times in a Titan with a comparable load and everything is more comfortable. The truck feels more stable because of the extra rear spring rate and it handles the load better. The Titan is somewhere between a 1/2 ton and a 3/4 ton in terms of the chassis and suspension, so it's quite a step up from the Frontier. In my experience the Titan is a little better than the 'Murican 1500 series trucks, but not as good as the 2500+ stuff. For what it's worth, I average about 12.5MPG at a steady 73-75 MPH out to Lincoln and back in either the Titan or the V8 Pathie.

    I'd go with the Titan. Hope this helps.
    EPcivic
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    30 Jan 2012 05:21 PM
    I've been using a Titan for 3yrs now, and I love it. It tows my Civic on a small open trailer like there is nothing there. Very effortless towing at pretty much any speed. I have seen as high as 15.7mpg (intentionally hypermiling on the trip to Blytheville last year), but 13.5 is my average towing mileage, usually at traffic speeds (70-75 or so). It is also my daily, but my commute is VERY short. It is big, and if I didn't need the bed size to fit the kid's kart, I would likely go with something smaller. On the open road, it is fantastic. We often take it on trips because it is more comfortable than the wife's Mazda5. The only downside for daily use is the size when parking. Well, that and the in-town mileage is pretty bad.

    -Chris
    IntegraR0064
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    01 Feb 2012 12:42 AM

    Thanks for the help. It sounds like either one would be a good choice for a little bit different reasons. My main question was whether the Frontier would be adequate or not for the towing, which it sounds like it will although by how much of a margin I guess is debatable. I'll report back with driving impressions this weekend.

    IntegraR0064
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    07 Feb 2012 11:30 AM
    Thanks again for the help, I finally got to drive both trucks and decided to pull the trigger on a 2011 Titan SL 4x4 crew cab, without any other options.

    The three trucks I was comparing were the 2012 Frontier SL, the 2011 Titan SV with value package, and the 2011 Titan SL with no options. The Titan SL and Frontier SL are the most loaded trim package and they're fairly similarly equipped as luxury trucks. The Titan SV is a mid-range package.

    I went into the dealership fully expecting to go with the frontier, but a few things pushed me towards the titan:
    1) The titan felt smaller than it was, and felt smaller than the f150 I drove. The frontier still felt even smaller and felt like driving a car which was a win for the frontier but the titan did not feel so large as to be unwieldy, which was really what I was worried about.
    2) The frontier's back seat was smaller than I expected - I don't think not short adults would be comfortable back there for more than a short trip. The titan's back seats are almost cavernous. This will also be good for me to have some secured storage while towing.
    3) The frontier's seats were not very comfortable, and this is something that's very important to me since I'm bony and I get very uncomfortable sitting for extended periods (like 21 hours driving to lincoln). They weren't bad by any means, they were better than f150 seats, I'd say they were about what I was expecting, but the Titan SL seats are like angels caressing my ass.
    4) The titan's bed just seems much more usable. It's deeper by a few critical inches, wider by a few critical inches, and longer by about half a foot.
    5) I didn't realize that you can't manually shift these trucks, and the frontier as far as I can tell does not have a tow/haul mode. This was huge, especially since the frontier would be worked pretty hard pulling my trailer. I didn't want it hunting for gears, this is super annoying to me. The titan has a tow/haul mode to change the shift points for towing, plus it shouldn't have to work very hard so that will be much better.

    The biggest con of the titan is of course the fuel mileage. I realized though that most of the titans that are towing have the big tow package, which from lots of internet research seems to take off 2 mpg all around due to the high final drive ratio. People that don't have this package seem to be able to achieve gas mileage numbers that are only a couple mpg worse than the frontier, and probably better than the frontier while towing. So we found one with the lower final drive - it should be more than enough for our towing of 5k lb and should get us not ridiculously horrible gas mileage (I'm hoping for 14 city, 19 highway, 13-14-ish towing, while not romping on it). We're also going to do a tuner which sounds like it could get another 1-2 mpg.

    Pricing also moved the titan closer to the frontier than it would normally be, since there's a huge incentive on 2011 titans (although there are decent incentives on the frontiers too). With a little bit of negotiating but not a lot, the prices were:
    Frontier SL: $28,200
    Titan SV with value and utility packages: $29,500
    Titan SL: $33,300 (invoice price after incentives)

    Ultimately we bargained down to $32.5k for the Titan SL with 1.99%/60 mo financing, which is pretty good considering they had to trade another dealership for the truck.

    We pick it up in a few days :)
    John V
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    07 Feb 2012 06:31 PM
    The one I've towed with had the big tow package which (if I recall correctly) gives you deeper gears in the rear axle, tow mirrors, and a tow/haul button. For what it's worth, the shorter gears in the big tow package help keep the truck from hunting between 5th and 4th. This is a problem in the Pathfinder - 5th is too tall unless you're consistently doing 80+. Between 70 and 75 it wants to be in 4th, ultimately hurting economy.

    Agreed 100% on the Titan's seats. I absolutely cannot get comfortable in the Pathfinder - I suspect the seats are the same as in the Frontier. The Titan is super comfortable.
    IntegraR0064
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    07 Feb 2012 07:59 PM
    According to the nissan website, the tow package has the deeper gears, the tow mirrors, and a heavy duty battery. It says transmission with tow/haul mode is standard. As for the transmission hunting in the 70-75 area, oh well...maybe they've improved that somehow, we'll see. Wish I had thought to post before making the decision, but even worst case it'll get better fuel economy most of the time and probably not much worse towing overall. Or I could always suck it up and drive 65. I pick up the truck on thursday so I'll verify that it has the tow/haul mode.

    I plan to get the tow mirrors separately - there are people who want to trade for the smaller mirrors, or I can just buy the mirrors. And I figure the heavy duty battery isn't really needed.
    GlennAustin
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    07 Feb 2012 10:19 PM
    I never had problems with the transmission hunting at 70-75 in tow mode with our '05 Armada. We haven't started towing with the '08.
    Sho Torii
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    07 Feb 2012 11:05 PM

    Wish I found this thread sooner. I towed with a 2006 Titan for 5 years. I towed a CSP Miata (2,000 lbs) on a 14' steel open trailer (1,400 lbs). With tools and other gears, the total tow weight should have been in the neighborhood of 4,000 lbs. I carried the tires (3 sets) on the truck bed. I towed about 12,000 miles a year, including the annual trip from Long Island, NY to Topeka/Lincoln.

    My Titan is the mid-level trim king cab (I forgot the actual moniker) with the tow package. It gave 11-12 mpg when towing the Miata. I bought it brand new in 2007 paying $25K while the sticker was $35K. I usually avoid to buy new cars/trucks (I would have recommended you would buy used if I found this thread sooner), but the price justfied the purchase.

    I am glad you chose the Titan over the Frontier because I just can't imagine to go with anything smaller than the Titan. A smaller towing vehicle may be okay if your towing is limited to local, but not if you make long-distance trips as often as I did. I once towed my rig with a friend's F-150 with a V6 and it was a struggle. And it was only from DC to LI on flat surfaces all the way. My next truck, even if I were still towing the same car/trailer package (which I am not), would be a F-250 or something equivalent. Although the Titan (at least mine) is rated at 9,300 lbs for towing, I don't think it is designed to tow on a regular basis. You will see a huge difference when you compare the size of the Titan's rear diff with that of the F-250's. The problems that I experienced may be specific to the 2006 model or to my truck, but everything in the drive train, except for the rear diff, had to be replaced in the first 5 years (thak God for the warranty). I will not get into the details of the troubles, but I am convinced that they had to happen due to the amount of towing that I did. I am sure that the 2011 Titan is vastly improved over the 2006 and your planned 4-5K mile per year of towing should be no problem. But I recommend you will change the diff oil as often as every 12,000 miles as I have been doing.

    Despite the troubles, I still like my Titan. It is a confortable truck with good power. It is now towing an enclosed trailer (1,400 lbs) with a Formula Ford (925 lbs) in it. My wife uses it as a station vehicle during the week. I think you and your fiance will enjoy yours. Good luck!

    John V
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    08 Feb 2012 05:49 AM
    GlennAustin wrote:
    I never had problems with the transmission hunting at 70-75 in tow mode with our '05 Armada. We haven't started towing with the '08.

    It never did it with the Armada that Clyde and I used, but it also had the big tow package with the 3.36 rear gear.

    The Pathfinder has 2.93s. Ugh.

    B1mmer
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    08 Feb 2012 09:45 AM
    I traded in my '10 STi SE on a '11 Armada Platinum 4WD while out at Nationals this past year. While I have yet to tow with it, I already put in a Tekonsha Prodigy P2 brake controller and got a Equal-i-zer weight distribution/sway control hitch. All of the Platinum package Armadas come with the tow package, but like Sho, I plan to change the differential fluid often. I probably won't tow to more than an event or two, as my co-driver has a Jayco Super C motorhome, but from everything I have read the Armada/Titan drivetrain issues have been rectified in the last few years. - AB
    GlennAustin
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    08 Feb 2012 06:15 PM
    John V wrote:
    GlennAustin wrote:
    I never had problems with the transmission hunting at 70-75 in tow mode with our '05 Armada. We haven't started towing with the '08.

    It never did it with the Armada that Clyde and I used, but it also had the big tow package with the 3.36 rear gear.

    The Pathfinder has 2.93s. Ugh.

    The only time I ever had "issues" was coming back from the SDNT and having to take steeper back roads due to the closure of I-5 (snow).

    The "issue" was the transmission temps were higher than I liked, but the Armada also had less than 10,000 miles on it and the transmission wasn't fully broken in at that time. After that trip we also did the trip from the PNW to Topeka and had zero issues -- in fact we averaged 13 MPG on regular going out, and 14+ MPG on premium coming back (at 70+ MPH on the freeways). The difference between going out and coming back as well was that the Armada would drop out of cruise control climbing hills when we used regular, and had no problems holding speed on cruise control when running premium.

    John V
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    09 Feb 2012 05:50 AM
    You say the transmission doesn't hunt, but then you complained about high transmission temps?

    The only reason the temperature would get up there is if it's shifting frequently.
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