towing a pop-up 2.5 vs 3.6 engine? - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums

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Old 01-21-2012, 03:37 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default towing a pop-up 2.5 vs 3.6 engine?

Hi all, this is my first post. I've done some research, but can't seem to find exactly what i'm looking for (so i turn to you folks!).

I know the 3.6r has 300lbs higher towing capacity, and higher power and torque than the 2.5i, but i happen to despise automatic transmissions (especially those with flappy paddles. gag.). The 2.5i has the nice 6 speed manual.... which tells me that the 6th gear is really tall and built for mpg (29mpg vs the 3.6's 25mpg...)

I'm buying this car for a cross country trip from alaska to new york with a baby who will be 9 months old. We want to tow a small pop-up type camper trailer, and probably a cargo box on the car or the trailer. Would the 3.6r make more sense for this application or would the tall gearing of the 2.5i work better? Any thoughts as to MPG? Tradeoffs? Am i looking at the wrong vehicle altogether?

Thanks! I look forward to exploring this forum in depth (but it's tough to find time with a new baby!)
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Old 01-21-2012, 06:59 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Cross country towing trip? 3.6 + tranny cooler.

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Old 01-21-2012, 07:56 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I second that. With the weight of your trailer being only part of it, you need to consider your weights, cargo, drag from cargo box, mountians, etc. If all the weights together are near 3000 pounds you may want to think about a heavier duty vehicle. I doubt you would even get to 6th gear when loaded.
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Old 01-21-2012, 08:35 AM   #4 (permalink)
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You might use sixth gear on some of the downhill stretches. If you are willing to take it more slowly up hills, it would be doable with the 2.5 if staying within the load limits for the vehicle (considering passengers, cargo, and trailer). However, the 2.5 is really just adequate for that trip without the trailer. The MT should get a top quality gear oil for that trip, since there will be added heat and load from the towing.

Also important to note: towing with a brand new car is not usually recommended. Normally they want you to get maybe a couple thousand miles on first before taking heavy loads, and then not to maintain the same speed for long periods, etc.
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Old 01-21-2012, 08:37 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Keep a close eye on the trailer weight... Especially the tongue weight. Many American made trailers have very high tongue weights, because they know that most of us re towing with pickups and don't care about high tongue weight. Also, most manufacturers under estimate trailer weight by quoting the weight of a completely empty trailer with no options. According to the manufacturer, my camper weighs 900 pounds... In fact, it weighs 1,200 pounds empty.

In my opinion, the 2.5 would be fine for your trip, so long as the trailer is within the weight rating. But who am I to argue, I am just someone who actually TOWS a camper with a 2.5i powered Outback.

I know you want a manual, and that's fine. My previous tow car was a 128 horsepower Toyota with a 5-speed. I much prefer the CVT, though.
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Old 01-21-2012, 08:50 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I have an F250 to tow my camper, and I would not even attempt to tow with that over the mountians between here and AK. You have to also consider the downhill aspects and braking needed when towing. Just my feeling that I need to be safe for myself and others on the road, and also not clog up the highway trying to make it up the steep mountains.
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Old 01-21-2012, 08:53 AM   #7 (permalink)
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are you moving to NYC? are you planning on keeping the car?
I would think twice abt. driving a manual daily in NYC.
I had Manual all my life until I moved to Chicago. 3.5 hrs stuck on bumperto bumper traffic going only 40 miles did me in.
Had Auto/CVT tranny only since that one day!
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Old 01-21-2012, 10:03 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Your main issue is going to be the mountains. The 3.6 puts out 80 more HP then the 2.5 and it’ll come in handy in the mountains. I tow a 19 ft 2700 boat and the 3.6 has no problems with this, it doesn’t feel like it’s working hard at all. I also have a Dakota that used to have a 318 in it (I restored the truck and put a slightly raced 360 in it). The 3.6’s power ratings are very close to the original 318 and I believe it tows the boat better. IMO, with a tranny cooler the 3.6 and 5eat are capable of towing substantially more than 3000 LBS. I think the towing capacity is dramatically limited by the Outback’s weight, brake system and body construction, not the powertrain.

IMO the 3.6 will have no problem going cross country with the loading you described. Your biggest problem would be that you hate automatics.
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Old 01-21-2012, 01:46 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I am a bit biased toward the 3.6 of course but it is a little more 'heavy duty' within the OB family. ( donning flame suit here)..
The 3.6 has the added advantage of bigger brakes than the 2.5. I actually tow my boat for a living and find that the OB does as well, if not better, than my Chevy Avalanche specially at the boat ramp and gas pump..... I only have a small 16' 7" boat and the whole combo weighs less than 2000#.
Overall gas milage has been 26.4 over the last 800 miles, that includes towing, city and highway driving. I would recommend an extra transmission oil cooler.

If your worried about the frame of the Subaru than you should know that in Europe and the ROW the 3.6 is rated to tow 4400# and I doubt that there is any change in structural design or integrity. Also like someone else mentioned earlier, trailers in the US aren't balanced as well as they are in Europe, where tongue weight is limited by law to be XX Kg's. The speed limits are lower than here in the US while you are towing.
I.E police in Germany will check tongue weight if they suspect you've overloaded the trailer. Many Dutch driver's find out the hard way that schlepping 200 pounds of potato's to Italy or Austria wasn't a smart idea...
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Old 01-21-2012, 02:15 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I towed 1800 lbs teardrop with OB 3.6R in the fall last year across the continent (8000 miles). The trailer weight was close to the comfortable maximum and provided pleasant driving experience for many days and long hours of towing it but I would not want to tow the trailer heavier than 2000 Lbs.
My opinion (for very long trips only):
-If your fully loaded camper exceeds 2000 lbs find something else than OB for such long trip.
-3.6 R OB provides comfortable (steady 60 to 65 Mph) worry-free towing experience and reasonable mileage up to probably no more than 2000 lbs trailer (I am taking into consideration braking distances, passing mountains, gusting wind etc).
- 2.5 OB... I have no experience towing with 2.5 but I would personally settle on 1700 Lbs for 2.5 OB as a reasonable maximum for very long trips.
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