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Hello all. I am in the market for a new boat, which requires a new vehicle. This vehicle will double as a daily driver. I put about 18K miles per year on my vehicle via "normal" (non-towing) driving and I plan to tow a boat about 3k miles per year.

The boat I am interested in is a Lund Alaskan. It has a dry weight of 1300 pounds. Estimated weight with trailer ( wet, loaded to the gills with gear) is 2700 pounds. The aerodynamics of the boat are obviously in my favor as compared to say a travel trailer. Normally I wouldn't hesitate towing this load with an Outback, but the altitude has me worried.

Would you be comfortable towing this load in the Rockies a couple dozen times per year? I really don't want to step up to a Honda Ridgeline (my second all-purpose choice), but I will if the consensus advises so.

18K miles per year with an EPA-guided mileage differential suggests I'll save about 1100 bucks a year in gas if I go with the Outback. I'm also under the impression that the Outback will significantly outperform the Ridgeline in Colorado winter conditions. So if the Outback won't cut it... lie?


Thanks in advance for any feedback!
 

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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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The 3.0 liter 6 cylinder vehicles problem lies in cooling - not engine, transmission, braking. I would research and verify the 3.6 isn't similar in that regard, i doubt it's cooling capacity is much different than the 3.0, that's how Subaru designs and builds stuff - they don't change very much. Subaru's = Lego's.

I have a recent thread about towing a 950 pound boat (and trailer, gear, etc - 2,000+ pounds no doubt). It was not even close to being able to go up the grades - it was running hot. Had to be very careful about speed, could not run A/C (really sweet at 97 degrees and humid) and had to run the heat on HIGH to dump enough heat to keep it from overheating.

I am not sure so you should check but my suspicions would be that the 3.6 engine doesn't have much different cooling capacity.

If you're not climbing grades it's far less of an issue - you can tow twice the limit of the car - but if yo'ure pulling grades in high heat, A/C, with a load (people, gear, gas, trailer, batteries, etc) - I'd be worried about the cooling limits being pushed.

Which really sucks because there's no way to measure that or verify what it "can" and "can not" do.
 

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2011 OB 2.5i Prem CVT HK/AWP, Ruby Red Pearl
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Where in CO will you be traversing. As alluded to, it’s not so much the alt but the grades you’ll be ascending/descending.
Denver is mile-high, 8K is basically lowland in CO. Take a look at topo maps and see where you’ll be traveling, but even that is still a WAG. A test drive is your best gauge.
 

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2011 Outback 3.6R Limited
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I tow an 18.5 ft Lund Tyee with my 3.6. I’ve estimated my weight at 2700 lbs as well. No problems at all, I think it pulls it easier then my 5.2L Dodge Dakota and it should, they have almost the same horsepower and torque ratings. I’ve pulled it through the Texas hill country at 105 degrees, and it held 60 on the upgrades with no problem at all. It downshifted to fourth and it wasn’t even close to floored. The Texas hill country, however, is not the Rockies’. I would think it would really work on some of the long steep grades to hold speed but so would almost any vehicle. Put a transmission cooler on and make sure you’ve got trailer brakes. Our boats weigh almost as much as the Subaru. I actually think the weight, structural integrity and cooling capacity of the Outback are the limiting factors for the 3.6’s towing capacity.
 

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Any time your near max load capacity which includes passengers - the dog - the crap in the car + the boat + trailer and gear in the boat - you can expect the tow vehicle to need a very close eye on it in anything but flat towing. If your doing short local trips and can pay more attention to what your packing along - avoid hauling a full fuel tank ie fill up at the lake or just before the lake - avoid hauling huge jugs of water pick it up locally close to your destination etc etc then it could be workable and comfortable enough.

However on long trips wind - hot temps - lack of extra capacity regarding cooling capability etc all start to make the towing effort fairly stressful on both the driver and the car. My 21ft racing sailboat with bare minimal running gear on board with trailer was 1700lbs - boat without trailer was 1300lbs. Packed with 3 adults one kid + dog and camping gear for everyone for a long weekend we might have been in the 2500lb doubt we hit 2700lbs. The car handled the weight just fine - but we were only traveling about 130 miles 85% of it flat with the last few miles having a 45mph speed limit and we climbed about 3000ft. Car was fine. I towed the same boat from SF to Dillion CO with a Yukon 4.7L V8 - we almost took my Outback. We were packed super light three light duffel bags and an empty boat with only race gear on board 1700lbs. The Yukon actually worked hard in Utah and CO however we were doing 65-80mph the whole way. NO WAY THE OB would have done that trip at those speeds - and the mileage difference between the OB and the Yukon towing the boat at decent speeds is about 3MPG. OB will do about 16mpg and the Yukon was doing 13mpg.

If I were to do that trip again I would probably take a truck given the tow was a zero concern where as with the OB the climbs would have had me watching the temps like a hawk and being very conservative on how hard I pushed the car.

99% of the time all our local 2-3 hr fairly flat towing I do with the OB given it turns a little better mileage and tows fine in that type of terrain.
 

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By the way we own a truck for the heavy hauling and lots of people ie butts in seats need.
However most of our long road trips and camping the OB does the trip given its just mom, dad and the kids maybe the dog with our 900lb tent trailer which fully loaded we are in Go anywhere- any temp trim with zero issues or worries about the car. That was by design.

For 11yrs we had an old Toyota Land Cruiser we paid almost nothing for which we used to haul the boat to some of the really hard climb - hot locations - that and it got the dirty yard junk hauling duty etc. I just sold it for almost what we paid for it 11yrs ago.

If I was really into fishing and had a 20ft fishing rig and had time to travel to some super cool high altitude lakes for Trout fishing I would probably find a used Frontier or Taco I could pack full of stuff and the boat with zero concerns about cooling capacity etc.

If I were only doing a few local trips near by with the boat then the OB simply being a tug to move the boat locally would be just fine and a non worry.
 
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