By Nanci Dixon
I have been looking for a new flat towable car for the last couple of years and I’ve read every RV article that mentions them. Yes, I can practically hear everyone chirping: “Jeep, Jeep, Jeep!” Been there, done that.
I loved our 2001 Volkswagen Cabriolet convertible until the driver’s seat kept falling back, the transmission and emergency brake wouldn’t hold on a hill anymore, the clutch went out, the hubs went out and parts were getting hard to get. We even had it custom-painted to match our motorhome! It was manual transmission too.
We currently have the basic manual 2016 Kia Soul. My husband does all of the motorhome driving, which makes me the designated destination driver when we stop. I am so tired of shifting!
My wants are simple (or so I think…). I want an automatic transmission, flat towable, relatively light tow weight, convertible or hatchback, backup sensors, backup camera, side passing lane sensors, a great sound system, panoramic sunroof, automatic door locks, and cruise control. And it would be nice if it parked itself. The basic Kia does not have cruise control or auto door locks. Who makes a car without cruise control or automatic door locks?
While it has been a reliable, fuel-efficient vehicle, after three years of limited technology I want all the bells and whistles available. If it could fly, I would want that too. And it needs to look a little unusual, or as my husband says, “odd.” I did think about a Fiat or Mini Cooper, but it would still be a manual transmission. Nope.
The KIA GT Soul, Ford Escape Hybrid, 2021 Chevy Trailblazer AWD and the 2021 Ford Bronco have caught my eye. I am still waiting to actually see the new Ford Bronco. Unlike some of the more adventurous people that laid down money and pre-ordered the Bronco, I need to test drive it first.
Kia Soul GT Turbo
The flat towable KIA GT Soul Turbo has lots of bells and whistles. Mood lighting combined with the speakers, 10.25 HD touchscreen, rear camera, wireless charging, forward collision avoidance, blind-spot collision warning, lane-keeping assistant… It even has a pop-up screen so I could actually see the turn signals. It has lots of room for hauling stuff with a 60/40 split rear seat and amazingly roomy passenger seats in the front and back. The sunroof was a bit small but better than none.
The 201-hp 1.6 liter turbo-4 zips around. I was up the ramp and on the interstate in seconds. I did notice that the young car salesman next to me was hanging on to the door handle. Was he thinking of exiting? Guess he didn’t know “Grandma” would actually punch it if there was any power.
I like boxy cars, so this fits the bill. I had a Honda Element. I have a Kia Soul. The only real issue with it is that the exterior looks exactly like the one we have, except for the taillights and the KIA is not AWD (all-wheel drive)… yet.
The GT turbo is the only Soul that is flat towable. It has to have a 7-speed DCT (dual-clutch transmission). While that transmission allows it to be flat towed, the reviews have mentioned that it can be slow in low gears. It weighs in at a light 2,844 lbs. Note that the dealership did not know that they can be flat towed. They needed to look up the service bulletin. The starting MSRP on the Turbo is $27,550.
Ford Escape Hybrid Titanium
The next one I test drove was the Ford Escape Titanium Hybrid FWD. I loved the interior! It features everything I could want: heated front seats, panoramic roof, co-pilot assist, Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker audio system, remote start, a spare tire… It’s amazing to me that a spare tire is usually an extra addition (and cost). It was a little slower on the uptake than the Kia Turbo, but acceptable. The hybrid would take a bit getting used to when it is running on battery instead of gas. The only issue was that it looks, um, normal. At $36,805 MSRP, it does cost much more than the Kia Soul, but it does have all the extra bells and whistles.
Chevrolet Trailblazer AWD
Now I am also considering the 2021 Chevrolet Trailblazer AWD, also flat towable. The new 2021 model was released in June and Blue Ox started making a towing base plate for it. It weighs between 3226 lbs. and 3275 lbs., depending on engine size. It has my techno fix with lane change alert, rear cross-traffic alert, climate control, power panoramic sunroof, 8″ touchscreen, Bose 7-speaker audio system, cruise control, rear camera and, yes, it can park itself. It sits at $32,390 MSRP.
Reviews have been favorable and the turbo fares well for a 3-cylinder 1.2 or 1.3 Liter engine. Three cylinders! I am old enough to remember when 6 cylinders were considered wimpy and 4 cylinders a sewing machine! In tests, it struggled a bit on hills. I haven’t test driven it yet, but I will soon.
The Ford Bronco is Ford’s answer to the Jeep. The automatic models are the Outer Banks (starting MSRP $38,955), Wildtrak (starting MSRP $46,980), and First Edition (starting MSRP $57,410). Those are all two-door models. The four-door models have a slightly higher MSRP. They weigh in from 3,467 lbs. to 3,707 lbs. They don’t have as many bells and whistles but they do have a great sound system, 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen, and Ford’s co-pilot package. The co-pilot package includes a lane-keeping system, automatic emergency braking, rear camera, forward sensing and adaptive cruise control. It doesn’t have a sunroof, but heck, the top comes off!
I am still waiting, waiting, waiting. I have been calling Ford dealerships across the country for five months and no luck finding one in stock yet. I have found the Ford Bronco Sport in stock but, unfortunately, it is not flat towable. I’m not sure that I would want the Bronco but I would certainly like to see it. I remember them from the 1970s, so they are nostalgic to me. A bit of nostalgia is a good thing now.
What automatic vehicle do you tow? What do you like about it and why? Are you towing any of the ones I am thinking about? I would love to hear your recommendations or warnings. Please leave a comment below. Thanks!