Editor's Note: Flat-towing capabilities are listed in the spec box of each review. Brett Becker is a contributor to RV and regularly writes about towing at www.onlinetowingguide.com.

We've all seen the guy at the boat ramp with the big, one-ton diesel he's using to tow... a pair of Jet Skis. Or, the Suburban 2500 pulling a tiny Coleman pop-up trailer.

We love the functionality of fullsize trucks and SUVs, but sometimes they're just too much tow vehicle for the job at hand. They are-no other way to put it-overkill. Lots of smaller vehicles are equipped to tow trailers and they do so far more efficiently than any fullsize truck ever could. What's more, they're a much better way to get around town picking up the kids and groceries. You know, what you do with your vehicle most of the time.

We've selected a group of 15 mid- to small-size vehicles that when properly equipped are capable of towing all types of trailers. You might be surprised how much weight some of these daily-drivers can tow.

In truth, as we were doing research for the story, we were, in fact, a bit surprised at some of the capacities. Advances in combustion technology, such as direct injection and variable valve timing, have made it easier for engineers to squeeze impressive horsepower and torque figures from relatively small engines. Transmissions are stronger than ever, so much so that even front-wheel-drive vehicles-once thought too frail to tow-are now able to pull upward of 3,500 pounds worth of trailer.

To make it easier to navigate this story, we've broken the 15 vehicles down into groups of five, arranged according to the weight they can tow. We started with 1,500 pounds because there really isn't much to be towed that weighs less than that. In addition, the vehicles we have highlighted that are capable of pulling 1,500 pounds would not be considered overkill if your trailer only weighs, say, 750 pounds.

We then doubled the capacity to 3,000 pounds and gave you five more vehicles capable of pulling such loads. Some even a bit more, yet none of them too big to squeeze into a compact parking space if you had to.

At the top, we highlight five vehicles that can pull up to 5,000 pounds of trailer-again, some capable of more. By this point, we are talking about midsize SUVs and trucks. But all of them get better than 22 mpg on the highway, and all of them are small enough even for city driving.

Look, fullsize trucks and SUVs rock, but we think it's important for people to look honestly at what they need. Sometimes, an F-150 or a Yukon XL is too much. By looking at the numbers, you can determine how much tow vehicle you really need and avoid overkill.

1,500-Pound Capacity
1. Acura ZDX

No doubt that Acura's new ZDX is one of the most unique vehicles on the road. Not your typical tow vehicle, the ZDX is a four-door hatchback with Acura's super-handling all-wheel drive, a system that was tuned for real-world driving conditions on the famous-or infamous-Nurburgring road course in Nurburg, Germany.

The ZDX features a panoramic glass roof, hidden rear door handles, and aggressive fender flares as part of a bold styling package created by Acura's first female designer, Michelle Christensen.

Inside, the ZDX comes fitted with a hand-stitched leather dashboard, door panels, and a richly contoured center console. The cabin also gets a full complement of LED lighting, which creates an elegant atmosphere at night.

More than a mere styling exercise, the ZDX is rated to tow 1,500 pounds and comes with a bevy of storage options. For example, Acura designers integrated 2.2 cubic feet of storage under the floor, which is as handy as it is secure. They also tucked more storage behind removable side panels on each side of the cargo compartment.

For passenger safety, the ZDX includes multiple-threshold front airbags and dual-chamber side airbags. The front seats feature active head restraints to prevent whiplash and knee bolsters on the dash. There are also side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor and automatic tensioning front seat belts.

The ZDX also comes with another unique attribute: There is practically nothing else like it on the road.

SPECIFICATIONS
ACURA ZDX
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Area: 26.3 cu. ft.;
55.8 with rear seats folded
Towing Capacity: 1,500 lbs
GVWR: 5,534 lbs
Towing Options: N/A
Flat-towable: No
EPA Mileage Estimates: 16/23 (city/highway)
Base Price: $45,495

2. Ford Escape
One of the more engaging aspects of the Ford Escape is that it delivers more than you expect. The chassis is solid, vibration is minimized, and the suspension is well damped so it feels nice and tight.

That's part of why it sells so well. In fact, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers AutoFacts, the only vehicle Ford has sold more of year to date is the F-150.

For 2010, the Escape benefits from a raft of improvements, safety features, and optional equipment. One such improvement is Easy Fuel, Ford's capless fuel filler system, which automatically seals shut when you finish fueling. Ford says it offers a more consistent, odor-free seal than manual caps-it lowers hydrocarbon emissions too.

For towing purposes, two new features stand out. One, the driver-side rearview mirror comes with an integrated blind-spot mirror in the upper outer corner for greater visibility. Two, a rearview camera system is great for lining up the ball and coupler and for spotting hazards directly behind you.

With the 2.5-liter Duratec four-cylinder, the Escape is rated to tow up to 1,500 pounds. However, if you need more, opt for the V-6 and the towing package and get up to 3,500 pounds of capacity.

In terms of safety, the Escape is a market leader in small SUVs. It comes with side curtain airbags for first- and second-row passengers and AdvanceTrack roll stability control system. The optional hands-free SYNC system also is key to minimizing distractions, and available selective park assist uses sensors in the front and rear bumpers and the electric power-assist steering to help the driver parallel park. Yes, the same Lexus-and-champagne-glasses trick.

With the Ford Escape, it has been nice to watch a good product get better. We can hardly wait for 2011.

SPECIFICATIONS
FORD ESCAPE
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Area: 31.4 cu. ft.;
67.2 with rear seats folded
Towing Capacity: 1,500 lbs
GVWR: 4,440-4,680 lbs (depending on drivetrain)
Towing Options: Yes, 3,500 lbs w/V-6
Flat-towable: Yes
EPA Mileage Estimates: 22/28
Base Price: $21,020

3. Honda Accord Crosstour
The level of refinement present in all Honda products is difficult to ignore. Its Gold Wing motorcycles are renowned for smoothness and comfort. Its outboard marine engines are silky and quiet. And yes, even its lawnmowers and generators set new standards for sophistication in outdoor products.

So of course, the Accord Crosstour is a compelling choice for a light-duty tow vehicle. Powered by the creamy smooth 3.5-liter V-6, the Crosstour is capable of pulling up to 1,500 pounds in either front- or all-wheel-drive trim. It is similar to Acura's ZDX-Acura is a Honda company-so it has a lot of the same design characteristics. It is, however, $15,000 cheaper.

For your money, you get some well thought out details such as in-floor storage compartments with carpeted lids, which you can flip over to reveal plastic surfaces. The plastic sides are easy to clean, which makes them ideal for carrying dirty objects like plants and bags of mulch.

Inside, the Accord Crosstour features dual-zone automatic temperature control with humidity sensitivity. The outside rearview mirrors are wired so they adjust when you put the car in Reverse. In all-wheel-drive trim, the Accord Crosstour provides 6 inches of ground clearance, which can be handy at hilly camping spots.

Honda also included some new technology in the Accord Crosstour that can make towing a bit easier. For example, the automatic transmission will hold the car in gear a bit longer when it detects the G-force of a turn. It also "rev matches" to the engine when downshifting.

As advertised, the Accord Crosstour is rated to pull 1,500 pounds, which is enough to pull small campers. It's also among the handiest and well-planned automobiles on the market. Honda refinement comes standard.

SPECIFICATIONS
HONDA ACCORD CROSSTOUR
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Area: 25.7 cu. ft.;
51.3 with rear seats folded
Towing Capacity: 1,500 lbs
GVWR: 4,938 FWD; 5,515 AWD
Towing Options: N/A
Flat-towable: No
EPA Mileage Estimates: 18/27
Base Price: $29,670

4. Subaru Forester
Completely redesigned, the Subaru Forester has gone from being more of a station wagon to being an SUV. And that's a good thing, because the Forester is now Subaru's best selling model.

It comes with nearly 9 inches of ground clearance and some features well suited for light towing needs. For example, all models come standard with tire-pressure monitoring systems. What's more, five-speed models come with Subaru's incline start assist system, which can momentarily prevent the vehicle from rolling backward when taking off from a standstill on a hill.

Then there is the engine, Subaru's venerable boxer four-cylinder, which delivers 170 hp at 6,000 rpm. It delivers peak torque, 170 lb-ft, at 4,400 rpm. It also benefits from variable valve timing, which broadens the torque curve and improves engine response.

If that's not enough power, opt for the turbocharged engine, which churns out 224 hp. You will, however, sacrifice a little in terms of fuel mileage, which drops to 24 mpg on the highway.

New features for 2010 include an available navigation system in the Limited trim lines that has Bluetooth wireless capability with a microphone in the overhead console, a revised instrument cluster, and new map lights.

All but the base model feature a new reclining rear seatback and a retractable rear center tray with cupholders. The rear seatback splits 60/40, and when both sides are folded flat the Forester offers 68.3 cubic feet of cargo volume.

The Forester comes in five trim lines, which add such creature comforts as 10-way power seats, a moonroof, and the nav system. But even if you get the top-of-the-line model, MSRP never exceeds $30,000. And that might be why the Forester is Subaru's best selling model.

SPECIFICATIONS
SUBARU FORESTER
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Area: 33.5 cu. ft.;
68.3 with rear seats folded
Towing Capacity: 2,400 lbs (with trailer brakes)
GVWR: 4,480 lbs (base model)
Towing Options: N/A
Flat-towable: Yes (manual transmission only)
EPA Mileage Estimates: 20/27 (19/24 for turbo models)
Base Price: $20,990

5. Volvo V50
More and more, automakers have begun to discover what Volvo has known all along: Safety sells cars.

The Volvo V50 has a side-impact protection system, which uses rigid crossmembers that form a three-way attachment between the leading edge of the A-pillars and the base of the B-pillars. The system also uses similar crossmembers in the rear. Volvo takes safety to such extreme measures that it builds its engines slimmer to maximize energy absorption and minimize its intrusion into the passenger compartment in a crash.

In the V50, engine choices are either a 2.4-liter 168hp five-cylinder or a 2.5-liter 227hp turbocharged five. The naturally aspirated engine is mated to an automatic five-speed transaxle with front-wheel drive. The R package turbo comes standard with a six-speed manual or an optional automatic, both of which feature all-wheel drive. With the turbo, 0 to 60 mph comes in 7.1 seconds.

As important as safety and performance have become, Volvo also is putting out some genuinely good-looking cars, and the V50 is a fine example. Inside, the V50 features aluminum inlays on the door panels, dash, and center console, which looks like something lifted from a Bang and Olufsen stereo catalog.

In terms of towing-friendly features, the V50 comes standard with a tire-pressure monitoring system. Nifty options include Volvo's proprietary blind-spot information system, which illuminates a warning lamp adjacent to the appropriate outside mirror when it detects vehicles in the blind spot. If you do a lot of nighttime driving, available active bi-Xenon headlights swivel in synch with steering input.

In some sense, you could say that Volvo also has learned what a lot of other automakers have known all along: Good design and performance also help sell cars.

SPECIFICATIONS
Volvo V50
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Area: 27.4 cu. ft.; 62.6 with frt./rr. seats folded
Towing Capacity: 2,000 lbs
GVWR: 4,320 FWD; 4,450 AWD
Towing Options: N/A
Flat-towable: No
EPA Mileage Estimates: 20/31 (19/27 for A/T turbo models)
Base Price: $29,550

3,000-Pound Capacity
6. Audi Q5
As a company, Audi flies a bit under the radar. It doesn't have the celebrity style or cachet of, say, Mercedes-Benz, but as an automaker Audi's products speak for themselves. Take the Q5 for example.

Based on the current Audi A4 platform, the Q5 boasts a lot of car-like qualities yet delivers fully on its SUV promise. Driver and occupants sit high, an SUV trait that enhances outward visibility, but the engine is mounted low in the chassis for a lower center of gravity and more car-like handling.

The Q5 comes only with one engine, but it's a good one. The direct-injected 3.2-liter V-6-proven in the A4 and A6 sedans-features variable valve timing and produces 270 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. The result is a 6.7-second 0-60 time and 23 mpg on the highway.

Because torque peaks at a usable 3,000 rpm, the Q5 makes a great light-duty tow vehicle. Mated to the six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive, the Q5 is capable of towing 4,400 pounds, which is best in class among imported small SUVs. What's more, all Q5s come with what Audi calls "tow preparation" standard, which includes wiring for a trailer brake controller. Receivers are available through Audi dealers.

Audi also offers as an option Drive Select, which tailors the adaptive suspension, dynamic steering, engine response, and transmission shift characteristics to one of four settings: comfort, automatic, dynamic, and individual, which allows a custom response profile.

In standard trim, the 2010 Q5 comes with three-zone climate controls, 12-way power front seats-yes, 12-way-a navigation system, tire pressure monitoring system, and 20-inch wheels.

Cachet will only get you so far. Audi management understands that, which is probably why they prefer to let the products stand on their own.

SPECIFICATIONS
AUDI Q5
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Area: 29.1 cu. ft.;
57.3 with rear seats folded
Towing Capacity: 4,400 lbs
GVWR: 5,567 lbs
Towing Options: Yes
Flat-towable: No
EPA Mileage Estimates: 18/23
Base Price: $38,175

7. BMW X3
Long a proponent of evolutionary design and engineering, BMW has managed to maintain the character and identity of its products through retaining the iconic elements that make a coupe, sedan, or SUV a BMW.

BMWs are still instantly recognizable, due largely to two design details: the twin kidney grille and the "Hofmeister kink," the signature forward slash of sheetmetal at the base of the C-pillar. And those elements look right at home on the X3.

BMW also made good use of another mainstay: the inline six-cylinder engine. And for good reason: The 3.0-liter six-about 182 cubic inches-makes 260 hp at 6,600 rpm. It also makes a stout 225 lb-ft torque at a low and usable 2,750 rpm, which is another characteristic of the inline-six.

For towing purposes, that means you don't have to wring the giblets out of it to merge onto the freeway. Another wonderful trait of the inline-six-and BMWs in particular-is that they are buttery smooth, quiet, and immensely refined.

The X3 has a couple of other features that make it a capable light-duty tow vehicle. For example, its all-wheel-drive system routes engine power primarily to the rear wheels. However, when the sensors detect wheel slip, it shifts torque to wheels with more traction, a nice thing to have on winter camping trips.

Another key feature well suited for towing-particularly for a tow vehicle with front and rear independent suspension-is the X3's active roll stabilization system, which reduces body roll or lean while cornering.

Although BMW designs progress in an evolutionary fashion, many of its safety and driving dynamics systems can be considered revolutionary, even for those who use the X3 for towing.

SPECIFICATIONS
BMW X3
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Area: 30 cu. ft.;
71 (with rear seats folded)
Towing Capacity: 3,000 lbs
GVWR: 5,148 lbs (w/manual trans.; 5,203 w/auto)
Towing Options: No
Flat-Towable: No
EPA Mileage Estimates: 17/24
Base Price: $39,725

8. Mazda CX-9
Press information states that Mazda designed the CX-9 to have the soul of a sports car. That might be a bit of a stretch, but it is nice to know that the CX-9 also has the soul of an SUV, with seating for up to seven passengers and a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

The 2010 CX-9 comes with a 3.7-liter V-6 engine, which produces 273 horsepower at 6,250 rpm. Peak torque, 270 lb-ft, doesn't occur till 4,250 rpm, but the engine produces 250 lb-ft from 3,000 to 6,000 rpm, which should provide enough grunt for accelerating with a trailer in tow.

In standard trim the CX-9 is a front-wheel-drive vehicle, but buyers can opt for all-wheel drive. During normal driving, power is delivered to the front wheels, but the system uses a series of sensors to detect wheel slip, steering angle, yaw rate, and lateral acceleration and routes a controlled percentage of available torque to the rear axle.

The CX-9 also can be had with a couple of helpful options for towing. One, the trailer tow prep package, lets you pull 3,500 pounds even in front-wheel-drive trim, but you can only get it on the Grand Touring model with the navigation system. The tow prep package is standard on all-wheel-drive models, and it comes with a heavy-duty transmission cooler and radiator fan and a revised engine control module.

The Grand Touring model comes with a new blind-spot monitoring system, which illuminates a warning light in the appropriate door mirror when a vehicle enters the blind spot on that side.

We don't know how well the CX-9 will race down a country road, but we do know that it can tow a nice little camper and a decent-size family to their favorite campground.

SPECIFICATIONS
MAZDA CX-9
Seating Capacity: 7
Cargo Area: 17.2 cu. ft. (48.3 w/third row folded;
100.7 w/second and thirdd row folded)
Towing Capacity: 3,500 lbs w/towing prep package
GVWR: 5,831 lbs FWD; 6,049 AWD
Towing Options: Yes
Flat-towable: No
EPA Mileage Estimates: 16/22 FWD; 15/21 AWD
Base Price: $28,635

9. Dodge Journey
It might be tough to find a small crossover that tows 3,500 pounds, but Dodge offers a nifty example in the Journey. For starters, you want the SXT, or if you want something real sporty get the R/T, both of which come with a V-6 that pulls the aforementioned 3,500 pounds and is available in front- or all-wheel drive.

Dodge engineers eked a bit more efficiency out of the V-6 this year. In fact, the four-cylinder only tops the front-wheel-drive V-6 model by 1 mpg on the highway and the all-wheel-drive V-6 by 2 mpg. Horsepower is decent at 235. Torque is ample at 232 lb-ft, and it comes on at a reasonable 4,000 rpm.

For towing purposes, the trailer-tow group-which requires a "convenience group" of options-includes an engine oil cooler and four-pin connector wiring.

For seating, buyers can choose either a two-row, five-passenger setup or three rows for up to seven passengers.

Dodge's "Tilt 'n' Slide" second row seats do just that to allow third-row passengers to hop in and out easily. For families with kids who still need booster seats, the Journey is available with integrated child booster seats that pop up from the cushions. Those same kids will love the available rear-seat entertainment system, which comes with a 9-inch screen, two wireless headphones, and available XMSirius Backseat TV.

Another cool feature-the Chill Zone glovebox beverage cooler-keeps drinks cold. There is also storage under the front passenger seat and second-row in-floor storage bins with removable liners that allow them to be used like a cooler.

Sure, it might be tough to find a small crossover that does all this. That is, if Dodge hadn't already built it.

SPECIFICATIONS
DODGE JOURNEY
Seating Capacity: 5-7 (depending on seating choice)
Cargo Area: 10.7 cu. ft. (37 w/third row folded,
seven-pass. model; 39.61 w/third row folded,
five-pass. Model; 67.6 w/second row folded.)
Towing Capacity: 3,500 lbs w/V-6 and trailer-tow prep group
GVWR: 5,100-5,600 depending on trim level
Towing Options: Yes
Towable: No
EPA Mileage Estimates: 16/24 FWD; 15/23 AWD
Base Price: $24,465

10. Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
If the point of this story is to highlight vehicles that meet your towing needs without being inconvenient to drive every day, then the Jeep Wrangler meets both those criteria. It tows 3,500 pounds, has four doors, seats five and is easy to bop around town in.

But with the Wrangler Unlimited, you get another, decidedly Jeep-like, characteristic: It goes like stink off road.

You expect that from a Wrangler, but what you might not expect is how much stuff you can cram into it. It has 86.7 cubic feet of cargo volume, more than the Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, and BMW X3.

You also expect open motoring. In fact, the Wrangler Unlimited is the only four-door "convertible" on the market. Choose either the Sunrider soft top, which provides a sunroof, or a full top-down option or the optional three-piece modular hardtop that features three panels that provide even more choices for top-down driving.

The 3.8-liter V-6 produces 202 hp and 237 lb-ft of torque. Peak torque doesn't occur till 4,400 rpm, so you'll have to wind it out a bit to get it up to speed. Transmission choices are either a standard six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. For towing, go with the automatic. If you must have a manual transmission, it's nice to know it is equipped with Jeep's hill start assist feature.

For towing, you'll also need the trailer tow package, which includes the 3.73:1 axle ratio-4.10:1 on the Rubicon model-and the trailer sway control system, which helps the driver maintain control in adverse conditions.

In truth, we feel lucky when we can find a crossover or SUV that meets our towing needs yet is equally adept at dashing around town. With the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, you get all that and more.

SPECIFICATIONS
JEEP WRANGLER UNLIMITED
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Area: 46.4 cu. ft.
(86.7 w/second row folded)
Towing Capacity: 3,500 lbs
GVWR: 5,100 lbs
Towing Option Package: Yes
Flat-towable: Yes
EPA Mileage Estimates: 15/19
Base Price: $25,335

5,000-Pound Capacity
11. Chevrolet Traverse
There was once a time when if you needed to pull a trailer and carry eight passengers, the only option was a Chevrolet Suburban. Not anymore.

The Chevrolet Traverse carries up to eight people and pulls 5,200 pounds worth of trailer. And it does so without being cumbersome to drive everyday.

Based on the same platform as the GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave, the Traverse is available with front- or all-wheel drive. They all feature GM's whisper-smooth yet potent 3.6-liter V-6, which uses variable valve timing to achieve 288 hp with dual exhaust. It runs on 87 octane and offers the best highway mileage of any eight-passenger crossover.

That it can tow a fairly substantial trailer is a bonus. The optional trailering equipment package comes with a heavy-duty engine oil cooler and a hitch receiver. GM's Stabilitrak system is standard on the Traverse as is a tire pressure monitoring system. Two more features, which are optional on lower-end models and standard on the high-end, go a long way toward making the Traverse a better tow vehicle.

For example, blind-spot mirrors, which are integrated into the outside rearview mirrors, were designed to enhance visibility along the sides. They're standard on the 1LT, 2LT and LTZ, but not available on the LS. Second, the rearview camera, which displays the video feed on the inside mirror, is not available on the LS, optional on the 1LT, and standard on the 2LT and LTS.

It's nice to know that a family with a 5,000-pound trailer has more choices now than as little as five years ago. There is nothing wrong with a Suburban, but for some families, it's too much truck. And for them, a Traverse is a nice alternative.

SPECIFICATIONS
CHEVROLET TRAVERSE
Seating Capacity: 7-8
Cargo Area: 24.4 cu. ft.; 68.8 w/third row folded;
116.4 w/second and third row folded
Towing Capacity: 5,200 lbs
GVWR: 6,459
Towing Option Package: Yes
Flat Towable: Yes
EPA Mileage Estimates: 17/24 FWD; 16/23 AWD
Base Price: $29,224

12. GMC Canyon
SUVs, station wagons, and crossovers are great, but sometimes you've just got to have a truck. America invented the pickup, and in many ways this country was built on its utilitarian shoulders.

For hauling things that are dirty, smelly, or oily, the carpeted confines of an SUV won't do. A truck is the only tool for the job, and we Americans buy a lot of them. Of course, when we think of trucks, we tend to think of F-150s, Silverados, and Rams, but sometimes those are too much or at least more than we need. We still need something that tows a fairly substantial trailer and has the rugged qualities that only a truck can deliver, but we need it in a smaller package. We need something that's easy to park and gets a bit more miles per gallon than a 1/2-ton.

That's where the GMC Canyon Crew Cab comes in. It seats five, can haul 1,200 pounds of payload, and yield a pretty respectable 23 mpg on the highway. It also can pull 5,500 pounds of trailer with a five-cylinder engine. Yes, five.

The trailering equipment package includes a Class III hitch and a seven-blade sealed connector. Stabilitrak, which is a standard feature, monitors vehicle dynamics through a set of sensors. When the system detects a skid, oversteer or understeer, the control module, gently applies pressure to individual brakes to help correct the condition. A bedliner also is standard.

If a five-cylinder isn't enough, the Canyon also is available with GM's outstanding 300hp 5.3-liter Vortec V-8, which boosts towing capacity to 6,000 pounds-all in a vehicle that fits into a compact parking space.

Imagine what you could do with a truck like that.

SPECIFICATIONS
GMC CANYON
(CREW CAB FIVE-CYLINDER 4WD)
Seating Capacity: 5-6
Cargo Area: 37 cu. ft.
Towing Capacity: 5,500 lbs
GVWR: 5,300 lbs
Towing Options: Yes
Flat-towable: Yes
EPA Mileage Estimates: 17/23 2WD; 16/22 4WD
Base Price: $27,310 (w/rebate)

13. Nissan Pathfinder
Redesigned for the 2008 model year, the Nissan Pathfinder looks the part of a rugged tow vehicle. More importantly, it is a capable tow vehicle.

Pathfinder's DOHC 4.0-liter V-6 engine is specially tuned and was engineered for truck and SUV applications. The engine features electronic throttle control and continuously variable valve timing, it and boasts 266 hp at 5,600 rpm and 288 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.

If that isn't enough power for you, you can get the Pathfinder with a 5.6-liter V-8, but it's only available on the four-wheel drive LE model. Lifted from the fullsize Titan and Armada, the 5.6 is a sweet engine with a throaty sound and 310 hp on tap.

Regardless of your engine choice, the Pathfinder comes standard with a Class IV hitch and four-pin and seven-blade trailer wiring connectors.

The S model is the value leader at $27,540, but the SE represents probably the best buy in terms of bang for the buck. For $3,350 more than the base model, you get 17-inch wheels, a 7-inch dash display, power driver seat and foot pedals, AM/FM stereo with a six-disc changer and MP3 connectivity. You also get lighted steering wheel stereo controls, leather steering wheel and shift knob, climate control with rear air conditioning. Foglamps, rear reading lights, body color outside mirrors, and side running boards round out the package to make a tow vehicle that's brawny enough to pull 5,500 pounds yet cushy enough to live with every day.

SPECIFICATIONS
NISSAN PATHFINDER
Seating Capacity: 7
Cargo Area: 48.9 cu. ft.
Towing Capacity: 5,500 lbs
GVWR: 6,000 lbs
Towing Options: No
Flat-towable: No
EPA Mileage Estimates: 15/22 2WD; 14/20 4WD
Base Price: $27,540

14. Toyota Highlander V-6
For once, the commercials you see on television have an element of truth to them. There really has never been a better time to buy a new Toyota.

And if you need a midsize SUV for towing, the Highlander is more capable than it ever has been. With a V-6 engine, the Highlander can pull up to 5,000 pounds when it's equipped with the tow prep package, which is pretty stout. It includes pre-wiring, a heavy-duty radiator, an engine oil cooler, a 200-watt fan coupling, transmission cooler, and a 150-amp alternator.

The Highlander Hybrid also comes with a tow prep package and is good for up to 3,500 pounds. A backup camera is standard on all Sport and Limited models.

The Highlander's regular V-6 yields some fairly decent fuel economy, with 17 mpg in the city and 23 highway. Variable valve timing and a high 10.8:1 compression ratio help the engine, which is only about 214 cubic inches in displacement, produce a downright respectable 270 hp. Torque is decent at 248 lb-ft, but because it occurs at 4,700, pulling a trailer up a freeway on ramp might require a bit of rpm.

In standard trim, the Highlander comes equipped with a manual tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a tire pressure monitoring system, and a fold-flat rear seat setup. It also includes 17-inch wheels and body-color front and rear fascias.

True, the Highlander was included as part of the accelerator pedal recall, but it seems Toyota has found the handle on the fix. However, before the fall of 2009, Toyota cars and trucks were regarded as some of the most reliable on the road. And if the latest incentive programs are any indication, Toyota is practically giving them away.

SPECIFICATIONS
TOYOTA HIGHLANDER V-6
Seating Capacity: 7
Cargo Area: 10.3 cu. ft.; 42.3 w/third row folded;
95.4 w/second and third row folded
Towing Capacity: 5,000 lbs
GVWR: 5,800 lbs (2WD); 6,000 (4WD)
Towing Options: Yes
Flat Towable: No
EPA Mileage Estimates: 18/24 (2WD); 17/23 (4WD)
Base Price: $28,400

15. Volkswagen Touareg TDI
In its current design, the Volkswagen Touareg has been around for more than five years. It's a great on- and off-road SUV, and despite its compact dimensions it is a capable tow vehicle.

In previous years, engine choices were a V-8 gasoline engine that was potent and made the Touareg a lot of fun to drive, a V-6 that was adequate for the job, and a V-10 diesel that seemed like overkill.

For 2010, the Touareg has a new 3.0-liter V-6 TDI diesel engine that sounds small, but in terms of power is just right for the job. For example, it creates an adequate 225 hp, but it can pull up to 7,716. How?

Because it makes an incredible 406 lb-ft of torque from 1,750 to 2,250 rpm, that's how.

Power gets routed through a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission to all wheels through Volkswagen's 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Big trailer? No problem. Muddy campground? Bring it. Slippery boat ramp? You're covered.

The air suspension system does not come standard, but having towed with a Touareg equipped with the system we can tell you it's worth the extra money, especially if you're going to be towing in the upper reaches of its capacity rating. The automatic leveling system helps keep the front end planted while towing and helps keep the connection between the vehicle and trailer parallel.

Inside, the Touareg is a lot more luxurious than you might expect from a VW, but it is cushy. Leather seating, brushed metal, and chrome accents contribute to its rich feeling.

The Touareg body is unchanged for 2010, but don't let that stop you from considering it because that just means it has undergone the refinement and fine-tuning that comes from several years of manufacturing. With the TDI diesel, it makes for one brawny tow vehicle. Of course you'll need one more option: a trailer hitch.

SPECIFICATIONS
VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG TDI
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Area: 31 cu. ft.
Towing Capacity: 7,716 lbs
GVWR: 6,493
Towing Options: Yes
Flat-towable: No (possible under emergency situations)
EPA Mileage Estimates: 18/25
Base Price: $44,350