The Boat-Tow Truck I Wish Someone Would Build

After towing a 4,200-pound boat trailer with Volkswagen’s fantastic Touareg TDI, I was amazed at the fuel economy. By keeping the cruise engaged at 60 mph, I was able to coax 19.7 mpg out of it over hilly Mojave Desert terrain—yet the engine was barely broken in. Surely, after it loosened up a bit, I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to get, say, a solid 20 or even 21 mpg out of it.

If some car company would take the engine out of the Touareg TDI and install it in a half-ton pickup, they’d create the ideal vehicle for towing the kind of boats most people own. Build it. They will come.

VW’s TDI V6 is a marvelous little diesel. Displacing just three liters—some 180 cubic inches—the V6 delivers 225 horsepower at 3,500 rpm and 406 pound-feet of torque at 1,750 rpm. I kept thinking how great it would be to have that engine in my personal tow vehicle: a 2005 half-ton GMC Sierra crew cab.

The sad part is, no manufacturer that sells trucks in the United States offers a half-ton pickup with a diesel engine. The heavy-duty diesel trucks they do build are awesome, but for a lot of people, they are just overkill in terms of towing needs. General Motors’ Duramax, Dodge’s Cummins, and Ford’s Power Strokes are all powerful and refined diesel engines, but I don’t need 600-plus pound-feet of torque or 15,000 plus pounds of towing capacity. I’m guessing a lot of trailer boaters don’t need that much, either.

VW’s 3.0-liter TDI diesel deserves a home in half-ton tow vehicles.

So here’s the truck I wish someone—anyone—would build: a half-ton model, with regular, extended, and crew cabs available, with a small diesel engine from around 3.5 to 5 liters, six cylinders or a small V8, about 250 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. It should deliver an EPA average of about 18 mpg in the city and at least 25 mpg on the highway. It should have common-rail injection, lots of sound-deadening materials and, if possible, it should be clean enough to meet all 50 states’ emission standards without the need for diesel exhaust fluid (urea).

We already know truck buyers aren’t afraid of diesels, and I think if the Big Three were to offer such an engine in their half-ton models, the line to order one would stretch out of the showroom and around the block. It would be as handy and drivable as any half-ton pickup, which already make up half the U.S. market of new auto sales, and they’d be ideal for the kind of towing most boaters do.

Brett Becker


  1. VW Fan says:

    Someone does: VW! It’s called the Amarok, but it’s not available in the US… yet. Hopefully they will import it (rumors are that Canada is getting it, and it’s available in Mexico) as the market is there.

    I’ve said this for years: the US truck market is starving for a half-ton diesel pickup, but when you mention it to a sales person with any of the Big Three manufacturers, you usually get a blank stare, like they don’t speak the language. Complete denial, and the first manufacturer that finally does this is going to make a killing.

  2. Josh Hodges says:

    Nissan has proposed using a small diesel in the next redesign of their Titan pickup. The rumors have been swirling for a while, fingers crossed it actually makes it to market.

  3. Brett Becker says:

    I was aware that Nissan was working with Cummins, but I hadn’t heard anything concrete in a while. Once one OEM offers it in their half-ton pickup or SUV, the rest will almost assuredly have to follow.

  4. RP says:

    The Touareg is quite a tow vehicle itself. Rated to tow 7700 lbs! That covers most boats 24′ or less, and with all-wheel drive it will have far better traction at the boat ramp than any 1/2 ton or 3/4 ton 2 wheel drive pickup. Most people are stuck on pickup trucks as tow vehicles, but a good SUV can often do a better job.

  5. EV says:

    RP said it. You already identified the perfect tow vehicle for most people: the Touareg. I’ve towed for years with a diesel T-Reg I agree with your post from 2012 that it is still the perfect tow vehicle. I guess if you need a pickup configuration you would need something else, but the T-Reg does it all. Only thing is that it does require urea injection, but no big deal. As we’re learning now, the no-urea diesel thing was not quite what it seemed anyway. No worries with the T-Reg when it comes to emissions as the adblue system works fine.

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