I dragged the family out today for the first round of vehicle test-fitting. While we’ve done a fair amount of looking at RV’s we hadn’t looked at tow or toad vehicles. I had planned to do more today but it was 18 degrees when we left, and the local truck and van lot with the best selection of target vehicles wasn’t open on Saturday (which always surprises me in a retail setting) so we kept it to just one lot.
We did get into 4 vehicles today - 3 representative candidates for tow vehicles and one for a toad. We just sat in them - it was just too cold to want to do much more.
Note that the photos aren’t the exact ones we looked at, they are just representative photos from similar vehicles for sale on eBay.
First impressions count, and this was the first vehicle we sat in. These things are roomy - great headroom, great legroom - even I (at 6’3”) was comfortable in the backseat. Visibility was great all-around. Seats felt supportive - MsBoyink was happy with how it felt for her (she has some recurring back issues that we’re hoping to not make worse with poor vehicle seating). This particular model was well-optioned with leather, heated seats, rear heat and A/C, but not the rear entertainment center that we’d prefer not to have. The rear doors are huge - you can actually see behind the rear seat with the door open. We’d take out the rear-most 3rd seat - and I had hoped that bikes might fit back there but based on a quick measurement I’m not sure they will. Excursions are available with either a V10 gas engine or diesel motors so would be a great tow vehicle.
Ford F350 Crew Cab Truck
I expected this to be - at least from a driving perspective -to be really close to the Excursion. It actually felt a fair amount different than the Excursion - definitely more truck-like. Maybe it was a few years newer than the Excursion - the dealer didn’t have a tag in it so we’re not sure. The seats, while leather, and heated, felt much flatter and more “truck-like” with a front bench with flip-up console vs. the Excursion’s buckets with armrests. The back seats actually felt a bit more supportive. Rear seat legroom was better than expected - I could sit in back pretty well. I did note the foot-space for getting in wasn’t as large as the Excursion. The interesting thing is that using http://www.nadaguides.com - comparing a same-year, similarly equipped F350 to an Excursion the F350 fetches about $4K more. While going this route we’d be able to get into a 5th wheel trailer rather than a bumper-tow travel trailer I’m not sure it’s the right route. I’ll be curious to test-fit the Dodge and Chevy offerings.
E350XL Ford Fullsize Van
Ever since moving forward on this big-trip idea I’ve been looking around at vans online. The resale prices are usually a fair amount less than trucks or SUVs, you can find them with V10’s or diesels, and from a numbers perspective they have the room and capability to move us around. However it didn’t take but 30 seconds in the driver’s seat to rule at least the Ford version out. There is just no foot room for the front driver or passenger seats. I noted the gas pedal was only about 1.5” wide and now I know why - just to give your foot space to get the brake pedal without catching the gas pedal. A quick sit in the passenger seat confirmed that I wouldn’t be comfortable for long there either. It’s just crazy that you can drive a living room down the road and still be cramped for room. The van we sat in happened to be a 15 passenger version - and what we found was that the seat immediately behind the driver’s seat had very little legroom as well. In order to make this useful we’d have to remove the first, third and 4th seats which just isn’t an efficient use of the space. Add in a more difficult drivetrain to service and I can rule the van approach out. The disappointing thing is that most Class C motorhomes are based on a Ford van platform - so this also rules them out as well. That’s probably the most significant finding from the trip.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Based on ruling out the Class C motorhome route I’m not sure looking at toads even makes sense now - but I’ll record this here just for completeness. The Grand fit us surprisingly well. Headroom was good, legroom was adequate, visibility was good. I think the kids had more room in the backseat of it than they do in our Buick Roadmaster station wagon (which is only 1.5” shorter than a Suburban). I did run into the console with my shin in the driver’s seat - but not annoyingly so. Front passenger room was less than the driver’s side, but that’s not a place I’d be for hours. I was comfortable enough in the rear seats as well. If we weren’t going on this trip I’d be looking seriously at a Grand Cherokee as a replacement for our station wagon. If we do somehow end up with a motorhome I wouldn’t look any further than the Grand Cherokee for a toad. It fits us well, there’s a nice aftermarket for bumpers/lifts/skid rails, etc, and hey—it’s a Jeep..;)
So far the clear winner for a tow vehicle is the Excursion - but I still want to check out Suburbans, Dodge and Chevy 4 door trucks, and an Avalanche.