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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I will add another to the few "towing experiences" threads here.

I recently returned from a 2-1/2 week trip west from Upper Michigan, with most of my trip spent around Colorado. I covered much of the state, spending a couple days in the Denver area then visiting the four national parks (Rocky Mountain, Black Canyon, Mesa Verde, and Great Sand Dunes). I spent about a week in the Four Corners area in the southwest of the state. I crossed the continental divide four or five times on different routes.

Here are some measurements of the variables:
  • Total miles: 4,234
  • Calculated MPG, all gas fills during trip: 17.18
  • Calculated MPG, gas fills for periods that were all or almost all towing: 16.46
  • Trailer dimensions: 7 ft wide, approx. 19' long (tongue to bumper), approx. 4-1/2' tall (folded down, of course)
  • Trailer tongue weight: varied slightly, but roughly 320 lbs (measured w/bathroom scale before trip)
  • Trailer axle weight while connected to vehicle (CAT scale): 2,300 (incl. nearly full freshwater tank)
  • Vehicle axle weights while connected to trailer (CAT scale): 2,260 each
  • Ambient temperatures: Up to low 90s (F) in lowlands/desert, but generally high 50s to low 70s in mountains
  • Vehicle cargo: I was the only person (average weight); other cargo was pretty evenly distributed.
Although I think all of the numbers were within limits, I was still a little unsure how this combination would do with a lot of mountain towing. I am pretty comfortable saying now that my fears were misplaced.
  • POWER: Seldom did the Escape lack power for what I needed it to do. One notable exception was a period on the Wolf Creek Pass ascent (the "worst" on the trip) when I had the pedal to the floor and maxed out at about 30 mph, I think in 3rd gear, and the Escape refused to downshift. On the plus side, I was able to maintain that speed and not drop further. This was really just an inconvenience, since I was far from the slowest on the pass (one motorhome was at about 10 mph). On flat stretches of the trip, I was able to easily pass people on two-lane stretches at highway speeds (when safe and warranted, of course). Mostly on the open road, I would travel at 65 mph, but sometimes as fast as 75 mph.
  • STABILITY: I never experienced any sway at all. The vehicle system never indicated the sway control had activated (I don't know if it gives any indication of this). I do not use a weight distribution hitch nor mechanical sway bar. Rear axle sag ranged from very little to none. There were a few times I sensed that the front axle/steering might have been a bit "light," but there never seemed to be any risk of loss of control.
  • BRAKING: Engine braking was very effective at controlling speed on descents and minimizing my use of the vehicle brakes. By far the greatest effort in controlling speed on descents was done by the engine, sometimes with the transmission as low as 2nd gear for minutes at a time. Nevertheless, over the course of the trip I started to get some minor pedal pulsation and bucking I associate with warped rotors. (I have always had bad luck with that issue, even though I never "ride" the brakes and I try to be as gentle on them as possible.) I had the rear pads and rotors replaced shortly before the trip, but the dealer said they fronts still had some time to go. Well, I think I may be getting those redone soon as well. I do have trailer brakes and they seemed to be set at an appropriate level.
  • ENGINE TEMPERATURE: Engine temp almost always stayed exactly where it should be (just under 1/2). There were several times on long ascents that it would increase to about 5/8 up the gauge. Two or three times on the Wolf Creek Pass it got up to 3/4. I would have pulled over if it started to go any higher than that (maybe I should have anyway...). I DID receive a high engine temp warning a few times - but those were right after I had STOPPED and turned the engine off. This may have happened when I put the key in the ignition/on position but did not actually start the vehicle. Nevertheless, the system was telling me to stop safely when I wasn't even moving. I wasn't sure what to make of this. The first time it happened, I turned the vehicle on to accessory, thinking maybe the electric blower would cool things down. When that didn't make any difference, I started the vehicle again thinking the idling engine would cool itself down. That seemed to work (slowly). Turning the climate control fan/AC on and off had no noticeable effect. I did notice that on a descent, engine braking was very effective at lowering the engine temp.
  • TRANSMISSION: The paddle shifters were a godsend. I can hardly imagine doing all of this towing in the mountains without them. But other than that, the trans seems to be the most likely weak point. About 2/3 through the trip, it started to faintly whine, with pitch and volume changing based on RPM/gear. The operation of it did not change noticeably. I am concerned, but I guess time will tell whether this is a harbinger of things to come. (The trans was already sluggish in reverse/drive engagements before the trip [dealer claimed normal].) When I first noticed the whine I was towing. Driving around for a period after that without the trailer, there was no noticeable whine. So it could happen only under a heavy load. At least I never received a trans over temp warning on the trip (seems from what I've read it may already be "too late" at that point). In any event, I have an ESP in case there is a failure.
  • CRUISE CONTROL: There were a few times when cruise control disengaged suddenly on an ascent. Based on review of the owner's manual afterward, that probably resulted from the actual speed dropping more than 10 mph below set speed.
  • PREP: I'd had the engine oil & filter, trans fluid, transfer case fluid, and rear diff oil all changed not long before the trip.
One other note: I am not sure whether this is an accelerator, engine, transmission, or just programming issue: There were a couple instances of city driving sans trailer when I got a significantly delayed response from the throttle when I moderately pressed the pedal. It would barely respond at all then eventually surge the vehicle forward with quick acceleration. I wasn't really watching RPMs at the time, but it seemed like more of a throttle issue than trans issue. I don't recall this ever happening before the trip. It was a little different from the "turbo lag" we are familiar with. I will have to see now whether this recurs.

I was satisfied with the towing MPG. Actually, it would have been even higher but for some severe westerly headwinds on my way across the Great Plains. Obviously MPG suffered on steep ascents, but those drops were mitigated by coasting on descents. My overall MPG was not a lot higher than the towing MPG, since even though about one-third of my driving was without towing, much of that was in the mountains too.

Even though my experiences were mostly positive, I cannot say the Escape is the ideal vehicle to do this job. But it did prove its capability as an effective "compromise" vehicle (daily driver and tow vehicle). I would and likely will do this trip again.

I hope this is all useful to others. I am happy to try to answer any questions or provide additional details.
 
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