Toyota Lowers Tundra Tow Ratings, Gains Credibility

Toyota Lowers Tundra Tow Ratings, Gains Credibility

Contradicting a trend that's gained momentum in the past decade, Toyota has reduced the maximum trailer-towing rating of the Tundra half-ton for 2011, in one case up to 1,100 pounds.

Toyota is one of the first manufacturers to test and certify its trucks against a draft trailer-towing standard known as “Performance Requirements for Determining Tow Vehicle Gross Combination Weight Ratings and Trailer Weight Ratings,” or simply Society of Automotive Engineers standard J2807.

Those dry terms don't do justice to an important selling feature for manufacturers and a passionate bragging point for owners.

Until now, each manufacturer was free to test using proprietary conditions ideally suited to a truck’s towing strengths and decide their own max trailering rating. But an industry alliance that includes Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Toyota and Honda and several leading trailer and hitch makers has been working on setting a unified standard with SAE for nearly three years in response to large recent hikes in claimed maximum tow ratings that have pushed some half-tons into formerly three-quarter-ton towing territory.

Once J2807 is implemented, truck buyers will finally have an apples-to-apples way to compare the trailer-towing capacity of all light-duty pickups. All manufacturers are expected to follow it starting with the 2013 model year.

J2807 establishes tow-vehicle performance requirements against the following criteria to establish max ratings: timed acceleration on level ground and up a 12 percent incline; maintaining speed on a real-world grade; understeer; trailer-sway response; braking and park brake at GCWR; and tow-vehicle hitch/attachment structure. To minimize test variations, it provides standard test trailer specifications and requirements for their use in these tests.

When these standards are applied to today’s second generation Tundra with the 5.7-liter V-8, the results are 400-pound drops for regular cab models; 500-pound drops for two-wheel-drive double cab and CrewMax and four-wheel-drive double cab models; and a steep 1,100-pound drop for the four-wheel-drive CrewMax.


“Even though the [max trailering] numbers have dropped, the Tundra’s performance hasn’t been compromised,” Toyota spokesman Sam Butto said. “We’re following a new standard to measure trailer towing, just like a few years ago when standards for measuring fuel economy were changed.”

As some would expect, gross combined weight ratings have also decreased but it’s less than the tow ratings have dropped.

GCW is the maximum allowable weight for a pickup pulling a trailer, including cargo and passengers, that the truck can handle without risking damage.

In 2010, GCW was a uniform 16,000 pounds across the Tundra lineup. Now, a model like the CrewMax, which had the largest drop in towing, has a max GCW of 15,300 pounds while other Tundras have higher GCWs.

That’s because the new SAE rating stipulates measuring the trucks with higher curb weights than manufacturers may have used in the past, said David Williams, Toyota’s product marketing planner for Tundra and Tacoma pickups.

“J2807 measures [max trailering] using a curb weight that includes two 150-pound people, fuel and fluids, and reflects greater options content,” Williams said.

Curb weight must be measured using a truck equipped with options that have at least 33 percent sales penetration, according to SAE. Those options could include heavier power seats instead of manual adjusted, a sunroof and power windows.

That added weight also has an impact on driving dynamics, which helps explain why the extra large CrewMax (often bought loaded with options and creature comforts) has the largest GCW and trailering drop of any Tundra.

Toyota isn’t the only manufacturer that’s starting to use J2807. Others are also beginning to follow its guidelines.

“Ram trucks meet the key elements of the SAE standard, including [maintaining a constant] speed on grade,” said David Elshoff, Ram Trucks spokesman.

So what's the bottom line for customers as Toyota, Chrysler and others make this switch?

Some tow ratings will go down, like the Tundra’s, or maybe increase, even if the vehicle hasn't changed mechanically between model years. Most important, vehicles rated under the J2807 guidelines can’t be compared fairly to vehicles still rated by a manufacturer's own standards. But when all vehicles are rated the same way, comparing tow ratings will be more accurate, trustworthy and, most importantly, useful to the customer.

“There's a huge consumer benefit for this transparency,” Williams said.

We agree.


For those who believe "less is more."

@Alex: I think it's great that Toyota is doing this - even if the Tundra's ratings fall. The standards are far enough along at this point that every truck maker could be doing the same. While I care about how much a truck can tow, I care more about being able to make an apples-to-apples comparison before I spend my money.

@ Mike Will these standards be applied to vehicles made previuosly? Think ford f-150 with 11,300 capacity. Also could you or would you do a test using the same standard so we could know on older trucks that may be exempt from the new standard.

Yeah I guess we need a standardized system keeping it all safe. It will be interesting to see how they all compare, and also the heavy duty trucks

Also I cannot believe a standard like this hasn`t been implemented sooner.

@Jordan L.: In Toyota's case, they are applying these standards on a "go forward basis only." It's not retroactive even though there's no mechanical difference between a 2007-10 and 2011 Tundra. I'd guess other truck makers will follow a similar course of action.

@Alex: Agree!

It appears for two reasons credibility and safety, that Toyota ,GM/Ford and Chrysler are going to adopt a set standard.
To have a 1/2 ton rated at 11,000lbs, but it is not recommended for towing a 5th Wheel and has problems towing a 7000lb Travel Trailer up a mountain pass, makes the ratings look quite farcical.
As well, if a pickup owner did use the maximum ratings and his vehicle became unstable because of it and in the process caused an accident, then the manufacturers could be liable for damages.
This issue has been raised on RV NET and the Escapees Forum as an issue of concern.

No half-ton should be towing 10K lbs. Anybody who says their half-ton truck "tows it no problem" is lying through their teeth.

Great article, will be interesting to see the rating fall accross the board.

Just wonder how much per make.

@Robert Ryan Great point about safety. That too. Agree 100%.

@Johnny Boy Please take the bashing to the War Room in the forums.

I think by 2013, they will make the required adjustments to their trucks to maintain their established ratings. At least, that's what I would do.

Hope ALL follow. It sure will mean new TV commercials. hehehe

@ Robert Ryan

Not an issue as all the manufacturers clearly claim not to exceed GAWR, GVWR or GCW. Ther is NO WAY any half ton can tow any TT or 5th wheel thats 10K and not far exceed rear GAWR or GVWR. Thre are some 3/4 tons that will exceed GVWR with a 10,000 lb trailer.

But fairness in conversation act, go to almost any rv dealer and they will go by tow rating and oversell every vehicle out there. 95% of vehicles pulling rvs are over rear axle or GVWR.

This new std is good for apples to apples comparisons. I agree with that. But a 2011 Turd CMax will still exceed rear GAWR and GVWR pulling a rv thats @ 9,000 lbs. So its not a cure all.

First of all, damn you Mike for getting this out before me!

Secondly, I contacted Nick Cappa at Ram P.R. a few weeks ago specifically about whether or not the Ram's tow rating reflects the new SAE standard. His response was that "the standard you are referring to is not finalized. Close but not final. That being said, no truck officially adheres to it."

I took that to mean the Ram 1500 doesn't meet the standard, but you seem to have different info. Ram's tow rating can't possibly reflect the SAE standards simply because they come with a disclaimer that indicates all ratings are based on one single, 150 lbs driver.

Is Ram trying to spread a myth that their truck meets the standard when it clearly does not (at least not for the max tow weight listed)? Why would they make comments like that?

@Jason: Nick's correct. As the story says, it's still a draft standard that has to be officially ratified by the members of its committee. But it's far enough along that most of its content won't change before it's approved. The quote from Chrysler is word for word what I was told yesterday and it echoes what they've told me before, earlier this year.

@ Jason and Mike

What Ram is saying is that they won't adhere to the standard until it is official. While Mike is right that the content will likely remain as it is in its current state, there is still a possibility that things will change. If Chrysler tests their trucks to the standard and something changes, then they spent money to test their trucks for nothing.

Another reason is that the two biggest players, Ford and GM, haven't tested to the standard yet. Whether we all want to believe it or not, Ford and GM each have more of an impact on the truck market than Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda combined. What they do shapes the truck market, Chrysler is probably waiting to see their response and follow suit.

As Patrick brought up, some manufacturers are probably working to adapt their trucks to perform well on the new SAE standard. They already do it for the EPA fuel economy cycle, so why would this be any different?

This can only improve how these trucks perfrom while towing in the real world.

Mike, will these stds also apply to CUVs, cars and the rest of the auto world?

Mike - If the Ram 1500 comes out with the same tow rating under the SAE standard as the existing truck - assuming they make no changes to the truck - I'll be shocked.

Just like Toyota, Ram is going to have to reduce their tow ratings to adhere to all the guidelines...why else would they have the driver disclaimer on their max rating?

Allen - I agree wholeheartedly with your point about GM and Ford being the big dogs - they can move the market all by themselves.

The Ram comments really bother me - it seems like they want to tell us the current truck's tow rating is legit, but when I specifically asked that question a few weeks ago, they said the answer was no.

Yet that doesn't stop them from telling that they're done all the SAE tests...

I *understand* that they've done the tests, but testing and rating are different. So long as Ram proclaims their max ratings are based on a single passenger, they're not meeting the SAE rules.

The 'standard' American is not 150 lbs. 170-180 lbs would be more accurate.

Toyota needs to do a lot more to gain credibility than just dropping towing 400 lbs.

Ford needs to start using this on their mediocre, appliance-like "trucks". Then, the numbers will reflect what the truck can actually do...and not the pencil whipped pip dreams that Ford hopes it can do (but can't).

Glad they're trying to get half tons out of HD towing territory. I never really bought what Ford was trying to sell with the F150.

So you buy 10400 but not 10800 or 11000 in Ford? Shaking my head

Do you think this may be one of the reasons (other than fuel economy) that Ford came out with these new engines now that the standard is just around the corner?

@'P' - you sound a lot like "The Realist" does that name ring a bell? Your not fooling anyone who also reads LLN.

I would feel completely comfortable driving an F150 max tow package with 11,300 off the rear. I'm not saying it would be smart... but for someone who drives large vehicles everyday and drives with common sense it could be done. I just wouldn't be comfortable driving around everyone else. Truck might look stupid with the rear riding on the frame... lol. But yea I with everyone else if you plan on towing that much just get a HD.

I never understood how there wasn't a standardized test in the first place.

I agree with AJ, about the average americans weight, and maybe higher, beyond that how bout some real world testing pulling trailers up/down the "Grapevine" in California in hot weather! wait a minute does Cali have Hot weather compared to Phoeniz?

Will J2807 also evaluate engine coolant, engine oil, differential and transmission fluid temperatures under the various test parameters in a standarized way as well?

@J2807: It doesn't identify hardware and fluid specifics but for the gradeability portion of the test (12 miles on Arizona and Davis Dam highways at 100-degrees F min temp) it does say there can be "No component failures; no diagnostic codes that alert the operator; no customer warnings; no fluid loss."

@ Mike L. Maybe the next shoot out could be done with this new standard?

At the same location?

@scott: I think that sounds like a great idea but we'd have to do it during the summer. It might not match as early as we could get the trucks together.

I think this is a wonderful idea, and kudos to Toyota for sacking up and doing an actual competant test, not some "towing war test". I do however, think they should inform the previous buyers and make the info in retrospect regarding the earlier ones, since the hardware is obviously the same. I am waiting to see how much Ford loses on their F150, because jusdging by the way mine tows, those 11,300 lb towing capacity ratings have to be fro bragging rights, mine felt underpowered pulling ~ 5500-6K lbs with 3.55 rear gears. I am so anxious for safety to come back to mind, and I know I will be shunned by the fanbois on here, but like some others said, anything over 10K is seriously overloading a hlaf ton truck.

Also, they should retest the CUV/SUV in the same standard, as these new crop of front wheel drive SUV's have damn near the towing ratings on some LD trucks, and beat many of the older trucks.

Just sayin.....They make HD trucks for loads this big, no reason for someone to oveload a half ton truck to "prove, or show" that they can do it because "Ford" said they can.

the frame on these riceburners BREAK with no load

@Red_4x4 - I agree that this standard should be applied to any vehicle that can be used for towing.
I'm not surprised that Toyota is the first one to say they are following the new standards since they've had enough grief with recalls.
Too bad we have to wait for 2013 for the standards to be universally applied.

If Tundra goes down to around 10k
F-150 is no more than 9k
Less power + less gearing = less towing

Ford is redoing it's whole engine line-up this fall
Will they also go to the more legitimate towing standard?

Even though they are in this coalition
I wouldn't hold my breathe

The difference is the fully boxed frame (with the most torsional rigidity of an full sized pickup) which GM is finally starting to use btw. The coil springs on the Ram might be good for ride but not when fully loaded.

And BTW, when Ford says a truck tows 11,300 lbs, they base that on having 6 150 lb people sitting in the truck (if it has 6 seats) not one 150 lb person. Since almost NOBODY rides around with 6 people in their truck, that's a LITTLE bit of a safety factor. If you use the "guide" that Ford uses, they even allow for the painted lower stripe (it weighs 4 lbs btw according to their book).

That all being said, if you regularly tow 11,300 lbs, you should be using a SuperDuty. EVERYTHING on that truck is heavier by far than the other two and one quick trip through any horse event parking lot will show you how it dominates that market.

I tow my 650 lb popup with an Explorer rated for something like 7800 lbs. I'd try to keep myself to less than half of the rating but if you "have" to tow that much, I'd look for a Diesel SuperDuty with the 3.73 or 4.10 rear end. The F-450's are rated for 24,000 lbs and have a 4.88 rear axle ratio. Towing is one case where too much is a good thing.

If you look at the wimpy small C channel frame on a Tundra, you'll agree. Also, look at the first digit in the VIN. We need to be buying American right now or we won't have the jobs to allow us to buy anything else. First Digit = 1 means MADE in the USA which used to mean something and it still should. Tundras are made here too!

What seems to be missing here is, the STOPPING power of any of the trucks.
Who in their right mind would want to tow 11,000 lbs up to the mountains of one of the western states, and come down again. Yes, I have a diesel truck because I usually have 4 horses, and the short wall trailer loaded with friends and family, too much tack and camping equipment, too much water and hay, and want to LIVE to see the bottom of the grades. Towing with a 1/2 ton truck is ludicrous, yeah it will PULL a load as it has enough power from the engine, BUT is the suspension, brakes, coolant, trans, ETC. up to the job?

Not likely! I am using my engine exhaust brake almost ALL THE WAY down most grades, granted I live in California, where we have REAL mountains not 4000 ft mole hills, and find I have a more easily handled truck as well as cooler brakes, and happier passengers. ( Read when Momma ain't happy......)

Well, I would like to ask and know what safety precautions were built into place for the standard safety test. US engineers always error on the side of caution. I am not suggesting they are fibbing, but surely they want to keep people safe, (I hope). The other thing, would be to examine the original test then compare it to the new standard test. I think this would also shed some light on things. Towing a vehicle on a car hauler would be much different than towing a fifth wheel or a travel trailer that has a height of 12' 7" +. The air drag factor would come in to play, or one would think.

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