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Hi folks, I'm new to the Forum, and am looking for direction on this. I have an 06 Sienna CE Fwd, and tow a 17ft '89 Invader 177 Elan Bowrider. With trailer and fuel and gear = close to limit of 3500 lbs, not including gear/people in van. Never had a problem going on 2-3h trips. Only problem I have is with gravel ramps, of course.

Since I'm close to limit, I'm looking at '08-'12 Highlanders, which can tow 5000 lb w/ tow package. Yet the platform is pretty much the same. Why is there such capacity difference? Same unibody frame, isn't it? Any insights or direction to a relevant subforum would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!
Rob
 

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Welcome!

There is actually quite a bit more of a 'frame' (both are unibody vehicles) on the Highlander compared to the Sienna. Being low to the ground with a low step-in height, the Sienna makes do with fairly thin 'rails' along the side and at the rear wheel wells. By comparison, the Highlander sits up high and looks to have substantially more box structure in the places that count. Now looks can be deceiving, but the Highlander looks much more like a truck underneath, at least to me. The rear suspension and surrounding bracing also looked more beefy.
 
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The transmission gear ratio and rear axle gear ratio, RWD v/s FWD.....there is a whole lot more that highlander might have that sienna does not.....just test it on the gravel if the sienna works then stick with it, If the gravel travel is only limited to a campsite than I would not worry but if you are doing gravel travel on offroad trails for miles at stretch then sienna is not the vehicle to be driven, if gravel road but flat terrain than might work, but any steep gravel incline then the front wheels will just give out and the whole contraption will just sit on the stop with front wheels spinning.....in such scenarios the RWD wins hands down.

Just my 2cents...

Javvy
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The transmission gear ratio and rear axle gear ratio, RWD v/s FWD.....there is a whole lot more that highlander might have that sienna does not.....just test it on the gravel if the sienna works then stick with it, If the gravel travel is only limited to a campsite than I would not worry but if you are doing gravel travel on offroad trails for miles at stretch then sienna is not the vehicle to be driven, if gravel road but flat terrain than might work, but any steep gravel incline then the front wheels will just give out and the whole contraption will just sit on the stop with front wheels spinning.....in such scenarios the RWD wins hands down.

Just my 2cents...

Javvy

Thanks, Javvy,
Main issue is occasional but serious: gravel launch ramps. I’m wondering if a wdh would help.
 

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The transmission gear ratio and rear axle gear ratio, RWD v/s FWD.....there is a whole lot more that highlander might have that sienna does not.....just test it on the gravel if the sienna works then stick with it, If the gravel travel is only limited to a campsite than I would not worry but if you are doing gravel travel on offroad trails for miles at stretch then sienna is not the vehicle to be driven, if gravel road but flat terrain than might work, but any steep gravel incline then the front wheels will just give out and the whole contraption will just sit on the stop with front wheels spinning.....in such scenarios the RWD wins hands down.

Just my 2cents...

Javvy
Just as an FYI, the Highlander is/has never been RWD...
 

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We are going to assume that they mean AWD vs FWD.
 

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Thanks, Javvy,
Main issue is occasional but serious: gravel launch ramps. I’m wondering if a wdh would help.
absolutely a WDH would be your best option as it tucks the rear of the van up there by pressing the front down more so that will give you better traction to the FWD,

Even in normal towing, you should be using a WDH as it helps tremendously with sway as you pass a semi, etc. Totally eliminates the trailer sway and gives excellent control on the trailer.

Report back what you find.

Javvy
 

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Do you mean gravel boat launch ramps? If so, be very particular about the WDH you purchase. Most will not work correctly with boat trailers. Pay attention to ones that will work with surge brakes and your trailer’s tongue configuration.

-Mike
 
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