2009 VW Sport Wagon as Tow Vehicle

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2009 VW Sport Wagon as Tow Vehicle

Postby 76-13footer » Sun Apr 17, 2016 10:17 am

I am purchasing a 1976 SPORT 13. Both my husband and I drive VW Jetta wagons. I have a hitch on my 2009 Sport wagon, but I'm getting nervous about retrieval given the steepness of our local boat ramp.

[Is there any worry about launching and retrieving a Boston Whaler SPORT 13 with a 2009 Volkwagen SPORT wagon?] Any insight would be much appreciated--Ann

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Re: 2009 VW Sport Wagon as Tow Vehicle

Postby Oldslowandugly » Sun Apr 17, 2016 7:13 pm

What does [the 2009 VW] owner's manual suggest? My 1999 Sunfire manual says not to use that car at all for towing. A 13-footer doesn't weigh much so I think you would be okay for payload. I would be more concerned about the front wheel drive. Going up a ramp the weight transfer to the rear could unload the front wheels and they may lose traction.

What kind of surface is the ramp?

Dirt, sand, gravel could be a problem. Grooved concrete would be ideal no matter the incline. Blacktop is a tossup but is not common.

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Re: 2009 VW Sport Wagon as Tow Vehicle

Postby jimh » Wed Apr 20, 2016 9:54 pm

Locate the manufacturer's towing guide for information about the towing capacity of various vehicles. [I searched for one from VW but came up empty.] The owner's manual often has no information on towing. Towing capacities are usually variable and depend on the particulars of each vehicle, such as the rear axle gear ratio, the engine, the transmission, and other options like four-wheel drive, transmission coolers, engine oil coolers, and so on. Of course, some makes and models make it simple: no towing allowed.

For very intermittent use as a towing vehicle for short distances at lower speeds on secondary roads, and for launching on ramps without unusually steep slopes, almost any vehicle can handle a small boat like a 13-foot Boston Whaler, if some care is used. If the vehicle has a factory-installed trailer hitch, it must be rated for some duty as a tow vehicle.

Long distance towing at highway speeds is a different matter, particular in areas with hills and lots of grades to ascend and descend.

Here is a prior discussion in our forum archives that may offer some advice:


And here is a thread from a VW forum that goes on for eight pages:


As often seen in any discussion that goes on for eight pages, a very wide variety of opinions are expressed.

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Re: 2009 VW Sport Wagon as Tow Vehicle

Postby jimh » Wed Apr 20, 2016 10:13 pm

I will offer this advice: you are going to have so much fun with a 13-foot Boston Whaler that you will soon want to get a larger Boston Whaler boat. You might as well get ahead of this by buying a better tow vehicle now. You'll need something that can haul a MONTAUK 17 at highway speeds by this time next year.

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Re: 2009 VW Sport Wagon as Tow Vehicle

Postby Ridge Runner » Thu Apr 21, 2016 8:23 am

I believe VW lowered the rating on the 2009 Sport Wagon's towing capacity and rated the capacity differently based on the engine and transmission combination:

- 1,500lbs for the 2.5L gas engine and manual transmission
- 1,000lgs for the 2.5L gas engine and automatic transmission
- 1,000lbs for the TDI engine and manual transmission
- Not recommended to towing with the TDI and automatic transmission

The way the ratings look it would seem like the automatic transmission is a weak link. I believe 2009 was the first year the TDI engine was available and there seems to be a history of some automatic transmission failures with this combination. I would imagine due to the higher torque output of the diesel engine.

I also think it would be rare to have this car with a factory installed hitch and highly probable that the hitch on your car is an after market installation. As you can see in the picture there is not much to bolt the hitch on to. The primary use for a hitch on this type of vehicle is typically for items such as a bike rack.

A 13 foot BW with trailer, fuel, battery and engine will be in the range of 700 to 800lbs, so as noted above local towing in a responsible manner should be ok. Two things to keep in mind:

- Do not over pack you wagon full of items and people and also tow. Pay attention to the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVRW) which is defined as: “The maximum a vehicle can safely weigh when loaded, including the vehicle itself, occupants, cargo and optional equipment"

- Front wheel drive vehicles on steep and slippery ramps may lose traction when you add the leaver effect of the tongue weight. With the result that the boat being pulled out of the water will lift the front end of the car causing the tires to lose traction and slip. A car equipped with the automatic transmission - which seems to be one of the weak components - may over heat causing premature transmission failure.

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Re: 2009 VW Sport Wagon as Tow Vehicle

Postby Jefecinco » Thu Apr 21, 2016 10:10 am

Given the low-weight of a 1973 Sport 1, I would use the VW for general towing. Before attempting highway towing at 55 MPH or higher I would consider adding a transaxle cooler or at least a transaxle temperature gauge.

Due to the low weight on the hitch with a properly set up trailer I would not be concerned with excessive weight transfer to the rear wheels leading to front wheel slippage. It should be no worse than having a few suitcases in the rear. Front wheel drive can be an asset on a wet or muddy ramp because the front tires are often above the mess near the bottom of the ramp. Additionally, the front wheels support far more of the vehicle weight due to the trans axle and engine weight being forward.

You may want to check the tire load range rating for the tires on your VW to ensure there is sufficient extra weight capacity and regardless of capacity it is always important to inflate the tires properly. This will almost certainly not be a problem but checking will ensure your VW is ready for towing.

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Re: 2009 VW Sport Wagon as Tow Vehicle

Postby dgoodhue » Sat Apr 23, 2016 1:59 pm

I use my wife's 2014 VW sportwagen tdi (same gen as 09) for towing my 15' whaler. I would check the owner manual for the rating, 2014 is 2000# for the 5 cylinder Auto or Manual and 1000 for the MT diesel and 0 for the dsg diesel. The 2009-14 sportwagen ratings changed over that generation of sportwagen. At some point the rated the dsg for a tow rating and I think the diesel may have rated for higher tow rating. In Europe the rated the dsg for towing similar to the MT. (Don't use European rating for towing in the US). I am not sure why VW has changed the tow rating. I mistakenly bought our sportwagen thinking it had a 2000# tow rating for the deisel. I dodnt realize until a month after I bought it about the rating when I was reading the manual. My 15' is approx 1300-1400# so I am over the rating.

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Re: 2009 VW Sport Wagon as Tow Vehicle

Postby John_Madison CT » Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:04 pm

You shouldn't have any problem towing a 13' Whaler.

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Re: 2009 VW Sport Wagon as Tow Vehicle

Postby dg22 » Fri Apr 29, 2016 12:46 pm

I towed my 13 footer for years with my 2003 VW Jetta Wagon TDI. It was a manual transmission. I too was a bit nervous at a very steep launch but I had no problems getting the boat out. The diesel engine had great low end torque. To be honest that particular launch was so steep it would make me nervous with any vehicle. I only used that launch a few times and then I found a better launch location.