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2015 SJ 2.0XTP HTLCVT
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
After reading multiple references to the difference in tow ratings between North American and European/UK SJ Foresters (not sure about Australian), I decided to try to find out if there were actual underlying technical differences between the two or whether the different ratings might only be legal, marketing or regulatory related.

So here's a summary of what I found:

Maximum Tow Rating (from Subaru brochures):

North America: 1500 pounds (all models)

UK XT: 2000kg/4409 pounds (some other models are less)

Hitch Type:

North America: 1.25 inch square tubular receiver (supplied with ball mount but no ball, traditional towing "Class" is not specified)

UK: Two hitches available, fixed ball, and removable ball (both supplied with balls, these are NOT tubular receiver types)

Both the North American and UK Subaru OEM hitches replace the original rear bumper beam (the heavy, formed horizontal metal piece underneath the plastic cover) and attach using brackets that fit inside of existing body structures and use existing mounting holes, whereas most non-OEM hitches mount below the retained bumper beam and may require drilling to attach them to body structure. Generally speaking, trailer loads appear to be transferred to the body structure in more of a straight line by the OEM hitches, whereas the 3rd party aftermarket hitches appear to involve more cantilevered forces as they attach from underneath.

Here's the biggie, the North American and UK Subaru OEM hitches use significantly different attaching brackets, which probably account for the the difference in maximum tow ratings! The UK brackets extend much deeper into the unibody rail structure and are secured with more bolts, as can be seen from the following diagrams swiped from their respective installation instructions. It's not possible to tell from the diagrams if there are other differences such as thicker gauge metal in the UK version, but it's obvious the total UK package is more robust than the North American hitch (UK hitch is left thumbnail, North American is right thumbnail).
 

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2011 Touring 4EAT
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307 Posts
Thanks for some great research. I'm astounded at the difference. Makes me wonder if the UK vs. U.S. Models also have different load capacities and springs etc. to manage the heavier trailer ratings. Also the XT model comes with larger brakes.
 

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2009 2.0D XSn 6 speed manual
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Interesting article as I just fitted a Westfalia tow bar to my SH Forester a couple of days ago. It does as you mention go deep inside the chassis rails and bolts direct onto the pre-drilled holes that are already there. The only cuts required when fitting the Westfalia bar were to the head shields which require a small section cut out to allow the bolts to fit up tight against the chassis rails. The only other cuts that had to be made were to the rear bumper which I was unhappy about as I specifically asked before purchasing if this tow bar required cuts and was told no it did not, and that was from one of the UK's top tow bar retailers. The complete tow bar assembly is very heavy and a substantial piece of kit, probably overkill for my bicycle rack.

I did a lot of research before purchasing this bar and found that some other manufacturers fittings varied to the extent that required cutting or drilling chassis and other metal parts of your vehicle, so if you intend fitting a tow bar I would suggest you do your research before purchasing.
 

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2015 Forester Manu;
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Differences in the hitch itself does not account for a different tow rating. The hitch is built as a function *of* the tow rating.
 

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2015 SJ 2.0XTP HTLCVT
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Discussion Starter #5
Differences in the hitch itself does not account for a different tow rating. The hitch is built as a function *of* the tow rating.
... and is therefore indicative/reflective of the intended tow rating.
 

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2014 forester ltd CVT
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Hitch type differences UK/US

Interesting observation Asleep . I would like to know what kind of hitch is used in Australia both OEM and aftermarket. I installed a curt hitch with a 2 inch receiver (Aftermarket) and as you point out it is bolted to the rear unibody frame struts under the vehicle. This configuration does indeed cantilever down and around the rear bumper. To add some extra strength I added a 3/8ths inch bolt through the metal tire well (with a large washer plate) and into the 2 inch receiver tube . The 6 main bolts that go into the unibody frame still do most of the work while the 3/8 bolt reduces the up and down and inline leverage on the hitch
...http://www.subaruforester.org/vbulletin/attachment.php?attachmentid=287705&thumb=1
 

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2015 Highlander AWD XLE 6AT
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It's possible -- if not likely -- that Subaru's recent maximum trailer weight specs (aka "tow ratings") are based on the SAE J2807 standard, which is rather demanding. I've not seen where Subaru formally adopted this standard, but other manufacturers have done so.

For example, the 5,000 lbs maximum trailer weight specification for our 2015 Toyota Highlander is clearly based on J2807 (ref OM page 212):

1: These models meet the tow-vehicle trailering requirement of SAE International per SAE J2807.
And, the maximum trailer weight rating is not absolute, as it is subject to the car's GWVR and the load inside and/or outside the vehicle.

HTH,
Jim / crewzer
 

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2017 Forester
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Wonder if we can get the Euro hitch in North America...

Thanks for posting the hitch pictures. I was just on the Subaru UK site and saw the extra long attachment supports on their hitch. It does look far more robust. I would love to know if we could get it in Canada. If anyone has explored this let me know. I think from what I read on a few postings the Europeans rate the towing capacity higher as they have 2 ratings one for braked and one for un-braked trailers. Their numbers for an un-braked trailer are very similar to US numbers for the Forester. Also I read somewhere that their standards are set for a speed of around 50-55 mph and the US standard is stricter (no idea if that is true)....coupled with what many say is a fear from litigation by manufacturers in the US for accidents that happen as a result of and/or while towing and so they set a conservative standard. Given that I guess there could be many factors but to me it looks like the vehicles are more or less identical and the hitch while a bit more solid is still bolted together so that must be the weakest link and therefore I think it comes down to different standards between the two regions but if given the same trailer and hitch I think the US Forester would do as well as the European one from what I can determine....
 

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2003 Forester AW Manual with low ratio
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In the uk, max legal speed when towing any trailer is 50 mph on single carriageways and 60 mph on dual carriageways and motorways. ( of course many combinations are seen going faster than this!)
Foresters have been marketed/ recommended in the past as tow cars ( going back to 2004 the XT the was caravan club towbar of the year) so I wouldn't be surprised if aiming for the highest towing capability possible to be published is part of the U.K. Marketing strategy?
Any trailer over 750 kg is meant to be braked, ( when used with any tow car) otherwise much lower speed limits apply.

Nice interesting research from the OP, asleep, thanks.
 

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2017 Forester 2.5i CVT
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There's an even simpler reason why the USDM Foresters are de-rated (and it's more than just the hitch, BTW), the Chicken Tax:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_tax

If they ever start assembling them in Lafayette, you can bet that the tow ratings will increase.


I don't see anything in that related article that effects a unibody economy passenger car.
Which is what the Forester is.


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

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2001 Forester L 4 Speed Auto
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I don't see anything in that related article that effects a unibody economy passenger car.
Which is what the Forester is.
Light truck classification has nothing to do with unibody construction or its original intended platform - the Jeep Grand Cherokee shares a platform with a Dodge Dart in the same way the Forester shares with the Impreza, yet the Jeep is clearly a light truck - and the list of unibody based light trucks grows every year, and I'd be surprised if the F-150 didn't switch over at the next redesign. Minivans, every vehicle Jeep sells, Outbacks, the Geo Tracker and even the PT Cruiser qualify as light trucks, but in its current configuration in the US the Forester does not. This is a big reason why the USDM Forester is different than the international.

Increasing the tow rating beyond 1,999 lbs, coupled with the liftgate, and percent of interior volume that can be converted to cargo, causes it to be classified as a light truck and be hit with a 25% import tariff. The SJ redesign ticks enough other light truck boxes, that something had to give, so they reduced towing capacity, while increasing it overseas.

And, yes, if you imported a UK market Forester, you could tow the higher weight with it even in the US, safely and legally. The hitch is different, but also other components are changed down the driveline and suspension - the US market is big enough to support its own different and special Forester. And if you did import one, it would be super easy to pick up your mail from the mailbox!
 

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After reading multiple references to the difference in tow ratings between North American and European/UK SJ Foresters (not sure about Australian), I decided to try to find out if there were actual underlying technical differences between the two or whether the different ratings might only be legal, marketing or regulatory related.

So here's a summary of what I found:

Maximum Tow Rating (from Subaru brochures):

North America: 1500 pounds (all models)

UK XT: 2000kg/4409 pounds (some other models are less)

Hitch Type:

North America: 1.25 inch square tubular receiver (supplied with ball mount but no ball, traditional towing "Class" is not specified)

UK: Two hitches available, fixed ball, and removable ball (both supplied with balls, these are NOT tubular receiver types)

Both the North American and UK Subaru OEM hitches replace the original rear bumper beam (the heavy, formed horizontal metal piece underneath the plastic cover) and attach using brackets that fit inside of existing body structures and use existing mounting holes, whereas most non-OEM hitches mount below the retained bumper beam and may require drilling to attach them to body structure. Generally speaking, trailer loads appear to be transferred to the body structure in more of a straight line by the OEM hitches, whereas the 3rd party aftermarket hitches appear to involve more cantilevered forces as they attach from underneath.

Here's the biggie, the North American and UK Subaru OEM hitches use significantly different attaching brackets, which probably account for the the difference in maximum tow ratings! The UK brackets extend much deeper into the unibody rail structure and are secured with more bolts, as can be seen from the following diagrams swiped from their respective installation instructions. It's not possible to tell from the diagrams if there are other differences such as thicker gauge metal in the UK version, but it's obvious the total UK package is more robust than the North American hitch (UK hitch is left thumbnail, North American is right thumbnail).
Where might I find and purchase this euro style hitch?? Does the euro removable ball have a 2" receiver or an adapter for similar? Also from my own research the over seas market towing package come with a CVT external oil cooler as well.
Sorry to bring up an old forum but all my searching has come to dead ends.
 

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Where might I find and purchase this euro style hitch??
You could probably buy one from a European dealer, but it would be expensive to ship and I don't know whether it would solve whatever problem you have as your local legal limits would still apply.

the over seas market towing package come with a CVT external oil cooler as well.
All Australian SJs with 2.5L engines came with an external cooler as standard. The VDCs are also had 'Towing Stability Control' (don't know whether this was the case in the U.S.). There was no "towing package" as such. I'm pretty sure the AU towbars were/are made by Hayman Rees.
 

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2001 Forester
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Don't see how a EURO hitch will change your towing limits in the US. I personally have towed a 3300# trailer with my 2001 Forester. IMHO the main reason why there is a difference between EURO limits vs US limits is the lack of uniformity in the US regarding when trailers are required to have brakes. I believe in both AUS and EURO the trailers about a specified weight limit are required to have trailer brakes. The problem in the US, there is no such uniform requirements, ie 3500#, 5000#, 7000# depending on which state you are in. Therefore no one wants to deal with the legal issues of stating "Yes Subaru Forester can tow 3500#".
 

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2014 Subaru Forester XE CVT
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I believe the UK OEM tow bar is made by Thule, so excellent quality and you might be able to ask them where it is available from. I got mine from a UK Subaru dealer.
 
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