Project MKVI Golf TDI: Let’s Tow!

Project MKVI Golf TDI: Let's Tow!

by Jeff Naeyaert

One of the things we noticed on our two trips to Europe in the last few years is that there are NO pickup trucks on the roads like you see all over here in the United States.  There are some luxury type SUV’s running around but much more common are “estates” or what we call station wagons and lots of little cars—our Golf being a popular choice.  So how do people haul around all their crap?  Trailers!  We don’t want to say most, but there are a lot more cars in Europe with trailer hitches and pulling all sorts of trailers of all different sizes around.  It makes sense though, how often do most pickup truck users USE their truck for hauling stuff around?  Probably not every day for most people.  So why not have a car when you want a car that gets good fuel economy, carries around people comfortably and can fit into tight parking spaces most of the time, and then when you want it to be a pickup truck, hook up a little trailer!  Well that’s what we aim to do with our Golf. 


Europeans don't need no stinkin' pickup truck!  The Euro version of our Golf TDI has won best towcar of the year in the under 1425kg weight class every year from 2009 to 2013!  (image stolen from

In Europe the Golf TDI has a tow capacity of a little over 3,000lbs!  The tongue weight rating probably isn’t that high, but that’s OK.  In the United States the Golf has a tow rating of Zero pounds because it’s “not recommended for towing.”  These numbers are not set by the government but arbitrarily by the manufacturers.  We’ve heard speculation as to why but what seemed to make the most sense to us is the warranty issue.  In the US our cars tend to have a longer warranty period and more is covered than vehicles in Europe.  So manufacturers try to mitigate risk and lower claims by not recommending towing which can be tough on drivetrains and brake systems.  That’s speculation, but it sounds pretty believable to us!  Let's not forget that American's have grown very fond of suing anyone they can for anything, so that could be contributing to manufacturer reluctance as well.  


Americans have been marketed into thinking they NEED the biggest baddest new full size truck to haul wood chips back from Home Depot.  (image stolen from The Economist)

Anyways, we’ve already proven we don’t care too much about the warranty with our exhaust and computer modifications so who cares if we add a trailer hitch!  

There are trailer hitches from very reputable companies available in the US but from an aesthetic and functional standpoint none of them are as nice as the European offerings.  The problem with the US hitches is that they have the standard square receiver just below the bumper line, which on our lowered Golf is probably less than ideal—even if we used an offset hitch because of a lack of ground clearance of the receiver.  They also don’t mount to the chassis as solidly as their Euro counterparts.


A US style receiver.  Notice how the receiver is below even the muffler of this Golf at stock ride height!  That would be a problem on our lowered car. (image stolen from


  1. Don’t forget about tongue weight ! That Refrigerator is way forward of the trailer axle and may have overloaded your Golf’s safe tongue weight rating. Usually you want about 10% of the trailer’s weight on the hitch up to the maximum rating.

  2. Hi, you mention about getting a replacement European lower bumper panel with the tow bar hatch.
    I’m in England, and at least around here I’m pretty sure VW will only sell you that panel as part of the whole tow bar retrofit kit they sell. Factory fitted tow bars on mk6 Golfs are also quite rare here, so it’s not even a easy job finding one second hand. I’ve been looking for a couple of months now and still haven’t found one. 🙁

  3. Hello there
    I’m thankfully that I found this information. I really enjoyed your article. I have been seriously considering to switch to a TDI with best mpg from a pickup with terrible mileage for my daily/work commute. I wonder what tranny do you have?? I really wanted to buy a tdi with manual but very HARD to find one here in AZ. Will Auto tranny be safe for towing 1500lbs? (I don’t towing that much like what it said in your article)

  4. I have a 2015 tdi golf I am wanting to make a trip to Alaska with a small tent trailer. I find this article very helpful. Any information on fuel mileage?

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