Top 10 towing vehicles

Philip Lord — 7 October 2015

What makes a good tow vehicle runs deeper than just statistics – a vehicle that has, by the numbers, a big towing capacity and hefty claimed torque figures isn’t enough. It’s no good if you can tow 3000kg but you’re not legally allowed ten per cent on the towball. The same applies if a manufacturer quotes a big-number torque figure but in practice it only occurs in a narrow rev range – making towing a chore in hilly terrain rather than a seamless, easy torque-surfing cruise.

At Caravan World we test key tow vehicles in the market and give an assessment of their towing strengths. When it came to putting this list together, there are many reasons why a vehicle might not have made the cut. So if a particular model doesn’t feature on our top 10 list, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad tow vehicle – it just isn’t among the top 10 achievers we tested.

You will also notice that it’s the most expensive vehicles that appear up the pointy end of our list. Money buys you more real estate in the vehicle world, and it’s no secret that more size and weight is a good start for a stable, strong towing platform.

So if you’re thinking about a new tow tug in the not too distant future, here are our top 10 to give you a bit of inspiration.

1. Toyota LandCruiser 200 TDV8

Max capacity: 350kg/3500kg

With a facelift due any moment, the big ‘Cruiser will continue to do what it has done so well for the last nine years – and it still tops our best tow-tugs list. With plenty of interior room, worthy offroad-ability and a wide parts and service network, the ‘Cruiser caps it off with being an excellent tow vehicle. It will shoulder almost any van up to its 3500kg capacity without any problems.

The negatives are that it is becoming dated – regardless of the model-year 2016 update – and the twin turbodiesel certainly likes a drink when towing.

2. Mercedes-Benz GL 350 BlueTEC

Max capacity: 278kg/3402kg

If you have a choice of any tow vehicle, you’d have to consider the Mercedes-Benz GL 350 BlueTEC. This is a vehicle that pushes along a similar weight to the LandCruiser 200 and arguably with more style and certainly more technology. While its towing capacity is not quite up there with the ‘Cruiser, there are few large offroad luxury caravans that the big ‘Benz won’t tow.

The GL-Class’ ability to lug along a big lump of caravan with just a shrug is testament to the GL’s brief to appeal primarily to the US market, where big is always better. The GL 350 BlueTEC is not only a stable tow hauler – it also punches out decent, accessible torque and cossets you as it eats up the big miles on tour.

3. Range Rover Sport SCV6 3.0

Max capacity: 350kg/3500kg

The Range Rover Sport SCV6 won’t appeal to everyone, but for the money the Sport is one of the most superlative towing vehicles you can buy – and it’s also a very good vehicle in just about every other way. Once you hook up a van, the Sport’s supercharged petrol V6 takes on the challenge with little fuss. If it’s a quick and safe overtaking manoeuvre you need, the Rangie obliges by lifting its nose like a power boat and it simply rockets ahead. Yes, the supercharged petrol engine drinks like a sailor but it’s well-worth the financial hangover at the bowser.

4. Land Rover Discovery 4 SCV6

Max capacity: 350kg/3500kg

Like the Discovery 3 and 4 before it, the latest Discovery 4 with the new supercharged SCV6 powerplant tows very well. The big Disco – like most on this list – has plenty of kerb weight to keep almost any van from shoving it around and it also has a natural stability. This is a very comfortable and luxurious tow-hauler with plenty of performance on offer.

Like the Rangie Sport, fuel consumption figures when towing are nothing to write home about, and the Disco 4 is getting long in the tooth, being based on the 2005 Discovery 3. But if you like to tour in comfort and want a big tow capacity in the sense of weight-carrying ability and performance, then the Discovery 4 SCV6 might be just the thing.

5. Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.0 TD

Max capacity: 350kg/3500kg

The Grand Cherokee is a natural for hitching up a van and hauling it around without dramas. The Jeep feels very stable with a van behind – and while the air suspension does not feel quite as compliant as it does when there is no load, it is very stable and predictable in its response to wind buffeting and road surface changes.

The 3.0L V6 is unfazed by the additional weight behind – the mid-range response is very strong and if you were faced with a need to overtake a slower vehicle on the road, you can feel confident with the Grand Cherokee that you could attempt it with a measure of confidence.

6. Volkswagen Amarok TDI400

Max capacity: 300kg/3000kg

It’s hard to think of another 2.0L turbodiesel tow vehicle that belts out as much power and torque with the ability to tow up to 3000kg. The Amarok’s ability to sip fuel, with a ride quality that is relatively lush, is capped off by excellent towing stability. Let its revs drop to idle speed while rolling around a roundabout, and instead of the embarrassing lurching and quick search for a lower gear, it just steadily pulls its weight and the van’s cleanly away, its low-blow turbo whistling while it works.

There are few four-cylinder turbodiesels with similar weight behind them that can take to the task with such relish. Some are quicker, some more economical, but none make it seem so effortless at the Amarok. Tie that with a spacious, high-quality cabin, agile chassis and respectable offroad-ability and you have one of the best dual-cab utes to date.

7. Ford Ranger/Mazda BT-50

Max capacity: 350kg/3500kg

This pair of utes – which share the same basic ingredients – are on the cusp of facelifts, but mechanically the packages are just about identical. Based on our experience, these utes offer a really stable towing platform, barely moving at all with the van behind, and performance from the in-line five-cylinder diesel is very good. Engine braking is also very good and the six-speed auto is very easy to use in manual mode to hold gears on descents.

Both the Ranger and the BT-50 have competent powertrains, complimented by comfortable cabins, dynamic suspension and are great towing platforms. The pair suffer from a frustrating turbo-lag when unladen, but this all but evaporates when hitched up.

8. Isuzu MU-X

Max capacity: 300kg/3500kg

The MU-X is a natural tow vehicle and it’s surprising to see how well it takes on the weight of a tandem-axle full-size caravan with no hint of instability; it just feels planted. Engine braking is very good, while performance up hills is better than the torque and power figures would suggest. On some roads, the dampers feel too soft and towing fuel consumption isn’t as parsimonious as you’d like, but the MU-X is one of the best mid-size towing platforms out there. With its (achievable) high towing capacity, good performance and interior comfort, the MU-X is one of the best all-round tourers on the market.

9. Land Rover Defender 90

Max capacity: 350kg/3500kg

The Defender 90 is about to be pensioned off, but that’s a shame because it is one of the best tow tugs on the market today. Sure, it’s very much old school – ancient school, even – but as a tow hauler it makes the grade.

The last version of the iconic Defender has a Puma turbodiesel engine that is not only very smooth and responsive, but also keeps the 90 motoring with ease with a van behind. It’s not only the engine that works well in the towing environment – the platform is rock-solid with a caravan behind.

10. SZ II Ford Territory TDCi

Max capacity: 230kg/2300kg

The Territory is approaching its swansong, with production due to wind up next year. This is a vehicle that has proven itself as a thoroughly well-executed design and, arguably, the best Australia has produced in recent years.

The Territory has excellent performance with a caravan behind, powering up hills easily and comfortably at the speed limit. Engine braking on declines is also excellent.

The Territory when ordered with the heavy-duty tow package comes with a load-levelling kit and even without it this SUV tows really well. A solid, stable towing platform with an engine that is smooth, strong and economical. The Territory has always had nimble and responsive handling in its DNA and a clever interior package still, after all these years. It’s an excellent vehicle on its own, and one that accepts towing duties with equanimity.


towing towing vehicles Ford Territory Toyota LandCruiser Mercedes-Benz GL 350 BlueTEC Range Rover Sport Jeep Grand Cherokee Land Rover Discovery Volkswagen Amarok Ford Ranger Mazda BT-50 Isuzu MU-X Land Rover Defender SZ II Ford Territory