The hunt for SA’s best towing vehicle is officially on again! And, as in the inaugural competition last year, you stand a chance of winning the SUV that will be crowned the TowCAR of the year. This time the competition will focus on the hotly contested and popular medium SUV segment, which is currently ruled by his majesty, the Toyota Fortuner – SA’s most popular SUV by far. We’ve selected a competitive group of SUVs that will do battle with the Fortuner for top towing honours.
Taking current buying trends into consideration, we are aiming our sights at turbodiesel models fitted with automatic gearboxes and 4WD drivetrains.
The automatic gearbox option has, in recent years, garnered wide popularity in the leisure market as modern diesel engines become more and more powerful. An auto shifter makes so much more sense when it’s combined with a high-powered turbodiesel mill that doesn’t need to be revved to kingdom come.
We’ve set a limit of R500 000 on the asking price, which narrows the field down to a group of interesting and diverse SUVs. Using various criteria such as actual tow ratings, we’ve had to cut a few potential contenders – you’d be surprised at the official tow ratings of some SUVs! We also asked the following question, narrowing down the list of entries: Does this vehicle stand a chance of actually winning this competition? If it did not, we looked at other options from that manufacturer, or we did not include it at all.
This, for instance, is why the Ford Everest did not make the final cut. Although the Everest’s engine and drivetrain are very good, the overall design is dated and we believe it would not have stood a realistic chance against the newer competitors in the line-up.
And that’s why the popular and modern Ford Kuga 2.0TDCi is in the contest. With all its electronics and modern design and competitive price and whatnot, we believe it stands a much better chance of taking the fight to the other SUVs than the Everest.
The list of obvious contenders includes the Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8LTZ, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (with the new 131 kW/350 Nm 2,5-litre engine), the Nissan Pathfinder (the entry-level five-seater 2.5dCi), the Land Rover Freelander 2.2 SD4 and the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 2.8CRD AT. Oh yes, the Wrangler. You may be wondering why we included it here and not the Cherokee, or even the Grand Cherokee. The powerful Grand turbodiesel version is far too expensive for this segment, and the Cherokee’s replacement is imminent, making the current model irrelevant for competition purposes. We’ve heard some glowing reports about this Wrangler’s towing ability, so it became an obvious choice.
The list also includes the VW Tiguan 2.0TDI DSG — another popular towing vehicle – and siblings the Kia Sorento R2.2 AWD and the Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2. The Honda CR-V 2.2 is a bit of a dark horse here, as is the Subaru Outback 2.0D, which is the only contender fitted with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). This should certainly make for some interesting comparisons with the more traditional gearboxes and the VW’s dual-clutch system.
The judging process has been fine tuned for this year’s competition. We will do the bulk of the testing on a closed circuit at a vehicle testing facility. Also new is an emergency lane-change test on a wet skidpan with a big caravan in tow. This is sure to make for some interesting comparisons and the proper testing of stability control and braking systems! A short road section will simulate a typical open-road journey.
The big caravan will be a Jurgens Penta, one of the Jurgens brand’s most popular units. It is 6,4m long and its GWM is 1400kg. We will load the caravans to this maximum weight to simulate normal towing conditions.
And so to the judging panel. This year it will comprise eight of SA’s top motoring journalists, advanced driving instructors that specialise in caravan towing and a racing legend who tows his own caravan, too. The scoring sheets have been simplified and will provide a more concise and to-the-point breakdown of the scores in the different categories.
And that, in a nutshell, is it. On 7 December the second installment of the popular Hooked Up series kicks off on DStv’s Ignition channel (189), and we’ll introduce you to all the contenders, judges, tests, and so on. As before, a weekly feature on gadgets and a review of resorts will be part of the programme.
The television series and the TowCAR competition, run in conjunction with CAR and Leisure Wheels magazines, is brought to you by Campworld, Imperial and Forever Resorts. Catch the first TowCAR report on TowCAR of the Year next month in CAR and Leisure Wheels magazines. Till then…