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Towing strong, a look at second-hand buys

26 March 2018

A 4×4 capable of towing a large caravan or boat tends to come with a large sticker price. Here are six second-hand options that’ll get the job done, but won’t break the bank in the process.

A luxury caravan or large boat requires a vehicle with some serious horses. Sure, you can use a smaller, less powerful vehicle, but that tends to result in a whole lot of frustration. No, to ensure that your caravan or seaside holiday is a pleasant and relaxing affair, you need a vehicle that can tow without hassle. Of course, this means that you need something with loads of power and torque, which tends to result in an eye-watering purchase price.

But there is some good news. A lot of powerful and luxurious SUVs don’t hold their value terribly well. They are extremely expensive when new, but once they hit the second-hand market, they become a lot more affordable. There are some trade-offs: fuel consumption tends to be high and maintenance can be pricey, but if you need a proper towing vehicle, these costs might just be worth it. Importantly, we’re not looking at your typical medium-sized SUVs (like the Fortuner) that are perfectly decent tow vehicles. Instead, we are looking at properly powerful full-size SUVs that can tow just about any massive boat or caravan.

V12 Power
2012 Audi Q7 6.0TDI V12
Let’s start off strong with a vehicle that just might be the ultimate towing SUV. It is the Audi Q7 6.0TDI V12. Yes, this luxury barge is indeed powered by a six-litre turbodiesel V12 that delivers no less than 368kW of power and 1 000Nm of torque. If that’s not enough torque to get your caravan cruising, no vehicle will get the job done. The latest Q7 doesn’t boast this sort of insane engine, but you can still find previous-generation Q7s on the second-hand market. The one we have here is a particularly good example: it’s a 2012 model with just 61 000km on the clock and a full franchise service history. The price is R659 990, which isn’t a lot for this sort of performance.
The good: So much torque
The bad: Very thirsty for a diesel

Price: R659 990
Year: 2012
Engine: 6.0-Litre V12 turbodiesel
Power: 368kW
Torque: 1 000Nm
Mileage: 61 000km
Transmission: Automatic
Service history: Full franchise

M Performance
2015 BMW X5 M50d
Like the Audi Q7 6.0TDI V12, the BMW X5 M50d brings some supercar performance to the diesel SUV segment. Though not as powerful as the petrol-powered X5 M, the M50d is arguably the better tow vehicle. It’s powered by what might seem like a rather diminutive 3.0-litre oilburner, but the engine boasts no less than three turbos, which means that it is capable of producing 280kW of power and 740Nm of torque. It’s all that torque that makes theM50d such a great towing vehicle. Regardless of the size of your caravan, you’ll barely notice it behind this SUV. Moreover, the Beemer is remarkably frugal for a vehicle of its kind.
The good: Powerful and relatively frugal
The bad: Complex components can lead to big repair bill

Price: R899 900
Year: 2015
Engine: 3.0-Litre turbodiesel
Power: 280kW
Torque: 740Nm
Mileage: 45 000km
Transmission: Automatic
Service history: Full franchise

Infinite Pull
2015 Infiniti QX80 5.6
Essentially a rebadged (and very upmarket) version of the latest Nissan Patrol, the Infiniti QX80 5.6 is a remarkably versatile vehicle. Sure, it looks flashy, but it’s far more capable than you would guess. The QX80 can go anywhere and do just about anything you ask of it. This includes racing up sand dunes, tackling 4×4 trails and, of course, towing large caravans. The SUV is powered by a burly 5.6-litre V8 petrol power plant that delivers 298kW of power and 560Nm of torque, which is more than enough to tackle a tough towing task. Infiniti hasn’t had much of an impact on the local market, and its future in this country seems somewhat uncertain, but that means that you can get quite a deal on the used market.
The good: Powerful and capable
The bad: Showy and ostentatious

Price: R829 950
Year: 2015
Engine: 5.6-Litre V8
Power: 298kW
Torque: 560Nm
Mileage: 41 000km
Transmission: Automatic
Service history: Full franchise

Large Lexus
2012 Lexus LX 570 SE
If the Infiniti QX80 is just a tad too flashy for you, the Lexus LX 570 might be a better option. Overall, it is a similar offering to the Infiniti QX80 – with loads of luxury and proper off-road ability – but it is slightly more conservative when it comes to styling. The vehicle is powered by a 5.7-litre V8 that delivers 270kW of power and 530Nm of torque. This particular model is a few years old (2012), but has only 31 166km on the clock, and it comes with a full franchise service history. On the downside, fuel consumption is high, but with a long wheelbase and a wide body, it is perfect for towing.
The good: Powerful
The bad: Thirsty

Price: R789 900
Year: 2012
Engine: 5.7-Litre V8
Power: 270kW
Torque: 530Nm
Mileage: 31 166km
Transmission: Automatic
Service history: Full franchise

Old Faithful
2014 Nissan Patrol 4.8 GRX
True, Nissan South Africa recently launched the long-awaited ‘new’ Patrol in South Africa, but that shouldn’t lead you to dismiss the older version. Compared to the other vehicles on this list, it is very well priced. If you’re looking for a solid towing vehicle, it’s pretty good value for money. It isn’t as powerful as the other SUVs here (190kW of power and 425Nm of torque), but it has enough oomph to get the job done. The petrol engine is notoriously thirsty, especially when you’re towing something heavy, but that sticker price perhaps makes it bearable. This example is a 2014 model with just 77 000km on the clock. It goes for R499 950 and has a full franchise service history.
The good: Cheaper than other vehicles here
The bad: So very, very thirsty

Price: R499 950
Year: 2014
Engine 4.8-Litre straight-six petrol
Power: 190kW
Torque: 425Nm
Mileage: 77 000km
Transmission: Automatic
Service history: Full franchise

Killer Cruiser
2014 Toyota Land Cruiser 200 VX 4.5D V8
The Land Cruiser 200 is no longer being offered with a large petrol engine. At the moment, only the V8 diesel version is available in showrooms. While you can still purchase a petrol model on the used market, the V8 diesel version is probably the one to go for, since it is more fuel-efficient and generates more torque. With 173kW of power and 615Nm of torque, it isn’t as powerful as the Audi or BMW, but it has enough oomph for towing. And like the QX80, and Lexus LX, the Cruiser 200 is a great all-rounder that can tow with confidence and tackle tough trails. Toyotas are popular on the used market, so you won’t get it for a steal, but pricing is nevertheless quite good. Priced at R748 995, this example offers a lot of car for your money.
The good: Great all-rounder
The bad: Holds value better than other vehicles here

Price: R748 995
Year: 2014
Engine: 4.5-Litre V8 diesel
Power: 173kW
Torque: 615Nm
Mileage: 105 000km
Transmission: Automatic
Service history: Full

Text: GG van Rooyen