CAR’s road-test engineer was on the judging panel for the second iteration of this competition. In anticipation of the final result, here’s what he thought of the respective contenders.
IN decades past, towing a caravan was a regular pastime for many South Africans and even CAR published an annual supplement listing the large variety of caravans on offer. Back then, it was far easier choosing what vehicle to buy for towing purposes because the market was smaller and simpler. Your go-to cars were four-door saloons (rear-wheel driven, of course), powered by a straight-six or V8 petrol engine. Now we have fewer caravan choices but far more tow vehicles.
To put some of these to the test, CAR and our sister title Leisure Wheels got together to do a little heavy hauling. Last year’s focus was on double-cab bakkies, so this year a dozen compact SUVs took part in the annual TowCAR of the Year competition. To narrow the field, we limited the selection to 4×4 powertrains, diesel engines, automatic transmissions (including CVT and dual-clutch units) and a price limit of R500 000.
Jurgens SA supplied us with a suitably hefty caravan, the Penta. This luxurious four-berther has a TARE mass of 1 220 kg and GVM of 1 400 kg. We added 60 kg of sandbags to the boot of each car and another 60 kg in the caravan. The route was a 15 km mix of good and poor tar, ending at Boekenhoutkloof Traffic College near Pretoria where a hill start, tight corners and a high-speed handling course was set up. In the following pages, we rate all the contenders before picking our winners.
The Scoring Categories:
Exterior, interior, handling, stability, engine, gearbox, braking, parking, cruising ability and value for money
Basil Mann, Dennis Droppa, Anzet du Plessis, Lerato Matebese, Hannes Grobbelaar, Jakes Jacobs, Tinus Breitenbach, Peter Palm
The lucky winner of the TowCAR2 competition is Mr Johan Roux from Pretoria.
Although dual-clutch transmissions may eventually supersede torque-converter ‘boxes, for now I would stick to convention for the towing of caravans, boats or horseboxes. I would also prefer a vehicle with a ladder-frame chassis because the structure is better suited to towing heavy loads. If you plan to tow only occasionally and on-road refinement is a priority, a unibodied vehicle is preferable. My personal favourite is the Pathfinder because it’s solidly built and its conventional chassis retains respectable ride comfort with a good engine and transmission combination.
For my list of the top three, I’ve added some diversity by splitting the vehicles into serious off-roaders and soft-roaders. And I’ve resisted my gut feel and decided not to factor-in long-term worries about CVT or dual-clutch gearboxes. I tallied up my scores for each and my top three in each category turned out as follows:
1. Nissan Pathfinder
2. Jeep Wrangler
3. Toyota Fortuner
1. Subaru Outback – The Overall Winner of TowCAR of the Year
2. Volkswagen Tiguan
3. Kia Sorento
The test videos:
Part 2: We test the Chevrolet Trailblazer, Ford Kuga and Honda CR-V here (click).
Part 3: Videos and information of the Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Wrangler and Kia Sorento can be read here (click).
Part 4: The Land Rover Freelander, Mitsubishi Pajero and Nissan Pathfinder are tested here (click).
Part 5: Finally you can watch videos and read more about the Subaru Outback, Toyota Fortuner and Volkswagen Tiguan here (click).