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Got a caravan or a boat? Here are five great family tow cars to get you there

2018-03-08 06:00

Speedboat. Sailing boat. Caravan. Trailer. Come holiday time these are Dad or Mom's favourite toys. However, none of these is exactly light or manoeuvrable to lug along to your holiday destination.

And less enamoured is Dad at the prospect of dawdling down from Johannesburg to Durban on the yellow line of the left-hand lane, at 80 kilometres per hour.

What to do?

Optimal towing requires bottom-end to mid-range torque, which means – owing to the characteristics of the engine – the only tow car you should ever consider is a diesel-powered one.

The following selection of turbodiesels, all feature oodles of torque (expressed in Newton-metres below; and where more is better) with good boot space, to erm, boot.

1. SUV: Chevrolet Trailblazer 2.8D LTZ (144kW/500Nm; from R180k).

The poor man’s Fortuner (sold between 2012 and 2017 before parent company General Motors (GM) pulled out of SA at the end of last year) is more spacious, has better packaging and crucially, more power than its more fancied Japanese rival. The range received an update in early 2017 to try keeping up with the then-new Fortuner and Ford Everest. The latter two may be more refined and offer more badge cachet, but in the power stakes, the Chevy simply runs away. Available in manual and auto, 4x2 and 4x4, the 2.8-litre Trailblazer is an ideal tow car for those who desire space and power on a budget. With GM having only left recently but plenty stock still around, used Trailblazers can be had for a song.

2. Van: Hyundai H1 2.5 CRDi  (125kW/441Nm; R630k new)

Nothing makes for a greater holiday vehicle than a van. The Hyundai might have received very little upgrades since its introduction in 2009, but the fact is that the H1 with its dual sliding doors seats nine people (or make that eight, because the ninth is a tiny squeeze between the two front seats) and their luggage and has the torque in reserve to tow a trailer.  It’s big on practicality but short on frills, so don’t expect VW levels of refinement or desirability.

On the plus side, while it is a nine-seater, it still has humongous luggage space for everything you might need to shove in the boot. This is a good buy.

3. Sedan: Volvo S90 D5 (173kW/480Nm; R665k for a 2017 model).

Before the current dominance of hatches and crossovers, people used to buy sedans. Gorgeous inside and out, Volvo’s all-wheel driven BMW 5 Series and Merc E-Class rival also has a handy 480Nm of torque under the bonnet. In fact, this abundance of power seems at odds with the subtlety of the exquisitely finished minimalist cabin.  Buy it.

4. Estate: Mercedes C250D Estate (150kW/500Nm; R666k new)

Station wagons are an even rarer sight than sedans on South African roads, so if you do decide to get one, you might as well do it in style. Providing extra practicality and space over sedans but without the ostentatiousness of an SUV, a powerful and comfortable estate adds a touch of elegance to long-distance hauling. Based on the C-Class, this wagon has enough torque to get that Venter trailer faster to Durban than you can say “business class”.

5. Bakkie: Volkswagen Amarok V6 (180kW/550Nm; R693k new)

The boss. The Buffalo. This Amarok is one of South Africa’s most powerful bakkies. Housing a twin-turbodiesel V6 instead of pitiful 4- and 5-cylinder engines that its competitors have to endure, the Amarok’s driver has to be careful to remember that he’s towing a speedboat and not racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Towing doesn’t get any more effortless – or brutal – than this.


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