5 great summer load-luggers
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They say you haven’t lived until you’ve jack-knifed a trailer down at the local tip with a crowd of impatient onlookers in your wing mirror. But the happier side of towing usually involves boats, caravans — even horse floats, if you must – and heading off into the great outdoors with your hobby of choice shackled up to the tow ball.
Of course, you’ll want to ensure that the vehicle you’re using for your great leisurely escape is fit-for-purpose when it comes to towing a load. You’ll need plenty of grunt, plenty of outward visibility and, if at all possible, some of that new-fangled anti-trailer sway software won’t go amiss either.
Here are five family-sized load-luggers that’ll pull everything and the kitchen sink to your favourite holiday spot this summer.
1. Jeep Grand Cherokee Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel (184kW/550Nm)
3500kg braked tow rating
As far as headline acts go, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is a good place to start. With an admirably substantial 550Nm of torque on tap, and Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II four-wheel drive system underneath, this is one helluva capable SUV.
What does the Trailhawk bit refer to? Essentially it means the Grand Cherokee is “trail-rated”, in that it has been tested on the punishing Rubicon Trail near Lake Tahoe in the more vertically challenging parts of northern California. Essentially, it’s a Jeep, so you know it’s going to be good off-road.
Towing some motocross bikes up a metalled access road? Or even a horse float across a muddy field? The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk mixes guts-and-glory off-road nous with a genuinely comfortable interior.
Its designers have also honed those aggressive exterior design cues down to their finest point, so it looks the part regardless of what you’ve hooked up on the tow ball. In short, this is one Jeep that can do what you’re expecting of it but it doesn’t disregard comfort in the process.
2. Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel (130kW/450Nm)
3000kg braked tow rating
Toyota has given its venerable Land Cruiser Prado a facelift, bringing the rugged SUV more into line with its bigger Land Cruiser 200 sibling. Everything forward of the a-pillar has changed, with the old drooping nose design replaced with a much bluffer front end.
There’s plenty of space and technology on board, too — there’s a reason you see so many Prados in skifield car parks in winter and parked waiting their turn at the boat ramp in summer.
The Prado remains premium practicality personified, with a rugged and reliable reputation to suit. And all that’s before you’ve hooked a trailer full of camping equipment on the back and headed for the hills.
3. Land Rover Discovery
3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel (190kW/600Nm) or 3.0-litre V6 supercharged petrol (250kW/450Nm)
3500kg braked tow rating
Now into its fifth generation, the contemporary Land Rover Discovery has moved the game on from its utilitarian beginnings. It’s fair to say that the current Disco has more in common with the luxuriously appointed Range Rover line-up than the workhorse aesthetic it started out with.
An impressive mix of comfort technology and genuine off-road nous (it’s a Land Rover, after all) make the Disco an impressive beast if you have the budget.
Also, if you opt for the turbo-diesel, you’re getting a massive slab of 600Nm of torque at your disposal; a decade ago, that’s the sort of twist you’d have found only in a three-ton truck. Now your posho SUV with its electric tailgate and panoramic sunroof will do exactly the same job, without the diesel fumes and airbrakes.
4. Mazda CX-9
2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo (120kW/470Nm)
2000kg braked tow rating
When Mazda set about upgrading its largest SUV, the CX-9, they didn’t scrimp on the details. The overhaul was all-encompassing, rendering a good car (previous generation) a brilliant car (the new one) in the process.
The much-improved CX-9 won a slew of “car of the year” awards as a result when it was launched at the end of 2016 and it still looks, feels and performs like a champion now. In fact, its quietness on-road, coupled with a generous serving of comfort and convenience tech on board, puts to shame models from manufacturers pitching much loftier fare.
If you’re after a spacious, cosseted ride from a big wagon, the CX-9 won’t disappoint, even with a decent-sized boat or caravan trundling along behind.
5. Skoda Kodiaq TDI 140kW
2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel (140kW/400Nm)
2000kg braked (seven seat) or 2500kg (five seat)
The Automobile Association / Motoring Writer’s Guild Car of the Year can’t put a wheel wrong. It does everything exceedingly well, and it’s even an impressive tow car. Over in the UK, a stack of specialist caravan and motorhome magazines have awarded it their tow car of the year.
The Kodiaq already does the lugging-people-around stuff brilliantly. And although it might feature the lowest braked towing capacity of the cars we’ve elected to highlight here, it’s also not as large a vehicle in the first place.
Skoda does packaging well. So, even though it might have a smaller footprint than the Disco, for example, it will still ferry up to seven people about without necessitating human origami take place in the third row.
Skoda knows its market, too, having launched the Kodiaq with seven seats as standard, making this SUV a practical performer.
Five-seater versions can be had if you want, but only in higher Ambition+ and Style grades. Makes sense to us.