You'll only see one petrol model in this top-10 list of towing vehicles. A diesel is infinitely more suited to dragging a load around.
It's got more of that all-important commodity called torque (otherwise known as "grunt'' and measured in Newton metres) and the fuel bills won't kill you. The ideal towing combo is diesel/automatic/all-wheel drive.
Always give yourself plenty of leeway on weight limits and keep within the crucial Gross Combination Mass (GCM). This is the all-up weight of your vehicle, trailer, your gear, fuel and you. Car companies will often argue a warranty claim that's a result of towing; the GCM, which you'll find in the handbook, is the first figure they'll use as evidence.
Here are the top models for towing:
SUBARU FORESTER 2.0D - see other verdicts
The Forester's 2.0-litre turbo diesel is matched only with a six-speed manual, geared tall to maximise fuel efficiency, so you'll have to use the stick early and often. However 350Nm from just 1600rpm is more than enough to haul its maximum rated trailer weight of 1600kg.
Constant all-wheel drive, self-levelling rear suspension and a hill holder, which works in forward and reverse, are also useful. You can have the same drivetrain, in a bigger wagon, in the Outback. It's rated to pull 1700kg.
SUZUKI GRAND VITARA DDIS - see other verdicts
This is a rare beast -- a fair dinkum 4WD in a compact package -- with low-range gearing, locking centre diff and a separate steel frame chassis, so it's got the hardware to tow up to 2000kg through tougher conditions, including rugged off-road country, than any high-range only SUV.
The 1.9-litre turbo diesel has 300Nm at 2000rpm. It's as slow as Tuesday, and the five-speed manual isn't exactly the slickest shifter around, but you're towing, so what's the hurry?
LAND ROVER FREELANDER2 TD4 - see other verdicts
There's the usual quality and reliability caveat that comes with any Land Rover test, but the base Freelander2 TD4 is a cracker to drive, with 420Nm of grunt and great fuel economy from its 2.2-litre turbo diesel. It will pull up to 2000kg with ease.
Six-speed manual is standard; a six-speed auto adds $2300. Hill descent control, adjustable traction control for various surfaces, a full-size spare and high clearance make the Freelander a much more versatile, capable wagon than its poncy German brand rival.
FORD FALCON- see other verdicts
Every man and his uncle used to tow the van behind a Falcon. If you're prepared to cop the fuel bills, the mighty 4.0-litre petrol six, with 391Nm of grunt, will do the job without fuss. The EcoLPi gas engine produces 409Nm, so it won't be bothered by a load either.
The Falcon sedan and ute -- which has a robust live axle/leaf spring rear end -- will tow up to 2300kg with the optional factory load-levelling kit. The standard factory towpack gives you up to 1600kg with the six-speed automatic.
MITSUBISHI PAJERO - see other verdicts
If you're after a big seven-seater turbo diesel, the Pajero is the best value going around. Its 3.2-litre four produces a solid 441Nm at 2000rpm, which is 31Nm more than the Prado's 3.0-litre, and it works nicely with the five-speed automatic.
It can run in 2WD or 4WD, high or low range, and will go just about anywhere, especially with the optional rear diff lock. The Paj is rated to pull three tonnes, but that's with only 180kg towball download. If you're pulling 2.5 tonnes or less, this increases to 250kg.
JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE - see other verdicts
This is great value for money, especially the $50,000 base Laredo 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel. It produces big grunt 550Nm -- and is bolted to a five-speed automatic with a dual-range transfer case. OK, it's a Fiat engine, but they're a lot more reliable than they used to be. So they reckon.
It's rated to tow up to 3500kg, with a maximum towball download of 350kg. So is the 5.7-litre V8. Unless your name begins with "Sheikh," take the diesel.
ISUZU D-MAX - see other verdicts
The D-Max doesn't have the highest towing weight rating in the one-tonner ute class, but it's built like a tank. The Isuzu 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel is bulletproof, has a lovely relaxed, effortless delivery and good fuel economy; 4WD models will pull up to 3000kg.
The 3.0-litre produces 380Nm from 1800rpm and is matched with five-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Body styles include single, space and crew-cab chassis, plus space and crew-cab pick-up.
MAZDA BT50 - see other verdicts
You could also opt for the BT50's Ford Ranger twin, but model for model (with 4WD drivetrains) the Mazda usually costs less and it has firmer suspension, which better suits its towing brief.
The Ranger XLT dual cab includes a towbar, which is optional on its Mazda XTR rival. The 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo diesel, with 470Nm from 1750rpm, works a treat with the optional ($2000) six-speed automatic. It's a slugger, and has no problem hauling up to 3350kg. The stability control system includes trailer sway control.
TOYOTA 70 SERIES LANDCRUISER - see other verdicts
The indestructible 70 Series, which emerged from a cave somewhere west of Alice Springs about 32 million years ago, is now available as a dual as well as single-cab chassis, plus the Troopy and five-door wagon.
It will tow up to 3500kg all day, every day, for as long as you wish. Its 4.5-litre turbo diesel V8 delivers 430Nm from idle (1200rpm) and doesn't seem to have the oil consumption issues that some owners have complained of with its twin-turbo counterpart in the 200 Series 'Cruiser.
TOYOTA 200 SERIES LANDCRUISER - see other verdicts
Until recently, Toyota wanted a ridiculous $10,000 premium for diesel over petrol power in the 200 Series but that's now come down to $5000 on the 200 Series GXL, VX and Sahara.
The twin-turbo 4.5-litre V8/six-speed automatic is the most effortless towing combo there is, with 650Nm of torque from just 1600rpm. Keep an eye on oil consumption, though. If you're going to pull close to 3500kg, you might want to upgrade the suspension, which is pretty soft, especially at the rear.