The capacity of SUVs for towing is one of the main reasons they are so bloody popular. Sure, their versatility as work, family-ferrying and go-anywhere machines makes them very appealing but it is their ability to tow caravans, camper-trailers, boats and horse trailers that make them a favourite with many vehicle buyers.
Arriving at that level of tow-ability is not rocket science: you throw a grunty turbo-diesel engine, matched to a nice automatic transmission, into a longish, heavy vehicle with plenty of pulling power and you have a purpose-built towing machine.
If we were simply talking sheer monstrous towing ability we'd just write a yarn about the Ram Laramie 2500 (276kW/1084Nm!, 3577kg, 6027mm long, 3797mm-long wheelbase) but we’ve covered the best towing utes around, so now it’s time to focus on wagons.
Don’t be overwhelmed by a vehicle manufacturer's weight-related figures; always keep in mind a vehicle’s real-world capabilities, including its GCM (Gross Combined Mass), GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) and braked tow rating, and remember to factor into your equation that your vehicle will be fully loaded with driver, passengers, camping gear etc. Tip: use your local weigh bridge.
These are our picks for the top five SUVs for towing. (Head to the comments section and let's get ready to rumble!)
1. Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series GXL (4X4)
We've raved about this thing in yarns before and there's a good reason why: it’s bloody awesome, that's why. At 2740kg, 4950mm long with a 2850mm-long wheelbase, the Cruiser ($88,830 excluding on-road costs) is well-suited to towing. Its engine – a 4.5-litre twin turbo-diesel V8 – produces 200kW@3600rpm but, more importantly, a stonking 650Nm@1600rpm. Bonus: it also works superbly well in partnership with the six-speed auto.
The eight-seat Cruiser is rated to tow 3500kg (braked), has a GVM of 3350kg and a GCM of 6850kg.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 9.5L/100km (combined), sans load. It has a 93-litre main tank and a 45-litre auxiliary tank.
It positively cruises over long distances and powers up long hills, no matter the load. Too easy. Add a well-settled coil-spring suspension set-up into the mix and you have a recipe for safe, stable and stress-free towing. You could choose to up-spec to the Sahara ($120,590 excluding on-road costs) but this GXL is more than adequate for us.
2. Y62 Nissan Patrol TI 4X4
This petrol-only behemoth (2700kg, 5140mm long with a 3075mm-long wheelbase) comes from a long line of good towing Nissans.
Heritage is strong in the Y62 and a 5.6-litre V8 – yielding 298kW@5800rpm and 560Nm@4000rpm – and a seven-speed auto don't hurt its towing cause a bit either.
This entry-level eight-seater Patrol packs a lot into its price tag (from $69,990, excluding on-road costs) and it is rated to tow 3500kg (braked), has a GVM of 3500kg and a whopping GCM of 7000kg.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 14.4L/100km (combined), sans load. Obviously that figure will increase with towing, but the same will happen in one of its diesel competitors. It has a 140-litre fuel tank.
Spacious inside, safe and stable to drive, the Y62 is a real contender for a king of towing title.
3. Land Rover Discovery HSE 4X4
The new Disco, the fifth generation of this popular model, is as yet unproven in the towing stakes – it was only officially launched here in early July – but we’re throwing it in here anyway, purely on the strength of its predecessors.
The new line-up is offered with a choice of three engines (four-cylinder or V6), four trim levels and five or seven seats. We’d go for the upper-spec seven-seater HSE model (from $87,150 excluding on-road costs) with the punchy 3.0-litre Td6 (190kW@3750rpm and 600Nm@1750-2250rpm) with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
This Discovery (2298kg, 4970mm long with a 2923mm-long wheelbase) is rated to tow 3500kg (braked), has a GVM of 3170kg (in the seven-seater version) and a GCM of 6670kg.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 7.2L/100km (combined). It has an 85-litre fuel tank.
It’s well-appointed and roomy and, armed with great coil-spring and air suspension, the new Discovery makes for a luxurious and unrattled drive.
4. Toyota LandCruiser 76 Series GXL 4X4
The latest-generation of the five-seater LC76 (in GXL guise, from $64,990, excluding on-road costs) hasn't strayed far from the straight-up-and-down mould of the hard-working 70 Series battle wagons of yesteryear. It's boxy, brutal-looking and… absolutely beautiful.
The GXL has the range-wide 4.5-litre V8 (151kW@3400rpm and 430Nm@1200rpm) with a five-speed manual transmission.
This wagon (2265kg, 4910mm long with a 2730mm-long wheelbase) is rated to tow 3500kg (braked), has a GVM of 3060kg and a GCM of 6560kg.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 10.7L/100km (combined). It has an 130-litre fuel tank.
This is a rock-steady tow vehicle, with live axles and coil springs, and a gutsy engine, punching out stacks of torque from way-down low. Judicious use of the gears ensures a safe and smooth ride with a load, big or small, aboard and behind in this built-to-tow champion.
5. Isuzu MU-X LS-T 4X4
There are three trim levels in the seven-seater MU-X line-up but we'd opt for the top-spec LS-T 4X4 (from $56,100, excluding on-road costs). All models have the new, as of 2017, Euro5 emissions-compliant 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. That donk, especially built for Australia, produces 130kW@3600rpm (same as before) but now yields 430Nm@2000-2200rpm – which is 50Nm more than its predecessor did.
The LS-T is available only with the new, as of 2017 also, six-speed Aisin auto. The new engine and transmission are a hardy, dependable truck-like combination.
This MU-X (2157kg, 4825mm long with a 2845mm-long wheelbase) is rated to tow 3000kg (braked), has a GVM of 2750kg and a GCM of 5750kg.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 7.9L/100km (combined). It has an 85-litre fuel tank.
It may not have world-record towing, GVM or GCM figures (head to the Comments section below to have a whinge, I dare you), but it belongs here because it is tough and unpretentious and has a no-fuss, reliable approach to everything.