We’re looking at buying a caravan to tow around Australia and considering a vehicle with 3500kg towing capacity. We won’t be hardcore off-roading. Our 2015 Toyota Prado tows only 2500kg. After trade-in, to get into the “Holy Grail” Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series we’d need about $60,000. Options around the $35,000 changeover area are preferable. We don’t especially want a ute but these have the desirable 3500kg tow capacity. We’d consider an SUV with 3000kg tow rating if you thought that a good compromise.
Before you buy, look at a lighter caravan and SUVs with a 3000kg tow rating. As you’ll mainly be driving sealed roads and have an aversion to utes, this looks your best course. Do your homework on the tow vehicle’s and van’s gross vehicle mass (GVM), their gross combination mass and the SUV’s tow ball download limit. It’s a minefield. You must never overload any of these and it’s prudent to leave a margin for error.
Isuzu MU-X 4×4 LS-U, $50,990 drive-away
Let’s start with old faithful. It’s not fancy and cabin, infotainment and safety gear are basic, but the MU-X outsells every other large SUV, Toyotas apart. Why? It packs a truck-tough 3.0-litre turbo diesel, solid reliability, good dealer network coverage, value and six-year warranty and roadside assist. It tows 3000kg, has 300kg tow ball download and — this is key — generous 5750kg gross combination mass. That means you’ll be able to carry nearly 200kg more than in a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. The model is popular with those lapping Australia due to renowned towing ability and comfort, plus reasonable servicing cost: $1377 for 45,000km/3 years. Fuel economy (without a caravan) is a good 7.9L/100km, but its 65L fuel tank is small for adventuring. A completely new version could arrive in the next 12 months (though nothing’s confirmed), which would sting if you’ve just bought the current model.
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport 4WD GLS, $52,490 drive-away
Recently facelifted (some think the styling bonkers, others think its edgy and tough), the Pajero Sport five-seater in GLS grade is plusher than the Isuzu. Leather seats, radar cruise control, power tailgate and excellent smartphone mirroring make for decadent touring. Claimed thirst is 8.0L/100km and the fuel tank is wanting at 68L. Despite its higher tow rating/towball limit (3100kg/310kg), the gross combination mass of 5565kg gives you less weight for kit. It is well priced and the seven-year warranty is excellent. You get the first two services free so it’s just $299 for three years/45,000km. It’s a comfy tourer but the engine, while smooth, isn’t the strongest.
Ford Everest Ambiente 4WD 3.2, about $59,000 drive-away
It trumps the Isuzu and Mitsubishi with tough good looks, 3.2-litre five-cylinder (143kW/470Nm) and more generous 80L fuel tank — but it’s thirstier at 8.5L/100km and pricier. Arguably, Ford’s new 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel with 10-speed auto is the better pick for towing but the cheapest 4WD version is about $67,000 on the road. This grade still suits, with 3000kg/300kg towing/towball limits and hefty 5800kg gross combination mass. It’s a composed and comfy tow vehicle with assuring torque. Advanced active safety kit and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are appreciated but in specification it trails the Mitsubishi. Services are cheap at $299 each for four years/60,000km.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Night Eagle V6 Diesel, about $62,000 drive-away ex-demo
The brand is trying to take the tarnish off its reputation, the dealer network’s not huge away from the city but ex-demo Grand Cherokees with a few hundred kilometres means a lot of muscled towing for your cash. Its 3500kg/350kg towing/tow ball limit and gross combination mass of 6099kg are mighty. The V6 turbo diesel (184kW/570Nm) claims an optimistic 7.5L/100km but the tank is 93L. It’s the luxury choice and you’re spoiled with leather cabin, power and heated seats, smartphone mirroring and good safety kit. Services are 12 months/ 20,000km — but look out, the first three cost a painful $2425. Not your safe choice but tough to beat for comfort and effortless caravan touring.
Lapping Australia with a van behind means hefty fuel bills. Save money by choosing the Isuzu or Mitsubishi. The former has the higher gross combination mass and trusted reputation with caravanners. The Pajero Sport will tempt with its smarter cabin and kit. Keep things simple: don’t buy a van that’s too big or heavy.