Foot­loose RON MOON

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - RON MOON

OUR lat­est trip saw us head­ing south on the Stu­art High­way at around the time the an­nual mi­gra­tion of grey no­mads was head­ing north, and there was a steady stream of car­a­vans and tow ve­hi­cles head­ing for the sun of north­ern and cen­tral Aus­tralia.

Many of the car­a­vans were be­ing towed by the lat­est dual-cab utes on the mar­ket, and many of the ’vans were bloody mon­sters, eas­ily weigh­ing 2.5 tonnes. And that’s be­fore they were loaded with wa­ter and all the para­pher­na­lia that some trav­ellers can’t seem to do without.

There are cur­rently six one-tonne utes on the mar­ket that can sup­pos­edly tow 3500kg – if you be­lieve the fig­ures spouted by the car man­u­fac­tur­ers. These are the Mazda BT-50, Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-max, Holden Colorado, Nis­san Navara and the lat­est Toy­ota Hilux. The Mit­subishi Tri­ton is rated at 3100kg, while the VW Amarok comes in at a still-healthy and maybe only slightly ex­ag­ger­ated 3000kg. What­ever the num­bers, it’s all a bit of mar­ket­ing hype, I reckon.

In the small­print of a man­u­fac­turer’s hand­book you’ll find less pub­li­cised fig­ures of GVM (gross ve­hi­cle mass), which is the max­i­mum al­low­able weight of the ve­hi­cle fully loaded, and GCM (gross com­bined mass), which is the com­bined to­tal weight of the ve­hi­cle and any trailer it is tow­ing.

For ex­am­ple, the Ford Ranger du­al­cab weighs 2200kg with an im­pres­sive 1000kg pay­load ca­pac­ity. Even that fig­ure is over­rated, be­cause without do­ing some­thing to the sus­pen­sion you’ll be drag­ging the bum if you have the ve­hi­cle at its max­i­mum GVM of 3200kg – yet plenty of peo­ple do.

The rated tow fig­ure of the Ranger is 3500kg, while the GCM is 6000kg – much the same as many of the dual-cabs. This means the max­i­mum car weight has now dropped to 2500kg – a pay­load de­crease of 700kg. That means the max­i­mum weight you can carry in a Ford tow­ing a 3500kg car­a­van is just 300kg. That’s not much more than two healthy adults, a pet dog and a full tank of fuel.

The other com­mon dual-cab utes are much the same, some even worse. So you can bet your bot­tom dol­lar that there are very few rigs tow­ing a heavy ’van that would be le­gal, given those fig­ures. But while le­gal­ity may be an is­sue, it’s the safety con­cerns that are paramount.

I can’t be­lieve a tow ve­hi­cle weigh­ing an av­er­age of two tonnes can pro­vide a sta­ble plat­form for a trailer that weighs 50 per cent more than it. In my eyes it just de­fies physics.

Such a weight dis­crep­ancy means you can eas­ily get into a sit­u­a­tion where the tail wags the dog, up­set­ting the bal­ance of the ute and badly in­flu­enc­ing steer­ing and brak­ing. Some of the ’vans we saw on the Stu­art were also loaded badly, mean­ing the tow ve­hi­cle was down at the bum with the front point­ing sky­wards.

Then there’s the tow­ing per­for­mance of these small diesel en­gines. They may be fine on flat stretches, but give them a hill to climb and they lose any lee­way to pass or even stay any­where near the speed limit – and fuel us­age un­der such con­di­tions is chronic.

Dual-cab utes are pop­u­lar be­cause they can be so many things to so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple. How­ever, tow­ing big heavy ’vans that weigh more than 2500kg when loaded is not one of them. Stick to a camper trailer or a small car­a­van weigh­ing less than 2000kg!

If you need to tow one of the big­ger ’vans, get a 200 Se­ries Landcruiser at the bare min­i­mum. Bet­ter still, get it be­hind a Ram or a Ford F-250. You’ll not only ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­fort­less­ness of such a tow ve­hi­cle, it’ll be le­gal and you and ev­ery other road user will be a lot safer for it.

More Foot­loose at: www.guide­books.com.au/foot­loose.htm The Ranger has a 3500kg tow rat­ing… ap­par­ently. More Foot­loose at: www.guide­books.com.au/foot­loose.htm

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