Ute Tow Test
Today’s popular dual-cab 4x4 utes make big claims when it comes to tow ratings and payloads but are they really up to serious yakka? We ask them to muscle up to prove it in our Ute Tow Test
Towing is the latest marketing buzzword when it comes to workhorse utes. Three tonne? Three and a half? Automotive manufacturers would have you believe these utes can do the job without raising a sweat. But how do they actually drive with that much weight hanging off the back? We decided to put the manufacturers’ claims to the test.
But first we had to tackle the unsexy notion of gross combination mass (GCM) and axle load ratings. Without getting bogged down in too much detail, it basically means that for every kilo put on the trailer hitch, the less you can put on the actual ute. The all-singing, all-dancing ad campaigns don’t tell you that, for the overwhelming majority of these vehicles, 3000 to 3500kg of braked trailer load on the back equals close to no payload in the tow vehicle.
So we’ve assembled seven of the most popular dual-cab 4x4s on the market to see how they perform at or near maximum towing capacity. And, of course, we made sure they were fitted with electric trailer brakes. We also tested them at maximum GVM without a trailer.
You may ask why they’re all autos. Well, in Oz, it’s by far the most popular tranny choice. Volkswagen declined to be a part of the test due to the need for electric trailer brakes to be fitted.
A quick squiz at the Kennards Hire website found us some equipment payload, while the guys at KADS Hire happened to have some heavy plant trailers that suited our purpose for 3500kg towing. Throw in some bagged cement from Bunnings, and we were in business.
We loaded the larger trailer with the site forklift and a pallet of bagged cement, weighing 3500kg in total. To cater for the lighter-rated Toyota Hilux (3200kg) and Mitsubishi Triton (3100Kg), we had a second trailer carrying an excavator totalling 2800kg.
To test load carrying, we had a pallet of bagged cement weighing 800kg, which, when added to the other payload elements (driver and passenger, etc), brings the total payload to close to 1000kg – effectively the maximum payload in the class, give or take a little.
In each case, the 800kg pallet was loaded up against the front of the tub, not an easy task given the tailgates don’t drop right down on any of these mid- and up-spec utes. Before and after loading, the ride-height (at the axle) was measured to see how far the rear of each ute dropped.
The tow and load tests were conducted separately (see GCM, GVM and payload sidebar).
For the separate load and tow tests, the vehicle was driven over a set course encompassing an uphill winding road followed by a downhill descent, again with lots of corners. The course was covered at least twice for both load and the tow tests, so four or more runs for each vehicle.