When Kylie and I decided that we were going to buy a bigger caravan, we knew Edwin, our trusty Nissan Patrol that had served us well over the last 9 years, was not going to be up to the challenge. Its not that it ever struggled to haul our River Eliminator caravan, with its total loaded weight of 2750kg, but it did always feel like it was being worked pretty hard. It never skipped a beat and always did the job asked of it, but in the back of my mind, I knew I was pushing the limits of what a 4 cylinder motor can do. Besides, the new van was going to be approaching 3500kg, which is 500kg over the Patrol's towing capacity. So the search began for a new tow tug.
Our requirements were pretty simple, or so it seemed. We wanted the following:
- A 4wd wagon similar size to the Patrol with similar off road capabilities.
- A decent touring range without the need to fit an aftermarket long range fuel tank.
- A 3500kg towing capacity.
- Automatic Transmission
- Diesel engine
- Nation wide dealer service network that included regional and remote areas
- Comfortable long distance tourer
- Able to be used as a daily drive in the Melbourne CBD
- Reputation for reliability
- Kylie had to feel comfortable driving it as her daily drive.
Without necessarily considering all of the above, we narrowed down our search to the following shortlist:
- Toyota Landcruiser 200 Series Twin Turbo Diesel
- Land Rover Discovery Series 4 V6 TDi
- Ford Ranger 3.2 Diesel Dual Cab Ute
- Holden Colorado Dual Cab Ute Diesel
- Iveco Turbo Daily 4x4 Dual Cab chassis
If you're interested in the full rundown of how we rated the final 5, you can read about it here. Suffice to say, the Toyota won in the end.
While we haven't done any towing with this car just yet, all indications are that it will easily pull a 3.5t caravan up hill and down dale with ease. All the hype you hear about that engine is well justified. In fact it surpassed my expectations, and I expected a lot. When you fire it up, it sounds like a real truck engine, very similar to a big American V8 Diesel pickup truck. You can toddle around all day like you're driving Miss Daisy and it will sip diesel at less than 12l/100ks. Kick it in the guts and it comes alive and accelerates like an SS Commodore with a soundtrack to match. It has the sort of performance that puts a big cheezy grin on your face time and time again. On the highway, it cruises effortlessly devouring hills like they're not even there and achieving fuel ecconomy into the 10l/100k territory. It is truly staggering how good this engine is.
Inside, its fairly typical Toyota that, anyone who has ever owned or driven a Toyota, will be immediately familiar with. Its not the prettiest interior, and some of the plastics seem a bit scratchy, but it is a very nice place to be. Its quiet beyond expectations allowing you to sit back and relax and enjoy the journey in complete confidence that it will go anywhere and do anything you ask of it. It is everything owners say it is and more.
We were going to get the GXL model but since we purchased it on a novated lease through my work, we were able to take advantage of the lease company's fleet discount which, on Toyotas, is bloody good. So much so we were able to get the VX within our budget. That gave us a few extra features like a sunroof, 18" Wheels, full leather interior, Optitron instrument panel, electric seats and Bi-Xenon headlights.
We had Toyota fit their steel bull bar, tire pressure monitoring system, trailer wiring harness, Redarc Tow Pro brake controller, Lovells GVM upgrade, Safari snorkel, bonnet protector, front windshields and floor mats. We have since added custom sheep skin seat covers, Uniden UH8080S UHF CB radio, Projector digital battery monitor, Redarc SBI12D dual battery isolator, Safety Dave dual rear view camera system and wiring for 12v power to the rear cargo area and an Anderson plug for the van batteries.
In the coming months we will be fitting a rear storage system and better batteries to replace the standard ones and that will be about it. It will be ready for towing the new Roadstar Safari Tamer when it arrives.