David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by David Motton
The big 4x4 market is being shaken up by the arrival of several exciting new tow cars between now and the end of the year. And there's even more to come in 2016.
One of the most eagerly anticipated cars is the new Volvo XC90. Early reviews from our colleagues on What Car? have been positive. In fact, 'positive' is an understatement, with the big Volvo earning a five-star rating based on What Car?'s overseas test drive.
They write: "We've yet to try the Volvo XC90 on standard suspension in the UK, but based on what we've experienced, everybody in the market for a large SUV should have one on their shopping list."
My concern is that Volvo has pushed the XC90 a long way upmarket. The old model was hardly a bargain-basement SUV, but it was good value next to big 4x4s from the likes of Audi, BMW and Land Rover. Now the range starts from £45,785.
There's an XC90 diesel coming in for a towing test this summer, so we'll soon find out for ourselves if the new Volvo is good enough to justify its premium price, and perhaps even dethrone the Land Rover Discovery as the best big tow car.
Setting price aside for a moment, the XC90 certainly has the spec of a serious tow car. The D5 diesel has 347lb ft of torque, which should be enough to get a big twin-axle caravan up to speed. Volvo quotes a minimum kerbweight of 2130kg and legal towing limits of up to 2700kg, so safe outfit matching shouldn't be a problem.
One of the cars the new Volvo must beat is the new Audi Q7. Order books for the new 4x4 are open, with customer deliveries starting in August.
The Q7 is even more expensive than the XC90, with prices starting from £50,340. From launch the car will be powered by a 268bhp V6 TDI engine, with a 215bhp model to follow.
As with most new cars, the next-generation Q7 is lighter than its predecessor to improve fuel consumption and reduce emissions. However, Audi's dieting has been more dramatic than most, shedding as much as 325kg. That still leaves 268bhp cars with a kerbweight of 2135kg, though, and the legal towing limit is a reassuring 2800kg for cars fitted with steel springs and 3500kg with the optional air suspension.
The Q7 is slightly smaller than the first generation, which should make it a less intimidating car to drive. Even so, Audi promises more space for passengers in the seven-seat cabin.
Although not quite as big as the Volvo or the Audi, the new Land Rover Discovery Sport is hardly small. It may have only just gone on sale, but it's already on the cusp of a significant update. Land Rover has officially confirmed what was widely known anyway, announcing a new engine for 4x4 versions of the Discovery Sport.
The 178bhp 2.0-litre Ingenium diesel replaces the old SD4 engine, achieving 53.3mpg on the combined cycle and emitting 139g/km of carbon dioxide. The figures apply to both manual and automatic versions. That's a considerable improvement over the SD4's 46.3mpg with a manual gearbox and 44.8mpg as an automatic.
The engine will also be available in a 148bhp tune, improving economy and emissions to 57.7mpg and 129g/km of CO2. The lower-powered version will have five seats rather than the seven in the 178bhp car.
Your local Land Rover dealer will be happy to take your order now, with deliveries starting in September. Prices start from £30,695 for the 148bhp model, while the prices of the higher powered car are identical to the outgoing SD4 versions.
Looking further ahead, Jaguar's first ever SUV will provide in-house competition for the Discovery Sport when it goes on sale, probably in early 2016. If you're feeling overburdened by wealth, Bentley's Bentayga SUV is also expected to reach showrooms early next year. And that's just an edited highlights list of the big 4x4s that are on the way over the next few months. A lot to take in if you're wondering what tow car to buy next!