David Motton

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What tow car stars shone at the Detroit show? Step forward Audi and Mercedes-Benz with SUVs to tempt you in 2017 and beyond – David Motton takes a look

The Detroit motor show is one of the big landmarks in the motoring calendar.

There are often new cars to get caravanners' chequebooks twitching, and the 2017 show is no exception. Well, provided you have deep pockets and a liking for German 4x4s.

Audi has a couple of interesting models on display, especially if you're wondering what tow car to buy next. The Q8 concept previews the look of a production SUV, to sit alongside the A8 limousine at the top of Audi's range.

Happy hybrid caravan holidays?

The concept is powered by a hybrid drivetrain. There's a 3.0-litre TFSI petrol engine with 328bhp and 369lb ft of torque, and a 100 kilowatt electric motor. Together, the two power sources deliver 443bhp and 516lb ft of torque.

As you'd expect with that kind of muscle, the Audi Q8 promises to be a very quick car indeed. The manufacturer quotes a 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds and a 155mph top speed.

More usefully for caravanners, with that level of performance, the new Q8 should still accelerate hard with a big twin-axle caravan in tow.

Running on electric power alone, the Q8 concept has a claimed range of 37 miles. Use a full tank of unleaded too, and Audi says the car will go up to 621 miles without being filled up or plugged in. Topping up the battery is said to take around two and a half hours from a 7.2 kilowatt power source.

The production version of the Q8 won't be on sale until 2018. Even so, Audi describes the Q8 concept as 'near production'. So expect the showroom car to share the concept's SUV-meets-coupé look inside and out, with just four seats but lots of space for everyone and a generous 630-litre boot.

Although the Q8 is by no means the first time a prestige manufacturer has taken a big 4x4 and added coupé styling cues (think BMW X4 and X6), to my eyes the Audi is one of the more successful. It certainly rests easier on the eye than today's slightly awkward-looking Q7.

New potent Audi SQ5 revealed

A new Audi SQ5 is also on show in Detroit. What tow car potential does it have? Well, as the performance flagship of the new Q5 SUV range, it packs a formidable punch with 349bhp and 369lb ft of torque from a 3.0 TFSI petrol engine.

Indeed, it matches the Q8 concept's 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds, so towing any sensibly matched caravan shouldn't be a problem.

The old SQ5 was a formidable tow car, coming close to winning its weight class at the Tow Car Awards in 2014. That model's biggest drawback was its over-firm ride.

The new SQ5 should address that with standard air suspension. Adaptive dampers are also fitted, so the driver can choose between a more sporty or more cosseting ride.

As a tow car, though, the switch from diesel to petrol power isn't necessarily a welcome one. Petrol power may be king in Detroit, but with a claimed official combined economy figure of 34mpg expect ruinous thirst when towing. With a kerbweight of 1995kg the 85% match figure is 1696kg.

Pricing should be confirmed later this month (expect a price of £53,000-£55,000 or so), with UK customer deliveries starting in April.

It's not just Audi building hot new tow cars...

Over on the Mercedes-Benz stand, the facelifted GLA has been revealed. There are tweaks to the interior and exterior design, and an extended engine range – although not all engine variants are coming to the UK.

That's a shame. As the new entry-level diesel, the GLA 180d, would make Merc's smallest SUV more affordable to run with carbon dioxide emissions of just 103g/km.

At the opposite end of the range, the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 4Matic is coming to Britain, with a 375bhp petrol engine. Weighing in at 1585kg it's light for an SUV, giving an 85% match figure of 1347kg. It's even quicker than the two Audis, with a 0-62mph time of 4.4 seconds.

UK pricing should be confirmed any day now, as the car is already on sale in Europe.

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