For many caravanners, a luxury 4×4 is the ultimate tow car. With their all-weather traction, high kerbweights and powerful engines, they tick all the boxes for heavy-duty towing. And as cars to live with every day, their performance, comfort and practicality are hard to beat. Here are our favourite upmarket heavyweight luxury SUV tow cars for caravans.

LAND ROVER DISCOVERY

  • Our favourite 3.0 Sd6 Landmark
  • Price £60,355
  • Kerbweight 2311kg
  • 85% match figure 1964kg
  • Legal towing limit 3500kg
  • Noseweight 195/350kg*

For year after year, the Land Rover Discovery has been our favourite heavyweight tow car. The fifth model tows superbly. It’s stable at speed and more than capable of pulling a big twin-axle tourer.

The latest car’s slimmer build shaves hundreds of kilos compared with the fourth generation. Perhaps that makes today’s model slightly more susceptible to crosswinds, but we’re talking about fine differences and it’s still as stable as any big new 4×4 you can buy.

Pulling power

Buyers have a choice of three engines. The 296bhp Si4 petrol is strong but thirsty compared with the diesels. You could argue the 237bhp Sd4 diesel is the sensible option, with sufficient pulling power for towing and reasonable fuel economy. But if we’re talking about luxury SUVs, there’s something to be said for having a little bit of performance in hand, so the 306bhp Sd6 is our pick of the engine range.

It’s not just that it has more shove, the six-cylinder diesel is smoother and more cultured. In fact, this quiet refinement, especially at high speeds, is one of the car’s chief strengths.

Practicality has always been another Discovery virtue. The driver and front seat passenger sit up high. The standard of finish bears comparison with the Discovery’s German rivals. There are seats for seven, with good head- and legroom in all three rows.

The HSE Luxury comes with every bell and whistle you can think of and costs £71,120. We’d go for the Landmark, priced from £60,355 with our preferred engine. This version is still very well equipped, and a suite of towing aids is available as an optional extra.

BMW X5

  • Our favourite xDrive 45e M Sport
  • Price £66,665
  • Kerbweight 2510kg
  • 85% match figure 2134kg
  • Legal towing limit 2700kg
  • Noseweight 140kg

The BMW X5 has consistently run the Land Rover Discovery close as our favourite large SUV. We towed with the current X5 30d early last year and awarded the car a rare five-star verdict. We put it through a lane-change test, swerving violently one way and then the other as you might to avoid an obstacle if there’s no time to brake. The X5 was more than up to the task. “It’s even better than the Land Rover in the lane-change test,” we wrote, “changing direction with no drama, little lean and complete control.”

Luxurious finish

Buyers have a choice of five or seven seats. Choose seven, and there’s less space in the third row than you’d find in a Land Rover Discovery. But this is still a practical and roomy car, with a luxurious standard of finish.

Although we’ve yet to tow with an X5 other than the 30d, we have also driven the new xDrive 45e plug-in hybrid. We’ll stick our necks out and say this version has displaced the 30d as our favourite.

You can’t have seven seats because of the space taken up by the batteries, but if that doesn’t put you off, the 45e is an exceptional car. The claimed range running as an EV is over 50 miles. And on longer journeys, the combination of petrol and electric power makes for extremely rapid performance.

The plug-in hybrid is heavier than the diesel, so it should be at least as stable while towing as the diesel – quite possibly more so.

It’s not cheap, at £66,665 for the M Sport version. But running costs promise to be extremely low for a car of such power and performance.

AUDI Q7

  • Our favourite 50 TDI Quattro S Line Tiptronic
  • Price £60,505
  • Kerbweight 2240kg
  • 85% match figure 1904kg
  • Legal towing limit 3500kg
  • Noseweight 140kg

Another superb car, the Q7 is further evidence that buyers are spoilt for choice when looking for a luxury 4×4. And for such a big vehicle, the Q7 is remarkably efficient, in part due to mile hybrid technology, which eases the strain on the engine.

The 50 TDI Quattro achieves 33.2mpg on the WLTP combined cycle, which is very respectable for a car with 282bhp and a kerbweight of 2240kg.

The Q7 is also very quick, even towing a caravan, thanks to the punch from the 3.0-litre diesel engine. Expect the Audi to tow a big, heavy twin-axle tourer up to speed with ease.

Comfort and composure

Equipped with air suspension, the Q7 tackles bumpy roads with comfort and composure. It’s in the same league as the Discovery, and much more forgiving of poor surfaces than the Volvo XC90.

As a tow car, the Q7 is stable, although when we last towed with one, we did notice slight movements when slowing from high speeds. But we’re splitting hairs, really. Any of the six SUVs we’ve chosen makes a stable tow car, and the differences between them are generally slight.

Inside, the Q7 has space for seven, in a well-made cabin. The infotainment system is first-rate, with a crystal-clear screen and impressive ease of use.

In the middle row, there’s more space than you’d find in a Discovery. In the third, however, there’s not quite as much room as the Land Rover offers. Like most seven-seaters, the Q7 is quite tight for luggage space with all seats upright. But with the back row folded, there’s more than enough capacity.

VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG

  • Our favourite 3.0 TDI 286PS 4Motion SEL Tech
  • Price £52,260
  • Kerbweight 2070kg
  • 85% match figure 1760kg
  • Legal towing limit 3500kg
  • Noseweight 140kg

The Touareg doesn’t have the cachet of an Audi or Mercedes-Benz badge, but luxury car buyers would be unwise to ignore it. Under the skin, it’s closely related to the Audi Q7 and the Bentley Bentayga, so it has the DNA of a premium car.

Stability has to be the most important quality a tow car can possess, and the Touareg is about as stable as they come. We tested it in the teeth of an autumn storm – the sort of day when you’d consider delaying your journey – and there was hardly a twitch or shimmy from the VW.

Optional rear-wheel steering gives this big 4×4 the turning circle of a family hatchback, and VW’s Trailer Assist will steer for you when reversing onto a pitch.

Diesel, petrol or hybrid

Power comes from one of two diesel engines, or a very powerful petrol. A super-quick hybrid version is on the way soon. However, our pick would be the more powerful of the two diesels, with 282bhp. It makes pretty short work of towing a heavy caravan.

Inside, the finish doesn’t quite live up to that of the Audi Q7 or the BMW X5, particularly the plastics on the lower dash or doors. But this is still a well-made car, packed with gadgets. The twin-screen cockpit, standard on high-spec models, has all the wow-factor you could ask for with its 15-inch touchscreen and 12-inch instrument panel.

The Touareg doesn’t have the option of seven seats, but it’s roomy for five, and there’s an 810-litre boot. What’s more, it is comfortably more affordable than the other cars in our top six. Our favourite is the 3.0 TDI 286PS 4Motion SEL Tech, at £52,260.

LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER

  • Our favourite 4.4 SDV8 Vogue SE
  • Price £96,610
  • Kerbweight 2329kg
  • 85% match figure 1980kg
  • Legal towing limit 3500kg
  • Noseweight 150kg

It’s getting on a bit now, but the Range Rover is still a benchmark among luxury 4x4s. For everyday driving, especially if each day requires few miles to be covered, we’d choose the P400e hybrid.

Given we’re looking at luxury tow cars, we’d prefer the long-distance economy of a turbodiesel; so either the 3.0-litre six-cylinder or the 4.4 V8. The smaller diesel is marginally more economical, but the V8 has effortless pace and a more appealing engine note.

Whichever engine you go for, the Range Rover majors on comfort. Although it can travel quickly, this is a not a sporting vehicle. Instead, it provides bump-smothering suspension that would easily put most limos to shame.

Stability at speed

Soft suspension doesn’t usually make for stable towing, but the Range Rover is so hefty and punches such a big hole in the air for the following caravan that we’ve never had the slightest concern. This is a very stable tow car, both at speed and in any emergency manoeuvre.

Inside, the Range Rover surrounds the driver and passengers in plush wood and leather. There’s more than enough space for five adults; so much so that we can’t see any need for the long-wheelbase model, unless Jeeves is going to tow your caravan to the south of France while you sip something cold and bubbly in the back.

Luggage space is generous, adding to its credentials as a car that’s practical as well as luxurious.

This colossal car has a price tag to match, however, even judged against other big 4x4s.

MERCEDES G-CLASS

  • Our favourite G350d AMG Line
  • Price £96,220
  • Kerbweight 2453kg
  • 85% match figure 2085kg
  • Legal towing limit 3500kg
  • Noseweight 140kg

Blending the retro looks of the venerable G-Wagon with modern technology, the G-Class is not the 4×4 to choose if you value understatement. But while the ‘bling’ image will be OTT for many, there’s no denying the G-Class’s towing ability.

It’s a chunky car, weighing in at 2453kg if you go for the diesel model. But with 282bhp and 443lb ft of torque, the G350d has ample power and torque for towing any caravan. You’ll easily reach 60mph before the end of a motorway sliproad, with just a gentle squeeze on the throttle pedal.

Good visibility

While performance is impressive, it’s the G-Class’s stability that is really outstanding. We drove the Mercedes on a gusty day, but could only tell that the wind was blowing by looking at the trees bending in the breeze. From the driver’s seat, we could hardly feel a thing.

The G-Class is extremely broad, as well as stable. That might seem rather a minor observation, but it does help the driver to see clearly down the side of a monster 8ft-wide caravan.

Inside, the Mercedes is supremely finished, and might even be a little too ritzy for some. But there’s no denying that this is a luxurious and comfortable car for five, with a huge boot to suit caravanners who would never dream of travelling light.

You could possibly argue the case that the Merc GLE is a more sensible car for less money, and the GLS is bigger still and offers space for another two passengers. But it’s really tough not to be bowled over by the G-Class’s towing ability.

Luxury on a budget

Our list of favourite luxury SUVs is a little escapism during hard times, but upmarket tow cars don’t have to cost well over £50,000. Shop on the used market and you can own a prestige 4×4 for the price of a family estate car – or even less.

To prove the point, we’ve been looking through the classifieds. How about a 100,000-mile 2015 Volvo XC90 D5 Momentum for £21,490? Or perhaps a 100,000-mile 2014 VW Touareg 3.0 TDI V6 R-Line for £13,490? Or a 93,000-mile 2014 Lexus RX 450h Premier for £15,780?

You’ll need to accept high running costs and be aware that any unexpected repair bill could be high, but there are bargains to be found if you look hard enough.


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