David MottonSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Tow cars’ written by David Motton
Tow Car Editor
The Frankfurt Motor Show is fast approaching, and it looks like there will be plenty of new tow cars to see when the doors open in a couple of weeks. From small hatchbacks to crossovers, from SUVs to saloons, there's plenty of interesting new metal on the way.
High on my list of must-see cars is the Jaguar F-Pace. I hate the clumsy name, but I'm looking forward to seeing the production version unveiled officially. If you follow cycling you'll have seen the prototype F-Pace used as a support car by Jaguar-sponsored Team Sky at this summer's Tour de France. Although lightly camouflaged for its role at the Tour, the basic shape of the F-Pace is clear, and to my eyes it's a very handsome car.
Technical details are rather thin on the ground, so there's no word on the F-Pace's kerbweight or legal towing limit. The engine range hasn't been officially confirmed yet, but expect both petrol and diesel options similar to those in the new Jaguar XF range. That would suggest two 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels with 163PS (161bhp) or 180PS (178bhp), a 300PS (296bhp) 3.0-litre diesel and a 380PS (375bhp) 3.0-litre supercharged petrol. However, the engines may be in different states of tune for use in the F-Pace.
Jaguar has confirmed that the F-Pace's four-wheel-drive system will feature torque vectoring. If the car is about to push wide in a corner, this system sends more power to the outside rear wheel while gently braking the inside rear wheel to tighten the car's line. It's a sign of Jaguar's intent to rival the Porsche Macan as the most sports car-like mid-sized SUV.
Expect the car to be light by 4x4 standards – aluminium has been used extensively in its construction – so the car's 85% match figure may be lower than that of some rivals. As for price, I'd be surprised if you'd get any change from £35,000 for entry-level cars, with the first UK deliveries in early 2016.
At a more real-world price point for most of us, Kia will be showing the new Kia Sportage and the revised Kia Cee'd. Pictures of the fourth-generation Sportage have only just been released, and I must admit I'm a little disappointed. The new 'face' of the car looks awkward somehow, with its gaping grille and slim headlights no longer meeting up. Perhaps it will grow on me.
Again, technical details are sparse, but given that Hyundai and Kia are owned by the same parent company and share many parts, it seems reasonable to expect kerbweights and power outputs similar to the new Hyundai Tucson. That means kerbweights from around 1450kg or thereabouts (including 75kg for the driver).
While the Sportage should be in showrooms early next year, there's not so long to wait for the updated Kia Cee'd. There's a new look, inside and out, and the promise of improved interior quality and refinement. Emissions are lower and economy has improved, and there's a new 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. With 100PS (98bhp) or 120PS (118bhp) depending on the state of tune, though, it wouldn't be our pick of the engine line-up for towing. That would be the higher powered 136PS (134bhp) 1.6 CRDi diesel, which is the only engine available with Kia's new seven-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox.
Of course, the German brands won't want the Brits and Koreans to grab all the headlines, so there are also some exciting new cars for the home team in Frankfurt.
The Audi A4 is one. You'd be forgiven for thinking it's a facelift from the pictures, but it's a genuinely new car. I think the conservative styling underplays how different the fifth-generation A4 is.
It's a bigger car, which should help with interior space. The new A4 is also more efficient, with a sub-100g/km carbon dioxide output for the 2.0-litre TDI ultra. Across the range fuel consumption has been reduced by up to 21%, with power outputs ranging from 150PS (148bhp) to 272PS (268bhp). However, the improvements in fuel economy have partly been achieved by reducing kerbweights by as much as 120kg, which will do matching ratios no favours. The first deliveries are expected in November. I'll be driving the car next week, so I'll know more then.
Under the skin the X1 now has much in common with the 2 Series Active Tourer and Gran Tourer. That means the two-wheel-drive versions will be front-wheel drive rather than rear-wheel drive, no doubt to the dismay of many BMW purists. As before, four-wheel-drive models will also be available.
The new X1 is wider and taller than its predecessor and the engines are now mounted transversely rather than lengthways. The increased size and more efficient engine packaging both point to a much-needed improvement in interior space. However, you won't be surprised to learn that the new X1 is lighter than the old, with entry-level cars weighing in at just 1430kg.
Mercedes-Benz has a number of new cars in Frankfurt, but the most interesting for tow car drivers is the new GLC. A successor to the GLK (which has never been sold in the UK), the GLC will take on the Audi Q5, BMW X5 and Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Refreshingly from a caravanner's perspective, the GLC is quite a heavy car. Despite shedding 80kg compared with the GLK, the GLC has a hefty 1845kg kerbweight and 2500kg towing limit with either diesel engine. The GLC 220d 4Matic has 170PS (168bhp) and the GLC 250d 4Matic has 204PS (201bhp). As you can probably guess from the 4Matic part of their name, all versions have four-wheel drive.
So, plenty of new tow cars to look forward to over the next few months. Book yourself a flight to Frankfurt later this month and you'll be among the first to see them in the metal.