The turkey may not be in the oven just yet, but it’s almost time for the festive break. So at the risk of being self-indulgent, I’d like to take a look back at some of my best tow car moments of 2015.
The Tow Car Awards
New car launches and solo test drives are all very well, but the only way to really know if a car is any good at towing is to tow with it. And the only way to find out which cars are best at towing is to tow with them back-to-back. That’s exactly what we do at the Tow Car Awards every year.
The ninth Tow Car Awards saw quite a few changes behind the scenes, with new personnel and a change to our test route. I’ll admit to having been nervous about the changes, but fortunately our new judge, Fliss Spink, did a great job for us and moving some tests to a different circuit went well. In fact, I think the new test route proved itself better than the old one, with some really rough surfaces and off-camber corners to give the cars a hard time.
When the Tow Car Awards started back in 2007, there was no website for the results or video review of the winners. Filming the results video in particular makes for extra pressure during the test week, but I hope this year’s film is the best yet, largely thanks to the efforts of Nigel Donnelly as co-presenter and Phil Russell behind the camera.
I’m always relieved when the test week comes to an end, not because I don’t enjoy it (who wouldn’t enjoy having nearly 40 new cars to play with?) but because I can sleep a lot easier knowing all the cars, caravans and people end the week in one piece, and we’ve squeezed in all the testing, photography and filming.
Towing with the Volkswagen Passat Estate
VW has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, but some months before ‘dieselgate’, the new Volkswagen Passat took home the overall win at the Tow Car Awards. The winning car meets the Euro 6 emissions standard and isn’t caught up in the scandal, although it will take time for Volkswagen to rebuild its reputation and public trust.
As a tow car, the Passat is absolutely brilliant. It’s just so stable, both at the legal limit and when pushed hard in emergency manoeuvres. There’s loads of space inside for people and their luggage, too.
A new identity for the Kia Sorento
With the original, you got a lot of 4×4 for not a lot of money. It wasn’t the most sophisticated car, but it was big, heavy and cheap. The second generation added a bit more polish for quite a bit more cash. It lost the bargain-basement appeal of the first Sorento.
There is nothing bargain-basement about today’s third-generation car. In fact, the price has gone up considerably again, now starting from £28,795 and rising to £41,000 for the top-spec model. But because the car drives well, is better finished and comes packed with equipment, that kind of price tag doesn’t seem excessive. You can buy smaller, less well kitted out 4x4s for the same kind of money.
Just as importantly, it’s the best Sorento yet to tow with. The more time I spend with the car, the more I like it.
The Tesla Model S: one day I’ll tow with a car like this
Of all the cars I drove this year, my favourite is the Tesla Model S. It appeals on so many different levels.
As a pure electric vehicle, there are no exhaust emissions. So it’s one of the greenest and most environmentally friendly cars you can buy.
As a performance car, the Tesla is stunning. The version I drove can do 0-60mph in just over five seconds. There’s an even quicker four-wheel-drive version with an aptly named ‘ludicrous mode’ that will hit 60mph in under three seconds.
It’s also practical. The battery pack is thin and flat, and the motor is very compact, which leaves space for a big boot at the back of the car, and a second luggage area where you would expect the engine to be in a conventionally powered saloon.
Limited range is one of the biggest drawbacks of electric cars, but the Tesla can comfortably go more than 200 miles between charges. In fact 330 miles is claimed to be possible for the most long-legged model. That’s not as far as a modern turbodiesel will go on a tankful, of course, but Tesla’s technology is improving all the time. And while the charging network may be limited, it’s growing.
Unfortunately, the Tesla isn’t homologated for towing. But one day a car with similar technology will be, and I can’t wait to tow with it.
2016 could be a vintage year for the Tow Car Awards