The Captain tugs hard over his tow machines. Here are his top 10 adventure rigs.
Did you just drop more than $200K for your deep-vee machine built with 37 layers of ‘glass in the transom and fitted with hardtop, commercial-grade sounder, radar, pie warmer, oven, Engel fridge and twin 350 donks? Chances are your Holden Kingswood won’t get it down the driveway, let alone to Lakes Entrance for the hot sword bite. Time to upgrade the tow tug. Here are 10 of our favourite tow tugs. We chose some because they’re fast, some because they’re cool and some that aren’t fast or cool, but that our accountant says we should. What a tugger.
Money’s no object, right? Then you’d have rocks in your head not to give the RAM 2500 a couple of flirty looks. Sure, they’re renowned for towing huge loads and, with a max tow rating a hair under 7000kg, it’s a reputation well earned. But they’re also powerful – as in strange haircut in a small Asian country powerful. The 6.7L Cummins donk under the bonnet boasts 370HP and a huge 1084Nm, so it’ll tow just about any boat you can hitch it to then punt out a 16-second quarter mile… we checked. Bundle that with a whole heap of towing tech like “haul-mode”, an automatic engine brake and one of the cheapest buy-ins for a full-size Yank tank and it makes a hell of a lot of sense. Expect to pay $140K for a new one.
The LandCruiser has been the alpha dog of Australian 4WDs since, well, since there have been Australian 4WDs. The current generation LC200 is hugely overdue for an update and it shows with an outdated interior and a laughably small tech package. But none of that matters because it’ll tow an honest-to- God 3500kg and laugh in its face thanks to a pants-tightening 4.5L V8 twin-turbo diesel donk purring under the bonnet. Towing tech is light-on, but with 650Nm available from just off idle, and enough room for a Shimano warehouse full of Tiagras, it puts up one hell of an argument. It’s also available in a 4.7L petrol donk that’ll convert money to noise without any annoying side effects like power. New versions are available from $85K, but you can pick up second- hand offerings in the high $30K range
LAND ROVER DEFENDER
Land Rovers might earn themselves a bad reputation, but they’re seriously ahead of their time. To this day, it’s still not really known how they managed to make a car out of alloy, cover it in oil leaks and still have it rust to bits. Regardless, they’re tougher than a boy named Sue and have a cult-like following for their rugged simplicity and quirky styling. Later-model years with the Ford-derived Puma engine all punch in at 3500kg tow rating, but if you’re happy to run the gauntlet with electrical gremlins in the older TD5 models, that rating can bump up to the 4000kg mark. As with anything tow-related, the longer wheelbase 130s will tow smoother and more stable than the shorter-wheelbase 110 and 90 models. They hold their value, so even a 20-year-old model will cost you at least $10K, with a two-year- old model costing northwards of $60K.
FORD RANGER PX2
You’d have to have your head buried in the sand not to notice how popular Ford’s updated PX2 Ranger is – and for bloody good reason. They’ve got the longest wheel-base in the class, making them one of the most stable platforms; the biggest donk in class with a 470Nm inline five-cylinder turbo-diesel; and questionable looks that have done more for fake bonnet scoop sales than another Fast’n’Furious ever could. Steer clear of the underpowered 2.2L donk and put yourself in a high-spec XLT, FX4 or Wildtrak with the 3.2L engine. You’ll pick up a heap of useful technowizardy like trailer-sway control, reverse cameras to help with hitching up and crash mitigation. Reliability isn’t their strongpoint, so aim at trading it in when the warranty period runs out. They’re rated to tow 3500kg, but with a GCM of 6000kg don’t expect to do it with more than a carload of mates. Earlier- generation PX1s can be picked up from around $25K, with new PX2s starting in the mid-$40K range.
You’ve probably heard the name VW Transporter before, but the actual tow tug is a little more diverse than that. It’s part of the VW T6 platform that gives you the option of everything from two-seaters (if you need the cargo space in the back), through to huge seven-seaters and even a long-wheelbase twin-cab ute thrown into the mix. 4WD models are available if you’re crazy enough to punt a modern Kombi down a 4WD trail. Towing capacities are 2500kg almost across the board, but tow-ball weight is a piddly 100kg, so make sure you load extra fuel behind the axle in your trailer. It’s hardly the most powerful or the quickest tow tug you’ll find, but if you absolutely need a van, the Transporter will still lug you to and from the ramp. You can pick up second- hand offerings for a few grand, with a top-spec 4WD new offering costing around $55K.
If you’re spending your 9-to-5 on job sites or rough terrain, the Iveco Daily 4×4 is well worth a look. It’s more truck than car, but offers a drivetrain that’ll handle a million beach launches, incredible low-range gearing for steep ramps and will make you feel like a lumberjack just ducking down to the shops for lunch. Tow rating is an industry standard 2500kg, but you can get the GVM upgraded to lug a huge 2800kg payload – although you’ll need to pony up for a truck licence and steer in to every weighbridge you come across. Even the outdated model is new and not super-common, so expect to pay around $100K to get your backside into the Italian stallion.
Tech is great, until it’s not. If you’re not after all the bells and whistles, and just want a hairy-chested tow tug to muscle your boat around like it owes it money after a bad weekend at the dogs, then Toyota’s 70 Series is well worth your attention. They’re a bit like Lego for big kids and available in everything from single- and dual-cab utes to station wagons and panel vans. They’re that basic, the rear doors still have ashtrays, and air-conditioning is an optional extra. The one thing that isn’t an option is the drivetrain, a single-turbo 4.5L V8 backed by a manual cog-swapping five-speed box. They’ll tow 3500kg with ease and definitely impress unsuspecting women as you drop it back a gear and roar past their hatchbacks. The cheapest way into a V8 ’Cruiser is an eight-year-old single- cab ute that will run you around the $30K mark, with new wagons, utes and troopies all closer to $70K.
Like the idea of a rugged, V8-powered 4WD, but think taxation is theft and Toyotas are for the filthy proletariat? Mercedes has you covered. The G-Wagen has been largely unchanged since the 1970s in terms of base vehicle and overall styling, but if you dig deep and come up with a cool $250K+, you can slide your backside into the leather-clad, AMG-tuned G63. The military-inspired interior is shod with enough cows to stock a feminist convention, but the real grunt is under the bonnet. Shoe- horned into the compact frame is a 5.5L twin-turbo petrol V8 that pushes out a grin-inducing 760Nm and 650hp. Your accountant and neighbours will hate you equally, but you’ll be towing 3125kg in what is essentially a supercar shoehorned into a tank. Let the hate flow through you. If the $250K+ price tag scares you off, you can pick up a second- hand offering as low as $230K!
Over the past 40 years, the trusty, rusty HiLux has been a constant feature at Aussie boat ramps, and the current model will continue that legacy. It’s
one of the most diminutive in its class – inside, outside, and under the bonnet, but it still packs Toyota’s legendary reliability and resale value. At 3200kg for the auto and 3500kg in manual when backed with the 2.8L, the HiLux boasts reasonable tow ratings – which drop considerably when paired with the 4L V6 petrol, 2.7L V4 petrol, or 2.4L turbo- diesel. But let’s be real – towing 3500kg in a 2000kg ute puts you in contention for a Darwin Award. The current shape is only just starting to trickle onto the second-hand market, so expect to pay around $40K for one, or pony up the $59K for a brand-new top-spec model.
All right, so it’s got the class of a drunken Irishman and the resale value of a battered sav, but the fact remains that if you’re haulin’ kids and boats
the Commodore SS Sportwagon puts up a convincing argument. Despite having a reasonably small tow-rating of 1600-2100kg, under the bonnet they’re packing 6.0L of American V8 fury, so you’ll have no problems pulling up the boat ramp – or sheilas with two first names. Sportwagons have racked up around a billion kays doing taxi service and with Aussie motor manufacturing coming to a close, may well be collector’s items in years to come. We say: affordable, comfortable, keeps the missus happy. You can get into a second hand Sportwagon for around $15K, while a brand-spanker will set you back a hair under $60k.