Best tow cars to buy 2024
There’s more to towing a car than just hitching up a caravan. Check out these tow car stars to pick what’s right for you
Convenient, affordable and fun; it’s no surprise caravan holidays are booming. Hitching a mobile holiday home to the family car and heading for wherever you fancy is a reality for more people in the UK than ever. But in a rapidly changing motoring landscape, it's hard to know which models are the best tow cars to buy.
Thankfully the Caravan and Motorhome Club (CMC) Towcar Awards are here to help. You may notice something different about the awards this year, though. The judges certainly did when confronted by a roster of awards contenders that included nine pure EVs.
The common thinking used to be that electric cars and caravanning don’t mix, with the usual angst expressed over range and charger anxiety magnified because of increased power consumption and a lack of suitable chargepoints when towing. But perceptions are changing, and as Nick Lomas, Director General of the CMC, pointed out, this year’s competition demonstrates just how seriously car makers are taking the world of towing with an electrified vehicle.
“Leisure-vehicle holidays are in great demand and the Club prides itself on being the trusted experts for tourers,” he said. “It’s important that we are able to provide professional, qualified and unbiased information to help all those who plan to tow.” We couldn’t agree more, because Auto Express has a seat on the panel of Club driving judges, so we’re part of the team that puts cars and caravan combinations through their paces at the Millbrook proving ground.
The tests cover hill starts, handling, manoeuvrability, acceleration, braking and stability, plus performance and unique ‘caravanability’ assessments for practicality – all in the pursuit of naming a Tow car of the Year champion.
Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Platinum Edition
Overall Tow car of the Year and Class winner: Caravan Weight Over 1,700kg
- Kerbweight: 2,500kg
- Noseweight: 140kg
- Caravan weight (as tested): 2,125kg
- Max towing capacity (braked): 3,500kg
- Price (as tested): £78,710
The Porsche Cayenne has always been an impressive tow car, and it’s come very close to clinching the Club’s highly vaunted Tow car of The Year award in previous years.
The newest plug-in E-Hybrid combines a petrol V6 with a battery and motor for 456bhp, giving drivers 0-62mph in five seconds, a 157mph top speed, plus the option of driving up to 22 miles in electric-only mode and ‘real world’ mpg in the mid-30s. That’s not quite diesel efficiency, but it’s cleaner for city driving, and if you’re liable for company car tax, you’ll save a packet on Benefit-in-Kind.
The battery and motor add 300kg to the all-up weight, but from a towing perspective that arguably makes the Cayenne an even more stable platform. Porsche’s chassis-control system builds on this to provide exemplary ride and handling in all conditions, even when outfitted with a large caravan and driven at speed (although the 2,125kg Bailey van used on Club tests is some way short of the Cayenne’s 3,500kg limit).
As a towing package or family all-rounder, it really is difficult to fault the Cayenne, apart perhaps from its price, which can easily escalate further if you’re tempted by options. The car has always been expensive, but one thing that’s changed is the emergence of a range of electric rivals that have moved the pricing goalposts. When a Nissan SUV costs the best part of £62k, pushing the boat out for the Porsche gets a little easier – especially if you’re thinking about getting money back at resale time.
But really all you need to do to want the Porsche is drive it, because the quality of design, engineering and execution shines through in every aspect of its performance. It’s the ultimate tow car, for sure.
What the judges said: The Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid scores top marks in virtually every area, and was particularly noted for its agile handling and how it keeps its caravan stable at low and high speeds. A beautifully made interior, spacious back seats and top-notch tech are the icing on the cake, while the caravanability judges like how the boot takes all of their test gear, as well as the car’s bulky charging-cable bags.
Volkswagen ID. Buzz 204PS 77kWh Pro Style
Class winner: Caravan Weight Up to 1,100kg
- Kerbweight: 2,502kg
- Noseweight: 100kg
- Caravan weight (as tested): 1,000kg
- Max towing capacity (braked): 1,000kg
- Price (as tested): £64,885
It’s obviously going to be a hit with style-conscious buyers, and when we tested the ID. Buzz on its own at Auto Express we declared it “arguably the most convincing electric car from the company yet”, so there’s more to its performance than meets the eye.
The price tag will be the biggest obstacle for many potential buyers, because the ID. Buzz isn’t cheap – in spite of the fact that it shares an MEB platform with the likes of the VW ID.3 hatchback. Many dedicated caravanners will also be disappointed with the very limited towing capacity for a vehicle of this size, too, but the upside is that the ID. Buzz makes seriously light work of whatever you hitch up to it within the allowed parameters.
The 201bhp rear-mounted motor offers seamless, smooth acceleration, while the vehicle’s considerable mass is set low down, thanks to the underfloor 77kWh battery, aiding overall stability.
On top of that, the ID. Buzz’s boxy, van-derived lines with twin sliding rear passenger doors and massive tailgate, plus comfy twin captain’s chairs up front, make it a superbly practical MPV.
What the judges said: The ID. Buzz was praised for its smoothness, visibility, large interior space and general feel-good factor. This retro electric bus, hitched to a small caravan, will be an ideal vehicle at festivals and family campsites. The claimed 251-mile electric range will be good for most when unhitched, too. VW’s modern interpretation of the classic Type 2 bus has been a long time coming, but it has certainly been worth the wait.
Skoda Enyaq Coupé iV 82kWh vRS
Class winner: Caravan Weight 1,100kg-1,300kg
- Kerbweight: 2,307kg
- Noseweight: 75kg
- Caravan weight (as tested): 1,200kg
- Max towing capacity (braked): 1,200kg
- Price (as tested): £55,865
Skoda’s Coupé version of its Enyaq SUV is at its best in less expensive, less powerful variants than this ‘sporty’ vRS model, and we’ve said the car is more comfortable when driven at a relaxed pace. This is the ideal approach to towing, too, and ironically that’s when the power of the vRS’s 294bhp twin motors comes into its own.
As with many EVs, the maximum allowable towing weight for the Enyaq Coupé appears limited, at least when compared with petrol and diesel rivals. That will obviously hamper the car’s chances for anyone with a bigger towing requirement – which typically will include many people contemplating spending a sizeable chunk of cash on a mid-size SUV such as this. But for anyone with a relatively lightweight caravan habit and a sizeable budget, the vRS is an undoubtedly appealing choice.
The Skoda’s standard four-wheel drive is an attractive configuration for starters, and the car’s mix of a high kerbweight and low centre of gravity means it feels superbly stable on the road, even when hitched. The quoted range of up to 309 miles (unhitched) means the car should be up to meeting the towing requirements of many drivers, too.
If the numbers stack up, anyone choosing the Skoda will doubtless enjoy the improved cabin ambience compared with VW’s rival ID.5 SUV, which is pretty much the same car beneath the skin, yet manages to feel cheaper and less luxurious than the value-focused Skoda. You don’t lose much boot space opting for the more stylish Coupé, either, with just a 15-litre penalty quoted.
What the judges said: Skoda’s all-electric Enyaq has won a number of Caravan and Motorhome Club Towcar awards in recent years, and the brand continues to expand its offering. The Coupé vRS features a different design from the regular SUV model; it’s more stylish and aerodynamic. This being a vRS, it has extra performance – 294bhp from twin electric motors. Superb quality and comfortable sports seats up front sealed the win.
Skoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI 150PS DSG SE L
Class winner: Caravan Weight 1,300kg-1,500kg
- Kerbweight: 1,577kg
- Noseweight: 80kg
- Caravan weight (as tested): 1,340kg
- Max towing capacity (braked): 1,600kg
- Price (as tested): £35,535
Skoda’s Octavia Estate regularly wins plaudits from our testers, who say it’s difficult to fault as an all-round, do-it-all family car.
The latest Caravan and Motorhome Club tests prove, yet again, that towing is one of the Octavia’s strengths, too, especially in this punchy 2.0-litre turbodiesel form. Indeed, coupled with the VW Group’s now ubiquitous DSG automatic gearbox, this result reinforces the traditional appeal of the diesel-auto configuration beloved of caravanners for years, and the win should provide comfort to traditionalists not yet ready for a transition to EVs.
The 148bhp Estate in SE L trim is relatively expensive for an Octavia, but it looks increasingly good value when you start comparing prices with EV rivals. The latest version has one of Skoda’s best interiors yet, with an elegant sophistication that many would consider ‘premium’, and it really wouldn’t look out of place with an Audi badge on the steering wheel.
While two-wheel drive and a lower kerbweight than battery-powered rivals mean the Octavia offers less traction in certain circumstances, such as challenging hill starts, in other respects the performance when hitched is exemplary. Diesel economy means drivers will be happy even with a heavy tow. The load capacity is hard to beat, too, adding to its compelling nature as family transport.
What the judges said: The Skoda’s 2.0-litre diesel engine and the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic DSG gearbox provide plenty of torque, acceleration and smoothness. The ride is great and the interior is a comfortable place to be. The Octavia picked up extra points for its excellent rear visibility during the curved reversing test, and the large boot’s ability to take huge amounts of luggage and equipment increases the car’s appeal for the average family.
Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor
Class winner: Caravan Weight 1,500kg- 1,700kg
- Kerbweight: 2,069kg
- Noseweight: 90kg
- Caravan weight (as tested): 1,500kg
- Max towing capacity (braked): 1,500kg
- Price (as tested): £46,050
One of the biggest deterrents for anyone buying an EV to tow is how driving range is affected by the extra frontage of a caravan. EVs don’t typically fall short when it comes to the power required to overcome additional aerodynamic drag, but it takes a lot of energy – which is where the 400-mile quoted range for this variant of the Polestar 2 hatch could make all the difference.
Compared with many current SUVs, the Polestar seems a compromised choice in other ways, and when it comes to visibility, it’s true that the sleek five-door can’t match the views provided by high-riding rivals. But many seasoned caravanners have been happily driving hatchbacks for years, and arguably more importantly for them is that the Club test team found the Polestar’s large boot easily swallowed the test load, and with room to spare. The Polestar performed extremely well in dynamic tests, too, making light work of the challenging hill test routes and offering impressive stability both in faster cornering and when changing lanes on the high-speed bowl. That’s all the more impressive considering that the Polestar’s towing weight is higher than that of many EV rivals, too.
Elsewhere, the Polestar’s many positive attributes should be familiar to Auto Express readers. That includes being fun to drive, although one trade-off is damping that some may find a little too firm. The Polestar comes into its own at a cruise on the motorway, though, where things seem to settle down and you can really start to enjoy the high-quality interior and supremely comfortable seats.
What the judges said: The Polestar 2 returns with major improvements. While the exterior looks largely the same, apart from a new, blanked-off grille, the previously front-wheel-drive car is now driven by the rear wheels, while larger 69kWh and 82kWh batteries provide the power. The Long Range 82kWh version’s claimed range of more than 400 miles is impressive. A stylish and well made interior gained points, as did the smooth electric motor’s 295bhp.