Features, Spotlight

Towcar of the Year: Judge explains why he can never pick a winner

Parked cars from above

Despite judging the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Towcar of the Year (TCOY) awards on many occasions now, Dan Cartwright admits he can never pick a winner. He speaks exclusively to CaravanTimes about the high standards of every vehicle involved.

Dan told us: “Car technology has moved on a huge amount over the last 15 years, with the use of computers, basically. You’re no longer tuning carburettors and things like that to make them more efficient.

“The overall standard of towing ability in cars produced today has increased massively because computers can help manage torque, power outputs, traction, traction control and all of that kind of thing.”

It’s not just luxury vehicles that make good towcars anymore

In the past, it was only luxury cars that sported the latest technology. Now, the majority of vehicles on the market have a wide range of features, increasing the basic standard from which the best towcars are selected.

Dan said: “These features are available on small, medium, big and luxury cars, whereas 20 years ago it was only luxury. So, the luxury cars were always the best towcars, because they had the tech, lots of power and torque, whereas now the overall ability of vehicles to be towing vehicles has increased massively, but why can’t we pick the winner?

“I think that in days gone by, a high-capacity diesel engine with a relatively hard suspension setup was always quite a good bet. Nowadays it changes and it changes hugely because every car is capable of being a towcar,” he added.

Bad towcars are no longer submitted

Choosing a winner is so hard because the general standard is so much better in all the cars submitted. That’s why the judges spend a whole week at the Technical Union for the Automobile, Motorcycle and Cycle Industries’ (UTAC) Millbrook Proving Ground looking for the smallest distinctions.

Dan told us: “When you go to Towcar of the Year as a judge now, there are huge differences between them, but it’s very rare you get a car submitted that you think is actually bad. Yes, the purpose is to identify where you could save money or where you can find a more pleasurable towing experience, but there’s no bad ones.

“Picking the winner is hard, but there are so many things that you as a consumer can’t judge based on the size of engine, weight of the car, number of seats alone. We’ve seen it even when a different model of the same car is significantly better and we need to communicate that to the consumer,” he added.

A winning formula

While there may no longer be any bad towcars submitted, it’s still worth heeding the results of the competition before making a purchase. Offering a little bit of insight into what makes a vehicle stand out at the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Towcar of the Year, Dan talked about some of the specifics.

He said: “It takes a package combination of electronics, gearing, hill holds, automatic transmissions, engine and power management, traction control to marry perfectly for towing. These elements make a huge difference and you just don’t know when you buy a car if it’s going to be a winner or a loser. That’s why we need the awards.”


Photo credit: Unsplash/Ivana Cajina