Dan Cartwright has over 12 years of experience in the caravan and motorhome industry. He is a judge for a number of prestigious leisure vehicle awards and regularly heads off in his motorhome with his family. Every week, Dan shares his insights with the community. Here’s what he has to say this week.
Once again, I’ve been given the huge privilege of being a judge at the Towcar of the Year (TCOY) Awards.
This is vital for learning about the latest vehicles, as you can’t test how a car tows without towing something and you can’t take your caravan to a dealership and see how different towcars perform.
Each year, there is significant variation between the best and the worst. Other than previous category winners, predicting which models will come out on top is incredibly difficult.
You can view the full list of winners at the Caravan and Motorhome Club (CAMC) TCOY awards here, whilst the announcement video can be viewed below.
Rather than list each winner in every category – which you could easily view on the CAMC website or in the video – I’d rather share some of my thoughts on this year’s awards. So, here are some of my top points from being a specialist driving judge for five days of testing.
The overall winner was the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid Platinum Edition
The Porsche Cayenne has won its category every time it’s entered in the last two years. This includes different engine configurations – both pure internal combustion and hybrid. It’s a fantastic towcar and, it feels strange to say as a man from Doncaster, but I feel very uneasy about saying you should go and buy a Porsche.
However, it really is that good. I think the association with the Porsche badge has potentially held it back from being the overall winner in previous years, where the panel had its reservations about telling people the best towcar is a luxury sports vehicle. Frankly, it is.
I can’t believe I’m making a practical case for the Porsche, but have a look at the price difference between a Cayenne, Landrover Discovery, Audi Q9 and Volvo V60. Even new, it’s minimal.
Compared to the competition, the Cayenne is priced very reasonably in the new market. Even better, they make a fantastic second-hand purchase. You can pick up a 2009 or 2010 model, with a full service history, for around £5,000 to £7,000.
So… yeah. I can’t really believe it, but the Porsche is a brilliant choice, practical and a very, very good towcar. It’s a lot of fun to drive without a caravan too!
What was it like to tow in a Bentley Bentayga?
There’s no way I wasn’t going to talk about this! To tell you the truth, towing with the Bentley Bentayga Extended Wheelbase was fantastic. Not everybody has a quarter of a million pounds lying around for their next towcar, but if you do, you won’t be disappointed.
While the Bentayga is obviously designed to carry rear passengers in not just comfort, but abject luxury, with a champagne fridge and matching glasses, the driving experience is phenomenal.
It has an amazing throttle response, an engine that sounds like a 1980s Formula 1 car and an incredible level of stability, even at high speeds. No matter how close a lorry comes alongside the Bentayga, you won’t even notice. Much like the Porsche, it’s very fun when not towing as well!
The judges’ award
This year, we introduced a judges’ award category. The winner was well-deserved and a vehicle that didn’t win its own weight class – the Ford Puma ST-Line 1.0 Mhev 155ps 6-speed manual.
With the Bailey Discovery in tow, the Puma was an absolute joy. In a world of huge SUVs, diesel big blocks and pure electric outputs, we never thought a one-litre, mid-range Ford would be such a capable and pleasurable drive, but it really was.
In its class, it was up against the all-electric VW ID. Buzz, which is weighted to tow a small caravan and, as you’d guess, coped incredibly well. However, the Ford truly deserved a mention and, being a car that anyone could have on their drive, we were all very impressed.
So, if you own a Puma and haven’t towed with it before, go out and have some fun.
Power source developments
Over the last few years, we’ve seen pure electric and hybrid vehicles become more and more prevalent in the TCOY awards. What’s really pleasing is they’re now entering heavier weight categories.
For example, the second-heaviest category (1,500kg to 1,700kg) was won by the Polestar 2.
Of all the winners this year, we saw an even match when it came to power sources, with four internal combustion, four pure electric and three hybrid vehicles.
To me, this says EVs are really taking the caravan market seriously. I’ve written previously about what makes them so good and, aside from range issues, the electric towcars that won this year really do stand out as luxurious, practical and comfortable.
Pick-ups are very close to my heart, having used them a lot over the years. Recently, the TCOY winner in this category has always been the VW Amarok, which is a very nice truck and a great towcar.
This year, however, it was pipped by the new Ford Ranger Wildtrak. These are incredibly popular on UK roads and the 2023 model is an extremely capable towcar. Most importantly, it was really nice to see some variation in the category.
Full disclosure: I own a 2022 Ranger. Unfortunately, it’s the two-litre bi-turbo model, which was the only one available when I bought it. This is a much less capable towcar.
My recommendation for anyone looking to purchase a Ranger is to go for either an older 3.6-litre or the newer three-litre.
One other worthy winner, in my opinion, was the Nissan ARIYA 87kWh Evolve e-4ORCE. This shocked all of the judges, not only for its towing ability, but also because of its beautiful interior.
The towcar has a very well-put-together feel about it, with an amazing power train to boot. If you’re in the market for an EV, Nissan was previously doing well with its Leaf, but may well have surpassed expectations with its new ARIYA.
Photo credit: Caravan and Motorhome Club