Looking for a new car that is capable of towing

Sep 9, 2021
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1
10
Hello!

I currently have a 1999 BMW 523i E39 that on paper is capable of towing 1800 kg but in reality that isn't the case as it struggled with a 1200 kg caravan. It has also given me loads of trouble lately and I'm therefore looking for a new car. I'm primarily looking for a station wagon that is capable of towing at least 2000 kg but I'm open to suggestions and I could go down to 1800 kg if I get a better car. I'm mainly looking for a gasoline powered car as I only drive roughly 8000km per year but a diesel can also be of interest if it's a lot better and that my low mileage doesn't cause issues. I want it to be a good car as a daily as that's the main use, towing will only be over the summers. I'd also prefer not to get a SUV or truck.

I have a budget of roughly $25k but live in Sweden so the market may differ some. I've looked into the BMW F11 & F31, Audi A6, Volvo V90 T6 and Volkswagen Passat. The main issue I have with all of these is that none of them are known for good reliability nor reasonable costs associated with fixing the issues. Does anyone know of any good options? I did look at a 2018 Toyota Avensis today that can tow 1800 kg on paper but it only has 150hp and 196Nm (145lb-ft). I feel like that sounds low as my current car struggled with 1200 kg even though it has 170hp and 245Nm (181lb-ft).

Does anyone here have any good suggestions that I should look into?

Thanks in advance!
 
Nov 6, 2005
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At 8,000 km /year (5,000 miles/year) you should avoid diesel - if you found 170 hp inadequate when towing 1,200 kg you'll need a powerful beast to tow 1,800-2,000 kg - and that's not going to be cheap.
 
Sep 9, 2021
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At 8,000 km /year (5,000 miles/year) you should avoid diesel - if you found 170 hp inadequate when towing 1,200 kg you'll need a powerful beast to tow 1,800-2,000 kg - and that's not going to be cheap.
I phrased that part kind of bad, it was capable enough but the powerband wasn't the best so I had to be above 3500RPM as soon as the slightest incline came up. Maybe a less powerful car with a different powerband does better but I haven't tried anything and am looking for input and experience from others regarding what to get
 
Nov 11, 2009
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I phrased that part kind of bad, it was capable enough but the powerband wasn't the best so I had to be above 3500RPM as soon as the slightest incline came up. Maybe a less powerful car with a different powerband does better but I haven't tried anything and am looking for input and experience from others regarding what to get
I can understand the problem with your present car. I had a 150 bhp CVT Subaru Forester petrol non turbo. It was specified for 2000 kg but even towing 1300 kg it didn’t make fir a relaxing drive. As soon as more power was required the revs shot up and then came down slowly as speed increased to the desired speed. My present car is effectively the same but with a turbo that delivers 238 bhp and far more torque at low revs. The difference is chalk and cheese.

Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe diesels have good reputations as tow cars and are reliable with good warranties.
 
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Jun 16, 2020
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Hello!

I currently have a 1999 BMW 523i E39 that on paper is capable of towing 1800 kg but in reality that isn't the case as it struggled with a 1200 kg caravan. It has also given me loads of trouble lately and I'm therefore looking for a new car. I'm primarily looking for a station wagon that is capable of towing at least 2000 kg but I'm open to suggestions and I could go down to 1800 kg if I get a better car. I'm mainly looking for a gasoline powered car as I only drive roughly 8000km per year but a diesel can also be of interest if it's a lot better and that my low mileage doesn't cause issues. I want it to be a good car as a daily as that's the main use, towing will only be over the summers. I'd also prefer not to get a SUV or truck.

I have a budget of roughly $25k but live in Sweden so the market may differ some. I've looked into the BMW F11 & F31, Audi A6, Volvo V90 T6 and Volkswagen Passat. The main issue I have with all of these is that none of them are known for good reliability nor reasonable costs associated with fixing the issues. Does anyone know of any good options? I did look at a 2018 Toyota Avensis today that can tow 1800 kg on paper but it only has 150hp and 196Nm (145lb-ft). I feel like that sounds low as my current car struggled with 1200 kg even though it has 170hp and 245Nm (181lb-ft).

Does anyone here have any good suggestions that I should look into?

Thanks in advance!

I have only had diesels for many years so would not want to advise on current petrol cars only that they are much improved on what they were.

I just find It odd that you are comparing A V90 with a Passat and an Avensis. I would think the V90 would be one of the few bigger estate cars that might fit your bill. I did not think they had a bad reputation for reliability.

I wonder if a Mercedes E class might suit your needs.

John
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Hello Ts1977.

I do wonder if you have unrealistic expectations about how a vehicle should perform when towing a caravan. You need to appreciate that most cars and caravans outfits when loaded with your passengers, belongings and supplies of food and fluids, will most likely almost double the weight of thesolso car, and that will hurt acceleration and due to the poor aerodynamics of caravans your top speed will also be much lower as will fuel economy.

Car manufacturers may set a maximum permitted towing weight for the vehicle but their figures are a maximum under ideal conditions, and sadly caravans are far from ideal,as noted above. hen towing a trailer or especially a caravan you cannot drive them as aggressively as you might a solo car, it needs a change of mind set and accepting the limitations that towing presents.

I do agree with you that as most of your driving will be solo, then you should be looking for a vehicle that can legally tow the caravan perhaps with some compromises on performance or comfort when towing but is more suited to your daily needs.

I do not know how the Swedish Driving licence operates, but you should check that your licence covers the outfit you choose.

In the UK we have guidance issued by our caravan industry that recommends choosing a caravan whose maximum loaded weight (MTPLM) is no greater than 85% of the cars kerbweight for beginners, and only rising to 100% for experienced caravanners. There is no law attached to this it is just guidance, and whilst it is flawed, it is a reasonable place to start.

Just check your expectations are reasonable.
 
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Nov 11, 2009
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Hello Ts1977.

I do wonder if you have unrealistic expectations about how a vehicle should perform when towing a caravan. You need to appreciate that most cars and caravans outfits when loaded with your passengers, belongings and supplies of food and fluids, will most likely almost double the weight of thesolso car, and that will hurt acceleration and due to the poor aerodynamics of caravans your top speed will also be much lower as will fuel economy.

Car manufacturers may set a maximum permitted towing weight for the vehicle but their figures are a maximum under ideal conditions, and sadly caravans are far from ideal,as noted above. hen towing a trailer or especially a caravan you cannot drive them as aggressively as you might a solo car, it needs a change of mind set and accepting the limitations that towing presents.

I do agree with you that as most of your driving will be solo, then you should be looking for a vehicle that can legally tow the caravan perhaps with some compromises on performance or comfort when towing but is more suited to your daily needs.

I do not know how the Swedish Driving licence operates, but you should check that your licence covers the outfit you choose.

In the UK we have guidance issued by our caravan industry that recommends choosing a caravan whose maximum loaded weight (MTPLM) is no greater than 85% of the cars kerbweight for beginners, and only rising to 100% for experienced caravanners. There is no law attached to this it is just guidance, and whilst it is flawed, it is a reasonable place to start.

Just check your expectations are reasonable.
It’s not just the weight ratios guidance but also how the car delivers its torque and power that can make a large difference to the driving experience. Back in 1999 I changed from a 2 litre Mondeo non turbo petrol estate with 136 bhp, to a Mondeo 1.8 litre turbo diesel with 89 bhp. Both cars handled the caravan and gave no concerns re stability. But the lower powered diesel was a more relaxing drive because it’s torque was higher than the petrol and came in lower down the Rev band, and that’s where caravanners engines spend most of their time.The diesel Mondeo was also nicer to drive on motorways as again at 50-55 mph it’s torque curve gave better acceleration to pull out and pass slower traffic. But solo the car wasn’t as nice as the petrol Mondeo, it was a gruff old dog.
 
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Personally I understand the 'torque curve' re diesels but don't like them-economically they make sense but I'd always have a lovely smooth revvy petrol running abouve 3500 than a diesel running out of puff at 4500rpm but each to their own-a bit of gear changing is not an issue for me and I enjoyed towing with our petrol duster as much as our diesel Navara. Newer turbo petrols have massive low down torque so maybe look at a petrol Tiguan etc?
 
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Sep 9, 2021
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Hello Ts1977.

I do wonder if you have unrealistic expectations about how a vehicle should perform when towing a caravan. You need to appreciate that most cars and caravans outfits when loaded with your passengers, belongings and supplies of food and fluids, will most likely almost double the weight of thesolso car, and that will hurt acceleration and due to the poor aerodynamics of caravans your top speed will also be much lower as will fuel economy.

Car manufacturers may set a maximum permitted towing weight for the vehicle but their figures are a maximum under ideal conditions, and sadly caravans are far from ideal,as noted above. hen towing a trailer or especially a caravan you cannot drive them as aggressively as you might a solo car, it needs a change of mind set and accepting the limitations that towing presents.

I do agree with you that as most of your driving will be solo, then you should be looking for a vehicle that can legally tow the caravan perhaps with some compromises on performance or comfort when towing but is more suited to your daily needs.

I do not know how the Swedish Driving licence operates, but you should check that your licence covers the outfit you choose.

In the UK we have guidance issued by our caravan industry that recommends choosing a caravan whose maximum loaded weight (MTPLM) is no greater than 85% of the cars kerbweight for beginners, and only rising to 100% for experienced caravanners. There is no law attached to this it is just guidance, and whilst it is flawed, it is a reasonable place to start.

Just check your expectations are reasonable.
Hello ProfJohnL,

Thanks for checking. I'm aware of the fact that basically everything will be worse towing than driving solo, the thing about my current car though is that it takes too much of a hit. It's a NA i6 and it doesn't reach peak torque until 6000RPM which is the biggest issue. I'm after something with more grunt down low as that would make it feel stronger when towing even though it technically might not be stronger at its peak.

We follow the EU-standards in Sweden for driving licenses and I have what we call a BE-license that allows me to tow 3500 kg so that part is no issue :)
 
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Hello ProfJohnL,

Thanks for checking. I'm aware of the fact that basically everything will be worse towing than driving solo, the thing about my current car though is that it takes too much of a hit. It's a NA i6 and it doesn't reach peak torque until 6000RPM which is the biggest issue. I'm after something with more grunt down low as that would make it feel stronger when towing even though it technically might not be stronger at its peak.

We follow the EU-standards in Sweden for driving licenses and I have what we call a BE-license that allows me to tow 3500 kg so that part is no issue :)
I had a similar engine 2.5 litre straight 6 cylinder in a 1990 E30 325M Sport. Beautiful car to drive and great looks with its M class body work. Needless to say I didn’t tow with it. C3CD39FB-2696-4C24-B77E-7ACCFBA9816C.jpeg
 
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Jul 18, 2017
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I have only had diesels for many years so would not want to advise on current petrol cars only that they are much improved on what they were.

I just find It odd that you are comparing A V90 with a Passat and an Avensis. I would think the V90 would be one of the few bigger estate cars that might fit your bill. I did not think they had a bad reputation for reliability.

I wonder if a Mercedes E class might suit your needs.

John
Isn't the Volvo V90 a Ford in disguise?
 
Nov 11, 2009
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Isn't the Volvo V90 a Ford in disguise?
No time has moved on, Ford sold Volvo a long while back to Geely a large Chinese company. The current range of Volvos reflect that change. But irrespective Ford did a good job in sorting out many problems in the JLR and Volvo brands that they bought.
 
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Nov 11, 2009
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Hello!

I currently have a 1999 BMW 523i E39 that on paper is capable of towing 1800 kg but in reality that isn't the case as it struggled with a 1200 kg caravan. It has also given me loads of trouble lately and I'm therefore looking for a new car. I'm primarily looking for a station wagon that is capable of towing at least 2000 kg but I'm open to suggestions and I could go down to 1800 kg if I get a better car. I'm mainly looking for a gasoline powered car as I only drive roughly 8000km per year but a diesel can also be of interest if it's a lot better and that my low mileage doesn't cause issues. I want it to be a good car as a daily as that's the main use, towing will only be over the summers. I'd also prefer not to get a SUV or truck.

I have a budget of roughly $25k but live in Sweden so the market may differ some. I've looked into the BMW F11 & F31, Audi A6, Volvo V90 T6 and Volkswagen Passat. The main issue I have with all of these is that none of them are known for good reliability nor reasonable costs associated with fixing the issues. Does anyone know of any good options? I did look at a 2018 Toyota Avensis today that can tow 1800 kg on paper but it only has 150hp and 196Nm (145lb-ft). I feel like that sounds low as my current car struggled with 1200 kg even though it has 170hp and 245Nm (181lb-ft).

Does anyone here have any good suggestions that I should look into?

Thanks in advance!

You could look at a matching site called Towcar.info. It’s Dutch and contains an excellent database of cars and caravans. You can insert a generic caravan if an exact model isn’t known, adjust payloads in car and van, and adjust noseweights too. I’ve found it the best of the bunch as it shows engine performance curves under various loads. Worth a look, but normal health warnings etc.
 
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No time has moved on, Ford sold Volvo a long while back to Geely a large Chinese company. The current range of Volvos reflect that change. But irrespective Ford did a good job in sorting out many problems in the JLR and Volvo brands that they bought.
We had a 2004 S80 new out of the box and the auto box was terrible as it used to hesitate between changes like the Ford powershift box.. Within the first year the whole rear suspension had to be replaced. We bought it for reliability of Volvo name. Very comfortable car though and nice to drive except for gearbox.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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It’s not just the weight ratios guidance but also how the car delivers its torque and power that can make a large difference to the driving experience. Back in 1999 I changed from a 2 litre Mondeo non turbo petrol estate with 136 bhp, to a Mondeo 1.8 litre turbo diesel with 89 bhp. Both cars handled the caravan and gave no concerns re stability. But the lower powered diesel was a more relaxing drive because it’s torque was higher than the petrol and came in lower down the Rev band, and that’s where caravanners engines spend most of their time.The diesel Mondeo was also nicer to drive on motorways as again at 50-55 mph it’s torque curve gave better acceleration to pull out and pass slower traffic. But solo the car wasn’t as nice as the petrol Mondeo, it was a gruff old dog.
Thank you Clive,

I think you should know by now, I am well aware of these caveats also, and I often make the point about the wide range of characteristics that affect towing performance and handling over and above weight ratio's.

What I don't know is if there are any particular differences to the way vehicles are specified in Sweden compared to the UK which might impact on towing.

But as the OP has stated he is looking for a good solo car, which might not be such a good towing car, and looking at the work/life balance of distance traveled, it might make sense to look at a car that can legally tow the caravan but is perhaps not optimally suited to towing, such that can be tolerated for limited towing duties, and is good for solo driving for the greater part of its duties.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Hello ProfJohnL,

Thanks for checking. I'm aware of the fact that basically everything will be worse towing than driving solo, the thing about my current car though is that it takes too much of a hit. It's a NA i6 and it doesn't reach peak torque until 6000RPM which is the biggest issue. I'm after something with more grunt down low as that would make it feel stronger when towing even though it technically might not be stronger at its peak.

We follow the EU-standards in Sweden for driving licenses and I have what we call a BE-license that allows me to tow 3500 kg so that part is no issue :)

Thanks for the clarification.

With that in mind a petrol motor with a Turbo would potentially suit your needs,
 
Nov 11, 2009
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We had a 2004 S80 new out of the box and the auto box was terrible as it used to hesitate between changes like the Ford powershift box.. Within the first year the whole rear suspension had to be replaced. We bought it for reliability of Volvo name. Very comfortable car though and nice to drive except for gearbox.
Was it designed before or after Ford took over Volvo? In those days it would not have been a dual synchro clutch gearbox like Powershift it would be a conventional torque converter epicyclic box.
 
Nov 6, 2005
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Was it designed before or after Ford took over Volvo? In those days it would not have been a dual synchro clutch gearbox like Powershift it would be a conventional torque converter epicyclic box.
Prior to DSGs, Volvo generally used Aisin autoboxes, part of Toyota and generally regarded as bullet-proof.
 
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Sorry to advise that Ford bought Volvo in 1999, but the S80 came out in 1998 so it looks like the problems were well and truly of Volvos own making. Just like the heap of rubbish that was my 245GLE estate and a later 740 too. And yet I even bought a 2010 XC70. Our three Mondeos gen 1,2and3 by comparison were flawless.
 
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Was it designed before or after Ford took over Volvo? In those days it would not have been a dual synchro clutch gearbox like Powershift it would be a conventional torque converter epicyclic box.
TBH I cannot remember, but there were numerous problems with the gearbox with many people complaining. In 2010 I got a Mondeo with the Powershift gearbox and it had the same characteristics as the Volvo gearbox with the hesitancy issue.
 
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Nov 11, 2009
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Prior to DSGs, Volvo generally used Aisin autoboxes, part of Toyota and generally regarded as bullet-proof.
My gen 3 XC70 had an Aisin gearbox. Very smooth hard to confuse it even towing up twisty mountain roads in France.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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It was around 12 years old when photographed and it’s first aid kit was still in its original cellophane. Wish I had had the space to store it but when the Discovery arrived my wife insisted on hanging on to her Saab 9000 and didn’t think the BMW was safe enough for the grandchildren’s transport being two door. .My fault also as when asked about the front crumple zone I just mentioned that the lovely six cylinder would position itself between the drivers seat and passenger seat. Not a good choice of words.
 
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It was around 12 years old when photographed and it’s first aid kit was still in its original cellophane. Wish I had had the space to store it but when the Discovery arrived my wife insisted on hanging on to her Saab 9000 and didn’t think the BMW was safe enough for the grandchildren’s transport being two door. .My fault also as when asked about the front crumple zone I just mentioned that the lovely six cylinder would position itself between the drivers seat and passenger seat. Not a good choice of words.
Hi Clive the Saab 9000 was a great car :cool:
 
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