Towcar of the Year 2015 winner announced
Leon ST estate claims top prize in The Caravan Club Towcar of the Year 2015 Awards
The competition’s 39 entries were split into six price classes and two weight categories, ranging from the Dacia Logan MCV Lauréate dCi at just £12,114 to the all-singing, all-dancing Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury 3.0 SDV6 at a shade over £60,000. The diverse entry list included small 4x4s, saloons, estates, hatchbacks, SUVs, large off-roaders and an electric/petrol hybrid.
Each towcar endured the same gruelling series of trials – not only being judged on its towing performance over a testing circuit at the Millbook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, but also for its ‘caravanability’ – ie how much typical holiday gear and caravan paraphernalia it could accommodate, how easily it could be hooked up to a caravan and the quality of towing information contained in its handbook. Value for money (initial purchase price and running costs) was also added to the marking equation.
Seven driving judges put the cars through their paces and evaluated each one’s dynamic abilities and ergonomic qualities. Tests included a mid-range 30-60mph acceleration assessment, high-speed towing appraisal, reversing, emergency braking, ride and handling evaluations as well as hill-stop and restart trials.
Price Class wins in the competition went to: the Fiat Panda 4x4 1.3 MultiJet; Peugeot 308 SW PureTech 1.2 e-THP stop-start; SEAT Leon ST FR 2.0 TDI; Volkswagen Golf SV GT 2.0TDI DSG; Volvo XC60 D5 AWD R-Design NAV; and the Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury 3.0 litre SDV6.
From these Class winners, the SEAT Leon ST forged ahead to take the overall victory, earning comments such as, “the SEAT’s engine kept its torquey feel and produced punch whenever and wherever it was required”, and “even at increased speeds, it remained unruffled and composed”.
All-Wheel Drive vehicles competed in two additional categories – ‘All-Wheel Drive Under 1800kg’ and ‘All-Wheel Drive Over 1800kg’. First place in the lighter category went to the Volvo XC60 D5 AWD R-Design NAV, while the Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury 3.0 litre SDV6 took the honours in the heavier group.
The results of the competition were announced at The Caravan Club Towcar of the Year Awards ceremony, held at the Royal Automobile Club in London on 24 September.
For the 2015 competition, the Judges’ Special Award went to the Mitsubishi Outlander GX4hs 2.0 PHEV – the PHEV hybrid’s innovative electric/petrol technology was assessed shoulder to shoulder against more traditional vehicles.
Grenville Chamberlain, Caravan Club Chairman, commented, “It was great to see such a diverse variety of vehicles entered into this competition. Whether people want to tow a small trailer tent or a large, twin-axle caravan, there is a vehicle choice to suit all needs. On behalf of The Caravan Club, our congratulations go to all the winners, and a special mention to SEAT for their victorious Leon. I am sure we will be seeing competition entrants on Club sites in the near future.”
Where, When and How…
Testing took place in August at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire – arguably the best car testing facility in the country. This year 39 cars were divided into six price-range classifications and two classes for all-wheel-drive vehicles.
Manufacturers were invited to submit for testing any vehicle that was capable of towing a trailer over 500kg and on sale on 1 October 2014.
The cars entered were carefully scrutinised to ensure they conformed to the exact specification declared on the entry documentation. Five expert drivers assessed each car’s towing ability including acceleration, braking and the ability to cope with demanding hill starts. Another team of two ‘caravanability’ judges evaluated each entrant’s usability in terms of everyday caravanning: would it carry a set of awning poles, for instance, and do you have to get on your hands and knees to connect the caravan electrics? A further two driving judges performed a mid-range 30-60mph and a 40-60mph acceleration test on each vehicle.
All caravans used during testing were supplied by Bailey of Bristol and loaded to 85% of the relevant car’s kerbweight, or the car’s towing limit if that figure was lower. Noseweights were set at 7% of the caravan’s actual laden weight, or the car or tow hitch’s maximum limit, whichever was lowest.
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Notes to editors
Driving Judges:- Deborah Black, Events Committee member; Lesley Harris – road test journalist for Auto Express Magazine; Ben Hackney, Warners Publications; Tim Barnes-Clay, national motoring journalist; Lee Davey, specialist press journalist; Danny Cobbs, national motoring journalist and John Harris, Events Committee member.
Caravanability Judges:- Bernie Jones, Club member and caravan course instructor; Steve Rowe, specialist press journalist.
Thanks:- The Caravan Club would like to thank Bailey of Bristol for supplying all the caravans used in the competition, and for providing staff on site throughout the event. Simon Howard and Mark Elsom ensured the caravans were correctly ballasted, that their noseweights were kept in trim and that they were in general good working order. Glenn Jenkinson from AL-KO ensured brakes were adjusted, wheels were kept tight and all undergear was properly fettled.