4x4 Tow Vehicle Choice for Off Road Van

Submitted: Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 19:47
ThreadID: 108953 Views:4099 Replies:17 FollowUps:27
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Looking at a new tow vehicle for off road van will need 3.5T capability.
Choice's
1. 200 series landcruiser second hand around $60,000
2. 76 series GXL landcruiser second hand
3. New Mazda BT 50 auto
4. New Ford Ranger auto
5. New Isuzu D-Max auto

Who has any of the above and tow 3t off road ? when I say off road i mean Gibb River Road, Dampier Peninsular generally off road in the sense corrugation,sand, river crossings ect.

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Reply By: Isuzumu - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:21

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:21
I believe any of the vehicles you have above will require some upgrades eg suspension etc. But when you say 3.5 ton ATM of the van, then you will not be legal putting to much in the tow vehicle. If you have already brought your van then probably the Toyotas would be the one, but if you keep the GVM under 6000KGs then the Isuzu is the pick.
The GRR is not all that bad, Jayco Outbacks like our have done it, but Cape Leveque road is pretty bad (because they keep grading the road towards China) and probably be all bitumen in the near future. Think about what you really need as you will probably not use the $100K off road van as much as you think.
Cheers Bruce
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Follow Up By: Slow one - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:28

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:28
Bruce,
GCM, gross combined weight LOL. as even your very capable Isuzu would buckle at 6000kg GVM. Ranger or Bt would do it easy Ha, Ha.
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Follow Up By: Knothome - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:35

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:35
Haven't got the van yet still looking at them but most 18ft - 20ft vans seem to be 2500kg Tare and have ATM from 3000kg, will be getting the car first then make sure the vans we look at can be towed buy it.
We went up to Cape Leveque about 6 weeks ago only 86kms of dirt road mostly the tracks into camps not so flash. Ive been on worse, back when we lived at Wedge Island that was a rough road.
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 21:52

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 21:52
We were up at Cape Leveque last year – no big deal
If you know what you doing, a decent 2WD would get you through.
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Follow Up By: pop2jocem - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 06:20

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 06:20
Good old Wedge Island. Many a weekend spent there spear fishing. Mind you that was way back in the late 60's before "civilization" and the accompanying bureaucracy moved in.
Did the sand and limestone track from Lancelin to Wedge in our Holden panel vans. Most times we just charged over the frontal dunes and drove around on the beach. Got a bit soft to the south of the township.
ARH, those were the days. Got a bloody bitumen highway right through the area now. Grrrrrrrr.
The GRR and Cape Leveque type roads basically just need a good suspension and road clearance vehicles. The only time 4WD was useful on the GRR was creek crossings like the Pentecost and even then I reckon clearance was more important.
The corrugations tend to test the patience in some sections.

Cheers
Pop
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Follow Up By: lizard - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 09:38

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 09:38
Yes - Wedge Island , we took our 2.6 petrol 1985 Pajero and trailer up there a few times , then once north along beach and inland to Jurien Bay and onwards .....
For the Op - I think the Landcruisers would be the best -
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Follow Up By: Knothome - Friday, Aug 08, 2014 at 19:12

Friday, Aug 08, 2014 at 19:12
I lived at Wedge From 1978 for 15 years then in Lancelin for another 10.the good old days deriving v8 holdens up the beach :)
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Reply By: Member - iijmartin - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:22

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:22
Knothome,
I dont have an off road van (although am thinking of upgrading to Kedron XC-3). My van is 2.8 tonne and I am extremely pleased with the 2012 BT 50 d/cab. I have upgraded rear suspension as I have a steel canopy.
A mate has an 2007 GXL Cruiser 76 series and is thinking of changing to a Ford Ranger. Look at the specs - torque and kW not much different between two.
So my vote is BT 50 and Ford Ranger. I went with the cheaper Mazda
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Follow Up By: Knothome - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:40

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:40
yes have a list of all the KW and NM of them all, the Mazda is $4 G cheaper that's a lot of extras.
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Reply By: Slow one - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:24

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:24
All of them will do the job but at that weight I would go for the cruisers.

I have a ranger and it tows 2.5t easily but if I towed another tonne on top of that I would go the cruiser.

The 76 will struggle compared to the 200 as it hasn't got the get up and go.

Just remember you can't tow in overdrive with any of these vehicles, although the Mazda and ranger do tow in sports mode, which normally means 5th gear which is overdrive as the box is double overdrive. They will drop out of 5th quickly once the load gets to high.

All the vehicles mentioned are very capable off road.
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Follow Up By: Knothome - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:45

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:45
I have a Navara D40 it tows the 2.5t boat OK but its pretty much at its max works pretty hard. I want a car that can do the job easily.
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Follow Up By: Member - iijmartin - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:57

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 20:57
I too had a D40 towing the van. The Mazda is a heaps better tow vehicle for the same van. More grunt and feels more stable towing.
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Reply By: Gone Bush (WA) - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 21:12

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 21:12
I tow a 3500kg GVM Bushtracker with a 200 Series Cruiser.

It seems to be the most popular vehicle by far to tow a van of that weight, regardless of brand.

Go to my blog: GB in a BT and scroll down right to the bottom and you will see a map.

Most of this was done with the Cruiser and the BT.
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Follow Up By: Knothome - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 21:27

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 21:27
Thanks that is one on our van list.
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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 21:53

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 21:53
The GFC is still having an effect on second hand prices. There are some real bargains here, 2nd Hand Bushtrackers , compared to what people were asking a few years ago.

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Follow Up By: Knothome - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 22:24

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 22:24
They still seem to sell fairly quickly
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 08:34

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 08:34
My vote also, notwithstanding I do own a 70 Series Dual Cab. Robust suspension out of the box, or it can be upgraded, and the V8 Engine will pull it easily.

We only pull a TVAN with ours, but you wouldn’t know it was there…

Good luck with it.

Cheers, Baz - The Landy
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Reply By: wizzer73 - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 22:40

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 22:40
How about a Grand Cherokee jeep? 180kw, 570nm, tow 3.5T, 8speed auto. Can be had for around the $60k mark. The stats sound good.

wizzer
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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 22:46

Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 at 22:46
Suggest OP read this first:

Destroy my Jeep
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Follow Up By: wizzer73 - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 09:51

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 09:51
GB, Looks like that link is about a jeep cherokee, not the grand. different model, different engine.

wizzer
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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 10:17

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 10:17
Same company.
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Follow Up By: Knothome - Friday, Aug 08, 2014 at 19:20

Friday, Aug 08, 2014 at 19:20
I want to put a dinghy on the roof and you can't on any of the jeeps.
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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Friday, Aug 08, 2014 at 19:28

Friday, Aug 08, 2014 at 19:28
Knothome, if you haven't already got a tinny, look at these:

Quickboats
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Reply By: Member - bungarra (WA) - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 08:19

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 08:19
Hi

Good to see some commonsense in your decision to think before you act.

What I can tell you is that what ever 'van you choose it will most likely be heavier than the manufacturers specs on tare weight!...be very aware...likewise the vehicle !

Unfortunately the 'van makers don't weigh each 'van and rely on a generic tare weight!...and remember tare weight is basically a dry weight (nominally 10L of water if your lucky)...any extras are not allowed for....(so in other words a base model not optioned up and the tare weight on the 'van or its paperwork is not necessarily that 'vans accurate weight.....so add an extra water tank...a solar panel or battery and all of a sudden you have perhaps 150kg added!

As for the vehicle example say the D-Max is a brilliant vehicle and excellent value with a 3.5T tow weight....but do you really want the 'van at say 3.5t being towed by a vehicle lighter than itself???....NO

I have just replaced our '79 series tug with a 200 series Land cruiser specifically because I wanted safe towing...pulling power, and stopping power.....

before I did this replacement I sat back and looked seriously at my weights (actuals not as stated on all items) and on the spreadsheet I was shocked at how over weight I was actually compared to theory!

I put the new 200 LC vehicle OEM factory delivered over the weigh bridge and found I was already 170kg heavier than advertised...so already that comes off the vehicles GVM!

The 'van was also over with the options ...the tow ball weight (adds to the vehicles GVM) was heavier than advised.....etc etc

Suggest you don't take any dealers (or private sellers) advice on weights....insist it is weighed and get a tow ball weight and then you are making an informed decision that will keep you legal and safe....then you know in reality what you have to play with

I was shocked at how little pay load there really is at times and my spread sheet was sobering...but now I have a legal GVM and GCM with a 200 series with safe grunt and stopping power with a 'van behind at 3499kg (smile)

cheers



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Follow Up By: Member - bungarra (WA) - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 19:28

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 19:28
oh for an edit function!

Correction to stated kerb weight to actual...that it is 134kg over as against stated on literature...still significant in my opinion when all pay load counts.....if your trying to stay legal and make an informed judgement....
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Follow Up By: Knothome - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 20:47

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 20:47
Yes I have been thinking about that exact thing want to be legal and for insurance too. We will get a van around 18ft and try to keep the tare around 2-2.5t still doing all the research.
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Reply By: Andrew D7 - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 09:42

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 09:42
This offroad caravan thing is a big ripoff. It is the weight of the caravans that does the damage. My best friend has a Jayco Starcraft shower toilet 18' caravan he takes everywhere. He lets the tyres down a little on gravel roads and he has had no issues. Not many of the roads are still that bad. The roads that are that bad you won't get a 20' caravan down and the evil corrugations will kill you, your vehicle and your caravan. My own caravan has standard leaf springs and take it everywhere. Came down the Cobb Highway last week between Wilcannia and Ivanhoe all dirt from the turnoff and then across the red dirt road from Mossgiel to Hillston. I travel all these roads and seldom to never see another caravan.
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Reply By: gbc - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 11:03

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 11:03
Nothing on that list is going to do the 200 series for towing, but I'd take a new ford/mazda over a second hand 200.
They tow great - will pull a 76/79 backwards, and have the auto box/trailer sway control/ebd etc to do it safely as well.
We drag bobcat/haines 680/compass navigator with ours regularly for 2/3 the fuel usage of a 200 (15 l/100 at the speed limit). Both the bobcat and the haines are well past the 3t.
The isuzu is a smaller car with smaller output and shorter wheelbase and while it might get the business done, it is going to struggle past 2.5t. I like the isuzu a lot, but not for towing big stuff amongst this competition.
AnswerID: 536894

Follow Up By: Knothome - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 20:52

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 20:52
Cheers and I agree about the second hand Toyota 200 car thing but I don't want to spend $100,000 on a car. The BT50 or Ranger is becoming more at the top off the list as I look at them more.
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Reply By: jen.amctg - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 17:07

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 17:07
You may search for such camper trailers in this site http://www.australianmanufacturedcampertrailers.org.au/. And make sure it has a logo of australian camper trailers because it has the best quality.
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Reply By: Member - Dough Boy - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 18:36

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 18:36
Hi there
I have owned a patrol, navara and now a 76 series cruiser.
Of the 3 the cruiser has no rival. I tow a 2 tonne boat . Whilst the Navara had the ability to tow ok, being a ute the back end often was thrown around .The patrol was fine but grossly underpowered.
The cruiser never struggles stays very stable . I expect the 200 series would be even better
Hope this helps
DB
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Follow Up By: Knothome - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 20:56

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 20:56
Yes I took a 76 2010 for a drive the other day it belongs to a mate he said its a bit rough a ride but I didn't find it a lot different to the D40. Shame they weren't in a auto I'm getting lazy :)
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Reply By: Searay - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 20:52

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 20:52
Hi there we drive rangers, bt50 and hiluxs for work. I own a 200 series cruiser bought secondhand and tow a 21 foot bushtracker. There is no way i would tow that van with any others. They may all be able to tow it but its the safety of stopping and having control over a heavy van. The cruiser has plenty of power to tow but there are occasions when road trains etc pass and i am glad to be in a larger tow vehicle. Look at finding a van first the the tow vehicle to make sure its within it capabilites.

Dont trust the caravans compliance plate also, put it over a weighbridge. My van is 3.5t loaded with all water tanks full but we owned another cheap brand van and the plate had a atm off 2850 but when i put it on the scales it was 3.5t. It doesnt take many small little items or improvements for a caravan to weigh heavy.

My choice again secondhand 200 series diesel all day

AnswerID: 536920

Reply By: Member - Toyocrusa (NSW) - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 21:01

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 21:01
Knothome. As you are not a member would you write to me at robmarcol@hotmail.com Depending on where you are I may have some valuable information for you. Cheers, Bob.
AnswerID: 536921

Reply By: oetkb - Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 21:18

Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 at 21:18
I have the 2010 76 series and the only competition on your list is the 200. I have one for the wife and one for work. I went the work mate option as im not interested in carpet floors and electric windows. I want grunt under load and reliability. The 76 has it in spades!! Get the 76, upgrade the suspension and put in a bigger tank and never look back. Those other options will do it but your gunna kill that little hamster spinning that big wheel.
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Reply By: Batt's - Friday, Aug 01, 2014 at 02:42

Friday, Aug 01, 2014 at 02:42
I would also check if the off road towing capacity is different to the on road because over the yrs some vehicles have had 2 different recommended capacities. Personally I would leave a decent safety margin for towing off road by not exceeding the tow vehicles weight just imagine how you're going to stop if you lose the brakes on the van when you're being pushed down a hill on a gravel or dirt track. Also the extra stress being placed on the towing hitch suspension, driveline, chassis and tyres especially the vehicles rear tyres in rough conditions.
AnswerID: 536930

Follow Up By: garrycol - Friday, Aug 01, 2014 at 10:43

Friday, Aug 01, 2014 at 10:43
Most vehicles only have a 750kg offroad capacity offroad but you will not be towing a 3t caravan offroad.
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Follow Up By: Batt's - Friday, Aug 01, 2014 at 12:40

Friday, Aug 01, 2014 at 12:40
By reading the thread it seems like Knothome will be towing 2,500kg plus off road in the Kimberleys etc especially after the van has been loaded it will probably be plus or minus 3,000kg. Then add on whatever else is in the rear of the wagon so to me unless you have an unlimited budget like the Gall boys I would be reassessing the tow vehicle like mentioned below a big yank tank would probably be the safer option if your considering towing close to the manufactures on road towing capacity.
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Reply By: 671 - Friday, Aug 01, 2014 at 10:40

Friday, Aug 01, 2014 at 10:40
I noticed the ability of a car to control a van has been mentioned in some of the answers. That is a very easily overlooked factor in towing big vans. A 200 series would tow the van with ease but so would a 1959 Morris Minor with a Chev V8 in it. Even the most inexperienced caravaner would question the little Morrie's capacity to control it for obvious reasons. The reasons are still there with the Cruiser but they are not so obvious. A big 3 to 3.5 ton van would have it right on its limit with little, if anything, in reserve. A sudden change in direction of the van at the right speed could easily end in disaster.

I would not even consider the utes for the same reason. They are much lighter in weight, their wheel base is not all that long and the tow balls are around 1.2 metres back from the rear axle. That distance is really a lever sticking out behind the car with a huge weight swinging around on the end of it. Somebody was once quoted as saying "Give me a lever and I will move the world". Plenty of big vans on the end of those levers have moved those utes right out of the way in seconds and the drivers would not have had any warning.

I can't ever remember seeing one of those utes towing a big van in the TV commercials. It is usually a big work trailer. Those trailers could easily weigh 3.5 tons and be half the length and height of a similar weight van. All of the gear in them would not be far from the axles so they don't have the long heavy ends of a big van to swing around like pendulums. The ball weight would not have to be as high as a similar weight van. All of this adds up to it being very hard for one to throw the ute around.

A ute only has to safely tow a trailer like that in some conditions to meet its manufacturer's towing claims. The manufacturers don't claim they will tow a maximum weight van, or anything else for that matter, anywhere and in any conditions. When you start taking cars up near the maximum, a few restrictions start creeping in.

The advertised towing capacity of cars is usually the maximum possible in good highway conditions. Most manufacturer's will tell you should be reduced as road conditions deteriorate.

Before you buy any car, I would suggest you ring the manufacturer on their customer advisory number that will be listed on their web site and discuss all aspects of towing a big van with it. Don't ask a dealer. They would tell you it would even tow a Centurion tank in order to get a sale.

My own personal preference for towing a 3 to 3.5 ton van would be something big from the US. Those big pickups have the power to easily tow a big van plus the weight and wheelbase to control it.
AnswerID: 536951

Follow Up By: gbc - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 07:25

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 07:25
Ranger (and the 70 series) is a longer overall vehicle with over 400mm longer wheelbase than a cruiser 200, but you discounted them as being small? Forget tv adds, ask people who actually tow that weight. As you have alluded to, that much bigger first class lever up front more than makes up for the slightly longer 2nd class lever behind the axles (200 has a pretty big bum itself).
I'd suggest you hook up a big van and experience just how stable that big wheelbase is in unsettled conditions.
No doubt the 200 is the king of this comp, but the difference isn't as big any more and that is evidenced by the number of nomads and tradies buying the ford/Mazda for towing duties.
My personal preference is that big vans have a better 2nd class lever (longer draw) to control their own weight instead of needing the vehicle having to make up for rubbish design trying to shoehorn unrealistic expectations into ADR constraints. Check out how long the yank boat trailers are. Much safer to tow, but much harder to fit into the maccas car park.
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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 11:52

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 11:52
Trouble with any of those big US pickups is that the answer to any enquiry about engine issues and repairs involves the words: "flat bed truck to a capital city".

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Follow Up By: 671 - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 22:16

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 22:16
"Ranger (and the 70 series) is a longer overall vehicle with over 400mm longer wheelbase than a cruiser 200, but you discounted them as being small?"

It depends on what you compare them to. All of the research in recent years points to a suitable tow car as being at least as heavy as the van and preferably heavier. The wheel base should be as long as possible and it should have the shortest possible rear overhang. That has been proven in testing and it also passes the common sense test. That means a 3 to 3.5 ton vans should have a big US pickup or a truck if you want the best possible chance of controlling them at all times. Those vehicles make a Ranger and a 70 look like a midget.

I agree with you about the 200. They are very short in the wheelbase. They have the engine to tow just about anything at whatever speed you want and no doubt big vans feel stable behind them but just about all vans do until the right set of circumstances all line up and they jackknife in seconds.

Another issue with very large off road vans is the ball weight. A WDH will almost certainly be needed but they can cause no end of problems on undulating unsealed roads or tracks. This can be made worse by the long rear overhang of utes. If the solution is to beef up the rear suspension then you have to ask yourself if you have bought the right car. Buying a new car and immediately installing a non genuine suspension in it just to make it do what you bought it to do is ridiculous. What is wrong with buying a big enough car in the first place?

There is a bit more information here on car to van weight ratios. http://caravanbuyersguide.com.au/tow-vehicle-caravan-weight/ That is just a fraction of what can be found on the net on all aspects of towing and the extensive research into it.
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Reply By: 410 - Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 14:45

Saturday, Aug 02, 2014 at 14:45
Hi
When I first asked questions regarding a powerful and safe tow vehicle towing a 3 tonne van the 200 series twin turbo diesel was the answer so I purchased the GX 200 wagon and other than the USA big trucks this Cruiser has the power and safety. As I was told the tow vehicle needs to be as heavy or heavier than the van.
We have not long sold our van and selling the Cruiser as a smaller car can be used to run to the shops and school. If interested, reply with an email.

Regards
Richard
AnswerID: 537003

Reply By: Knothome - Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014 at 00:51

Tuesday, Aug 12, 2014 at 00:51
Still trying to decide now it's a second hand 200 series or new 70series GXL with factory diff locks mmm
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