The brochure on your Ute or SUV says 3.5-Tonne tow rating, so you can choose the big boat or caravan now right? Well not exactly.
It seems that GVM, GCM, Tare weight, Kerb Mass, Tow Ball (snigger) load, how many passengers, and even how much luggage you pack, all have an effect on what you can tow to the beach or holiday park or indeed, has an effect on your insurance. Confused? Yep so were we, so Holden NZ took us on a nostalgic Kiwiana Caravan holiday experience to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ us what it all meant.
In order not to confuse you, (or me for that matter), the 3.5-tonne towing ratings on brochures are possible BUT they are mostly based on ideal (often impossible) parameters, ie, your Ute or SUV with only one person, 10L of fuel and packing just a sandwich and a scowl. The moment you start adding friends, luggage, vehicle accessories, fishing gear and a hearty breakfast, it’s VERY easy to go over your tow ratings. The calculations are head-scratching and the variables appear to be infinite, but they all appear to result in the same conclusion, it’s very difficult to ‘legally’ tow 3.5-tonnes and therefore have your insurance covered.
In saying all that, Holden’s Colorado and Trailblazer offer arguably the best options in their classes plus they have plenty of other tricks up their sleeves too.
With the promise of learning all about tow ratings being the theme, we headed to Holden NZ’s head office in Otahuhu for a maths class. As I said before, the numbers and variables are perplexing but the results conclude that 3.5-tonnes quickly become 2.5-tonnes and when the calculations are offered up to other vehicle marques, 1.5-tonne and even sub-1-tonne towing rates become glaringly apparent. The difference in what you can tow is both frightening and funny, especially when we took to our vehicles and headed to our next stop, South Auckland Caravan Ltd (Jayco Caravan agents) in East Tamaki.
Caravans have changed a lot since I was a kid, the fragile and ill-equipped shells of yesterday have been transformed to near 5-star mobile accommodation and none moreso than with #1 player Jayco. Spacious, modern and plush with fridge/freezers, satellite TV, modern ovens, I could go on, especially when you look at the 2-tonne plus models, the ones that are closer to 1-tonne would give a cat an awful headache should you decide to swing it inside. And that’s the point. Holden, with the way the Colorado and TrailBlazer are constructed, allows you to go for the bigger option, invite the family AND pack more than a toothbrush (my wife would be happy).
Fully hitched up and with the trailer-braking system set to 4 (this makes the brakes on the trailer do their job and not try to overtake), we headed for them there hills, well the Coromandel.
In all honesty, I’ve not been a big fan of towing, it all seems rather slow and cumbersome (yes I too have been behind a fair few Caravans in my lifetime), but the Colorado seemed to pull well. I’m reliably informed that it’s due to the 500Nm/147kW output from the 2.8L Duramax engine (apparently it’s the best Ute in a ‘tow’ drag race too), while its Helical LSD ensures, well, limited slip. Uphill, gear selection was seamless (you really don’t want to lose momentum) while downhill, gradient engine braking came in automatically (think of truck making the big rev noise). Make no mistake, you can certainly feel the weight of the Caravan behind but 90km/h was easy to muster.
Another Holden vehicle trick, is in its steering. Behind the scenes, clever technical wizardry (created by people in white coats locally) ensures that annoying road vibrations aren’t transferred to you via the steering wheel and should the road camber try to push you from the centre line out to the side, the smart steering system will compensate. Like I said, all this goes on without you knowing, the result is just an easy, relaxed drive for you behind the wheel.
The tight, twisting roads that led to the Shelly Beach Top 10 holiday park we stayed in were both glorious to drive along and terrifyingly narrow. Lots of eye-movement between mirrors was required but keeping everything between the white lines was surprisingly easy.
Unhitched from the Holden’s at the campsite, the Caravans were able to stretch their wings, quite literally. Sides expanded, tops elevated and interiors were explored, one even had an internal garage!
Next stop on our Kiwiana holiday experience was fishing. Seriously, catching Snapper near the mussel farms is like the proverbial ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ a great feed was caught by us all with tall sporting tales being provided by Mills and Beaver (of All Black fame), Holden Ambassadors that hadn’t needed to be forced to join us.
Dinner (Fush n Chups) was consumed on the beach with stories about the size of fish caught that day growing as large as our bellies (or maybe that was just me).
Following a comfortable night’s sleep, in true Kiwi holiday fashion, the rain joined our break, making the drive back to Auckland, just a little more exciting. The Trailer braking dial was turned up a notch or two, but the stability and ease remained just as easy.
The two-day excursion was both fun and very educational with the takeaway points being paramount. Firstly, just because your vehicle brochure says 3.5-tonne towing is possible, please double-check on what load you have and how it’s distributed. Things can go wrong and insurances can be invalid if you haven’t ticked all the boxes. Secondly though, Caravan holidays are fun and exciting, it does turn back the hands of time a little but it’s an experience and a tradition that really should be shared with the family. And last but not least, the Colorado and Trailblazer made the entire trip as ‘easy as’. From the way they managed the load and terrain, to the simplicity of steering inputs and overall comfort.
Towing, Holden – you’ve got this aye.
Thanks for the pics Simon Watts