I'm looking to buy a car capable of towing a horsebox plus 2 horses, probably about 2000 kg all up. I'm not too keen on owning a 4wd due to the expense and dubious image but can I get away with a 'normal' car? Also a friend of mine was advised to get an automatic as it is better for towing. Is this correct? Would appreciate any advice on cars/towing etc..
A topic that is of increasing interest as the "post 1997" EEC rules on this bite for younger drivers.
Assuming you passed your test before that date you just have the weight and stability of the towcar to consider. Perhaps you know it is advised to keep the trailer weight to 85% of the kerb weight of the vehicle, 100% being the absolute maximum or the manufacturers advised towing weight...whichever is less. Heavily built 4WD vehicles often exceed these guidelines in complete safety as they are designed with heavy towing in mind.
If you have a look at car kerb weights you will see there is virtually no car advised for towing the weight you mention. Take an otherwise well thought of towcar, the Xantia Estate HDi with it's excellent self-levelling suspension. This has a maximum tow weight of about 1500Kg (100% of kerb weight) and an advised 85% figure of just 1261Kg.
Even monster cars such as V6 Omega, Volvo 850, Mercedes etc are not advised to tow these large weights.
So if you want to do it in complete safety the Discovery type vehicle is essential. And if you have such a genuine need for one don't worry about image. The only time they slip in image stakes is when they're only seen at the school and supermarket. Round here they are the standard well respected horse owners vehicle. That's why a clean L-reg TDi sells for three times that of a similar age/condition TD hatchback car.
And if you ever tow to a show on a damp field the 4wd will become essential.
A telling demonstration of the need to use a vehicle designed with towing in mind is that my 40yr old Land Rover with about 60hp has a reccomended towing weight above that of any modern car and most current Japanese 4WDs.
Lastly a couple of points. An auto box will give a smooth tow if fitted to a very powerful engine, otherwise it will sap power needed for towing. Rear wheel drive gives better stability mostly. Self levelling suspension, as with some Citroen models and others, helps stability a great deal as the towbar height is always at the ideal.
Make of trailer is important too. Some of the 30yr old heavy Rice models on 16" wheels tow far better than lightweight modern ones on car type wheels. There is no substitute for trying out a combination if possible.
Horses are an unusual load. They can move about affecting the stability as you drive. The lighter the trailer compared to the horse the worse this feels.
Currently we tow light/middleweight animals in a smaller trailer with TD Citroens, the only time I push the cars abilities is towing full horse trailer loads of hay. This is good practice in seeing how the car behaves without the risk to livestock.
The best towing vehicle I have used is a Chevy Tahoe but the petrol comsuption is alarming You could use a VW transporeter turbo Diesel they come with 4 wd and would easily pull 2500kg legally also the sharan is available with 4wd but I am not sure if it is available in the UK.
WT I would say is do not be tempted by the small breed off roaders that are around in such numbers they are purely city poser vehicles.
regards Andy Bairsto
get a jeep cherokee, not the grand model as that just costs a fortune, i have found low mileage jeeps 1996 platers for about £4500. also i used to own a nissan patrol the old boxy models, i had a 1986 model.
Don't know what your budget is but my mate just bought a G reg Merc 300 Estate 4matic for £3500. A lot of car for the cash and 4wd when you need it and switchable auto trans.
The older merc estates would be good too cos they weigh 2 tonnes themselves.
This all sounds like sensible advice - particularly D.Woollard's comments based on years of experience.
Just a thought of my own....
Whatever motor you buy to tow your horsebox, please think of the other road users without horseboxes who have something more pressing to get to such as their job when next towing your prized neddies to the Nemptnett Thrumpnall Gymkana(?) and pull in now and then.
I bet that Mercedes 4WD is a brilliant machine and it is too rare for me to have a towing figure for it. But looking at the normal Mercedes Estate figures show just what a problem it is trying to tow large trailers with a car, even a solid one like the MB.
Max advised tow weights for 300TD Estate/280TE Estate/320TE Estate are all about 1350KG. Compare that with the Discovery TDi at 4000Kg. Most full size Japanese 4WDs tow in the region of 3000 - 3500Kg.
The main difference is the separate chassis of most 4WDs. If you get the chance to look at a normal car on the ramps fitted with a towbar actually the mounting/stress points are individually quite weak. Sometimes the towbar only picks up on bumper mounts and a couple of extra drillings through the boot floor with penny washers behind. Often these points are part of a crumple zone where all the stresses were designed to operate in the opposite direction to pulling when towing.
All this is fine with a medium weight caravan loaded with a weeks breakfast cereal and a portable TV. Towing live animals all up at two tonnes is a very different matter.
Looks like you need a 4x4 then. May I recommend the X5 4.4 Sport at the other end of the spectrum (as mere £45k). Had a test drive in one (well a mate was driving) and it's an absolute monster, felt about as fast as a 530. Not sure if it has a seperate chassis tho - maybe thats why it handles.