Can you recommend a large, automatic SUV capable of towing a heavy horsebox to replace our Shogun?

I recently sought advice about the BMW 5 and Audi A6 3.0 diesel estate cars. Being a police officer able to drive BMW 5 Series, I know how good they are to drive and how safe they are should you have a big accident. My present problem is that my partner tows a horse box with a 2006 LWB Shogun diesel, as she is well aware of having a vehicle that can lawfully tow that weight. Her large horse is sometimes joined by her daughter’s pony, so it is a heavy load. Her car is the manual version with 75,000 miles and our three kids (and dog) love the height and space.

We have the opportunity in the next six months to change a car and I had originally wanted to get an estate for me (as I love driving) and get rid of my Focus diesel. However, sitting down and chatting, we thought about running the Ford as our mileage car for work (I do about 16,000 miles a year travelling to work) and to get something more comfortable, that is easily able to tow but would transport the family long distances. I know that What Car shows the Discovery as best tow car for that weight category but, unlike the Shogun, I fear it would spend more of its time with its maker than me. With about £20,000 - £25,000 to spend, what would be our best option? I really want an automatic gearbox, leather trim, cruise control, sat nav, iPod-compatible stereo and something that is good to drive. Does this combination exist?

Asked on 8 November 2010 by SE, Whitstable

Answered by Honest John
Automatic gearboxes make towing easier. It certainly makes setting off easier and eliminates dual mass flywheel problems. But autoboxes will not tug as big a weight as a manual. For example, the current Hyundai Santa Fe manual can pull 2,500kg, but the auto can only pull 2,000kg. Toyota Land Cruiser Amazon diesels used to be the tow car kings, but are expensive and juicy and the air suspension plays up. A Shogun or a Land Cruiser LC are the next things down, but a Discovery 3 outdrives them both by a long way.

Unfortunately Disco 3 HSEs (or Range Rover Sport HSEs) are the spec everyone wants (including you) and sell for something like £7,000 more than lesser specs, even at auction. They don't represent value for money. You could think about a double cab pick-up. I rate the Isuzu Rodeo 2.5 and 3.0 I-TEQ as the best pick-up engines and best manual gearboxes (I don't know about the autos). The ultimate car for the job would be a Mercedes-Benz GL CDI 420 V8 diesel, and you might even find one for £20,000 - £25,000.
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