6 reasons you need a big American ute…to tow with

Not even the mighty LC200 is a fit vehicle to tow a 3500kg trailer, let alone smaller dual-cab utes. Here are six reasons you need a big American ute.

There’s now quite a few American right-hand drive ute conversions available here in Australia, and they’re popular among those who tow big loads because, well, they’re the best towcars for big trailers. Having driven quite a few including a back-to-back test with a LandCruiser 2– Series, here are five reasons why you need to think big when you tow big:

1. Heavier weight – the heavier the towcar is relative to the trailer, the safer you are. No car ever got overturned by a 6×4 box trailer but plenty of 4x4s weighing 3000kg have been flipped by an out-of-control caravan weighing the same. The Ram 1500 below has a tare of 2600kg, and that’s the lightest of the big utes, dwarfing the Ranger which itself is one of the largest in its class.

2. Longer wheelbase – the greater the distance between the front and rear axles, the more stable the vehicle is. The big utes have nice long wheelbases, another 400mm plus longer than a Ford Ranger in most cases.

3. Shorter overhang – that’s the distance between the centre of the rear wheel and the tow hitch. Check out how far back the rear wheels are in the picture below – that means less leverage for the trailer to boss the tow vehicle around, and less extra weight on the rear axle.

4. Good towing masses – as an example, the RAM 1500 can tow up to 4500kg, so a 3000kg trailer is well within its limits. Not so much a Ranger which is right at its limit with a 3000kg trailer.

5. Power – this isn’t the most important criterion for towing, but it’s up there…the torque and power of big utes far exceeds that of the likes of Hilux and Ranger, so the tow is comfortable and easy. For example, the diesel-powered Ram 2500 offers 276kW of power and 1084Nm of torque.

6. Built-in towing equipment – some of the big utes have built-in towing mirrors, special reversing cameras, a tow/haul automatic mode, exhaust brakes and electric brakes and a towbar…as standard. This helps bridge the cost difference between them and the smaller trucks. It should also be mentioned that these big utes are pretty well appointed for luxuries too, in some cases rivalling a ‘Cruiser.

Ford F-250 showing trailer setup, and tow/haul mode engaged.

Now some reasons why not…

Of course, there’s disadvantages to the big utes. They’re more costly, no sub-$50k bargains here – your starting price is more likely to be $80,000 plus. The physically larger size which is great for towing means daily-driving isn’t as easy but, that said, everyone who complains about the size of a car generally does so when they’re new to it, and it doesn’t take long before you’re slotting it in to all the usual gaps.

You may also be thinking that big utes have huge load capacity…they don’t. In many cases payload is around 900kg, barely any better than Hilux/Ranger, so they don’t make great platforms for off-road tourers given any accessories will weigh more due to size. But if you just need to tow a big, heavy trailer…there’s nothing quite like a big, heavy truck which is designed to tow from the ground up. Once you’ve towed heavy with one, you won’t want anything else.

Towed by a V8 Ram 1500 with a Harrop supercharger, this is the fastest the Forester has ever accelerated!

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Automotive technical journalist specialising in 4X4s, camping, racecars and towing. Has designed and run driving courses covering offroading driving, winching, track racing and towing. Enjoys most things involving wings, wheels or sails. Follow me on Facebook and YouTube if you want explanations you won't find anywhere else!

1 COMMENT

  1. Big Expensive American Utes are not the only solution to towing big loads legally. I have an Isuzu NLS AWD GVM 4500 and GCM 8000 which can tow a big trailer and set me back only just over $50,000 new late last year. They have a wide dealer network, a fair bit of up to date tech these days but are a different experience to driving a car like ute. Not for dropping the kids to school looking tough but it does get some respect meeting oncoming traffic on a gravel back road and can carry well over double what most utes can whilst still towing a 3.5ton rig legally. I am a new owner of this about to be Grey Nomad solution now and will report back after long term use about just how effective this choice has been.

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