Here in New Zealand, we are used to seeing almost anything towing almost anything. Back in the era of the big Auzzie 6’s, it wasn’t anything remarkable to see the family station wagon with a dirty great 20odd foot fishing boat on the back, or, regularly, a Kingswood Ute with a stockcar on a tandem wheel trailer on the road on a Saturday night.
In Europe it was a bit of a different story, with the predominance of small cars on the roads, it was left to transporters to get things places, and the most the family car could be expected to tow was a small caravan.
With the worldwide growth in the popularity in SUV’s much of the towing roles have passed on to this class of vehicle, so the Caravan Towing Awards carry a lot of weight over there, and for a kiwi family that doesn’t want a ute as the family vehicle, but still has stuff to get around, these awards should carry some weight here too.
Volvo has demonstrated the strength of its SUV range with the XC40 and XC60 together winning four honours in the 2019 Caravan and Motorhome Club Towcar of the Year Competition. The honours, including the overall Towcar of the Year award for the XC60, were presented at a ceremony held at the RAC Club in London.
The Volvos were among 35 vehicles tested by expert judges at the Millbrook proving ground in Bedfordshire. Each car was checked by the club’s technical team before being put through their paces by a specialist driving team.
Performance was tested and each vehicle’s ‘caravanability’ was assessed, taking into account factors such as the boot space available to carry kit, accessories for a caravan trip and the towball height.
Assessing the XC60, the judges declared they were impressed by the car’s “outstanding performance” in terms of acceleration, braking and stability when towing a caravan, showing perfect poise and minimal body roll when towing both at high speeds and on twisty routes. “It also gave one of the most comfortable rides of the entire competition – all in all an ideal car for caravanners,” they added.
The XC60’s success adds to its impressive list of awards and achievements since being launched last year, including the UK and the World Car of the Year 2018 titles, and the safest car to be tested by in the independent safety organisation Euro NCAP in 2017.
The version put to the test by the Caravan and Motorhome Club was a D5 AWD. The heart of its towing capability is the D5 2.0-litre PowerPulse diesel engine, a member of Volvo’s new Drive-E family of compact, lightweight and highly efficient four-cylinder powerplants. The D5 musters 235hp and an impressive 480Nm of torque, available from 1,750 to 2,200rpm to give smooth and surefooted towing performance towing trailers of up to 2.4 tonnes. An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive as standard add to the easy and reassuringly secure driving experience.
Where the XC40 – a D4 AWD model – was concerned, the judges were unanimous in announcing “towing just got cooler”, acknowledging the impressive design quality of the latest addition to Volvo’s premium SUV line-up. The award was clinched on performance as well as desirability: the XC40 “excelled” in many of the benchmark tests, in particular, the required hill start on a 17% gradient, which it performed “without hesitation”.
Notably it just beat the petrol-powered XC40 T5 model to the win.
The XC40’s 190hp D4 diesel engine is another Drive-E unit that’s well suited to towing duty. It delivers maximum torque of 400Nm from 1,750 to 2,500rpm, ensuring effortless, flexible performance even when fully laden (the braked towing capacity is 2.1 tonnes). As with the XC60 D5, the powertrain features an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Volvo’s Polestar Engineered Optimisation performance upgrades are available for both the XC40 and XC60, providing a series of electronic enhancements for engine performance, gearshifts and accelerator response. The result is a more precise and controlled driving experience, further increasing the models’ suitability for towing.
Both the XC40 and XC60 are generously equipped as standard, including Volvo’s technically advanced and intuitive Sensus touchscreen control system, and the City Safety range of active and preventative safety features.
The cars’ exterior designs and cabin appointments reflect Volvo’s contemporary luxury and craftsmanship, while the spacious interiors are adaptable for accommodating both passengers and cargo.
Jon Wakefield, Managing Director of Volvo Car UK, said: “The Caravan and Motorhome Club has tailored its awards programme to reflect the real-world priorities of people who need a towcar they can trust to do the job, that is safe, well equipped and cost-effective to run. It’s hugely rewarding that both our XC40 and XC60 have performed so strongly, emphasising how they provide such a strong combination of practicality, versatility and genuine customer appeal.”
See more images in the gallery above.