The Subaru Outback 2.0D Lineartronic has won the 2014 TowCAR of the Year competition, in association with CAR and Leisure Wheels magazines, Campworld and Forever Resorts.
The competition, which saw twelve automatic 4×4 vehicles tested with 1.4-ton Jurgens Penta caravans at the Boekenhoutkloof Traffic College, tries to find the SUV which performs best in a host of towing-related categories which are evaluated in controlled conditions.
The Outback Diesel CVT, which features a Boxer turbocharged diesel engine, Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive™ and Lineartronic™ CVT automatic transmission, overcame the odds after its on-paper specifications seemed to be disadvantaged against larger and more powerful automatic 4×4 SUVs.
The Traffic College’s massive skidpan, where the tow vehicles’ traction and stability systems could be tested to the limits and beyond, as well as an enclosed test track, proved to be an ideal and safe base where the vehicles could be put through all their paces. The test day also included a 15 km road section, with inclines and declines, topped off with some fast and slow stretches, and bumpy and smooth sections.
Eight judges decided the outcome of the towing test. The panel included professional vehicle dynamics testers, top advanced driving instructors who specialise in towing, award winning motoring journalists and a professional racing legend who is also a keen caravanner.
The judges had to score each SUV in ten categories. These included exterior, interior, handling, stability, engine, transmission, braking, parking, cruising ability and value for money. All the SUVs were driven over exactly the same route, in exactly the same conditions, performing exactly the same tests along the way.
Says Jakes Jacobs, one of the judges and a legend of vehicle testing and racing in South Africa: “We judged these vehicles only as tow vehicles, towing a caravan designed for tar roads.”
The judges cited a number of the Outback’s facets which impressed them the most, including excellent handling and stability, as well as the collaboration between the two-litre turbocharged Boxer diesel engine (110 kW and 350 Nm) and the Lineartronic™ transmission, with its simulated gearing.
“The engine had almost 40 kW of power less on tap than some of the other SUVs, but thanks to the brilliant transmission, with its simulated gears and paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, the available power was always immediately accessible,” explains Jacobs.
“Some of the other SUVs had almost 500 Nm of torque to play with, but thanks to less effective auto transmissions and drivetrains, much of the torque was lost in translation, so to speak. Combine that with the Outback’s excellent handling and confidence-inspiring ride, as well as the roomy interior, and you end up with a very good, practical and safe towing package.”