One of our readers needs help with a towcar decision… Particularly concerning a Toyota Fortuner.

UPDATED 08/01/2016 with information from Toyota.

“I was eagerly looking forward to buying a new car and caravan, undertaking a towing course and then joining the grey nomads in a few years to enjoy touring around Australia.
Everything looked so simple, until I started doing some homework and came across the article on “Why a 3500kg tow rating may not …… . Wow, so much to learn and so much to do before I spend a considerable amount of money.
My intention was to initially purchase a new Toyota Hilux but the size put me off. The new Toyota Fortuner has received some very good reviews and I am leaning towards the Crusade, Towing capacity 2800 (Auto) Tare 2135, GVM 2750 and GCM 5545. Do not have back axle weight capacity or tow bar capacity details (waiting on Toyota to advise).
At a later stage I will move towards buying a caravan around 19 foot (they still use feet!) with a Tare of 2130, ATM of 2530 and unloaded ball weight of 120kg.
I am struggling to work out if the Fortuner will do the job for a “19 footer” or exactly what the “maximum” would be if I wanted a bigger caravan. Suffice to say, I do not want to place undue stress on the vehicle or place us or anyone else at risk.
Any guidance you can provide would be very much appreciated. If this is not something your comfortable with, maybe you can advise the name and contact of someone who has your level of expertise.”

Practical Motoring Says:

We’ve covered this in detail on our Everything You Need to Know about Towing Heavy Trailers article which includes definitions of terms used here, but here’s a recap using Fortuner-specific details.
First we look at the Gross Combination Mass (GCM), which is 5545kg.  The sum of the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) is 2750kg and max braked tow capacity is 2800kg (auto, manuals are 3000kg), totaling 5550kg or very nearly the same as the GCM.  This means that the Fortuner can tow its maximum weight at only 5kg under its GVM, which is excellent, most wagons don’t even come close.
Next we subtract the tare weight from the GVM to find the payload, so 2800 – 2135 = 615kg.  That’s how much the car can carry.  Based on the calculation above, if we are to tow a 2800kg trailer then that becomes 610kg, or we can go to 615 and tow a 2795kg trailer.
However, we’re not finished yet. The maximum braked tow weight is 2800kg, which means a 10% towball mass of 280kg and that for Toyotas comes out of the payload, so we have 615kg – 280kg = 330kg.   The figure of 330kg doesn’t go very far if you subtract two adults of say 80kg each, leaving 170kg…not much when you look at luggage, some accessories and the like.  However, it’s no worse than most other comparable wagons, and better than many, especially the top-spec Everest.
So the bottom line for the Fortuner is – you can load it to the its GVM while towing a trailer 5kg below 2800kg, provided you accept you’ll have only 330kg of payload in the Fortuner.  We don’t have rear axle loading figures but Toyota is normally pretty good on that score so let’s assume for the moment that’ll be within limits.
Now onto your trailer, which has an ATM of 2530kg, 270kg less than 2800kg.  So we have a TBM of 10% or close enough to 250kg, leaving us 345kg of payload…still not a lot after the weight of two adults is subtracted.  The Fortuner can be fully loaded to its GVM of 2750kg as 2750 + 2350kg = 5100kg, less than the GCM of 5545kg.  It’ll be safe to assume that the trailer will be loaded to its ATM.
So you can tow your 19ft trailer with the Fortuner, but still only when lightly loaded.  Personally, I’d be getting into one of the vehicles rated 3000 or preferably 3500kg if you want to drag a trailer of that size.  Discovery, LC200, Pajero Sport will be here soon, maybe one of the utes which doesn’t mislead about its tow figure – the utes have the advantage of a larger payload so once the TBM is accounted for you can still get in the car to drive it.
Another interesting factor is that Toyota have a weight distribution hitch (also known as a load distribution hitch) for the Fortuner and recommend you use it.   Specifically, this is what they say:

The Toyota Fortuner can tow the rated loads [ 2800kg & 3000kg auto / manual ] without a Load Distribution Hitch, however we recommend using a Toyota Genuine Load Distribution hitch in an effort to provide the best possible driving experience when towing.

There is no specific weight at which a Load Distribution Hitch is recommended, it really depends on the individual loading configuration and importantly, resultant vehicle posture.

Fortuner LDH
A weight distribution hitch (WDH), sometimes known as a LDH (load distribution hitch) transfers weight from the rear axle of the car to the front axle and the trailer’s wheels. It does not reduce overall weight of the combination. A WDH is a factory option for the Fortuner.
By the way the Fortuner is pretty much the same size as the Hilux on which it is based.  Finally, do you need a caravan that big?  Always worth asking the question.  The lighter the better as far as the towcar is concerned, and try to centralise weight as far as possible.
Another common towing question is:

Can I use 5th and 6th gear when towing?

Yes you can. The Fortuner manual states that 5th and 6th are best avoided when you want engine braking, which is pretty obvious. The official words we have from Toyota on this subject are:

Gear selection when towing should be determined by the actual load placed on the vehicle and the driving conditions i.e. flat road, hilly or winding terrain etc. therefore appropriate gear selection is critical.

Naturally when engine braking is required, especially when traversing downhill terrain 4th gear and lower, will provide the optimal ratio’s to assist in decelerating –rather than leaving the vehicle in “D” Drive (for Automatic) or the higher gears for Manual variants.

So, just leave it in Drive but if you need to engine brake, for example down extended steep hills, then use the manual shifter to select 4th and below.  This is good advice for any vehicle, even when not towing as brakes can overheat on long downhill runs. The advice does NOT say that 5th and 6th cannot be used to tow.

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1 comment

  1. I had a look at the Fortuna and Mitsi Pajero Sport last week. The Fortuna is typical Toyota price (high) and has very clumsy folding third row seats which take up a lot of space and don’t seem to be removable. The base model still has steel wheels. The Mitsi is 5 seat only, more reasonably priced, includes leather seats in mid spec model, tows more and has longer warranty. Neither, though, are convincing me to swap from my Territory diesel to tow my 2.2 tonne caravan. But if you want to go off-road, different story. I’d probably get an Isuzu MuX.

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