Why most modern ute tow ratings are bulls#!t.

By Unsealed 4X4 5 Min Read

The inherent lie behind braked towing capacities.


We’re all being a little bit hoodwinked at the moment; led astray by 4WD manufacturers. It’s to do with the relevant tow ratings of vehicles, especially utes. It seems like all manufacturers are hell-bent to have a 3.5-tonne braked towing capacity, the problem is that they are all cutting corners to get there.


If you believe what they tell you in the advertising, these utes are all stronger than Steven Seagal’s stare, and can do just about anything tough – especially towing and hauling big loads. But not everything is as it seems, and it’s important to actually know the limitations of these vehicles.



Let’s have a look at the braked towing capacity figures, in order of 4X4 ute sales popularity. I’ll pick the highest-spec models (with diesel engines) to keep the field even.


Toyota HiLux SR5: 3,500kg (manual), 3,200kg (auto)

Ford Ranger Wildtrak: 3,500kg

Mitsubishi Triton Exceed: 3,100kg

Holden Colorado Z71: 3,500kg

Nissan Navara ST-X: 3,500kg

Isuzu D-Max: 3,500kg

Mazda BT-50: 3,500kg

Volkswagen Amarok: 3,000kg

Volkswagen Amarok V6: 3,000kg


Oh lord; I pity the fool that thinks that’s the end of the story. And I genuinely worry for the folk out there who don’t know any better and take the salesman at his word. When they ask, “Will this tow my caravan?” Put simply, Gross Combination Mass does not equal Gross Vehicle Mass plus Braked Towing Capacity. Let’s look at the rest of the specs, and understand what’s happening here. Now, where did I leave that old Casio calculator…



Towing: 3,500kg (manual), 3,200kg (auto)

GVM: 3,000kg

GCM: 5,850kg

Kerb: 2,075kg

Payload: 925kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 275kg

Actual towing capacity @ full payload: 2,850kg



Towing: 3,500kg

GCM: 6,000kg

GVM: 3,200kg

Kerb: 2,250kg

Payload: 950 kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 250kg

Actual towing capacity @ full payload: 2,800kg




Towing: 3,100kg

GCM:  5,885kg

GVM: 2,900kg

Kerb: 1,955kg

Payload: 945kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 830kg

Actual towing capacity @ full payload: 2,985kg


Holden Colorado

GCM: 6,000kg

GVM: 3,150kg

Kerb: 2,150kg

Payload: 1,000kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 350kg

Actual towing @ full payload: 2,850kg



GVM: 2,910kg

GCM: 5,910kg

Kerb: 1,969kg

Payload: 941kg

Navara towball penalty:100kg – 130kg

200kg – 280kg

300kg – 410kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 311-31kg (that’s not a typo, it’s 31kg)

Actual towing @ full payload: 3,000kg



GVM: 2,950kg

GCM: 5,950kg

Kerb: 1,940kg

Payload: 1,010kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 510kg

Actual towing @ full payload: 3,000kg



GVM: 3,200kg

GCM: 6,000kg

Kerb: 2,118kg

Payload: 1,082kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 382kg

Actual towing @ full payload: 3,200kg



GVM: 3,040kg

GCM: 5,550kg

Kerb: 2,020kg

Payoad: 1,018kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 530kg

Actual towing @ full payload: 2,510kg


Amarok V6

GVM: 3,080kg

GCM: 6,000kg

Kerb: 2,216kg

Payload: 864kg

Actual payload @ full towing: 784kg

Actual towing @ full payload: 2,920kg


The problem is pretty obvious. It makes realistically trying to understand your legal limits here in the real world quite difficult. 3.5-tonne towing does not mean you can tow 3.5 tonnes. And a 1-tonne payload does not mean you can put a tonne in the back, if you’re towing.


A dishonourable mention here needs to be levelled at the Navara. Having a GCM that isn’t truly representative of a full payload and full towing capacity that sucks, in my opinion. But Nissan, taking it to the next level of limiting complexity with its towball mass clause, which could effectively give you a 31kg payload… that’s absolute rubbish. When you start factoring in extra passengers and accessories like barwork and canopies, things only get more dire. In fact, you even have to include the towbar most of the time.


Who is doing it right? Only Toyota’s 70 Series LandCruiser, these days. 3.5-tonne towing plus a 3.3-tonne GVM equals a 6,800kg GCM. The Land Rover Defender 130 had better stats at 3,500 + 3,500 = 7,000, but it’s sadly no longer around. Step up into the Light Truck category if you’re really serious and look at an Iveco Daily 4X4.


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