The 2011 awards saw 19 manufacturers enter 35 vehicles into the awards - all of which were rigorously tested. The results of the 2011 Competition were announced at The Caravan Club Towcar of the Year Awards ceremony at the Royal Automobile Club in London on 23rd September.
The Skoda Superb Estate Elegance 2.0 TDI CR took the top honour in its price class and went on to be voted overall winner of the twenty-eighth Caravan Club Towcar of the Year 2011 competition, by a panel of 10 judges, for its great performance when towing in a variety of situations and its practicality as a caravanning family car.
Where, When and How…
Testing took place in August at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, probably the best car testing facility in the country. This year 35 cars were divided into five price classes and two All-Wheel Drive categories (under 1800kgs and over 1800kgs); on the basis that anyone thinking about buying a new car will first consider their budget.
Manufacturers were invited to submit for testing any cars that were new launches in the period 1st August 2009 to 30th September 2010, or existing models that had been substantially modified (eg new engine, different transmission etc). The Caravan Club also invites the previous year's overall winner to submit its car for re-testing - in this instance, the VW Golf SE 2.0TDI.
The cars entered are carefully scrutineered to make sure they conform to the exact specification declared on the entry documentation. Track tests, using six expert drivers, assess each car's towing ability as well as acceleration, braking and the ability to cope with demanding hill starts. Another team of four 'caravanability' judges makes a careful assessment of each entrant's usability in terms of everyday caravanning. Will it carry a set of awning poles, for instance, and do you have to get on your hands and knees to connect the caravan electrics?
All caravans used during testing were supplied by Bailey of Bristol and loaded to 85% of the relevant car's kerbweight. Noseweights are set at the car manufacturer's recommended limit, 5-7% of the caravan's running weight or the maximum stipulated weight for the caravan coupling head, whichever is lowest.
More about the winning vehicles…
Under £16,000 Class
Winner: Skoda Fabia Elegance 1.6 TDI CR
The Skoda Fabia Elegance boasts tenacious pulling power from rest, and it hardly twitched on Millbrook's high-speed bowl below 75mph. On the demanding hill route its steering was quick, accurate and placed the outfit just where it was aimed.
£16,000 to £20,000 Class
Winner: Fiat Doblo 2.0 MultiJet Eleganza
From a lively standing start the Doblò's performance felt strong with good stability. The judges had a great time threading the Doblò around the hill route. It stopped and pulled away on the hill well, too. The compact MPV easily swallows a full load making it ideal for caravanners.
£20,000 to £25,000 Class
Winner: Volkswagen Golf Match 2.0TDI 140
Romps off the line, before you know it you've passed 70mph and the engine is still offering more. On the hill circuit it snicked through the hairpins and off-camber downhill bends like it was on a roller-coaster's rails. The ride manages to be controlled yet compliant in just about the right amounts, while steering is well weighted, nicely geared and accurate. A slick gearshift and smoothly-engaging clutch combine with an efficient handbrake to make hill stops and starts.
£25,000 to £32,000 Class and Overall Caravan Club Towcar of the Year 2011
Winner: Skoda Superb Estate Elegance 2.0 TDI CR
Steps off the line with vigour, its light, forgiving clutch smoothing any driver bungling to let the gearshift snick through its gate at the flick of a finger. Up steep hills and down steep dales the car never gives cause for concern - it goes where it's aimed and obediently stays there. Agile, fun, satisfying. A very worthy winner.
The E350 made short work of the hill route and even rocketed up the hills that stunted most other competitors. Conveniently, the Mercedes-Benz has a knob in the boot that makes the towbar magically appear when turned - brilliant. Uniquely, the socket sits in the neck of the towball for unrivalled ease of connectivity. Add an electrically-operated tailgate, cavernous storage potential, 84kg noseweight and cracking towing data, and the E-Class is a more-than-deserving class winner.
Under 1800kgs All-Wheel Drive Category
Winner: Mitsubishi Outlander 2.2 DI-D Juro SST
Styling is unmistakably SUV, and encompasses a nicely-appointed and practical interior. It pulls away smartly with a set of smooth shifts. Perfect for caravanners, there is space to spare for any caravanning gear, very generous noseweight and no movement at all when hitched. Truly a nicely-rounded package.
Over 1800kgs All-Wheel Drive Category
Winner: Range Rover Sport TDV6 HSE
How do you persuade over 2.5-tonnes of 4x4, plus caravan, to perform like a sports grand tourer? Answer: 3.0-litres of pokey diesel mated to a pretty handy six-speed auto box and some useful suspension trickery, not forgetting 4WD by the 4WD experts. The Range Rover poo-pooed any pimple of a hill. It stopped and drove off again, just as it would on the flat. Impressive!
The Skoda Superb is fast becoming something of a Caravan Club Towcar of the Year legend, this being its third overall win. In estate form, Superb adds yet another string to its already well-strung bow, to bring even greater versatility to its excellent performance and dynamic abilities.
But it had to work very hard indeed to earn the £25,000 to £32,000 class award as this was one of the most closely-fought classes in recent memory. Ford's Mondeo Titanium X Sport estate nearly spoiled Škoda's party, which itself had another Superb estate, the 1.8 TSI, snapping at its heels.
You can watch behind the scenes footage with the Towcar of the Year 2011 video below