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 BUYERS GUIDE
UTE PAYLOADS AREN'T WHAT THEY SEEM
Utes have claimed payloads and towing ratings that can't be realised in the real world.

 

Every ute maker claims at least a nominal one-tonne payload figure and more than three tonnes trailer towing capacity for several 4WD utes in its range, but you need to check spec sheets and real-world tare weights for the true position.

We took five extended-cab 2016-model utes over a certified weighbridge with a driver aboard each. Fuel tanks were around half-full.

Tare weights were: Ranger 2.30 tonnes; HiLux 2.12 tonnes; D-Max 2.10 tonnes; Navara 2.10 tonnes and Triton 2.00 tonnes. That gave the Ranger a real-world payload of 900kg; the HiLux, 930kg; the D-Max, 850kg; the Navara, 810kg and the Triton (steel tray-back, not ute tub), 900kg. None is a one-tonner!

This situation is complicated by the fact that many ute buyers fit after-market accessories – especially ‘tradie’ utes that may be used for recreational purposes, as well as work.

Typical tradie additions are a 'roo bar with a winch (50kg); a second battery (30kg); tow bar (10kg); full long-range fuel tank (140kg); tools (10kg); recovery kit (10kg) and a full fridge (50kg).

Add a crew and it's obvious that you may well have used up half the available payload. Impose the towball weight of a heavy plant trailer – often 200kg or more – and you have very little payload capacity left. Note that towball weight is behind the rear axle, so its effect on rear axle weight is multiplied by around 33-percent: a 300kg ball weight translates to around a 400kg load on the rear axle – more if an extended hitch is fitted.

Even if the loaded vehicle doesn't exceed the vehicle maker's GVM there's a chance that the front or rear axle mass limit may be exceeded, because of too much weight on the front or rear axle.

Ford has made a rod for its own back by insisting on at least 10-percent of trailer gross weight be on the towball, despite clear evidence from UK research that 6-8-percent is the ideal amount.

Mining companies commonly fit bars, side rails and winches to their site utes and some 4WDs overload their front axles when that’s done. Others overload their rear axles with only a modest amount of freight in the back, but with a heavy ball weight on the towbar.

One way of transferring rear axle towball weight is to use weight distribution bars on the hitch, but this needs to be done carefully: not so much weight transfer that there’s a risk of damage to the vehicle’s towbar and chassis, or front axle overload.

To illustrate these points, let’s compare these five ute offerings - Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux, Isuzu D-Max, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton – against the LandCruiser 70 Series.

Five of these utes have a trailer mass rating of 3500kg and the Triton rates 3100kg trailer mass.

The Ranger has a GVM rating of 3200kg and a GCM rating of 6000kg.
The HiLux has a GVM rating of 3050kg and a GCM rating of 5850kg (manual) 5650kg (auto).
The D-Max has a GVM rating of 2950kg and a GCM rating of 5950kg
The Navara has a GVM rating of 2910kg and a GCM rating of 5910kg.
The Triton has a GVM rating of 2900kg and a GCM rating of 5885kg.
The LandCruiser has a GVM rating of 3300kg and a GCM rating of 6800kg.

It’s obvious from the above figures that the only one of these that can be loaded to its GVM and still legally tow a 3500kg trailer is the LandCruiser. Its 3300kg GVM plus trailer 3500kg GTM adds up to the vehicle’s permitted 6800kg GCM (3300+3500=6800). The only concession is that the trailer ball weight must be counted as part of the vehicle’s GVM.

On paper, the Ranger looks like the next best, but if the Ranger is at its GVM its trailer capacity drops to 2800kg (3200+2800=6000), while the lighter Navara at GVM can tow 3000kg (2910+3000=5910).
The Triton is rated to tow ‘only’ 3100kg, but if it’s at full GVM it can still pull 2985kg.

Another consideration is axle capacities: vehicle makers used to allow a considerable margin between the sum of the axle ratings and the vehicle’s rated GVM. The LandCruiser continues this practice, having a combined axle capacity of 3780kg, which is 480kg greater than its 3300kg GVM.

In contrast, the other utes’ total front and rear axle capacities are only around 100-200kg above their vehicle GVM ratings.
The ‘Cruiser also has a much higher rear axle rating (2300kg) than the lighter-duty utes and it’s the rear axle that has to handle most of the imposed load.

You need to do your sums carefully before you invest in a 4WD ute – especially if it needs to be loaded and required to tow a heavy trailer. The two have to work in concert.

 




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