The Best SUV For Towing In Australia.

What’s the best SUV for towing in Australia? A lot of people will say that you can’t go past the iconic Toyota LC200. Yet, this is not entirely true.

While the LC200 is a hugely capable 4WD, it has surprising limitations in the context of towing – especially in stock form.

Controversial, I know.

To add more drama to the story, the Australian consumer now has the option of RAM trucks which, apparently, “eat utes for breakfast”.

But how much of this is hype, and how much reality?

Speaking of utes, Aussies have the usual menu of Rangers, Hiluxes and D-Max’s.

Finally, for the eccentric weirdos who got bullied in high school, but ended up becoming tech executives on $400K+ salaries, there are Jeeps and Land Rovers.

Which of these SUVs and 4WDs is best for towing a large caravan in Australia?

Let’s find out.

The Wrong Way To Choose A Towing 4WD.

3,500kg towing ratings are not as impressive as they sound. With every manufacturer jumping on the “big 3.5-tonne towing capacity” bandwagon, you, the consumer, must realise that this figure is relatively meaningless in the context of heavy towing.

Well, it is meaningful, but merely as a starting point for your evaluation.

Not all vehicles are equal in terms of GVM, GCM and rear axle loads, therefore a 3,500 kg BTC (Braked Towing Capacity) will mean different things for you, depending on how those other factors stack up for your 4WD.

Unfortunately, most people get unstuck because they, through no fault of their own, follow the manufacturer’s implied logic:

Can my 4WD tow 3,500 kg? Check.

Does my van weigh less than 3,500 kg? Check.

Job done. Let’s go touring.



There’s a lot more to this story. Rear axle loads, GCM, TBM, ATM and GTM must all be taken into account.

Inevitably, you will have to make hard decisions. Specifically, you’ll need to compromise on at least one (but likely a few) of the following:

  • Your car’s equipment levels.
  • Your van’s equipment levels.
  • Your budget (to pay for GVM/GCM upgrades).
  • Your choice of SUV.
  • Your choice of van.

I’m here to help you make the best decision possible.

Why I Wrote This Guide.

Once upon a time, I towed a huge caravan across Australia, from Sydney to Esperance and back – without realising that I was overweight.

(Well, I was still relatively trim – although certain body parts were certainly not as firm as they used to be – but I most certainly exceeded my car’s rear axle load and GVM. By quite a margin).


Because I had followed that same car manufacturer marketing-inspired logic that I described above:

  • I knew that my 4WD (Land Rover Discovery 4) was rated to tow 3,500kg. The van’s empty weight was about 2700 (800kg of wiggle room, right?)
  • I had also assumed that I had quite a bit of usable payload available in the car because I travel without kids and, by most touring standards, my 4WD had a moderate amount of modifications (bullbar, winch, standoff bars, awning, 2nd spare tyre and recovery gear). No drawers, no 2nd battery, no tools, no fridge, no underbody armour.
  • I wasn’t worried about TBM (Tow Ball Mass) because the Jayco Silverline that I had rented for the trip had a relatively low unladen TBM (about 170kg). These Jaycos’ TBM is relatively difficult to push beyond 250kg because of limited water carrying capacity (2X80L tanks) and the absence of a drawbar-mounted toolbox.

And yet, in hindsight, I realise that I was probably about 180kg over my GVM and 135kg over my maximum rear axle load.

I Recently Bought A New Caravan.

And I wasn’t going to repeat my mistakes of the past.

The caravan is a 21.6 Jayco Silverline. Almost exactly the same make and model as I had rented for the Esperance trip a few years ago.

But this is an interim van.

My wife and I recently commenced our “Big Lap” and I sense that the Jayco will struggle with some of the more treacherous roads that we plan to explore.

This is why we have also placed an order for a 20.6 Zone Offroad. A serious offroad caravan with the potential to get seriously heavy.

(I’m bloody excited about the Zone. But that’s a story for another day).

Point is, I wanted to get the van weights 100% right and to ensure that we had a touring vehicle capable of taking us offroad, deep into Australia’s national parks.

This is how this article was born.

I started reading Toyota and Land Rover fanboy forums as well as Facebook groups dedicated to caravan travel – only to find dozens of other confused and alarmed motorists, many of them new to towing.

I also found a lot of people who, like me, just relied on low-resolution metrics – GVM, towing capacity and GCM. A few people were very cluey, but their expertise was limited to their own little niche – e.g., they knew that their particular SUV + caravan setup was legal.

Worryingly, I also found downright incorrect advice, spouted by people who loved their car’s brand so much that they imagined capabilities that the car didn’t possess. I’m looking at you, AULRO.

I started taking copious amounts of notes and at some point decided to simply start shaping them into a blog post, in case they’d be of benefit to someone else.

I wanted to understand the entire picture, so I researched the shit out of this topic. My overarching question was – if I decided to sell my Discovery 4, what would I buy instead?

Here are the fruits of my labour. Enjoy.

Towing SUV vs Touring SUV.

After you buy your SUV, you’ll drive it home in stock form. It means zero modifications.

In this stock form, most 4WDs are surprisingly capable of towing heavy loads (with some exceptions). If you plan to use your SUV to drag the caravan from one Big4 to another via asphalt, your process of choosing a 4WD can be relatively easy.

Most people, however, decide to build a touring SUV. This means making a number of additions or modifications to the stock car in order to remove limitations, improve practicalities, reduce risks and add visual appeal.

This process adds weight.

Unfortunately, this weight makes it very difficult for your touring SUV to stay under its weight limits when towing heavy loads.

This is particularly true if you plan to travel with more than 2 people in the car and/or travel in remote areas (that require larger reserves of water, food, fuel, tools and spare parts).

3 Biggest Commonly Overlooked Towing Problems.

Being over your GVM, GCM or rear axle load is easier than you’d think.

Let me break it down.

Your large 21-foot van weighs about 2700 – 3000 kg tare, depending on options and build.

Before you tow it anywhere, you’ll fill it with:

  • 180-270 kg of water. Now you’re up to 2880 – 3270 kg.
  • 150-250 kg of personal gear. This is typically comprised of furniture, kitchen gear, food, clothes, bikes, laptops, chocks, jockey wheel, tools and other bits. Now you’re up to 3030 – 3520 kg.
  • 20-40 kg additional diesel. In jerry cans. Just in case. Hello, 3050 – 3560 kg.

Your tow ball mass (TBM) at this point is likely to be 250 – 350 kg. This tow ball weight is transmitted to the car which, along with the GCM limitation, makes it the source of your big 3 towing problems.

1. TBM Eats Into Your 4WD’s Payload.

Unfortunately, very few SUVs have enough payload capacity to carry a heavy TBM, two passengers and a decent amount of aftermarket equipment without exceeding GVM – unless they have a GVM upgrade.

More on GVM upgrades later (they’re not always what they’re cracked up to be).

For example, LC200’s GVM of 3350 kg and 2740 kg kerb weight leave it with 610kg of payload. Subtract 150kg for two passengers and 10kg for the tow hitch and you’re left with 450 kg. If your TBM is 350kg, you’re left with only 100kg of payload before you hit GVM. That’s enough payload to fit a bull bar and winch, but not much else.

2. TBM Is Much Heavier Than You Think.

When you hook up your caravan, a proportion of your SUV’s weight will shift from your car’s front axle to the rear. In practical terms, it means that you need to add about 30% extra weight of the TBM itself when calculating your rear axle load.

A lot of people miss this “rear axle tax” in their calculations. This makes it very easy to exceed your rear axle load limit – before you exceed your GVM.

For example, the LC200 has a rear axle limit of 1950kg. With a kerb of 2740kg and assuming a 50/50 weight distribution across axles, it will exert a 1370kg load on the rear axle, empty – leaving you with 580kg of wiggle room. Now, a 350kg tow ball weight will place approximately 490kg of weight on your rear axle, leaving you with just 90kg. By the time you and your partner sit in the front two seats, almost all of that will be used up.

3. BTC Is Meaningless Unless You Have Sufficient GCM.

A lot of SUV manufacturers boast about the car’s ability to tow heavy weights.

A 3,500kg BTC, night and day, baby!

In most cases, that is all smoke and mirrors material. A lot of SUVs have a low GCM that will not allow them to carry more than just you alone in the car when towing 3,500kg BTC.

This occurs because their GCM is less than the sum of their GVM and max BTC.

The real question you need to be asking is – how much will your SUV be able to tow at GVM? The reason being, you’re very, very likely to be touring Australia near your GVM limit.

For example, Australia’s darling, the Toyota Hilux SR5, has a 3,500kg BTC. It also has a 5850kg GCM, which means that, with a 3,500kg caravan attached, this 4WD can’t weigh more than 2350kg. Yet, the “unbreakable” Hilux has a kerb weight of 2110kg, which means you can only add 240kg to the car before you hit GCM and possibly “break” it.

Flipping the question the other way gives you a much more helpful piece of insight. How much will the SR5 tow at its GVM? In other words, how much will it tow after you fill it with you, your wife, kids and all the aftermarket gear, as well as the TBM? Well, the car’s GVM is 3050kg, so we take GCM and deduct GVM to arrive at 2800kg. For context, that is just above the unladen weight of most 21-foot Jaycos. An unladen 21-foot Kedron is about 3200kg.

Why Do You Need Payload?

Payload is important because very few 4WDs can act as capable, reliable tourers in their stock form.

In most cases, you’ll need to add about 150-500kg of aftermarket equipment in order to raise the car’s survivability, offroad performance and practicality. Some such items are:

  • bullbar
  • winch
  • door sill protection
  • bash plates
  • suspension lift
  • light truck tyres
  • lights
  • compressor
  • fridge
  • drawers
  • second battery
  • roof rack
  • second spare wheel
  • recovery gear
  • awning

Which Type Of Explorer Are You?

Before you start attaching expensive aftermarket gear to your car and chewing up your payload, you need to decide on your use case.

Boring, I know.

But it’s very possible that you need a lot less gear than you think.

I’ve broken down most caravan-borne travellers on Australia’s roads into 4 distinct categories. Each has a distinct level of hunger for aftermarket accessories and payload expectations.

The Adventurous CoupleThe Adventurous Family
The Civilised CoupleThe Civilised Family
  1. Civilised. You rarely stray off the tarmac. You mostly stay in caravan parks, on powered sites, but with the odd night offgrid. You enjoy visiting towns for their wineries, restaurants and beaches. While you do travel on unsealed roads to get to national parks, they to be in good condition, with minimal corrugations and washouts.
  2. Adventurous. You dream of traversing the GRR and dragging your caravan on to pristine WA’s beaches. While you do stay in caravan parks up to about 60% of the time to recharge and relax, your heart is always thinking about the next offgrid adventure.
  3. Couple. Predictably, there are two of you. About 150kg of husband and wife, flesh and bones. Or husband and husband. Wife and wife. All the power to you.
  4. Family. There are 3-5 of you. Two parents and a number of kids, weighing in between 200kg and 300kg.

The Psychology Of SUV Ownership.

We love our cars.

They’re not soulless, practical solutions to the problem of locomotion.

Whether we like it or are aware of it, our cars form parts of our identities.

As humans, we identify with certain brands that we feel support our perception of ourselves. Being a Toyota owner means something. Being a Land Rover owner means entirely something else.

This isn’t merely hollow marketing.

As humans, we’re tribal, social creatures. We construct our maps of meaning by identifying with certain tribes and not others. We use the products that we own to signal to other apes who we are, where we belong and what we value.

Why is this important?

Because articles like this one tend to focus entirely on practical, logical aspects of car ownership. And yet, we make our purchasing decisions, in large part, through our emotional centres.

It means that regardless of the findings that I present here, you’ll have your own biases and preferences, and that’s perfectly OK.

Take them into account.

Which SUV Has The Best Payload?

You need to start here.

Take your SUV’s maximum allowed weight (GVM) and subtract its Kerb (empty) weight.

You’ll get the Official Payload figure. In other words, the maximum amount of weight you can add to the car.

A little problem we run into here is that different manufacturers define kerb weight differently. For example, some view it as a fully fuelled car without a driver while others view it as a car with 90% fuel and with a driver.

I’ve done my best to find this out and equalise the final score by creating a Real Payload figure, which offsets any variations in the definition of “kerb weight” AND includes the following:

  • 150kg for passengers
  • 15kg towbar
  • the car’s full fuel load

If the car has 2 fuel tanks, I’ve only included the weight in the primary tank, so as not to unfairly penalise the car for its additional fuel carrying capacity.

Tow bar weights do tend to vary between 10kg and 25kg, but I decided to average this out to 15kg, so as not to overcomplicate the dataset.

I believe that Real Payload is the most useful figure because it:

  • levels the playing field, allowing us to compare apples to apples
  • offers a baseline for the most common touring scenario (2 adults)
  • ensures you’re never above GVM after filling up


(100% FUEL)
Toyota LC200 VX350033506850274093610445145
Toyota LC300 VX350032806750263080650485185
Land Rover Discovery 4350032406760264986569404104
Land Rover Discovery 5 SE350032606760237289888723423
Land Rover Defender 110 P300 SE 7-seat350032806780237590909744444
VW Touareg 170 TDI350028506350215790693528N/A
Toyota Prado VX300029905990224587745580
Toyota LC 70 Dual Cab GXL35003300680021751301125960610
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport310027755565211368662497197
Ram 1500 DT Limited450034507713274998701536236
Ram 250045004495126953660835670370
Ram 3500450053521283736601692
Chevrolet Silverado LTZ Premium4500330071602540760
Ford Ranger XLT 3.235003200600021781693
Isuzu D-Max LS-U350028005900215580645
Toyota Hilux SR53500305058502110
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk350029496099234093609444144
Jeep Gladiator272129355656224283693528256**
Nissan Patrol Ti-L3500350070002861140639474104***
Audi SQ73500320064402405795630330
* Real payload includes 150kg allowance for 2 passengers and full fuel tank(s). ** Figures adjusted to specific mode’s limitations. See the individual car’s write-up for details. *** Nissan Patrol has special, additional payload reduction requirement of 70kg at 300kg TBM. See section about the car for details.

Maximum Axle Loadings.

This is the most overlooked factor. It’s also one that’s easiest to exceed. Rumour is, this is also the one that cops tend to check.

Toyota LC78/792300
Toyota LC20017001950
Toyota LC30016301930
Land Rover Discovery 4 14501855
Land Rover Discovery 515001900
Land Rover Defender 110 D300 SE 7-seat15301900
VW Touareg 170 TDIUnknown1480
Toyota Prado VX14501800
Toyota LC 70 Series14802300
Mitsubishi Pajero13601600
Ram 1500 DT Limited 18601860
Ram 2500 Limited27222740
Ram 3500 Limited27223175
Chevrolet Silverado LTZ1724
Ford Ranger XLT 3.214801850
Isuzu D-Max14501650
Toyota Hilux SR514501700
Mazda BT50
Jeep GladiatorUnknownUnknown
Jeep Grand CherokeeUnknownUnknown
Nissan Patrol Y6216502030
Audi Q7

What Eats Into Your Payload The Most.

The idea of owning a good-looking touring SUV with all the bells and whistles is very alluring.

But don’t forget that each feature eats into your precious payload.

Barwork is the biggest culprit. Bullbar, roof rack and stand-off bars add significant weight. Especially if they’re made from steel.

Drawers, fridges, second batteries and fridges on slides are second worst. They’re also always above – or, worse, slightly behind – your rear axle, which is the weight you’re likely to exceed first.

Finally, there’s your recovery gear, compressor and tools. While a snatch strap or two are relatively light, drag chains, multiple shackles, snatch blocks and hi-lift jacks add up very quickly.

Upgrade Your GVM, Bro.

Having a GVM upgrade allows you to go touring with all of the equipment that you need. It means you can carry water, extra fuel, extra spare tyres, tools and accessories.

In the case of the LR Defender and Discovery 5, you can’t do a GVM upgrade on their fancy monocoque chassis.

In the case of Toyotas, you can. You’ll find that GVM upgrades exist in three categories:

  • 3.9 tonne
  • 4.2 tonne; these will typically upgrade your rear axle to 2.5 tonne
  • 4.45 tonne; this is the max limit allowed on a car license. If you were to go above this, you’d need a Light Rigid license

1. Don’t Do A Budget GVM Upgrade.

Now, you can’t go to the heavier GVMs by simply upgrading your suspension (springs and shocks) only. You’ll need to consider upgrading your sway bars, upper and lower control bars, axle, diff housing and possibly brakes and clutch. You will also need a diff drop kit, upper control arms and adjustable Panhard rods to correct caster and camber, as well as shaft and CV angles.

Some aftermarket companies will offer you a “mild” GVM upgrade that consists of airbags only. “Just bung a set of airbags in it and she’ll be right”.

These are designed to help you level out the car. Some controversy surrounds them, as they do nothing to help you strengthen the chassis or other suspension components. Instead, the airbags simply transmit all of the force to the chassis, which is not designed for the load.

Quote from ARB guy in the article linked above: “The point loading that the airbags create (rather than being spread over the length of the chassis occupied by a leaf spring) means that any weight aft of the bags, or towed weight, is likely to cause issues. Throw in the horrendous pounding these vehicles cop on our corrugated roads and you have a recipe for an unscheduled extension in Alice”

Importantly he added: “Airbags are in no way designed to increase the vehicles GVM, we clearly state this on our marketing hand-outs, product packaging and instructions.”

“From an engineering stand point, the airbags create a third point of contact (usually at the bump stop strike plate which is designed to handle severe impact) to ‘assist’ in the load carrying of the vehicle,” he continued. “In cases where we know the vehicle will constantly be on its upper limit of capacity, we recommend that the leaf pack and even shock absorbers be upgraded from factory spec for a more even load share along the chassis rail.” 

2. Ensure That Your GCM Is Raised.

The other critical fact you need to consider is GCM. Not all GVM upgrades raise your GCM, which makes them almost worthless. AEV, for example, will raise your GVM to 4.2 tonnes while preserving your 3,500kg towing capacity – at GVM.

ARB, meanwhile, explicitly states that their GVM upgrade “doesn’t alter the towing capacity or Gross Combination Mass (GCM) of the vehicle”.

Practically speaking, it means that an LC200 with an ARB 4025kg GVM upgrade cannot tow a caravan that’s heavier than 2825kg when loaded to its GVM. Its CGM of 6850 creates this limit. In case you’re wondering, most 21-foot caravans weigh 2700-3200kg TARE.

Companies that do GVM upgrades on most models are:

  • Pedders – Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Triton, Holden Colorado, VW Amarok, Mazda BT50, GU Patrol, LC 79, LC 200
  • Lovells (4000 GVM / 1900 front / 2100 rear)
  • AEV / JMaxc
  • ARB
  • Dobinsons
  • DMW

3. Upgrade Your Rear Axle.

When towing in a touring vehicle, you’re almost always likely to hit your rear axle limit before you hit your GVM.

It means a GVM upgrade that doesn’t raise your rear axle’s rating by at least a couple of hundred kilograms is worthless.

For example, the LC200’s OEM rear axle is rated at 1950kg and, until recently, some GVM upgrade companies only raised that by 50kg, to 2000kg, as part of their 3850kg GVM upgrade. This type of upgrade is a waste of your money.

For reference, the ARB 4015 GVM upgrade increases the front axle rating from 1700kg to 1870kg and the rear from 1950kg to 2145kg.

4. Consider A Chassis Extension.

An extension, or a “chop”, as it’s commonly called, can extend the length of your chassis by about 300mm. What’s the reason for doing it? Sure, you get more space in the back, but the main reason is weight transfer.

Specifically, transfer of some of the car’s weight to the front axle.

What people often don’t realise is that most cars, in their stock form, carry the vast majority of their payload over the rear axle. If you take a look at your vehicle, you’ll notice that apart from a bullbar, winch and a 2nd battery, any weight you add will typically be over – or, worse, behind – the read axle. Kids in the back seat, additional spare tyres, canopies, additional fuel and water, will generally sit over the rear axle, which means it will also remove weight from your front axle, creating an unbalanced vehicle.

In the context of towing, a chassis extension also helps create a more sure-footed vehicle because of increased wheelbase. The longer the wheelbase, the less your vehicle be pushed around by a large van.

A downside to a chassis extension is an increased turning circle, which will make carparks and right offroad tracks more tricky to navigate.

1. The Toyota LandCruiser 300.

Best for:

  • Adventurous families.
  • Adventurous couples.
  • Touring very remote country.

The LC300 has taken the #1 spot in my review of Australia’s best towing vehicles for 2022 – because it provides a robust, comfortable and capable platform with the best scope for upgrade options.

Recently released, it’s yet to be fully proven on Australian roads.

But, given its similarities to the LC200, and coupled with Toyota’s reputation for getting things right on the reliability side, I’m confident that it will serve the needs of Australian 4WD explorers very well.

Let’s take a closer look.


The “big LandCruiser” finally has a decent interior.

But beware – “decent” is a relative term. It depends on your point of reference.

If you jump into the Cruiser after driving a double cab ute, you’ll feel smothered in luxury. But if you compare it with a late-model Land Rover, you’re more likely to feel like you’re inside a clean, well-run detention centre for white-collar criminals.

Jokes aside (can’t wait for the comments!), the LC300’s interior is about on par with my Land Rover Discovery 4.

It’s comfortable, well organised and almost perfect for a touring 4WD. But my Disco 4 dates back to 2012. You’re about 10 years behind Land Rover in terms of interior design, Toyota. Really?

Before you say “who cares about interior design in a 4WD?”, let me point out that I’m not expecting a Mercedes-level glass cockpit.

But I am expecting to spend a huge amount of days on the road, battling corrugations and highway traffic, clocking in 6 hours of driving per day, with a large van in tow.

This is where comfortable interiors pay their dividends.

Being comfortable in a welcoming, NVH-free space makes a big difference to how much distance you can cover in a day, and how fatigued you feel upon arrival.

While I do lament the loss of the LC200’s burbly V8, I am excited by the addition of 50Nm and 32kW that the new V6 provides. 700Nm is a very, very decent amount of grunt in a car that weighs about 2600kg. You’ll feel it when towing, when climbing steep forest tracks and when pushing through soft beach exits.


Toyota’s traction control has improved in recent years, but it is still quite imprecise in its action compared with the Land Rovers.

Land Rovers’ Terrain Control is able to lock wheels on the same axle in a way that very closely mimics that of an axle lock, while Toyota allows huge amounts of slip.

If it is maximum payload that you’re after, opt for the LC300 in the poverty-pack GX or GXL versions, which offer 785 and 700kgs respectively. What you gain in payload you miss out on nice little touches that make you get excited about paying around $100K for a car, like fog lights, puddle lamps and leather seats.

All in all, the new LC300 will give you between 200 and 335kg in useful payload, depending on spec, after you add the bride, fuel and a 300kg TBM. It’s not a lot, but enough to add a roof rack, a bullbar and a small child or two.


The LC300 will now be the default choice for most folks who want towing ability, safety and comfort.

The VX and GR Sport versions are my picks of the range – because they offer the best balance of features, towing performance and cost.

Sure, you’ll get far more payload in lower-spec GX and GXL variants at a lower price, but this is an exercise in false economy. Their spartan interiors suck – and, regardless of what anyone tells you, a comfortable, welcoming interior does matter when towing heavy loads for 6+ hours per day.

The GXL and VX models can tow a 3.5-tonne van, sensibly loaded with a 300kg TBM – and give you enough payload to add a bullbar, winch, recovery gear, roof rack, awning and some other small bits.

In other words, if you pack sensibly, you can tow a reasonably heavy load in style, comfort and safety.

Toyota’s reputation for reliability, combined with the availability of spare parts, will provide you with the peace of mind you need to trek through Australia’s most remote locations.

Both the 200 and the 300 will use 20-21L/100km when towing a 3 tonne van. It’s not great, but not terrible, either.

If compromises are not your thing, or you have more than 2 passengers, you’ll definitely need to upgrade your GVM up to either 3900kg, 4200kg or 4450kg.

Don’t bother with entry-level 3650kg GVM upgrades.

AEV/ JMacx 4200kg upgrade is one of the best, but comes with a quite a steep price tag. Expect to pay about $20,000, plus another $5,000 if you decide to upgrade the engine and brakes to cope with the extra weight.

If you get one of the lesser upgrades, make sure that it raises your rear axle load to at least 2150kg. This will give you 200kg more rear axle carrying capacity. Anything less is a waste of your money because in an LC300, you’re much more likely to exceed your rear axle load than your GVM when towing a heavy van. (Some GVM upgrades only give you 50kg more than the standard LC’s 1930 kg).


On paper, the GX variant wins the payload battle by a long shot. You’ll have 325kg of payload left after you load the car with a full tank of fuel, two passengers and a 300kg TBM.

VariantTotal PayloadNet Payloadw/300 TBM
SAHARA ZX670510210
GR SP650490190
Total payload is GVM minus Kerb. Net Payload is GVM minus Kerb minus 160kg allowance for passengers and a tow hitch. W/300 TBM is Net Payload minus 300kg of tow ball mass.

This is enough to fit a bull bar, winch, second battery, fridge, drawers, compressor, LT tyres, roof rack, awning and recovery gear. Basically, almost everything you need in a touring setup.

That being said, the GX is the poverty pack of the LC300 line-up. It misses out on Multi-Terrain Select, which is a must-have for an offroad tourer – especially if you’re not planning to add aftermarket add diff lockers. Without either of those, your 4WD is just a jacked-up, glorified 2WD – and will stop at the sight of the nearest sand dune or rutted hill.

Will you look forward to clocking in 8-hour driving days in the GX? Probably not.

That’s why most people will opt for the GXL, VX or GR Sport models. The GXL can carry 240kg of payload with a 300kg TBM attached, which may be enough if you’re travelling as a couple and keeping the number of modifications to a minimum. The VX and GR, with 190kg of payload when you have a 300kg TBM, almost guarantee that you’ll need a GVM upgrade.


LandCruisers 200, in second-hand form, currently cost $80,000-130K. New examples cost between $130-160K.

GVM Upgrades will set you back between $5K for sprinks and shocks only to $40K for a full chop.

2. The Land Rovers (Discovery 5 & Defender).

The Defender is built on an all-new aluminium monocoque platform called D7x, which was needed to bring the Defender into the modern age. According to Land Rover, the chassis is three times stronger than the next best in market.

The Defender has slightly more comfortable 2nd row seats than the Discovery as well as any other car on the market. The bench is tall, cushy, with plenty of knee room. If you have kids, they’ll thank you for it.

However, the reverse is true for 3rd row seats. In the D5 they’re almost legitimate accommodation for adults; in the Defender they’re basic and cramped.

D5 wins the rear boot space contest by a country mile.

The Defender’s rear swingout spare tyre will annoy you when towing.

Both cars are likely to be sold with either 19″ or 20″ wheels, clad in road tyres. Like many LR owners, you could spec these rims with AT tyres – and these will serve you quite well for moderate sand driving and unsealed road purposes. If you want to hit more advanced tracks and soft sand, especially with a van in tow, you’ll need to purchase 18″ wheels. Aftermarket options are freely available – and are specifically designed for Land Rovers.


The short rear overhang on the Defender is an advantage. Lower tare weight of the Defender results in an impressive on-paper payload figure. In reality, you’ll max out your 1800 kg rear axle max weight limit long before you use up your payload.

You can gain an extra 100 kg by speccing your Defender with 7 seats, but keep in mind that 56 kg of this increase will be taken up by the additional seats. You could remove them, but in NSW you’ll need to pay an engineer about $500 to re-certify the car as a 5-seater. In Queensland, you can get away with it because “temporary” seat removals are allowed.

Air suspension gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to clearance and handling manners. The Discovery 4, for example, has a very average 185mm of ground clearance in standard mode. However, it ensures great handling and a reduction in rollover risk when onroad.

At the push of a button you can dial in extra 55mm of clearance. If you belly out, the car will give you an additional 30mm again. If you’re still stuck, it can give you another 30mm through Super-Extended mode option. A $400 aftermarket tool (LLAMS) gives you a manual override to all these modes, plus the ability to lower the car to bump-stops if you want to squeeze into a tight carpark. Compare this with a Toyota driver who is perpetually stuck with his “2-inch lift”, regardless of whether conditions require it, or not.

With IFS at both ends, your ground clearance stays consistent, with no diffs, axles or leaf spring packs hanging down and waiting to snag you.

The air suspension gives you optimal ride quality, regardless of payload. This is very different to coil or leaf sprung vehicles, which need to have springs optimised for a certain weight, and leave you with a compromised ride (either too bouncy or too saggy) unless you’re carrying that weight.


Quick summary of the cons.


Quick summary.


Quick summary.


Quick summary.

3. The American Trucks (RAM, Chev & Ford 1500 / 2500 / 3500).

These trucks are built for towing in the USA and now they’ve arrived in Australia in right-hand drive.

The RAM 1500 has a claimed 4500 BTC, but in its pre-2021 DS guise, it was a gimmick because the car’s GCM of 7250 meant you’d have about 100 kg of payload left and be doing The Big Lap solo.

Since the release of the DT model with its whooping 7713 GCM, the 4500 kg towing claim looks a lot more valid.

Keep in mind that Ram Australia now sells both models concurrently.

  • Express and Warlock = DS
  • Laramie and Limited = DT


Which is better? DTs have improved brakes and a massively upgraded interior. DSs, meanwhile, boast about a 120kg higher payload due to their lower kerb weight. Before you go out and buy one based on that premise alone, note that DSs axles are rated at 90 kg less per end.

I recommend that you go with the DT – because you’re much more likely to exceed axle limits first.

Listen to Jmaxc MD describe the differences in this Youtube video.

Which is best of the two DT models – Laramie or Limited? The latter gets more fruit and looks mint, but costs more and has 132kg less payload.


Even then, you can fill it with 2 adults, full fuel and hang a 300kg caravan off the back – and still have 251 kg of payload left over. But if maximum payload is what you’re after, choose the Laramie – 833 kg of total payload will give you 383kg of payload left over by the time you add the same two adults and the van. Just watch the 1860 kg rear axle limit – you’re likely to go over that one first.

Allow me to demonstrate. The RAM 1500 in its Limited guise has a 2749kg kerb weight, which includes a full tank of fuel. Let’s assume a 60/40 weight distribution across axles since this is a tray vehicle. You’ll have 1100kg of weight on your rear axle.

The truck’s 1860kg rear axle loading leaves you with 760kg of weight. Now, a 350kg TBM will add approximately 490kg to your rear axle, leaving you with 270kg of weight that you can add to the back of the truck before you exceed the rear axle capacity. That’s basically two kids in the back (80kg), some tools (30kg) and recovery gear (20kg) in the tray and you – plus your better half – in the front.

If you opt for the lesser Express and Warlock variants, the situation becomes even direr – due to the cars’ lower (by 90kg) rear axle rating. Kerb of 2630kg gives you a static load of approximately 1052kg on the rear axle. Subtract that from the max rear axle rating of 1770kg and you have 718kg at your disposal. Delete the 490kg TBM and you’re left with 228kg to put in the back before you go over.

What if you’re “only” towing 3,000 kg? Well, the Ram 1500 will do a great job of it, but I can’t help not notice that for all its chest-beating attitude, it is able to carry about the same amount of weight as a Pajero Sport. Those are paper figures, of course. On the road, with a 3-tonne van behind you, you’ll be much happier in a 1500 than a Pajero.

The full weight chart of all Ram 1500 models is here and Ram’s own specifications sheet is here

The Silverado 1500 is much of a muchness. Despite its imposing size and the GMSV’s attempt to pitch it as “the ultimate towing machine”, its rear axle is also rated to 1724 kg. This “muscular stance” and “chiseled hood” don’t change the fact this axle’s rating is 226 kg less than that of the LC200 and 176 kg less than the LR D5. The humble Prado’s 1800kg rating beats it.

Its GVM 3300kg GVM is also comparative to the Discos and Cruisers out there, but its party trick is the 7160kg CGM, which allows the big Chev to tow a 3860kg trailer at GVM. While that’s certainly impressive, I’m willing to bet that the max rear axle loading will prevent you from doing so.


The 1500 models don’t have the rear axle capacity to warrant their bulk. The 2500/3500 do, but require a light rigid license that complicates your life. Their bulk makes them less than ideal for use as a daily driver.

Rams 2500/3500 are very specialised. First, you’ll need a light truck license to operate the latter one in Australia – and this comes with a set of pre-requisites like zero blood alcohol level.

The biggest selling point of the car is 1152NM torque unleashed by its 6.7-litre engine. Get this – the max speed of this engine is only 3200 RPM and max torque peaks at 1700RPM. It means this thing barely turns over.

The 2500 and 3500 are identical in spec and appearance apart from the 3500’s heavier duty rear axle and suspension. Incidentally, the 3500’s max rear axle weight of 3300 is on par with total GVM of most modern 4WDs.

The cars will tow up to 6,000kg via a gooseneck attachment, but these are very rare in Australia. More meaningful figure for you is a 4,500kg towing capacity via a 70mm towball.


Quick summary here.


Quick summary here.

4. The Utes (D-Max, Amarok, Ranger, Hilux, Navara, BT-50, Triton).

Most Aussie 4WD utes are now rated to tow 3,500kg. If that’s the case, why would you fork out another $60,000 on a ‘full-size’ SUV for caravan towing duties?


Huge payload, brah.


Let’s start with an uncomfortable truth. Dual-cab utes look like a good tow vehicle with their large payloads until you realise that a lot of them can’t tow their max weight when the vehicle is near GVM.

In more practical terms, it means you can’t legally tow a 3,500kg van with any of the 4WD utes available on the Australian market – if you wish to leverage much of the car’s available payload.

Even more pointedly, if you tow 3,500kg with any of the utes, you’ll have about 240kg (Hilux) – 322kg (Ranger) payload left before you hit GCM.

You could push back at me and say “Well, that’s all the payload I need, Steven, thank you very much. I only plan to add myself, my partner and a bullbar”.

That is a reasonable argument – but purely from a legal compliance perspective.

From a physics perspective, you’re in a bit of trouble.

Essentially, you’re planning to attach a 3,500kg weight to the back of a car that weighs about 2200kg. There’s a huge mass discrepancy here, and one that’s not mitigated well by the ute’s relatively skinny rear tyres, lightweight rear end and long rear axle to tow ball distance.

(As a quick segue, the distance from your rear axle to the tow ball is one of the most important factors in ensuring trailer stability. The shorter, the better – because the moment arm that exerts a force on your rear tyres reduces).

Then there’s the issue of towing a 3500kg weight with a 4-cylinder engine. You’ll be placing a lot of demand on it. While it will certainly pull the weight, it will not give you the performance you’ll always want to overtake, pull out in traffic and climb hills.


The real sweet spot for towing with utes is the 2,000kg-2,500kg mark. Maybe 3,000kg if you firmly belong in the “Civilised Couple” category.

If you push beyond 3,000kg, you’ll be able to tow it, but I’ll advise you not to.

The van will push your ute around, the car’s lack of torque will make exits on to highways hairy and the suspension’s sag on the rear will translate to poor steering. The boys at 4WD action did a great review of this – check it out:

Yes, you can spend $15-25K on suspension, power and brake upgrades, but in my opinion, you’ll still be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Moral of the story?

Utes can tow 3,500kg on paper. But in the real world, doing this will put you behind the wheel of a barely legal, dangerous rig – all the while putting a huge strain on your car’s mechanical components.




Quick summary here.

5. The Nissan Patrol.

The Nissan’s interior is about 10 years behind the times. Chrome accents, dated woodgrain and curved lines will appeal to retired men; less so to younger couples.

The petrol V8 powered Patrol is a beast. If you can deal with the hideous “grandpa meets cougar” interior woodgrain pattern on a daily basis – which Nissan buffs to a high gloss to really hammer home that 1990’s chic – you’ll love the car.


Sound of that V8!


When it comes to towing, the Patrol is a classic demonstration of how initial impressions don’t necessarily translate into real-world performance. All that V8 power, size and weight certainly look impressive, until you do the math and realise that the Ti-L with full fuel, two passengers and 300kg on the tow ball only has 139 of payload left.

This is partly because Nissan imposes a special (and quite rare) payload tax for TMBs above 250kgs. For 350kg the situation becomes even more dire – for the full rundown, see John Cadogan’s report below.

The reason the posted reductions don’t match actual weight is because of the increasing effect of the weight on the rear axle. Not only is the increased towball mass adding more weight to the rear axle by leverage but it also transfers weight from the front axle.

With a full tank of fuel, the Nissan tips the scales at just over 3 tonnes, which is about 300 kg more than any of the Land Cruisers and about 700 kg heavier than the Land Rover Discovery 5.

To be fair to the big Nissan, its massive 140L fuel tank does compromise its payload figure, as most SUVs here only carry about 80 litres of fuel.

That being said, I’m willing to bet that the Nissan will have the highest fuel consumption of all the SUVs here, so you will be filling that tank to the brim every time. It’s not an “expedition” tank; it’s what the SUV needs for daily operations.


Quick summary.


Quick summary.


Quick summary.

6. The VW Touareg.

The V8 TDI R-Line has the same twin-turbo V8 found in the muzzle of the Bentley Bentayga and can throw the Touareg from 0 to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. I had high hopes for this car until I found out that VW limits its tow ball weight to 240kg.


Quick summary.


This is not enough in the context of heavy caravan towing. You’re guaranteed to exceed it – unless you tow a smaller, single-axle pop-top or hybrid van.


VW does redeem itself – somewhat – by offering a 170KW V6 with a 290kg max tow ball weight.





7. The Toyota LandCruiser 78/79.

Proven reliability. Big, lazy V8. Endless modifications are possible. What could possibly be wrong?


Out of the blocks, the 70 series should be a towing monster. GVM of 3300 kg, combined with a tare weight of 2175 kg, produces a mind-boggling payload of 1125 kg. Because Toyota includes fuel in its Tare figures, this payload already includes 130 litres of fuel onboard.

The first problem, of course, is that these figures are quoted by Toyota for a tray configuration. There aren’t many 70 series running around with only a tray on the back. By the time you add a canopy with all of its associated bits, you’ll be much closer to the GVM.

That means that you can tow your full 3500kg when the 79 is fully loaded, unlike most vehicles.

Then we have the front and rear axle loadings of 1480kg and 2300kg, which total 3780kg. That is 480kg more than the GVM, so you have considerable load flexibility front and rear.

It also means that if you put a bar and winch on it then you aren’t instantly exceeding the front axle load, as you would in say the N70 HiLux. The massive 2300kg rear axle load means that you can add on your 400kg or so of towball mass and probably not exceed the rear axle load. Why 400kg? Because the towball is some distance behind the rear axle so a 350kg towball mass is more than 350kg on the rear axle, and it also decreases load on the front axle too.


The 79 was never designed as a touring, towing 4WD. It was originally designed as a mine vehicle. It’s not a practical car. It’s not a comfortable car. It does not absorb corrugations well.

The turning circle is huge at 14.4m, which makes it difficult to drive in the city and offroad. This is not a highly maneuverable vehicle. The seating position is awkward and the seats are woeful.

The 2-speaker stereo can’t cope with the NVH levels.

Next time you see a jacked-up 79 on 35-inch tyres, take a look at the gap between the ground, the diffs and the springs. It’s not great.

The LC79 is prone to getting hung up on the massive leaf pack that sits below the rear axle, lower than the already low diff. On the front, you also have a large diff hanging down, waiting to snag on something.

The front and rear tracks are different in width. This is because the front diff was widened to accommodate the 4.2L V8.

You will need to add 35-inch tyres if you plan on taking your rig on soft sand and/or offroad tracks. This is typically done in conjunction with a portal axle installation, which lifts the diffs and corrects the rear track at the same time.

Back to the V8 for a moment, it makes a meaty, throaty noise, but don’t be fooled – the car doesn’t go very fast. Fuel consumption is not great either.






Price of the 70 series went up in 2021 by about 2-5K. Expect to pay between $70-80K, depending on spec.

Prepare to pay more in order to bring the car up to touring car levels of comfort. Upgrade seats.

You’ll also want to tune that V8.

Jmacx recommends that you also replace the manual transmission if you’re planning to tow heavy loads. Widening the rear diff is also a good idea.

All in all, you won’t get much change from $100K.

8. The Jeeps (Gladiator / Grand Cherokee).

Quick summary paragraph.


In the context of towing, the Gladiator’s weakest point is its 272kg maximum tow ball download and 2721kg maximum towing capacity. It means you’re limited to towing smaller, lighter 18-foot caravans – and even then you need to watch your weights very closely.

The Grand Cherokee is a much more capable tow vehicle. Only the V6 3.0-litre diesels are able to tow 3500kg, which means you’re limited to Limited, Trailhawk and Overland variants of the classic GC.

You could opt for the HEMI V8-powered petrol SRT or Trackhawk, but despite all that power on tap, your max towing capacity would be limited to 2949kg and your max towball weight to 294kg. These models also miss out on Jeep’s offroad aids, such as SelecTerrain and Hill Descent Control, which makes them a lot less interesting as towing, touring SUVs.


The Gladiator’s payload is below average. You can get away with it for touring purposes, although even then you’re better off choosing a ute, but if you’re planning to tour + tow, you need look past the Gladiator. One exception to this rule is the emotional/nostalgic argument. The Jeep is an iconic vehicle. There’s something unique and cool about it and I can see how some Jeep die-hards will be tempted to choose one as a platform for their touring setup, rather than, say, a Ford Ranger. There’s nothing cool or romantic about the Ranger.


By the time you add 300 kg of towball weight and two passengers, you’re left with only 159kg of payload before you hit GVM. It’s not much, but it’s enough. People who buy GCs don’t go nuts modifying them, so this could work.


Quick summary.


The $77K Gladiator Rubicon is an interesting offering. It’s expensive when compared with Aussie utes – especially when you take into account another $10K of optional extras that you’re guaranteed to want.

But, unlike those utes, it offers front and rear locking differentials, Fox shocks and, since 2021 reclassification of the 4WD from “passenger” to “light goods” category, a payload upgrade to 693kg.

(Make sure you get the Rubicon, not the poverty-pack Night Eagle that misses out on tricked-up suspension and lockable diffs).

9. The Mid-Size SUVs (Pajero Sport, Prado, VW Touareg).

Pajero Sport is all that’s left in Mitsubishi after the full-size Pajero was axed in 2021. It is based on the Triton ute.


Quick summary.


Quick summary.


Quick summary.


Quick summary.


The Prado is $86K.

10. The Audi.

The SQ7 won’t be a popular choice among Australian towing enthusiasts, not least of all because of its $180K price tag.

Aussies don’t like things that are unfamiliar, and the German SQ7 looks, feels and sounds decidedly exotic. It won’t fit in in a caravan park.


That being said, the car is worth a second take. Claimed payload figure of 795 kg is very respectable, but it does come with a caveat. The car’s GCM of 6440kg will not allow you to load the car to its 3200kg maximum GVM and tow its maximum 3500kg. You’ll have to remove the amount of stuff you put in the car, so that you don’t exceed GCM.


Quick summary.


Quick summary.


Quick summary.


Quick summary.

Can Weight Distribution Hitches Save The Day?

Rear suspension sag is a symptom of an overloaded rear axle.

The rear axle overload can be solved with a WDH. You can push about 200-300kg off your rear axle back to the front and continue loading up your RAM to its eyeballs. Right?

Well, kinda.

In the context of outback touring, if you need load revellers to keep your front tyres down, your TBM is too heavy.

The main limitation of the WDH is offroad work. They’re not designed to work in offroad scenarios, so if you plan to take your caravan off the black stuff, especially into undulating tracks and onto beaches, you should reconsider.

The WDH distributes tongue load to the truck which eliminates most flexibility in the vertical plane. For good off-road performance, you need flexibility or movement at the hitch in all directions.

Before you remove this from your list of needs, consider that some of Australia’s best destinations can only be accessed via rough roads.

The bottom line is – you need to transfer 7-10% of the weight from the ATM to the tow ball. If that amount of TBM makes the rear of your vehicle sag, then you either need a different tow vehicle or a beefed-up rear suspension. If you’re planning to pull your van from one Big4 to the next, you can get away with a WDH. Planning to do something more adventurous? Best to get your weights in order so you can remove it and allow articulation.

 A WD hitch will be fine on a lot of forest service roads. You do not want to use it on rough roads with dips that bend the angle between truck and trailer. The bending (hitch drops low) puts maximum force on the WD springs, which puts force on the trailer frame where they are mounted, and could break something, or bend it.

Interestingly enough, in USA, weight-distributing hitch use has been a requirement on all full-size pickups for trailer weights more than 5,000 pounds for decades. For instance, the 2015 Ram 1500/2500/3500 owner’s manual says a weight-distribution hitch is required for trailers weighing more than 5,000 pounds.

Does Your SUV Need To Weigh More Than Your Van?

You’ve no doubt seen the argument that a 2.6 tonne SUV, like a Toyota LandCruiser, has no business towing a 3.5-tonne caravan.

After all, it’s just a matter of time before the inherently unstable, heavier van will push your tiny car off the road and cause you to crash in a ball of flames.

I’ve even seen Toyota folks lamenting the fact that the LC300 is now 100kg lighter than its predecessor. The more weight, the better, according to these forum experts.

I feel sorry for 4WD designers.

They managed the impossible task of shaving 100kg off what is pretty much an unchanged 4WD, only to be scolded for doing so by the towing community.

At some point we’re going to have to accept that progress is inevitable, that aluminium panels will replace steel, that safety standards will force manufacturers to build 4WDs using monocoque, rather than ladder frame chassis and that emissions standards will force manufacturers to use smaller engines.

All of those will produce lighter and lighter 4WDs and yet, I doubt that we will start towing lighter vans.

Instead, we will have to accept that nuance is important. Sheer weight is not the only factor that keeps the 4WD planted to the ground.

Factors such as the 4WD’s centre of gravity, choice of tyres, distance from hitch to rear axle, wheelbase of the car, stiffness of tyre walls and performance of electronic aids will all need to be considered.

I’m very sure, although I have no proof, that a LandCruiser on 35″ muddies and a 3″ lift will be less planted than the same vehicle on 31″ AT tyres and no lift.

Controversial Recommendations.

First up, know what your vehicle weighs – especially when it’s fully loaded. Most people will be shocked when they run their rig over a weighbridge. Remember, the GVM of a vehicle includes everything you’ve packed, the accessories fitted, the fuel and the occupants.

Slow down when on a dirt road or track. Hitting any whoopty-doo, creek, gully or gutter at speed is bound to cause issues. The damage mightn’t be noticeable immediately, but it certainly will be further down the track.

Top 5 Towing Myths.

“If you want to tow more than 3 tonnes, you’ll need a Yank Tank.”

Yank Tank, of course, refers to a Ram or Chevrolet.

Quick Guide To Acronyms.

KERB WEIGHT – This is the vehicle’s weight, with a full tank of fuel. Some manufacturers deviate from this and include the weight of the driver, as well.

GVM – Gross Vehicle Mass. In other words, the most your 4X4 can weigh. It will vary between models and trim levels, but will always be included on the VIN plate.

GCM – Gross Combined Mass, the maximum weight your vehicle and trailer can add up to. Ideally, it should ideally be the GVM and braked tow rating added together, but often it isn’t, which puts a lot of manufacturers’ 3500kg tow rating claims on very shaky ground.
ATM – Aggregate Trailer Mass. The total weight of your caravan.

GTM – Gross Trailer Mass. ATM minus the Tow Ball Mass (TBM).

TBM – Tow Ball Mass. The weight exerted by the caravan on your vehicle’s tow ball. Eats into your payload and must be accounted in your GVM calculations.

PAYLOAD – Difference between the GVM and the
kerb weight of a vehicle. The more payload, the more TBM, passengers, fuel and accessories you 4X4 can carry.

AXLE LOAD – How much weight your vehicle’s individual axles can handle.

much weight your vehicle can legally tow. This figure is the one most commonly cited by manufacturers – and yet, is the most misleading because it provides no context for how this weight impacts other critical metrics.

Kerb Weight Weirdness.

In case you’re actually curious about how different manufacturers define kerb weight, this section is for you.

ToyotaThe mass of the vehicle in running order unoccupied and unladen with all fluid reservoirs filled to nominal capacity, including fuel and with all standard equipment.
Land Rover“Unladen weight”, as Land Rover calls it, includes a 75kg driver and 90% fuel.
RamFull fuel, but no driver.
ChevFull fuel, but no driver.
FordIncludes the vehicle with a full tank of fuel, without occupants, luggage or cargo and with all standard equipment.
JeepUnclear. But because of its American heritage, the brand refers to it as “curb” weight. I assume it to be full fluids, full fuel, but no passengers.

Futher Resources.


  1. What a great article Steve, the best I’ve read regarding suitable tow vehicles for large off-road caravans. I’m currently towing a 20’6 OR Zone which are lighter than most but still heavy once you add all the gear and water.
    While you covered just about all the vehicles I’ve considered for an upgrade ( current tug is 200 landcruiser) you didn’t mention the Ford F-150. They weigh around 500Kg less than Ram etc,(aluminium body) front and rear axle rating of 2177Kg and I’m advised by the converters they can tow 4000kg with minimum 1000kg payload. I’d be very interested to hear your views.

    1. Thank you for the input, Brett. You’re right, I overlooked the F150 completely, having assumed it’s similar in spec to the Rams and Chevs. If the rear axle is indeed 2177kg, that is very, very promising. I’ll take a closer look and report back.

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