Hey guys! Thanks for all your posts. I have NEWS!
I don't quite know what came over me - I'm usually pretty slow to make decisions on major items (lots and lots of research and viewings) - but I test drove a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited on Sat, and ordered the Laredo that afternoon! The Limited was absolutely gorgeous, but it was over my budget and, truly, I don't need leather seats. I did, however, appreciate the front parking sensor and the sat nav (nice big touch screen, which I could easily see while driving), so have added these to the Laredo which, by the way, has the same specs (body, motor etc) as the Limited.
I've gone for the 3.0l turbo diesel and I've been assured that the towing kit that will be added includes the Hayman Reese towbar and it's set to a standard height. They couldn't tell me what this is - should I be concerned, or is "standard height" what all caravan makers refer to? My van is a Jayco Sterling 21.65-4 and I know from my many visits to the dealer that all the vans in the Sterling range are positioned at the same height. Although, I think the offroad vans sit higher. Hmm, think I might have a chat with the van dealer...just to be sure.
Back to my gorgeous JGC... Excellent use of space inside, very easy to drive, comfy for those in the backseat (they even have the fold-down drink holder in the centre of the seat and there was some mention of seat warmers ??), can fit the cat carriers across the back seat without any problems, and the JGC has all the safety features I'd wanted (trailer sway with towing setup, ABS, electronic brake thingy etc - sorry don't have my list handy).
It also has excellent fuel consumption with 10 litres for city and 7.2l for highway, creating a combined rating of 8.3l/100km. When I put the foot down, it literally surged forward, eliciting a happily surprised yelp (literally - very funny!) from moi - very unexpected based on test drives of other vehicles.
Unfortunately, I have to wait 8 weeks for delivery (they only had black available and that was the one colour I didn't want)... Still, it's good to have something to look forward to!
I tested parking in a shopping centre car park - not an issue and fits easily width-wise, but only just fits length-wise. Given it's 50cm shorter than the Ranger/BT50 (wheelbase is 30cm shorter than these two), I would have had difficulties parking safely if I had gone with the Ranger/BT50 given that my vehicle has to do everything both around town and in the country, as well as towing.
I do think there's a little too many electronic gizmos and this does worry me a little (hello, I really can determine if there's water on the windscreen and then turn on the wipers myself!), but it seems that's progress and with TVs now ordering the shopping and controlling the lights in houses, I expect it's just the way things are moving. Having said that, having the electric seat movement (up/down and forward/back for seat base, as well as tilt/drop front, and forward/backward for the seat back) means you can position the seat exactly where you want it and not just where there's a notch to hold it - very nice.
There's also 3 power outlets throughout the vehicle, the spare tyre is tucked away nicely with storage compartments around it, and the back seats fold completely flat - very versatile! There's also a privacy screen across the storage area of the boot.
In addition to the front and side air bags for front seat, there's side curtain airbags along the full length, and even a knee airbag for the driver. Console layout is very neat...and it would need to be as it will take some learning to get used to all those options! They've also put all the controls on one lever on the steering column, with lights controlled by a dial on the right side of the dash. As I have a European designed vehicle currently, it doesn't take any time to get used to the setup...but we'll see how I go with turning on those wipers!
Also, the rear parking camera has borders to assist with parking, and these work a treat! All in all, for a larger vehicle than I'm used to, it was very easy and enjoyable to drive...although I'll need to get comfy with having a foot handbrake - no longer a hand lever.
Of course, I still don't know how it feels when towing - none of the vehicles I test drove over the last couple of months could be hitched up to give me an idea of how they feel, so it's a bit of a lucky dip. I hope I've made the right decision for towing - on paper, looks good. Guess I'll find out in 8 weeks time!
Thanks again for all your help - it's been a great benefit! If you like, I'll pop up a photo of my new wheels when I get my hot little hands on it! Wendy
PS. Just a little tip I learnt over the weekend from someone who's had many years of towing vans. When I mentioned the option of the canopy on the dual cab, I was warned off doing so not due to dust or water ingress, and not even due to my ability (or rather lack thereof) to access the tub, but given that it would severely impact my ability to see through the back of the canopy. The reason being that adding a canopy means that you need to see out through 3 panes of glass, ie. the back of the dual cab, the front glass on the canopy, and then the back glass of the canopy. I was advised that even when all panes are clean, it's virtually impossible to see anything through those windows. For me, that's an issue.