Double cab utes are proving to be serious tow vehicles with high tow capacities and great payloads. Two rows of seats are a plus as is their durable, commercially-rated design. For outback tourers and long-distance towing, where they lack starts with protection and wheels but as Cruisemasters Towing Performance Centre proved, there is a lot more you can do with a late model ute, like this 2021 Mazda BT50 to make it the complete towing package.
The Mazda BT50 is the sister to one of the most successful new utes, the Isuzu D-MAX. It shares so much in common, you’ll notice stickers under the bonnet with Izusu part numbers and build details. It has the exact same 4JJ3-TCX 3.0L turbo-diesel common rail engine and Aisin six-speed gearbox. The only real difference is in the dashboard, headlights and tail lights and that's not a bad thing. The twins come with a heap of safety features, and moderate fuel capacity and are truly comfortable to drive.
Cruisemasters Towing Performance Centre, where this BT was built, specialises in tourers and towing (it's right there in the name, people). They’ve built more 70 and 200 Series Landcruiers than I care to imagine. This BT50 bucks the trend a bit by being more attainable overall as a BT50 GT will set you back around $65,000 and the build you see here is around another $38,800. The BT50 you see here, all decked out and seriously capable cost less than what I see people asking for two-year-old, stock 200 Series Landcruisers. It's a comparative bargain when you boil it down.
BULLBAR, WINCH AND LIGHTS
Staring upfront, the BT has been decked out with a TJM Bullbar that houses a Carbon 12,000lb winch and a top-shelf Stedi lightbar and GME aerial.
The TJM bar is a quality bit of kit from one of the best in the business. It incorporates the front parking sensors and is of course air-bag compliant. A nice detail is how one of the grills folds away to give access to the winch. The Carbon winch features Dyneema rope to reduce weight (and steel-wire splinters which are the literal worst). The Stedi lightbar is wired to a factory switch location by the driver's knee.
THE BEST DRAWBAR FOR SALE TODAY?
It's pretty bloody hard to go past the Hayman Reese X-Bar, a $1500 option on the BT–50. Costing not a lot more than a factory bar, it carries the same 3500kg tow rating but has more emphasis on clearance and critically, rated recovery points. We’ve sampled the X-Bar on a bunch of utes and SUVs and agree with Cruisemaster that it's the way to go.
Above the X-Bar is one hell of a good-looking tray by Chameleon. Fitted is an AMLS Tray with a water tank that retails for $8400. Designed to be modular, it is a great base to build from with flush, threaded bolt holes almost everywhere and clever detail like a raised fuel-filler neck to get it away from dust and water in deep crossings. The bulk of the build of the tray is in alloy so it should weigh a lot less than its steel counterparts. It features decent storage underneath and looks the goods with partial powdercoating and exposed alloy checker plate on the top side.
INTERIOR UPGRADES IN THE BT-50
Starting where you’ll sit, there is not a lot done and that's OK. The BT comes with power-adjustable seats covered in decent leather. They are even heated, fancy. So all that's added is a set of seat covers.
Between the seats is a GME XRS 330C UHF, again, another best-in-the-business bit of kit. The handpiece doubles as the controller for choosing frequencies and it’ll even send basic text messages over radio frequencies - check out our review here.
Of course, the BT has been fitted with a Redarc Tow-Pro 3, the go-to brake controller while also getting a Direction Plus TR+ Throttle Controller that gives the driver a little more control of power-mapping for better fuel efficiency and power delivery.
In the back things get a little fancier with an ARB Twin Air Compressor fitted under one side of the seat and a Redarc 350W Inverter under the other. A detail I really like is an outlet for the air mounted through the seat base on the driver's side, it’ll come in handy filling tyres as well as adjusting the Airbag Man's bags in the rear.
MAKING A MAZDA BT50 TOW BETTER
There is not a lot to do here as the BT50/D-Max twins are already fantastic. Great low down torque (450Nm from only 1600rpm) and a good gearbox means they can tow their 3500kg claimed maximum pretty bloody well but they can suffer from a saggy rear if loaded up with a heavily weighted drawbar and, plus if you start loading them up, you can hit the GVM limit. Step in a Pedders GVM upgrade and Air Bag Man air bag helper-kit that is tailored to suit the TJM Bullbar and winch up front.
The BT50’s new GVM is 3450kgs with an increased payload of up to 450kgs, mighty impressive. Shocks are Trakrider foam-cell from Pedders and the rear leaf springs, also from Pedder are upgraded to handle the extra load but most importantly, it's all federally certified and backed by Pedder's warranty you can tow and load up safely in all states of Australia. The cost of the kit, excluding labour was $4200.
Speaking of towing, Clearview Compact mirrors are found on both sides to add visibility while retaining side repeaters.
BT50 UNDER BONNET UPGRADES
Under the bonnet is a MegaLife Lithium Starter battery that weighs only 9.6kg, a saving of up to 16kg. The MegaLife offers more than just a weight-saving though, it also has a reserve cell built-in that will not drain if the lights are left on and will start the car. It's a clever bit of kit even if about $1000 more than most traditional batteries at $1350.
Also under the bonnet are a Direction Plus PreLine Pre-Filter and Direction Plus Provent Oil Separator Kit to add in some confidence you won't be left on the side of the road by some bad fuel and that the air your 4JJ is breathing is clean.
COST TO MODIFY A MAZDA BT50
You’ll have noticed we sprinkled in some of the parts that went into this build but we barely scratched the surface. The total cost of parts alone is in the region of $30,000 with a further $8,800 in labour to bring to around $38,800.
For more information
Cruisemaster Towing Performance Centre
352 Bilsen Rd, Geebung QLD 4034
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