Chinese Trailblazing | UTE REVIEW – LDV T60 UTE

LDV adds extra interest to its T60 ute range. – Report by Warren Caves, Images by Torque it Up. 

The hotly-contested dual-cab 4×4 market has seen its fair share of contenders throughout the past few years with manufacturers all vying for their piece of this lucrative market.

In such a booming sector, it comes as no surprise to see new players entering the market for a slice of the sales pie.

The LDV T60 initially entered the Australian market in dual-cab 4×4 form in late 2017. As a manufacturer with relatively small brand awareness in Australia, the sales figures are quite encouraging for the T60 with sales since its release approaching 50 percent of some of its main competitors.

Razor-sharp pricing for the T60 in comparison to its competition and the same, if not more, luxury inclusions are definitely points worth considering, although brand awareness and reputations for reliability and longevity take time to establish.

LDV is part of the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), the largest vehicle manufacturer in China making more than seven million vehicles in 2018, augmented by its joint-venture partnerships with General Motors and Volkswagen.

Based on the range topping T60 Luxe model, LDV has recently released a limited-edition model of 650 units in the form of the Trailrider.

The T60 Trailrider comes equipped with the same 2.8-litre turbo-diesel intercooled engine found throughout the range, producing 110 kW of power at 3400 rpm and 360 Nm of torque at 1600-2800 rpm. It can be specified with either an automatic or manual transmission, both offering six ratios.

Standard inclusions for the Trailrider, and for the most part the T60 Luxe, are 19-inch alloy wheels shod with 255/55/19 Continental highway terrain tyres, true 4×4 with high- and low-range gearing, leather-trimmed power-adjusted seats and leather steering wheel, auto LED headlights, daytime running lights plus a 10-inch multimedia display unit with Bluetooth connectivity, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Keyless entry and starting make door opening easy for busy bag-laden hands. Also included, as in the Luxe version, is an on-demand rear diff lock.

In securing a 5-star safety rating, LDV has opted for no less than six airbags, ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), disc brakes as standard all round, hill start assist, blind spot and lane departure warnings, tyre-pressure monitoring and hill-descent control. A 360-degree camera system is also included offering views to front, rear and sides as well as an aerial view of any lurking obstructions. This would be handy off road and even picked up my excitable dog wandering to the rear of the vehicle. For now, there is no autonomous emergency braking (AEB) feature.

Setting the Trailrider apart from the Luxe version and cementing its limited-edition status are the black alloy wheels, black grille and accompanying black nudge bar, plus a Mountain Top roller tonneau, black sports bars and tubular black side steps. Locally-fitted decals announce the Trailrider’s presence.

As a show of commitment to local conditions and buyer expectations within our country, LDV has opted to contract suspension upgrades for the T60 Trailrider to local Australian suspension and handling developers.

In a bid to fine tune the ride and handling of the vehicle, which had received some criticism in earlier versions of the T60, LDV tasked the Walkinshaw Automotive Group with developing a suspension uniquely calibrated to Australian conditions. LDV China worked closely with Walkinshaw, which, having recently developed the HSV Colorado Sports Cat, was well placed to design, test and calibrate a locally-accepted upgrade that could be incorporated into the manufacturing process in China.

So how does the T60 Trailrider stack up? Over a week-long test evaluation period the Trailrider was subjected to motorway driving with a bit of light gravel off-road work and a lot of secondary poor-quality rural roads around my locality (with due thanks as appropriate to the Wingecarribee council).

While performance from the 2.8-litre engine was reasonably adequate, it does lag behind the competition in terms of output. However, the variable-geometry turbo does a good job of reducing turbo lag throughout the torque band. It’s definitely not as spritely as some of its competitors and when cold, or under reasonable right-foot exuberance, the engine is quite noisy and that unmistakeable diesel rattle is prominent. However, in overall terms the Trailrider was no slouch, and propelled the unladen 2110 kg kerb weight around without undue effort being apparent.

The marriage of the engine and transmission was reasonably harmonious with a small amount of confused cog-swapping at times. The centre console power and economy-mode buttons allow driving style adjustment to suit your load and mood, although the settings default back to normal mode every time the vehicle is switched off. The six-speed automatic as tested provides a double overdrive keeping engine speed low, perfectly suited for high-speed touring.

The locally-developed suspension retains a double-wishbone front and leaf-spring rear design and coped remarkably well with the pot-holed, patchwork quilt of a secondary road I travel to work on each day. This route has a 100 km/h speed limit interspersed with 55km/h and 65 km/h corners of varying cambers, proving to be a perfect test for any unladen ute. The steering was predictable and precise with no signs of over or understeer. The ride quality was a bit firm, but I guess that’s the trade off to a fixed-rate suspension design trying to cater to all situations.

Towing capacity is capped at 3000 kg braked and a tow bar is one of the few things that is an optional extra.

I found the LED headlights on both low and high beam to have a good spread of light to the sides of the road, but found the high beam uninspiring when It came to distance (a feature I need for the suicidal marsupial wanderings I regularly encounter). I also found the self-levelling headlights to be a bit jittery as they constantly adjust their height, this was a bit distracting at times and a smoother motion would be an improvement. The horizontal adjustments seemed more fluid and made night cornering on tight bends a breeze.

In the cockpit the interior has a quality impression and doesn’t feel like it was crafted from recycled plastic bottles. An elevated driving position provided an excellent view to the front of the vehicle and the standard equipment of six-way electrically-adjusted leather seats provide a supportive, comfortable platform.

While the 10-inch multi-media display unit is large, it is cumbersome to navigate through some menus. Even after dimming the display for night driving, I, and my passengers, all noted that it was very bright in its display. This dulled after a time-out period elapsed and the screen saver kicked in, however a simple change in volume level or station would once again subject your eyes to the brightness of the main display. In contrast to this, the multi-function buttons on the steering wheel receive no illumination at all.

For sat/nav users, there is no inclusion, which would require navigation to be streamed from a mobile device via a cable.

LDV claims the average fuel economy figure for a combined cycle to be 9.6 litres/ 100 km, a result that fell short of expectations from the VGT-equipped 2.8 litre, 110 kW engine. At the conclusion of my test evaluation period of a little over 500 km, the average consumption showed 9.1 L/100 km.

LDV appears to be serious about tackling the Australian ute segment as evidenced by its commitment to improving suspension calibrations for local conditions. But it doesn’t stop there. The T60 Trailrider is covered by a five-year, 130,000 km warranty, 24/7 roadside assist for the term of the warranty and a loan car programme which offers a loan car if your vehicle is off the road for greater than 48 hours for a warrantable repair, within the warranty period. Service intervals are set at 12 months or 15,000 km.

The Trailrider has whole lot to offer in terms of safety and value-added features in a well-rounded package. There are certainly areas where it falls a little short of some of the more expensive competitors in this sector, however this is where the LDV may slot into its own realm.

Pricing for the LDV T60 Trailrider starts from $38,937 drive away and as tested in automatic guise, at $41,042 drive away. This represents a marked difference when compared against the top of the line models from rival competitors that might leave just enough change to include hanging a jet ski off the back of the Trailrider and hitting the waves.

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