James Wong gets a first drive of China's latest ute, the 2017 LDV T60, before it arrives in Australian showrooms later this year.
The commercial ute segment is booming in Australia, and last year the Toyota HiLux was the country’s most popular vehicle.
It’s fitting, then, that new players are trying to get a slice of the pie, including Chinese manufacturer LDV.
This week we were able to take a Chinese-market T60 for a quick spin at parent company SAIC Motor’s proving ground in Guangde, China.
NOTE: This is not a full review, and no score has been applied.
Our drive of the T60 centred on a short series of skidpan-based handling courses. First was the ‘Tai Chi Pile’, a circular-shaped course with an S-shaped centre which looks a little like the yin-yang symbol.
This test is designed to assess the vehicle’s ability to negotiate consecutive turns, and the suspension’s lateral support in higher-speed curves.
The T60 on test was obviously a higher-grade variant, featuring leather trim, a large 10.0-inch central touchscreen and rear air vents.
Across the range, power is provided by a 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel, producing 110kW of power and 360Nm of torque, mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
Initial take-off isn’t as brisk as some of the more powerful oilers found in rival utes, but the T60’s unit is pretty smooth and has decent shove, while also being quite refined. The six-speed auto in our tester shifts smoothly and intuitively, even when having to change gears quickly through a series of tight bends.
LDV has done well in making the T60 feel stable and grippy through the bends, though there is still plenty of body roll - as is typical for vehicles of this size and shape.
The big rig changes direction well, too, but the traction control system is quick to keep you in check when you push the boundaries.
We were also able to drive the T60 through the ‘Butterfly Mirror Track’, which involves a series of straights and turns in the shape of a butterfly’s wing.
First is a straight, which of course you take under full throttle, into a hard brake and right-hand turn, then a high-speed corner into a series of tighter, low-speed bends. After that, a quick slalom takes you to an emergency straight-line brake before driving back to the start.
We attempted the route in the T60 after being taken through in an MG GS, and despite being much larger, heavier and higher off the ground than the medium SUV, the LDV again impressed with competent handling.
The brakes felt progressive and stopped the ute in reasonable fashion - it has all-wheel disc brakes as standard - while the good body control and decent turn-in helped to complete the course with little fuss.
In terms of cabin quality, the T60 feels solid and should be competitive against big players in the segment, though there’s an abundance of harder plastics throughout the cabin.
The contrasting red stitching of the leather-accented seats is consistent, while the leatherette padding in the door inserts provides a softer place to rest your elbows.
In the rear row, there’s plenty of room for two large adults, or three at a squeeze, while rear air vents, along with 12V and 220V outlets provide segment-leading amenities for rear passengers.
Those being chauffeured are also treated to the same leather seat and door insert treatment, making the T60 feel as capable of hauling co-workers or family members in the back as its modern competitors.
Other highlights include LED headlights with integrated LED daytime-running lights, six airbags, a 360-degree camera system (likely reserved for higher models), and lane departure warning. The company is confident the T60 will achieve a five-star ANCAP safety rating at launch.
LDV’s local distributor, Ateco Automotive, has confirmed the T60 will be offered in two trim levels, with the choice of three body styles (single cab, double cab and cab chassis). Two- and four-wheel drivetrains will also be offered, the latter featuring a low-range mode.
Overall, the LDV T60 looks promising for the Australian market. It’s spacious, handles well, is quite refined and - Ateco claims - will be priced “competitively” against its Japanese and European-branded rivals.
However, such a brief sample of the new ute means we’ll have to spend more time with the T60 to get a proper understanding of how it stacks up against others in the segment.
Final pricing and specifications for our market are also yet to be announced, so stay tuned to CarAdvice for updates in the lead-up to the T60’s September launch.