LDV is making inroads locally with its cheap (but well-equipped) T60 ute, selling a few hundred a month despite supply constraints, but we expect the next iteration due in 2021 to be quite a step up.
Indeed, it’s shaping up as a real Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton rival in every area bar badge credibility. The current T60 sells based on its price, with the top-of-the-tree Luxe grade moving for $32,990 drive-away. The new one will offer more of everything.
For starters it will sport a buffer, American-style design language, and almost certainly grow in all dimensions. Dual-cab, king-cab and single-cab versions will be sold, plus both tub and cab-chassis setups.
It will also get a new twin-turbo diesel engine developed in-house by parent company SAIC Motor, a largely government-owned corporation based in Shanghai.
Pictured: Current LDV T60, as the 2021 model is unsighted
You may not know SAIC, but it has 23% market share in China and produced 7.05 million vehicles last year, most of which are joint-venture Volkswagen and GM products.
With joint-venture regulations to be scaled back, SAIC Motor seems to be hedging its bets by pouring billions into its native brands, with export plans to Europe and Asia/Oceania key.
The new engine will follow the trend started by the new Ford Ranger, being a Euro 6-compliant 2.0-litre twin-turbo unit with outputs we understand will be 160kW and 480Nm. That's more power than any current four- or five-cylinder diesel ute in the class.
This new engine replaces what is currently offered in the T60, a 2.8-litre made under license from Italy’s VM Motori. It'll be far more efficient, given the company has aspirations to tackle Europe’s competitive commercial market. We’d hope for at least a 3.0-tonne tow rating.
Pictured: LDV V90 van, 'inspired' by the Transit design
It will be mated to a new eight-speed automatic gearbox or a six-speed manual, and will be available in 4x2 or 4x4 configurations. Lower-grade versions are expected to have a single-turbo engine, as used in the new Ford Transit-rivalling LDV V90, with 140kW and 400Nm.
SAIC Motor sold 140,000 EVs last year so an electric ute is obvious too. One company executive told us that every LDV product would be electrified in at least some grades by 2025.
As regular readers no doubt know, LDV Australia's importer Ateco has continuously been unable to provide us with media evaluation cars, though we've borrowed a reader's T60. The fact SAIC Motor invited us to Shanghai this week suggests it is keen to engage more.
The new body-on-frame ute will sit on one of SAIC’s modular architectures, called MIFA. Volkswagen has perfected a similar model with its ubiquitous MQB for monocoque constructions. VW also sells millions of MQB-based cars in China – most produced in joint-venture with SAIC Motor.
Pictured: LDV D60 crossover, set for Australia in 2020
The scale of its GuangDe testing facility in Anhui is something to behold, with 60km of test roads and 70 type of surface simulations being used by an army of engineers.
It will also have an overhauled interior. We’d speculate, based on other LDV product here in China that we’ve seen, that it’ll have a circa 10-inch centre screen, conversational voice commands, app-based remote-operated air-con, and greatly superior material quality.
SAIC Motor has also sourced the full suite of active safety features already, and will fit these to the T60 successor, meaning AEB, lane assist, blind-spot warning, 360-degree camera etc. The company promises a five-star NCAP crash rating.
One of the notable things about contemporary LDV or MG (another SAIC subsidiary) product is the use of more established components, from Bosch ECUs to Sachs suspension parts, Bose stereos and Michelin or Goodyear tyres.
Pictured: LDV D90 SUV being crash tested in Australia
The next-generation LDV ute will have some competition domestically, as we know. The next Great Wall ute is likewise a massive step up, and we suggest reading all about that pickup here. Other new-ish faces in the market include the well-received SsangYong Musso.
As we know it’s a time of flux in the ute market, home to the three most popular vehicles in the country and possessor of around 20% market share.
The new Isuzu D-Max will spawn a Mazda BT-50 derivation, the next Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger will use common parts, and the next Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton likewise. Read more about all this trend here.
By 2022, today’s ute market will look quite different...
Pictured: New Great Wall ute, with clear HiLux cues