For a relatively unknown brand, China’s LDV has made a solid start in the Australian ute market.
Perhaps more importantly, the LDV T60 has sold at more than seven times the rate of any other ute from China in the same period.
The LDV T60 was also the first Chinese ute to earn a five-star safety rating, although if tested to today’s more stringent criteria it would be lucky to earn four stars, as with most ute rivals.
Earlier Chinese utes from Great Wall struggled to earn better than a poor two-star safety rating marked against weaker criteria, even after being updated. The Foton Tunland earned a three-star safety rating.
For ABN holders, the LDV T60 currently ranges from $28,990 drive-away for the Pro manual, $30,990 drive-away for the Pro auto, $32,990 drive-away for the Luxe manual, and $34,990 drive-away for the Luxe auto. Prices for private buyers add between $1500 to $1800, depending on the model.
The LDV T60 range now has a new flagship model, the Trailrider, of which 650 will initially be made in red, white, grey or black.
Based on the T60 Luxe, the Trailrider manual is $4000 dearer at $36,990 drive-away and the Trailrider auto is $38,990 drive-away for ABN holders – or $38,937 drive-away and $41,042 drive-away (respectively) for private buyers.
That said, CarAdvice understands it should be possible for private buyers to negotiate the ABN price without twisting an arm.
The LDV T60 Trailrider gains 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Continental highway tyres, a black nudge bar, sports bar and side steps, a blacked-out grille, Trailrider decals, and a lockable Mountain Top roller tonneau cover.
The accessories and decals are fitted locally before being freighted to dealers ready for delivery. A tow bar remains an optional dealer-fit extra and towing capacity remains capped at three tonnes.
Standard equipment on the Trailrider includes a 360-degree camera in addition to the Luxe’s blind-spot monitoring and tyre pressure warning.
Infotainment includes a 10.0-inch touchscreen display – the largest in the ute class – with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a sensor key with push-button start, roof rails, power windows, air-conditioning, and adaptive LED headlights.
Leather trim is standard on the seats – six-way electronically controlled in the front – and on the steering wheel. However, the steering wheel controls lack illumination at night.
Cruise control is standard as are automatic wipers and dusk-sensing headlights. The heated convex side mirrors fold automatically when the car is locked.
Autonomous emergency braking is yet to be made available to the LDV T60, even though other recently updated utes have gained the advanced safety tech.
LDV still does not offer a capped-price servicing program, but the service intervals for routine maintenance are listed as 12 months/15,000km.
As with the rest of the LDV T60 range, the Trailrider is covered by a five-year/130,000km warranty with 24-hour roadside assistance throughout the length of the warranty period.
On the road
When it went on sale in 2017, the suspension of the LDV T60 was widely criticised by Australian media for being unsuitable for local roads, as it was too floaty and not as composed as its ute rivals. Over the following year, the company took steps to develop more suitable suspension.
The Australian distributor of LDV contacted Melbourne’s Walkinshaw Automotive Group, which also remanufactures Ram and Chevrolet pick-ups to right-hand drive and is the parent company for Holden Special Vehicles.
And that’s how, over the following year, the same team of engineers who previously worked their magic on HSV cars – including the HSV Colorado SportsCat – were tasked with developing better suspension for the LDV T60.
While of course it does not drive like a HSV SportsCat given the significant hardware differences, they were able to make some notable improvements to the LDV T60.
The testing and tuning was done out of Melbourne and on Victorian back roads. Once the calibration was finalised, the factory in China adopted the changes on the production line in late 2018 ahead of 2019 showroom arrivals.
The first batch of LDV T60s to gain the Australian-tuned suspension is the limited-edition Trailrider, which arrives this month. The rest of the T60 ute range is expected to gain the same suspension improvements later in the year.
The steering, suspension geometry, and front and rear springs are unchanged from the original T60 launched in 2017, however the shock absorbers now have a new calibration to better handle bumps. The new highway-biased Continental tyres also help ride comfort and cornering grip.
Having clocked up a decent amount of time in the LDV T60 Trailrider on city, suburban and highway roads, it’s fair to say there is a noticeable improvement. It’s especially comfortable at open road speeds.
However, to manage expectations, the changes bring it closer to the rest of the ute class rather than set any new benchmarks. Comfort levels are now similar to, say, an Isuzu D-Max, itself not exactly near the top of the ute category for dynamics.
But the important thing to note here is that these changes show LDV is serious about getting it right – and removing reasons ‘not to buy’.
The steering, too, is not as smooth or as linear as the steering in other utes from popular mainstream brands. But the better tyres do take some of the vagueness out of the steering feel and are an asset to the Trailrider package.
For the T60 to take the next step in driving dynamics, it’s apparent there will need to be some hardware and geometry changes. But this process takes much longer, because such changes would need to be tested and validated over hundreds of thousands of kilometres before being put into production.
The revised shock absorbers and quality tyres may be a stopgap measure, but make no mistake: LDV is serious about becoming a genuine contender in the ute segment and it has vast resources at its disposal, should it choose to use them. The manufacturer of LDV utes is SAIC, China’s largest automotive manufacturer and a joint venture partner of US giant General Motors and Germany's Volkswagen in China.
While the Trailrider now looks the business, it’s worth noting there are no changes to the LDV T60’s 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel (110kW/360Nm), which has a modest power output versus its rivals, and a narrow power band. The engine is happiest between 1500rpm and 3500rpm; anything either side of this rev range resembles turbo lag or an asthma attack.
Fortunately, LDV has a plan for this too. At the recent Shanghai motor show, the company unveiled a range of new-generation 2.0-litre diesel engines – with single and twin turbos – that are said to dramatically improve refinement and drivability. These engines, however, are at least a year or two away from being fitted to the LDV T60s sold in Australian showrooms.
As with all current LDV T60s, the Trailrider has a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed auto, both with high- and low-range four-wheel drive. The more expensive Luxe and Trailrider models gain an on-demand rear differential lock.
Other observations from our test drive: the instrument cluster and analogue speedometer are clear and easy to see at night, but in late-afternoon sun some of the speed symbols are difficult to distinguish. The digital speed readout between the dials is as small as the numbers for the odometer. A larger digital speed display would help.
The buttons on the steering wheel lack lighting at night, even though it’s the same steering wheel used in other LDV vehicles that do have illumination.
The large high-resolution touchscreen is embedded with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but there’s no built-in navigation, which might be useful in remote areas when out of phone range.
Despite the clear screen display, the vision from the 360-degree cameras is milky, especially at night – higher-resolution cameras would fix this.
The infotainment system itself, unfortunately, is not intuitive to use whether changing from AM to FM or selecting your favourite radio station. Dimming the touchscreen at night requires going through several menus. A simple button to blank out the screen would be welcome.
The LED headlights have a bright and broad beam on dark back roads, but you can see them fidget while they constantly adjust their height to avoid blinding oncoming traffic. Other self-levelling LED headlights are more subtle with their movements.
There is only single-zone air-conditioning but, a rarity in this class, there are air vents to the back seats.
The door pockets have a decent amount of oddment storage, but the glovebox and centre console are comparatively small.
The steering wheel has height adjustment only and the vanity mirrors lack lighting. Only the driver gets a ‘one-touch, auto-up’ power window switch. The Toyota HiLux and VW Amarok get express power windows on all four doors.
If you plan to go off-road, the clearance angles are middle of the pack: ground clearance is 215mm, while front and rear departure angles are 27 and 24.2 degrees respectively, with a ramp-over angle of 21.3 degrees. Wading depth is modest at 550mm.
The LDV T60 can tow up to 3000kg with a braked trailer. The payload is 1025kg for the Pro manual, 995kg for the Pro automatic, while for the Luxe payloads are 875kg and 815kg respectively for manual and automatic. The Trailrider payloads are 825kg (manual) and 765kg (auto).
The LDV T60 Trailrider is a step in the right direction for this Chinese ute manufacturer. Take it for a decent test drive to be sure it meets your needs.
- MLRP: $38,937 to $41,042
- 5 star safety (2017)
- Power: 110kW
- Consumption: 8.8L/100km to 9.6L/100km
- Emissions: 233g/km to 254g/km