Chinese company LDV is making real inroads into Australia’s competitive dual-cab ute market, despite lacking much in the way of brand ‘cred’. Its T60 makes up this deficit with sharp pricing, a long list of features, solid warranty, and a five-star safety rating.
Here we’re taking a look at the 2020 LDV T60 Luxe derivative, which sits above the T60 Pro workhorse and beneath the Trailrider special edition. It wears a list price of $37,331 before on-road costs, but that’s not really relevant since at the time of writing it was advertised for $33,490 drive-away with automatic transmission.
For some context, that’s $20,000 (or more) cheaper than on-paper rivals such as the Ford Ranger XLT, Toyota HiLux SR5 and Mitsubishi Triton GLS Premium. Of course, those utes have brand equity on their side – proverbial runs on the board that make them trusted names.
In reality, the T60 is competing with either used versions of more established utes, base workhorses such as the Mitsubishi Triton GLX that offer far fewer features for similar coin, and products from other challenger brands such as the SsangYong Musso, which is similarly affordable.
For a little background, LDV is a subsidiary of China’s largest automaker SAIC, which also owns MG Motor, produces Volkswagen under license in its home market, and made a staggering (claimed) 7.05 million vehicles last year. Australian versions are imported and sold by private distributor Ateco, which once upon a time imported Great Walls to notable success.
The company sold almost 2000 T60s between January and July, giving it nearly two per cent market share of the 4x4 ute segment. For come context, Mazda and Volkswagen sold about 5000 BT-50s and Amaroks respectively over the same period. Surely a startup like LDV would be happy with what Ateco is doing here.
Key to the T60’s success is its look. Slightly cheesy silver-plastic grille aside, it has the sort of substantive tough-truck design that leads people to take a further look in the first place. Dimensionally (5365mm long, 1900mm wide with folded mirrors and 1852mm tall), it’s pretty much on a par with the Ranger, too.
On first impression, the interior is impressive for the outlay. It features a massive 10.0-inch centre touchscreen that leaves rivals’ units for dead, which lacks satellite navigation but does offer smartphone mirroring for your mapping needs.
You get a proximity key fob, 360-degree camera view, adaptive LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, tyre-pressure monitor, climate control operated by buttons but which displays changes on the touchscreen, cruise control, a leather steering wheel, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated leather seats with electric adjustment, a digital speedo, and two USB ports.
You also get six airbags, lane-departure alert, blind-spot monitoring, and a five-star (2017) ANCAP crash rating, which address a major flaw in its Chinese competitor from Great Wall. This rating also gives corporate fleet buyers fewer reasons not to have a crack at this cheaper option.
However, autonomous emergency braking is yet to be made available to the LDV T60, even though other recently updated utes have gained such a system.
At the same time, the interior quality feels half a step below most competitors (agricultural Isuzu D-Max excepted), with cheap-feeling trims, though given the price this is forgivable. Worse is the lack of telescopic steering wheel adjustment and an unusually low-resolution camera view, which completely undermines the presence of front/side/rear-view angles. It’s almost unusable in sunlight.
The back seats are worthy of commendation for those looking at the T60 as a family or apprentice carrier. There’s ample head/leg/foot room for two 190cm adults, air vents, B-pillar grab handles, a 12V/120W outlet, map pockets, door bins, a flip-down centre armrest with cup holders, and ISOFIX/top-tether seat attachment points.
Outside, you get 17-inch wheels, heated auto-folding side mirrors, roof rails, solid side steps, a bolted sports bar, a cheap-but-durable plastic tub-liner that’s not fitted with anything approaching precision but which is just there to take damage anyway, and six tub-mounted tie-down points. The tub area measures 1131mm between the arches, 1430mm wide at the tailgate, and 1525mm long.
Powering the T60 is a VM Motori-designed 2.8-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission (a manual is available). Despite the on-par displacement it’s underpowered next to rivals, with 110kW of power at 3400rpm and 360Nm of peak torque between 1600 and 2800rpm. That’s the lowest of any of the top-11 utes in the segment.
As my colleague Josh mentioned when driving the Trailrider, the engine is happiest between 1500rpm and 3500rpm, and on either side of this narrow band feels laboured. It’s worth noting that a range of new-generation 2.0-litre diesel engines – with single and twin turbos – are coming, headlined by the flagship’s 160kW/480Nm outputs (give or take).
It’s a particularly gruff engine at idle, and even with the sharper throttle response offered by ‘sports’ mode it lacks the punch its rivals have. It settles down to 2200rpm at 100km/h. People hopping out of an older ute won’t consider it underpowered, but compared to today’s competitors it lacks guts.
LDV cites a 3.0-tonne braked towing capacity, if you’re not in a big hurry to get where you’re heading, and its 5950kg gross combined mass means you can tow the maximum trailer weight at payload simultaneously. At least technically. The claimed fuel consumption on the combined cycle is 9.6L/100km. To its credit we averaged 10L/100km.
The suspension comprises double wishbones at the front and leaf springs at the rear. While the Pro has ‘heavy duty’ leaves, the Luxe has a softer set-up that cuts the payload from 995kg to a modest 815kg. We loaded our tester up with 650kg, which with driver put it right near this ceiling, and made the journey.
Ateco contacted Walkinshaw Automotive Group to make some tweaks to suit the Australian market as first seen on the Trailrider, specifically related to the shocks to improve unladen ride quality, adding some damping control. It’s worth noting that the alloy wheels are shod with respectable 245/65 Dunlop Grandtrek all-terrain tyres rather than no-name rubber.
Colleagues who experienced the pre-update say this iteration is much better, and the general unladen ride quality and body control are certainly inoffensive, though there’s still a bit of body roll and notable rack-rattle over corrugations. Unlike most utes, the T60 comes with rear disc brakes instead of drums, which is great.
The 4x4 system is shift-on-the-fly part-time, with a transfer case and low-range gearing. Assisting this is hill-descent control. LDV cites a wading depth of 550mm, and a breakover angle of 21.3 degrees.
I tackled a series of offset moguls, muddy trails and water crossings with gravelly floors without much issue in the T60, and it certainly felt no less capable than direct competitors from established brands. It’s the longevity we can’t speak to, yet.
But you should be reassured by the five-year and 130,000km warranty with roadside assist, and 10-year body anti-perforation warranty. If your T60 is off the road for 48 hours you get a free loan car. While it’s still a small brand, Ateco has assembled 80 dealers nationwide across all states and territories. LDV still does not offer a capped-price servicing program, but the service intervals are listed as 12 months/15,000km.
To the verdict. On the one hand, there’s an unavoidable reality that a base Mitsubishi Triton GLX dual-cab costs little more ($36,990 on the company’s site, and often cheaper in the new-car classifieds). That car may lack some features, but it’s a reassuringly known quantity.
Yet, there’s no doubt the LDV T60 shows real promise, despite its modestly powerful and gruff engine, fuzzy camera and kickback-prone steering. Its pricing is good considering what you actually get, and the prospect for further deals is clearly there.
Moreover, it seems as capable as most when lugging loads, drives better than before, has a good array of tech and a reassuring safety rating. That warranty is fine, though we’d like more clarity around servicing costs.
If you’re willing to give this Chinese contender a crack, also consider the T60 Pro. It costs only $28,990, has a higher payload, and only misses out on peripheral features like the smart key, leather seats, 360-degree camera (no loss!), sports bar and auto-folding mirrors. That strikes this writer as a little more compelling.