Since arriving here in 2013, China’s LDV brand has been building its reputation in Australia with sharply priced utes and vans. It is now making a more concerted effort in the booming SUV category by adding the option of a diesel engine to its large seven-seat wagon, the D90.
The LDV D90 went on sale in Australia in November 2017 as a petrol-only proposition, powered by a perky turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder (165kW/350Nm) matched to a six-speed auto and rear-drive or all-wheel drive. Compared to the ute and van range, the SUV has sold in modest numbers, representing just four out of every 100 vehicles LDV delivered here last year.
The LDV D90 currently starts from $35,990 drive-away for the petrol rear-drive, $39,990 drive-away for the better equipped Executive petrol rear-drive, and $43,990 drive-away for the Executive petrol four-wheel drive.
What we have here is the sole diesel offering, the LDV D90 Executive diesel four-wheel drive from $47,990 drive-away. Cheaper versions may follow, but for now LDV Australia believes this is the sweet spot in the diesel seven-seat SUV market.
The $47,990 drive-away price puts the LDV D90 Executive diesel in close company with mainstream rivals, rather than undercutting them dramatically as the company has done with utes and vans.
The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport starts from $45,990 drive-away for a five-seat base model. The cheapest seven-seater is $53,990 drive-away for the mid-grade GLS, while the flagship Exceed seven-seater is $59,990 drive-away (all minus a $1500 discount and plus a seven-year warranty as this article was published).
The Isuzu MU-X seven-seat four-wheel drive starts from $46,990 drive-away, the mid-grade version is $50,990 drive-away, and the top-of-the-range is $54,990 drive-away (all with $1000 worth of free accessories and a six-year warranty as this article was published).
But LDV is banking on the size, power and features of the D90 diesel to win over buyers in this price bracket. The LDV D90 is longer, wider and taller than most heavy-duty four-wheel-drive rivals such as the Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Prado and soft-roaders such as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.
The LDV D90 is powered by an all-new twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel four-cylinder developed in-house, which is matched to a Chinese-made eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and Borg Warner transfer case.
The twin-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine produces a healthy 160kW and 480Nm – more than the Isuzu MU-X (130kW/430Nm from a 3.0-litre turbo diesel four), Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (133kW/430Nm from a 2.4-litre turbo diesel four), Toyota Prado (130kW/450Nm from a 2.8-litre turbo diesel four), Hyundai Santa Fe (147kW/440Nm from a 2.2-litre turbo diesel four) and Kia Sorento (147kW/441Nm from a 2.2-litre turbo diesel four).
Average fuel economy is rated at 9.1L/100km – a touch thirstier than the rating label figures for the Isuzu MU-X (8.1L/100km) and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (8.0L/100km).
The LDV D90's towing capacity is rated at 3100kg (on par with class rivals) and a gross combination mass of 6200kg (more than most rivals).
Standard equipment includes remote central locking with a sensor key (with touch access on both front doors), a powered tailgate, digital speed display, a large infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (though not built-in navigation or digital radio), a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, leather-accented seats, a sunroof above the front two seats, air-conditioning outlets to all three rows of seats, and 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Continental road tyres (rather than off-road rubber).
Demonstrating that the LDV D90 diesel is primarily aimed at the bitumen – even though it has sound off-road clearance angles – is the fact that a space-saver spare is mounted under the rear of the car. Most rivals listed above have full-size spare tyres.
Standard safety includes six airbags (including head-protecting curtain airbags all the way to the third-row seats), autonomous emergency braking, blind-zone warning (though not rear cross-traffic alert), lane-wander warning (though not lane-keeping), speed sign recognition, radar cruise control, and tyre pressure monitors (displayed only in kPa, not PSI more commonly used in Australia).
The LDV D90 is among the largest in cabin and cargo capacity when compared with its peers. With the second- and third-row seats stowed flat, it has van-like carrying space. We have not listed the exact capacity in litres as we don’t yet have like-for-like figures; however, subjectively at least (and according to our tape measure), the LDV D90 has more cargo space than its rivals, thanks largely to its taller roof and longer overall length.
The third-row seat is roomy enough to accommodate two adults (though it’s still best suited to children), and there is still adequate room for luggage with all three rows in use.
The second row has three ISOFIX child seat anchor points and three top tether points; the third row cannot be used to locate child seats.
The LDV D90 comes with a five-star safety rating after being crash-tested locally by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and measured against the protocols that were current in 2017.
Warranty for the LDV D90 is five years or 130,000km, whichever comes first. By comparison, Isuzu currently has six years/150,000km coverage, Mitsubishi has seven years/150,000km, Toyota has five years/unlimited kilometres, Kia has seven years/unlimited kilometres, and Hyundai has five years/unlimited kilometres.
LDV also includes 24/7 roadside assistance for the duration of the warranty, which some brands also offer, though most do not.Service intervals are 15,000km/12 months, whichever comes first, which is average for the industry and this type of vehicle.
However, as this article was published, LDV does not offer capped-price servicing, which means each visit for routine maintenance needs to be negotiated. All other brands listed above (and most others) offer menu pricing for servicing that enables owners to budget well in advance for routine maintenance.
On the road
First impressions once getting behind the wheel were reasonably positive, but we began to learn some of the quirks of the LDV D90 diesel during our road test.
The overall presentation, fit, finish and perceived quality inside and out are on par with most modern cars. The extra roominess and excellent visibility thanks to the large side windows are clearly evident when compared to most of its intended rivals.
The comfort over bumps is impressive for this type of vehicle, but LDV has given the D90 a significant head start by equipping it with Continental road tyres rather than off-road rubber.
The long list of standard equipment is impressive; however, it’s worth going over some of the features in more detail, and checking some of these for yourself if you take one for a test drive.
The large digital speed display and massive 12.0-inch infotainment screen look impressive – other cars have higher resolution but smaller screens. However, the functionality of the infotainment is not as intuitive or as user-friendly as most other cars.
For example, Apple CarPlay works fine when dialling out, but as soon as someone dials in, it blanks the entire screen and you need to reactivate it manually once the call has ended. Our phone had the latest software and we used a genuine cable to connect (these are some of the questions asked by car companies or service departments when connectivity systems don’t work as intended).
Other cars leave Apple CarPlay icons displayed and simply mute the radio until the call is over. The LDV shuts everything down and you need to physically press buttons to get the radio or Apple CarPlay going again. As this article was published, it was unclear whether this was how it was designed to function, or if it was a fault, but we know other media outlets had the same experience when testing another example of the LDV D90 diesel.
The lane-wander warning and speed sign recognition systems are reasonably accurate (which shows LDV has access to the right tech), but the alerts blank out the digital speed display for about five seconds, so you don’t know whether you need to slow down, speed up, or do nothing.Other cars provide these helpful warnings without making the car’s travelling speed disappear. You can turn these warnings off in the LDV D90, but that defeats the purpose of having advanced safety aids.
On a practical note, the headlight coverage (low and high beam) was above average in our opinion, and especially helpful on dark country roads.
The diesel engine sounds relatively refined (for a diesel); however, there is a noticeable delay in power delivery when moving from rest. There is some old-school turbo lag at first, but the eight-speed auto does a pretty good job of disguising the gap in initial power delivery. Once on the move, the engine and transmission make for a good combination and the shifts are smooth and mostly intuitive.
We averaged between 9.0L and 11.0L/100km in a mix of gentle freeway driving and suburban cruising, which is par for the course.
Armed with quality tyres, the steering is accurate for a large four-wheel drive, but the tall body can create a bit of ‘head toss’ in tight turns as the car starts to lean. Patience is a virtue in all of these types of vehicles, and as one of the largest in the class, the LDV D90 is certainly shifting a lot of mass.
The larger footprint makes for relatively stable roadholding, but it also means the LDV D90 has a slightly broader turning circle than its peers, which can make it a bit cumbersome in tight car parks. The LDV D90's turning circle is 12.0m versus 11.6m for a Toyota Prado and Isuzu MU-X, and 11.2m for a Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. Even a Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series has a tighter turning circle (11.8m).
Overall, the LDV D90 diesel will likely find appeal among families who want a lot of space and are happy to take a chance on an emerging brand.
LDV Australia boss Dinesh Chinnappa says, “We accept that in certain areas our competitors have a stronger offering, but frankly we’re not concerned by that because we know that the D90 shines bright in the areas that matter to our target market”.
LDV says the likely buyers of the D90 diesel are “hard-working Australian families with kids”.
“They don’t live in Mosman or Toorak; they’re probably not brand snobs, and it’s likely they’ve not got loads of disposable cash,” he says. “But they are solid, successful people building their own future in a challenging world. They are rationalists who can see beyond a badge.”
The LDV D90 has some electronic idiosyncrasies that may frustrate some buyers – and in this price range, there are alternatives from other mainstream brands – but overall, the vehicle is a step in the right direction and the best yet to wear an LDV badge. It’s worth a look, but be sure to spend time checking the infotainment and driver-alert systems.