Car reviews - LDV - T60 - range
Solid body and sturdy chassis, roomy and comfortable back seat, sheer size and equipment for the money, Pro steers decently
Room for improvement
Woefully floaty Luxe suspension, persistent quality issues, breathless engine and slow performance, wind noise, priced close to Triton
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1 Nov 2017
QUALITY right up there with the Japanese. A thousand per cent better than previous Chinese-built products. No need for rock-bottom pricing. These were the claims made about the LDV T60 by Ateco Automotive executive chairman Neville Crichton in a GoAuto interview this time last year.
They now become expectations for a diesel-engined, four-wheel drive, manual or auto dual-cab ute T60 line-up that extends from $29,000 for ABN holders, to $37,000 and in each case driveaway. Launching that configuration of vehicle for 2018 would be akin to LDV having launched, in 1998, a rear-wheel-drive large sedan to rival the Holden Commodore, which tallied 94,000 sales that year.
LDV has nailed the configuration Australians want right from the start. This year our market has been on track to snap up 200,000 units of offroad-capable dual-cab for the first time ever.
Now all the T60 has to do is prove that being among the cheapest does not mean sacrificing ability. And in the long run, LDV must positively leverage itself into the worksite equivalent of ‘watercooler chat’ and improve the reputation of Chinese quality. A tough haul certainly lies ahead.
There have long been two schools of thought when buying a dual-cab ute. Either spend more and purchase the best, which would be the Ford Ranger or Volkswagen Amarok on ability, or the Isuzu D-Max and Toyota HiLux for reliability or buy cheaper and solid, such as the Mitsubishi Triton.
This LDV is near-identical to a Ranger in size, but priced below the Mitsubishi. The T60 Pro with a 360Nm diesel and six-speed manual is $28,990 or $30,516 driveaway (the former price being for ABN holders). A 430Nm diesel-manual Triton GLX is currently promoted at $32,990 driveaway.
Indeed, the LDV T60 Pro immediately impresses with its sheer size, its standard 17-inch alloy wheels (Triton gets steelies), side steps (a $1500 option for the Mitsubishi), rear parking sensors ($797.23 more for that base GLX rival) and a tub liner ($537.63 on the Japanese-badged model).
Inside, every T60 gets an enormous 10.0-inch touchscreen, which lacks integrated satellite navigation but does include Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring via two USB ports, which is available only on higher-specification model grades of the above value benchmark.
The body feels strong, and the doors close with a thud. Fit-and-finish is still not to class standards, however, with the creaky centre console bin lid and sagging glovebox the most obvious deficits.
The touchscreen is also too upright, which attracts glare, while the buttons flanking the centre stack – for the electronic stability control (ESC) and hill-descent control – feature ultra-dim indicator lights, which require darkness to note their illumination.
The blind-spot monitor system also delivered more than one ‘beep’ into the cabin, teamed with a note in the trip computer display, indicating that it occasionally was not operable. LDV said it can occur below 30km/h, but it also happened at various speeds at random intervals.
Even so, owners are less likely to care about detail defects if the T60 just keeps on working.
Perhaps, however, the LDV impresses more in its back seat than up front. The driver’s seat is very firm, and the lack of lumbar adjustment leaves the backrest feeling oddly lumpy. In the rear seat, however, the backrest proved far less upright than that in an Amarok, for example. Indeed, with a nicely tilted-up bench and decent legroom, it near-matches the impressive Triton and even Ranger.
Disappointingly, however, only the $4210 premium to the T60 Luxe buys rear air vents.
The VM Motori-sourced 2.8-litre four-cylinder grumbles to life in typical turbo-diesel fashion, but vibrations through that seemingly strong body are kept well in check. However, these days there is an expectation that torque will start with a ‘4’ – but here it is well off, with 360Nm from 1600rpm.
It is kept strong until 2800rpm, while 110kW of power takes over at 3400rpm, but even by oiler standards the redline and cut-out is at a low 3800rpm. With the narrow band teamed with a rubbery and long-throw manual that has a short first gear, but tall second, it can make for tricky progress.
The six-speed automatic is a better match. It offers surprising intuition, quickly picking lower gears on hills and holding them. Add the auto, though, and a Triton manual pricing becomes even closer.
Either way, the 1900kg-plus T60 is very slow, even when unladen with the exception of the driver, of course. Over hilly country terrain, it often struggled to hold 100km/h with the accelerator pinned.
Both T60 Pro and T60 Luxe wear the same 17-inch Dunlop Grandtrek tyre, but the former’s firmer, heavy-duty suspension proved closer to the mark than the latter’s softer setup, which LDV said is designed with a family orientation in mind rather than a worksite.
The family should like the extra air vents, the keyless auto-entry, climate controls, leather trim and electrically adjustable front seats, but the ride quality is unsuitable to local roads. At first the T60 Luxe would seem pillowy and plush, and it deals with mid-corner irregularities well. However, its rebound control over larger vertical bumps is seemingly absent – it bounces, heaves and wallows.
The T60 Pro seemed more unsettled over small bumps, but far better in tune with the surprisingly sturdy chassis. It still is not perfect, with some pitching evident, but it allows a driver to better connect with the loose (on-centre) but direct (everywhere else) hydraulically assisted steering without feeling as though you are latching to the tiller of a cruise liner.
Through smooth-surfaced corners, both T60 variants have competitive handling within their modest limits. The front-end turns in well, and the ESC mostly trusts the inherent stability of the chassis. Shame, then, about the excessive and constant wind rush at speed.
Away from higher-speed undulations on bitumen and on a light offroad course, though, the LDV also proved more at home.
There was nothing too challenging beyond a lumpy fire trail and farming hills for it to deal with, but it performed admirably. There is the requisite on-the-fly two-wheel-drive high-range, and four-wheel-drive high or low range gearing on both variants, while only the T60 Luxe gets a rear differential lock, which automatically engages below 30km/h when variable slip is detected.
Despite the engine regularly working hard, a trip computer-indicated 10.0 litres per 100 kilometres was also not far off the 8.8L/100km (manual) and 9.6L/100km (auto) combined-cycle claims.
Given the size of the ute, in addition to its gearing and traction, its 3000kg braked towing capacity, respective payload and gross combined vehicle mass of 815kg and 5950kg (Luxe auto), and 1025kg and 6050kg (Pro manual), and the T60 buyer is getting a lot of dual-cab for Corolla Hybrid money.
Add a five-year/130,000km warranty, roadside assistance over that period, and a free loan car should warranty rectifications be required, and the LDV ute makes some sense at large. But surely only as a base model manual at retail prices, or preferably, a sub-$30,000 deal on a base automatic.
A Triton GLX would absolutely be worth the extra for its torque and quality alone, but this is more than a half-baked first effort, like the dreadful Foton Tunland or Tata Xenon. The LDV T60 ticks boxes and it gets a lot right. But it also misses much of the established-player detail and finesse.
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