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Beijing show: Chinese giant SAIC springs giant SUV

Big boy: SAIC Motor’s Maxus D90 Concept is longer and wider than a Toyota LandCruiser.

SAIC signals SUV intent with Maxus D90 upper-large SUV at Beijing show

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LDV logo27 Apr 2016

By RON HAMMERTON

CHINA’S biggest motor company, SAIC Motor, has fired the first salvo in an assault on the global SUV market, including Australia.

SAIC used this week’s Beijing motor show to reveal a full-sized 4x4 concept under its Maxus brand – known in Australia as LDV – that has until now dealt exclusively in vans such as the LDV V80 and G10.

Bigger in most critical dimensions than Toyota’s LandCruiser, the Maxus D90 is a design study for a top-of-the-range luxury off-roader aimed at China’s chauffeur-driven captains of industry.

Officially, the D90 is a concept, but company insiders have told GoAuto that the D90 is “much more than a show car”, and already has “excellent engineering”.

LDV’s Australian importer, Ateco Automotive, has confirmed that should D90 reach production, it would be considered for this market.

“LDV designs and develops all its vehicles in both LHD (left-hand drive) and RHD simultaneously and, therefore, should the concept move to the production stage then, yes, it would be available to Australia,” an LDV spokesperson said.

“It is too early in this program’s gestation to have a set timescale, with a number of key decisions yet to be made.

“Clearly this vehicle has enormous potential in Australia, with the SUV sector’s growing dominance in the Australian vehicle market and the market’s desire for products that represent real value for money.”

Last year, LDV Automotive Australia general manager Dinesh Chinnappa told GoAuto that a one-tonne pick-up and a related SUV were a lock for Australia, with the pick-up expected to arrive in the first half of 2017 and the SUV shortly after.

SAIC has made no bones about its intentions for a chunk of the action in Australia where, apart from its LDV presence, it is also in the process of re-establishing its MG car import operation under a factory owned distributorship.

Both LDV and MG are former British brands acquired by SAIC and shifted to China to spearhead its export operations. So far, LDV/Maxus vans are sold in more than 30 countries, while MG has a toehold in countries such as the UK, Thailand and New Zealand.

In China, Shanghai-based SAIC is the major manufacturing partner for both General Motors and Volkswagen, producing about six million vehicles a year, making it number one in the world’s largest motor market.

The Maxus D90 Concept shown in Beijing this week is a big SUV by any standards, measuring 5100mm long, 2000mm wide and 1900mm tall. By comparison, the benchmark large SUV on global markets, the Toyota LandCruiser, is shorter and narrower at 4990mm long and 1980mm wide, but slightly taller at 1954mm.

Powertrain and other mechanical details for the D90 are scant, although a photograph taken under the back of the show vehicle reveals a solid axle with trailing arms and coil springs.

Although well hidden by under-floor cladding, the vehicle most likely rides on a ladder chassis platform, placing it in the true off-road class. It also means it most likely to be based on the same girder platform as the upcoming SUV.

Pictures of the interior indicate a super-luxurious SUV with three rows of seats, although not in the conventional sense. In the D90’s case, the front row consists of only the driver’s seat, while the “front passenger’s seat” is absent, making room for one of the two middle row seats to stretch out like a business-class airline lounger.

The third row has a conventional bench seat, albeit with what appears to be a centre armrest that turns it into a two-seater.

Acres of light-coloured leather and fake wood stamp the interior firmly as a Chinese market special.

Sharp exterior styling includes LED headlamps and taillights, and a large grille with a prominent brushed metallic surround.

The metallic theme is carried over to the side steps, front air splitter and rear diffuser, as well as the large alloy wheels backed by big red brake callipers.

While the driver’s side has two conventional doors, the passenger side has two doors that open – barn style – to reveal a large pillarless opening for easy entry and exit by the star passenger.

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