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New models - Haval - H9

Haval’s flagship H9 SUV has Prado in its sights

Big boy: Haval’s H9 large SUV has been designed with serious off-road intent, with a multi-mode dual-range transfer case from Borg Warner.

Former Toyota chief engineer plots Haval’s off-road assault with H9 large SUV

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Haval logo9 Oct 2015

By RON HAMMERTON

CHINESE SUV specialist Haval looked to Toyota’s esteemed LandCruiser Prado when it set out to craft its own serious large off-roader, the H9.

Which is not surprising, really, as the Prado is considered by many as the class benchmark – and Haval’s engineering vice-president just happens to be former Toyota chief engineer Suguya Fukusato.

In the automotive equivalent of “send a thief to catch a thief”, China’s number-one-selling SUV company – which is a sub-brand of Great Wall Motors – lured Mr Fukusato to China, gave him a spanking new $2.5 billion research and development centre and, presumably, asked him to come up with vehicles that will give his former employer some heartburn.

Australia is the first right-hand-drive market to receive Mr Fukusato’s products that ultimately will go global. Here, the launch line-up of three models ranges from a compact urban soft-roader, the H2, to the hardy H9. In between is the Ford Territory-sized H8 family SUV.

All three are said to have been engineered to five-star safety standards – a first for China in the Australian market – as well as premium, western-style levels of design, quality and comfort.

The H9 is the flagship of the bunch, and the only one built to all-terrain standards with a rugged ladder chassis and dual-range transfer case. At 4856mm long and 1926mm wide, the H9 is slightly shorter but slightly wider than Prado, accommodating seven occupants in three rows of seats.

Design-wise, the H9 looks as if it could comfortably find a spot in almost any Japanese or Korean car brand showroom, with well-crafted proportions and tight shut-lines. The design team was led by former BMW X5 designer Pierre Leclercq.

Two specifications are offered – the entry-level, cloth-upholstered Premium from $46,490 plus on-road costs, and the leather-clad upmarket Lux at $50,990.

In comparison, the cheapest Prado is $52,990 for the diesel manual five-seat GX, while the most affordable seven-seater automatic is the $57,490 GX.

The H9 rides on double wishbone suspension at the front and multi-link suspension at the rear for what is claimed to be a luxurious ride and good off-road flexibility.

Like most serious off-roaders, the powertrain is aligned longitudinally, mainly driving the rear wheels until all-wheel drive is needed.

The only engine currently available is a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder, which many buyers in this diesel-centric market segment will see as a shortcoming.

A 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is said to be in the pipeline and was to have been here later this year, but the launch date has slid back to a yet-to-be-confirmed date, mainly because of the Volkswagen diesel scandal that is causing all other manufacturers – including to Haval – to do some extra due diligence.

For now, the petrol H9 makes do with 160kW of power and 324Nm of torque, with the latter coming on from 2000rpm.

Towing capacity is rated at 2.5 tonnes, while fuel economy is said to be 12.1 litres per 100km on the combined test cycle.

The engine is an in-house development by Haval’s parent company Great Wall, as is the 140kW/410Nm diesel that should give the H9 a much better chance of competing with the likes of Prado’s bigger 2.8-litre diesel that develops 130kW and 450Nm.

A big turbocharged petrol V6 is also thought to be in the pipeline, potentially offering Haval the opportunity to release a sports version, like a mini-me Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG.

While the core of the powertrain is homegrown, most of the other pieces are tried-and-true components off the shelf from established suppliers. The six-speed automatic transmission that is standard across the H9 range is from Germany’s ZF, while the two-speed transfer case is from America’s Borg Warner.

The upmarket Lux version gets the latest electronic driving mode control, with six settings – sand, auto, snow, mud, sport and low-range. A simple twist knob on the centre console is employed to select the mode.

The base Premium variant makes to do with a simpler four-mode system, with auto, 2H, 4H and 4L settings.

A flexible seating arrangement allows a multitude of settings for families of various sizes. The three-seat middle row slides fore and aft and has a 60:40 spit-fold, while the two-occupant third row splits 50:50.

The third row is said to offer an adult-sized 700mm of legroom, and can be folded away under the floor. On the Lux variant, this row even has electric control.

With the second and third rows folded, Haval is claiming 1457 litres of cargo space.

Safety-wise, all three rows of seats have head-protecting side airbags – a factor critical to any chance of a five-star ANCAP rating.

Another safety item on all H9s is tyre pressure monitoring, along with a hill holder, hill descent control, forward collision warning, driver “condition monitoring”, reversing camera and parking sensors.

However, there is no mention of autonomous braking or blind spot warning systems that are becoming regular features of big SUVs these days.

Alloy wheels are standard on both variants, with 17-inchers on the Premium and 18-inch rims on the Lux.

Roof rails, side steps, Bluetooth, leather-clad multi-function steering wheel, 220-volt power outlet, keyless entry/start, satellite navigation on an eight-inch touchscreen, nine-speaker audio system, automatic Xenon headlamps, three-zone climate-control air-conditioning with third-row vents and puddle lamps are standard across the range.

Apart from the fancy driving mode system and bigger wheels, the Lux version adds leather seats with heating on the first two rows.

The front seats also offer electric adjustment and a massage function, while the driver’s pew adds memory settings and lumbar support.

A premium Infinity sound system is also included in the Lux specification, along with adaptive headlights that can point around corners.

While all H9s get a pollen filter, the Lux goes one better with an air purification system.

All Havals sold in Australia come with a five-year, 100,000km warranty, plus five years of roadside assistance.

2015 Haval pricing*
H2 Premium 2WD $26,490
H2 Premium 2WD (a) $28,490
H2 Premium AWD $28,990
H2 LUX 2WD $28,490
H2 LUX 2WD (a) $30,490
H2 LUX AWD $30,990
H8 Premium 2WD (a) $41,990
H8 Premium AWD (a) $44,490
H8 LUX AWD (a) $48,990
H9 Premium AWD (a) $46,490
H9 LUX AWD (a) $50,990
*Excludes on-road costs

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