LDV T60 UTE TEST

New Zealand LCV - - CONTENTS - BY MIKE STOCK

Mike Stock takes a look at the Chi­nese van maker’s first-ever ute, and Arna Evans as­sesses its suit­abil­ity as fam­ily trans­port.

LDV’S T60 UTE SCORED TWO FIRSTS BE­FORE IT EVEN REACHED New Zealand show­rooms.

It was the Chi­nese van man­u­fac­turer’s first-ever ute, and it was the first Chi­nese-built light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle to win the top fives­tar safety rat­ing in ANCAP crash test­ing.

To get the T60 to us for tow test­ing (see tow test in De­cem­ber­jan­uary LCV), LDV New Zealand quickly pre­pared a fresh-fromthe-boat ute that had fewer than 10km on the odome­ter when we picked it up.

To say the en­gine was tight is an un­der­state­ment, but tow tester Dean Evans put 600km on it and by the time it came back to me it was con­sid­er­ably freer and the per­for­mance much live­lier.

The test ve­hi­cle was the range-top­ping Lux­ury model which is well-equipped and comes with a six-speaker sound and in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem that is Blue­tooth and Mp5-com­pat­i­ble. It has smart­phone in­te­gra­tion with Ap­ple Carplay and Google An­droid.

Au­to­matic air-con­di­tion­ing is stan­dard, and there are day­light run­ning lights, blind spot mon­i­tor, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, trac­tion con­trol, a tyre pres­sure-mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, cruise-con­trol, and a re­vers­ing cam­era.

The heated front seats are elec­tri­cally ad­justable and are leatheruphol­stered, and the T60 has a smart key and push-but­ton en­gine on/en­gine off.

The elec­tri­cally-ad­justable ex­te­rior mir­rors are heated and aut­o­fold when the en­gine is switched off

A 2.8-litre tur­bod­iesel with a vari­able ge­om­e­try tur­bocharger pro­vides the T60 with strong power.

Max­i­mum horse­power is 110kw at 3400Nm, and peak torque is a use­ful 360Nm which ar­rives at 1600rpm and is on-stream un­til 2800. That’s enough to give the T60 the grunt to tow up to three tonnes on a braked trailer.

Ac­cel­er­a­tion im­proved the more miles the ute cov­ered, and we’d ex­pect en­gine per­for­mance to con­tinue to do so.

It’s not the qui­etest diesel, though en­gine noise lev­els are no greater than in, say, an Isuzu D-max. But quiet and re­fined like the Ford Ranger’s five-cylin­der or the new Rex­ton’s 2.2-litre it isn’t.

That said, the en­gine noise is no deal-breaker. It’s not a roug­hand-clat­tery unit like the agri­cul­tural Perkins mo­tor in the orig­i­nal Land Rover Dis­cov­ery.

The tur­bod­iesel drives the rear wheels through a six-speed au­to­matic gear­box which de­liv­ers smooth ra­tio shifts and good kick-down per­for­mance. A ro­tary dial en­gages or dis­en­gages four­wheel drive.

I had no dif­fi­culty achiev­ing a comfortable seat­ing po­si­tion – though the steer­ing wheel is ad­justable only for height not reach – and the seats pro­vided good lat­eral sup­port.

We ran the T60 over our reg­u­lar 160km-plus test loop which mixes ur­ban, mo­tor­way, state high­way and nar­row, wind­ing coun­try roads and found its on-road be­hav­iour to be bet­ter than good.

The leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel has a comfortable di­am­e­ter, and the T60 turned-in to cor­ners crisply, track­ing ac­cu­rately.

The ba­sic han­dling trait is mild un­der­steer, and the ESC kept the rear end in line. Gone are the days when a rear-wheel drive ute would step its tail out if you mashed the throt­tle in­ju­di­ciously as

you ex­ited a cor­ner, or the road was greasy or wet.

The T60 tracked well through our favourite se­quence of cor­ners that cul­mi­nates in a des­cent over a blind brow into a tricky left­hander.

In fact, on the sweep­ing cor­ners than pre­cede that sec­tion of nar­row ru­ral road and the truly de­mand­ing for­mer rally spe­cial stage that fol­lows it, the LDV ac­quit­ted it­self well.

It wasn’t as fluid, say, as a Ranger or Holden Colorado in the same ter­rain, but coped im­pres­sively well.

The four-wheel disc brakes – a rar­ity on a ute – per­formed well, pro­vid­ing strong fade-free brak­ing in wind­ing go­ing.

The big­gest ir­ri­ta­tion was the lack of a rest for the driver’s left foot – surely a sim­ple fix and one which would im­prove driver com­fort sig­nif­i­cantly.

Ride qual­ity is a mixed bag. Both LDV utes use a dou­ble wish­bone front sus­pen­sion and a leaf-sprung solid rear axle. The work­horse-ori­ented T60 gets heavy duty spring­ing on both axles, and as a con­se­quence has a lumpy ride.

The up­scale Lux­ury has been re-tuned to pro­vide a bet­ter ride. Around town it still felt firm but not un­com­fort­ably so, and on smooth sur­faced roads at high­way speeds it pro­duced a comfortable ride.

The is­sue came on un­even sur­faces – some long straight roads on our test loop run across peat­land – and here the T60 jumped around a lit­tle and had a “floaty” feel.

It was cured by shav­ing a few kilo­me­tres per hour off the speed we were do­ing, but we’d have liked the ute to feel more com­posed.

We feel a bit more at­ten­tion paid to achiev­ing a bet­ter com­pro­mise on un­even-sur­faced roads would make the T60 Lux­ury a bet­ter ve­hi­cle, es­pe­cially for pas­sen­gers.

We’ve heard anec­do­tally that some crit­ics have said the work­horse model’s ride is too hard and the Lux­ury’s is too soft.

We sus­pect that what they mean by the lat­ter is that the body con­trol is not as good as it should be which may re­sult from the dampers be­ing soft­ened up too much in the quest for a bet­ter ride.

In­ci­den­tally, the Ranger was also less than com­posed over these same roads, and LDV is said to have used the Ford as a bench­mark when de­vel­op­ing the T60.

Over­all, LDV’S first ute is a solid en­try into the mar­ket’s most com­pet­i­tive seg­ment. It’s well-equipped, has solid safety cre­den­tials, and drives well.

How well it will fare in the re­li­a­bil­ity and dura­bil­ity stakes only time can tell. To some ex­tent, early adopters of new ar­rivals al­ways take a leap of faith and their ex­pe­ri­ences will form part of a model’s de­vel­op­ment. How­ever, LDV New Zealand is con­fi­dent enough in the T60 to of­fer a five year/130,000km war­ranty.

Vir­tu­ally all road test ve­hi­cles that come to mo­tor­ing me­dia are low mileage and you’d ex­pect them to be fault-free; how­ever, mi­nor rat­tles are not un­com­mon, and oc­ca­sion­ally there’s a me­chan­i­cal glitch.

But the LDV was rat­tle-free, seemed to be well-built, and per­formed bet­ter the more kilo­me­tres we put on it. It looks like a ute with real po­ten­tial.

Frontal styling is dom­i­nated by huge chromed grille. The T60 has real on-road pres­ence.

Above: Chrome treat­ment car­ries over to the rear bumper. Test ute had fac­tory-de­signed and fit­ted sports bar.

Above right: T60’s lines are clean in pro­file, and ute’s di­men­sions are ball­park with Ford Ranger;s.

Right: T60’s 2.8-litre tur­bod­iesel mo­tor is a touch noisy but pro­duces strong power and torque.

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