Car reviews - LDV - T60 - MAX Luxe
Improvement over predecessor, value for money, on-paper specs and equipment, quiet cabin, fuel economy, logical tech interface, four-wheel disc brakes, after-sales provisions, decent handling.
Room for improvement
Vocal engine, driveline NVH, inconsistent ride quality, over-assisted steering, seat-adjustment range, no steering reach-adjustment, mismatched dashboard plastics, lacks ACC and AEB.
LDV’s gutsy T60 MAX might pack a punch, but does it have the polish?
6 Dec 2021
By MATT BROGAN
LDV recently updated its dual-cab ute – the T60 MAX – by introducing a refreshed exterior design, additional equipment, revised suspension tuning and a tweaked 2.0-litre engine, which is now the most powerful four-cylinder turbo-diesel (160kW/500Nm) in its class.
With a more upmarket interior and a generous level of standard safety equipment, the T60 MAX is arguably the best value-for-money ute on the Australian market and one that competes in a segment the that brand itself recognises as a “critical battleground”.
The revised T60 MAX range is almost 10 per cent more expensive than its predecessor – prices begin at $33,990 drive-away (for ABN holders), but the Chinese offering is considerably cheaper than the segment’s best sellers when compared like for like.
To that end, the T60 MAX is well specified – and well supported by a generous factory warranty – and offers a comparable work ethic to its key rivals with a payload rating of between 750-953kg and braked towing capacity of 3000kg; it’s a pity, then, that only four tie-down points are fitted in the LDV’s tub.
LDV quotes a realistic fuel consumption figure of 9.3 litres per 100km on the ADR Combined cycle for models equipped with the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission and offers fixed-price servicing to ensure low ongoing running costs.
It has also gone to great lengths to ensure the T60 MAX meets customer expectations on safety. To that end, it has fitted six airbags, emergency brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, hill-descent control, LED DRLs, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, as well as a fatigue- reminder function, across the range.
The range-topping Luxe tested here ($40,490) adds a 360-degree camera, lane-departure warning and an on-demand rear differential lock.
While there’s no arguing that the updated LDV T60 MAX has been improved significantly, there’s still more fine-tuning required before the model could be regarded a true rival for the best in the segment. Yes, it is significantly cheaper than best-sellers such as the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux, but there’s still a lot of merit in the adage that “you get what you pay for”.
Seat adjustment and the ergonomics of the primary controls are good, but fall short of being excellent. The lack of thigh support in the seat cushion can cause a bit of discomfort during long stints at the ‘wheel and the lack of reach adjustment for the steering-column doesn’t help. The cabin is quite generous in terms of its overall size – the second row can seat three adults and we’d go so far as to say that aft occupants can sit quite comfortably in the LDV.
The view out of the cabin is as good as can be expected from a ute – any ute. The broad bonnet clearly defines the T60 MAX’s lane position – and the generous wing mirrors are very helpful when you need to execute lane-changes and reversing manoeuvres. Rear-seat passengers are also afforded a good view ahead thanks to stadium-style seating.
However, the updated cabin does retain some familiarity with the outgoing model. It still features a somewhat busy and outdated instrument panel with a small central info panel and the latter is also particularly difficult to read when the sun is over the driver’s shoulder.
The mismatched hard plastics across the dashboard (the passenger airbag panel is altogether a different shade of charcoal compared to the rest of the dash pad) is another sign that the quality control of the T60 MAX’s materials is still some way off the best in class.
The Luxe derivative is equipped with a 10.25-inch central infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth connectivity, AM/FM radio (but not DAB+), single-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, plus six-way powered seats.
Dual USB outlets and a 12-Volt socket are fitted in the redesigned centre console, along with a manual handbrake and electronic transmission lever.
SAIC’s D20-series small block four-pot is quite a vocal unit when revved hard, but it does provide the T60 MAX with enough oomph to take a gold medal at the traffic-light Olympics. Its peak torque is available early in the piece (from 1500rpm) and there’s only a slight hesitation when the engine needs to provide roll-on acceleration from cruising speeds.
That “hesitancy” seems to stem from the induction plumbing taking a moment to charge (and the transmission’s electronic mapping reacting in kind). The T60 MAX pauses briefly as the throttle opens, but regains impulse and springs to action a fraction of a second later.
Interestingly, this quirk seems to only present itself while the T60 MAX is on the move and does not manifest as throttle lag when pulling away from a standing start. Delays from standstill are only evident when significant steering angle is applied; the stability control system limits throttle input severely when you attempt hard starts from a U-turn.
The NVH properties of the LDV are also in need of some improvement. A persistent vibration in the driveline is evident at low engine speeds when cruising on the open road. When the tachometer points almost exactly at 2000rpm in eighth gear at about 100km/h, a mild throbbing sensation from the powertrain can be felt through the T60 MAX’s floor and pedals, which is a pity, because it interrupts what is otherwise refined forward progress…
It also doesn’t take a lot to challenge the T60 MAX’s locally calibrated suspension setup. The damping is inconsistent in reacting to sharp surface imperfections; the rear end, for example, takes longer to settle than the front, while, at the same time, oscillates repeatedly when confronted with higher frequency inputs. In short, the body of T60 MAX never really stops “moving” – it responds to every crease, lump and bump in the road with annoying repetition.
It’s a point we feel is well worth mentioning given the Luxe derivative rides on “comfort” leaf springs at the rear and, as a consequence, offers a lower payload capacity (750kg) than the Pro variant, which has “heavy duty” leaves – and a higher payload capacity (953kg).
To be fair, it’s a symptom present in numerous utes with leaf-sprung rear-ends and one that usually settles when there’s cargo positioned over the rear axle. But with an increasing number of manufacturers able to tune this unpleasant characteristic out of their vehicles, we can’t help but feel the T60 MAX is, comparatively speaking, a little agricultural in this regard.
Conversely, the T60 MAX handles larger dips and crests very well and, on gravel roads, it maintains a level of adhesion rural buyers are likely to appreciate. The body control of the vehicle is surprisingly good and, when winding through meandering backroads, the LDV creates the impression that its maker is beginning to understand just how a dual-cab ute should handle.
However, the ute’s light steering lacks the level of refinement that we’re beginning to experience in other mainstream LCVs. Broadly speaking, hydraulic steering systems have matured to a point where road feel and communcation is part and parcel of the experience at the wheel. But the T60 MAX’s helm still feels somewhat vague, the system also lacking the capacity to sufficiently assist rapid directional changes.
Again, and like so many of the LDV’s niggles, this is not a fundamental flaw – nor one most buyers are likely to notice – but it’s one that will eventually be polished out as generational improvements are applied. Given how quickly the brand has matured, we wouldn’t be surprised if these “creases” are ironed out altogether with the next model-year update.
Already ironed-out is the LDV T60 MAX’s braking performance. Thanks to substantial discs being fitted at all four wheels, appropriate assistance and a communicative pedal stroke, the stopping performance of the Luxe variant on test is close to the best in its class. Arguably, its braking performance feels closer to the Volkswagen Amarok than any other rival you might care to list…
Overall, however – and while LDV might have its sights set on battling mainstream rivals that include the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux – the new T60 MAX is still some way from matching the best in the class for sophistication, ingenuity and outright refinement.
It also needs to adopt safety technologies such as adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking if family and recreational buyers are to take the T60 MAX seriously.
But – and it’s a big “but” – given the mammoth difference in price, and the speed at which LDV is closing the quality gap shown in its earlier offerings, it won’t be long until we’re mentioning the T60 MAX in the same breath as the Amarok, Mazda BT-50, Isuzu D-MAX, HiLux, Nissan Navara and Mitsubishi Triton.
Until then, the T60 MAX will need to be content to slog it out with the GWM Ute and SsangYong Musso which retail from $33,990 to $40,990 and $33,990 to $44,290 respectively, excluding on-road costs.
The Chinese-made LDV T60 MAX is backed by a five-year/130,000km warranty and roadside assistance program and is available through 88 dealerships nationally.
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