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Haval responds to criticism over H9 suspension

Better note: Haval has turned to Ironman 4x4 to create a suspension tune for its updated H9 that is better suited to Australian condition, but it is yet to be approved at head office.

Ironman 4x4 tasked with Haval H9 suspension overhaul with facelift due Q4


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31 Jul 2017

HAVAL Motors Australia has tasked local off-road tuning specialist Ironman 4x4 to create a suspension tune for its H9 flagship as part of the Chinese SUV brand’s attempt at addressing criticism of its products.

The changes to the H9 – which is currently in run-out from $46,490 driveaway – centre around damper, spring and toe-in rates, with the tune currently in prototype form ahead of the facelifted model’s arrival in the fourth quarter of this year.

Speaking at a preview drive of the H9 prototype in Darwin last week, Haval Motors Australia public relations and product planning manager Andrew Ellis said the company hoped for positive media feedback about the retuning to help convince Chinese headquarters that it should be implemented this year.

“Your feedback works (because) this is a company that’s based on learning,” Mr Ellis said.

“The next step in the process is a localisation program. We know that the suspension in this (the H9) is set up for a pretty basic global set-up, but we know our conditions here in Australia are different. They are unique, so we want that localisation program.

“So we’re working with Ironman 4x4 (and) they’re one of the biggest suppliers in the country. It is a prototype only. It’s basically a first step in the engagement between a local supplier, Haval R&D engineers and Haval Australia that’s the important step.

“We’re hopeful that it leads to the other vehicles in the range, for a local tuning program for all our vehicles.”

In a video statement, Ironman 4x4 suspension product director Kristian Ristell explained that the company had been approached two months ago by Haval Motors Australia in a bid to improve the handling performance of the H9.

“What we discovered was the car had a great foundation, but we found potential for some real improvement,” Mr Ristell said.

“We started by tuning the spring rates to suit Australian conditions because Australian customers like to load their vehicles. We then upgraded the shock absorber valving to match those heavier springs. It results in a much smoother and more confident ride for the driver, there’s much less diving and bouncing, much more sturdy around corners and it really does take a lot of the jarring out of the off-road feel.

“(When driving an H9) keep an eye out for its directional stability, its bump suppression and composure around the corners.”

The tune is not signed off for the H9 due late this year, which will introduce a lightly facelifted grille and foglight treatment, as well as a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission to replace the existing six-speed unit.

It will work with an upgraded 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that moves from 160kW of power to 180kW, and from 324Nm of torque to 350Nm.

Claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption drops from 12.1 litres per 100km to 11.0L/100km, while 0-100km/h performance improves from 13.4 seconds to 10.4s.

Mr Ellis confirmed the updated H9 will introduce blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning as standard equipment, as Haval works to introduce an autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system to all its vehicles by early 2018.

The upgrades to the H9 also extend to the addition of a digital speedometer based on media feedback that Mr Ellis said also influenced running changes to the H2 small SUV and H6 medium SUV.

“I think we’re nearly up to 1000 reviews across the country of Haval product,” Mr Ellis said.

“Every single one (review) that’s written it is my directive to send to the head office. They want it and I get so many questions back. Tell me what they mean by this? What didn’t they like? Your feedback is having a direct result on what’s happening with the product line.

“We are very, very reliant on what you (media) say.”

Previously the electronic stability control programming would activate the external hazard lights during a corner, something that Mr Ellis said “frustrated us too” but has since been addressed.

“You’ve got to remember where this product is coming from, because it’s coming from a country where for a lot of these people they’ve never driven a car before,” he explained.

“They are building in really high levels of (caution) but we don’t need it here in Australia. Thanks to your feedback there is now a new calibration that has been done by Bosch and it’s a running change at the factory.

“Every H6, H2 coming off the line now no longer does this. (But) it you go deep enough (into a corner) yes, if you go deep enough you’ll still get (it).”

The H6 also had a rear seatbelt warning light that would remain on even if no rear passengers were seated, which caused frustration at night as the light was positioned on the rearview mirror. This has now been deleted.

Haval has also made the panoramic sunroof shade thicker to better counteract the effects of the Australian sun, and has deleted its reversing sensor system that utilised an electronic voice to warn of the dangers of backing up.

“When we drove our first batch of cars, every time we would go in reverse you’ve got a beautiful voice … we hated it, you hated it, it’s gone. H6 we didn’t launch with it, H2 it’s gone (and) it will be gone on the H9 later this year,” Mr Ellis said.

GoAuto tested the current H2 and H6 alongside the Ironman-tuned H9 in northern Australia last week, and found the suspension tune delivered far superior compliance and control compared with the cheaper/smaller Havals.

Linear, if kickback-prone steering, combined with surprising agility for a large SUV that on first impressions bests the wallowy Toyota Prado on bitumen.

The pre-facelift 2.0-litre turbo is smooth but slow, and the extra power and transmission ratios of the facelifted version should help plug notable gaps in the power delivery.

Cabin quality was the best of the Haval products sampled, however join lines between the soft-touch upper-dashboard trim and windscreen header were very uneven and the tilted-up touchscreen is unreadable in harsh sunlight – hopefully another issue to be addressed later this year.

The prototype H9 was the first Chinese SUV that GoAuto has driven that on first acquaintance feels competitive and convincing for the pricetag.

“The company might only improve little by little every day (but) I think what you see here has improved that,” Mr Ellis said.

“There’s still things we want to change, don’t get me wrong, but this is a good start.”

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