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Mazda goes after ute flagships with BT-50 Thunder

Flagships pick-ups are in vogue and Mazda wants in with new BT-50 Thunder

29 Mar 2021

MAZDA Australia has wasted no time in revealing its new HiLux Rugged X-rivalling BT-50 Thunder flagship which will arrive in local showrooms next month priced from $65,990 plus on-road costs.

 

Compared to the now penultimate GT, the Thunder variant adds a heap of rugged styling cues and accessories to transform the BT-50 from a smart-looking workhouse/daily driver into a rougher and more capable weekend warrior.

 

For the extra $9000 over the equivalent GT, the Thunder’s upgrades consist of a single hoop steel bull bar fitted with a Lightforce dual-row LED lightbar, unique black 18-inch alloy wheels housed under wheelarch extensions, side steps, premium sportsbar, electric roller tonneau and ‘Thunder’ tube decals.

 

Unlike other flagship pick-ups however, Mazda has not made any mechanical upgrades under the bonnet or under the skin of the Thunder, meaning its off-roading abilities will essentially mirror that of the GT – both the Ford Ranger FX4 Max and Toyota HiLux Rugged X feature upgraded front suspension – with even the Bridgestone H/T tyres going unchanged.

 

Nevertheless, the GT is an already capable 4x4 with 240mm of ground clearance, a low-range transfer case, 800mm of wading depth, hill descent control and a locking rear differential, all of which carry over to the Thunder.

 

Mazda says the locally designed and developed accessories add more than $13,000 of value to the package with managing director Vinesh Bhindi describing the Thunder as making a “strong statement with a bold and assertive aesthetic”.

 

With no significant changes made save for the aforementioned cosmetic enhancements, the Thunder’s standard equipment list reads virtually word for word the same as the GT’s with the interior even featuring the same brown leather upholstery.

 

Other key features include a 9.0-inch infotainment touchscreen featuring sat-nav, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and DAB+ digital radio, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, keyless entry, auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED head-, fog- and daytime running lights, power adjustable driver’s seat, carpeted floors, heated and power adjustable wing mirrors and front parking sensors.

 

As with every other BT-50, power comes courtesy of an Isuzu-sourced 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine developing 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque, which in this case is sent to all four wheels by a part-time 4x4 system.

 

The familiar option of either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic ($68,990) transmission is available.

 

In terms of fuel economy, Mazda says the Thunder will match the rest of the BT-50 stable with the manual claimed to return a combined fuel consumption figure of 7.7 litres per 100km while the automatic ups things to 8L/100km.

 

As for safety, the Thunder again comes with all the features as found on the GT, those being eight airbags, anti-lock brakes, attention assist, automatic high beam, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, dynamic stability control, emergency lane keeping, emergency stop signal, hill launch assist, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, lane-keep assist system (auto only), rear cross-traffic alert, rollover protection, secondary collision reduction, speed assist system, traction control and turn assist.

 

With the flagship BT-50 now out in the open, all eyes will be on Isuzu Ute Australia (IUA) to see if a similarly worked D-Max emerges, with the brand still remaining tight-lipped as to any possibilities.

 

“We cannot comment on future model plans, but we can say we will continue to monitor the demands of the Australian market – and where possible, meet its requirements, and exceed its expectations,” a spokesperson told GoAuto.

 

If such a vehicle was to come to fruition, we would expect it to go one step further than the BT-50 Thunder in flaunting some genuine mechanical upgrades to boost the D-Max’s off-road credentials given the current X-Terrain already brandishes a spate of visual enhancements over the rest of the range.

 

As previously reported, IAU recently filed a Class 12 trademark application for the ‘V-Cross’ nameplate – a D-Max variant offered in Thailand with similar specification levels to the local X-Terrain – suggesting a new highly specified offering could be on the way.

 

IUA has sold 2696 new D-Max 4x4s so far this year ending February while Mazda has shifted 1906 BT-50s, earning the platform twins a 9.8 and 6.9 per cent share of the 4x4 pick-up segment respectively.

 

2021 Mazda BT-50 4x4 pricing*

XT Dual Cab Chassis  $49,360
XT Dual Cab Chassis (a) $51,860
XT Dual Cab Pickup $50,760
XT Dual Cab Pickup (a) $53,260
XTR Cab Pickup  $54,710
XTR Cab Pickup (a) $57,210
GT Dual Cab Pickup  $56,990
GT Dual Cab Pickup (a) $59,990
Thunder Dual Cab Pickup $65,990
Thunder Dual Cab Pickup (a) $68,990

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