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PREVIEWING THE LDV T60 MAX LUXE

Established in the United Kingdom as Leyland DAF Vehicles in 1987, LDV, as it has become known, was acquired by SAIC Motor, China’s largest automotive manufacturer and a Fortune 100 company in 2010. LDV is poised to enter the South African market with various bakkies and SUVs, and Driven had the opportunity to preview the range-topping T60 Max Luxe double cab before its national release.

LDV, a division of China’s largest automotive manufacturer, SAIC Motor, has been selling its T60 bakkie in other global markets for more than a decade, and has found particular success in Australia since 2017. Australia is an equally bakkie-mad country as South Africa, and it has given its approval to the T60, helping the brand establish a solid foothold in that country. 

During that time, LDV has released numerous T60 variants and updates, using the gruelling Australian environment to hone the reliability and capability of its bakkie to a point where it is ready to tackle the tough South African bakkie-buying market as well. 

The latest T60 evolution boasts a striking exterior look, on-demand 4×4, and a powerful bi-turbo version of the brand’s D20 engine, offering four-cylinder class-leading outputs of 160 kW and 500 Nm, enough to more than match equivalent Hilux and Ranger options, but at a much lower price. Not that these bakkie behemoths are the T60’s natural competitors, as it should ideally be pitched against the likes of the GMW P-Series and Peugeot Landtrek.

POWERFUL AND FEATURE RICH

At launch, the T60 Max range will include various double cab options, with the  T60 Max Pro – equipped with a 4×4 drivetrain and a six-speed manual transmission – and the T60 Max Luxe 4×4 at the top of the LDV bakkie food chain. Both feature LDV’s 2.0-litre bi-turbodiesel engine generating the aforementioned 160 kW and 500 Nm. 

The Max Luxe sends its power to all four wheels via a ZF-developed eight-speed torque converter automatic, with a choice of Eco or Power drive modes. It is a smooth-shifting and intelligent transmission that learns driver characteristics and adjusts shift protocols to optimise performance.

It is mated to a Borg Warner “Torque on Demand” 4×4 transmission that automatically monitors grip levels and delivers all-wheel-drive traction as required. The driver can override this with manual selection of either 4×2 high-range, 4×4 high-range, or 4×4 low-range, but the rear diff-lock operates automatically (under 30km/h) and can’t be engaged or disengaged by the driver. 

LDV in Australia claims an official combined figure of 9.3 l/100 km (we managed an even better 8.9 l/100 km during our test drive). Based on our experience, you could expect a real-world driving range of around 700 km from its 73-litre tank. 

The T60 derivatives can also be had with alternative suspension setups, with Pro and Elite employing the more work-focused option with the highest payload rating, while the Max Luxe offers a softer-riding experience. 

The T60 Max Luxe comes standard with handsome darkened 19” alloy wheels shod with 255/55 Continental ContiSportContact multi-terrain tyres with a full-size steel spare. 

There’s also keyless entry and start, leather-accented seat trim with six-way power-adjustable and heated front seats, adjustable air-conditioning vents in the centre console for rear seat passengers, LED headlights with daytime running lights, automatic rear diff-lock, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, and tyre pressure monitoring. 

Connectivity includes two USB ports and a 12-volt accessory plug, plus there’s a six-speaker infotainment system with landscape-style 10.25” touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Other desirables include side steps, and optional tonneau cover and towbar (with a maximum braked towing capacity rating of 3,000 kg).

IMPOSING DESIGN

If you want a bakkie with visual impact, the T60 Max Luxe offers it in spades. The massive grille is imposing and very distinctive that, combined with the striking slimline headlight design, leaves no doubt that the T60 Max Luxe means business. 

There is also no risk of mistaken identity from the rear, with “T60 MAX” boldly debossed in a plastic moulding across the tailgate. 

With its 5,365 mm overall length (3,155 mm wheelbase), 1,900 mm width (mirrors folded), and 1,809 mm height, yet appears significantly more imposing thanks to additional plastic trim around the wheel housings. Significantly, the T60 boasts a mere 12.6-metre turning circle that’s tighter than that of the Ranger. 

The T60 uses a conventional body-on-frame design with twin-wishbone front suspension, leaf-spring live rear axle, hydraulic power-assisted rack and pinion steering, and four-wheel disc brakes.

BUILT TO LAST

Local bakkie buyers rate overall build quality and vehicle longevity at the top of their requirement list, and often, new market entrants fall short of these high expectations. 

The LDV T60 has, however, over time proven its mettle in equally demanding environments we find in South Africa, and this shows in the keen build quality and standard of finish for a vehicle in this price range, with the interior displaying spot-on detailing such as contrast red stitching and a tasteful mix of satin chrome, piano black and satin black highlights. 

The steering wheel is large and comfortable; however, the front seats feel like you’re sitting on them more than in them, as they are quite firm and lack much lateral support. Rear seating is surprisingly comfortable, even for tall passengers, rubbishing the idea that all double cabs are cramped at the rear. I am 1.85 m tall, and in my comfortable seating position, there was at least 80 mm of clearance between my knees and the driver’s seat backrest while sitting in the rear seat. There’s also ample headroom and shoulder room, although this may get tight with three adults in the back. 

INTERIOR PRACTICALITY 

Cabin storage includes a large bottle holder and bin at the base of each front door, plus a closable dashboard compartment near the driver’s right leg for small items. 

There’s also a shallow storage tray set into the central dash pad, an overhead glasses holder, and a single cubby. 

The centre console has open storage up front, two cup holders in the centre and a lidded box at the back. Rear passengers get a large bottle holder and bin in each door, plus flexible pouches on each front seat backrest. And there’s a pull-down centre armrest with dual cup holders. 

The rear seat base can swing up through 90 degrees and be stored vertically when more internal load space is required. This also provides access to a pair of under-floor storage compartments. 

DEFT DAILY DRIVER

Living with the LDV T60 Max Luxe as a daily driver is as comfortable (if not more so) as one would expect from a large double cab. Getting in and out is made easier by the side steps and large grab handles on the passenger side A-pillar and both B-pillars. The bi-turbo engine has ample performance, if a little slow on the uptake below 2,000 rpm when accelerating hard from standing starts. There is good pulling power under load, and the eight-speed automatic works well to keep the engine operating within its 1,500-2,400 rpm peak torque zone in most city and suburban driving situations. 

It’s quiet and comfortable at highway speeds, requiring a slight 1,800 rpm to maintain 100 km/h and 2,200 rpm at 120 km/h, which is also in the middle of its peak torque zone. 

On the safety front, you get six airbags, including full-length side curtains, rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring, reversing/360-degree cameras, lane departure warning, and more. There’s also ISOFIX and top-tether child seat anchoring for the outer rear seating positions. 

LAST WORD 

While some Chinese bakkie manufacturers still have a way to go in matching the overall refinement of the leading players in this segment, the T60 Max Luxe, with its bold styling, powerful engine, solid warranty (five-year/200,000 km factory warranty and a five-year/100,000 km service plan as standard), and reasonable pricing has significantly moved the needle in the right direction.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © BERNIE HELLBERG JR / SAIC MOTOR

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