Can David take on Goliath? We test the LDV T60 pick-up
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The idea of forking out big money on a smartphone goes way, way over my head.
They’re a device; designed to do a bunch of expected tasks such as perform phone calls, send text messages, and give presidents the ability to publish poorly judged tweets while on the run. And, like all other devices, most are vulnerable to obsolescence as technology moves on in the fluid way that it does.
Few self-declared lovers of phones live with one for more than a couple of years before replacing it with the latest and greatest.
My apologies for the stock standard baby boomer analogy, I promise it’ll be over soon.
In the same way that I’m rather fond of my cheapo Motorola that does everything I need of a phone, I should be rather fond of the new LDV T60.
In the sometimes befuddling ute market, the T60 appeals to the common sense buyer. Pricing begins at $33,338, which makes it the cheapest four-wheel drive double-cab ute in the country. That’s a whisker under the SsangYong Actyon, and $5000 to $10,000 less than most of the market’s established players.
But, perhaps unlike the Actyon (or the average punter's expectations), the LDV comes dripping with a ludicrous amount of kit — even in its cheapest locally available trim level. Standard kit in the entry-level T60 ranges from a tub liner, to an enormous 10-inch infotainment screen, to parking sensors, a reversing camera, and tyre-pressure monitoring.
There’s also a comprehensive suite of safety gizmos — comprehensive enough to make the LDV not only a 5-star ANCAP safety rated vehicle, but also fractionally safer on paper than most, if not all, of its more fancied competitors.
Auckland | Wairau Valley
$387.12 p/w $1,548.50 p/m
Auckland | Wairau Valley
$379.06 p/w $1,516.24 p/m
Then there’s our top-spec Luxury test ute. Priced at $40,238 with a 6-speed automatic transmission equipped, it adds lane departure warning tech to the safety mix — plus other add-ons such as electric and heated front seats, softer suspension and keyless entry.
On the outside a huge imposing grille is complemented by smart day-time running lights and a chrome skid plate. Inside the highlights include a smart looking gauge cluster, and quality materials on major touch points.
Cup holders mounted in front of air-conditioning vents to keep your vessels cold, and a sound system that goes quiet when reverse is engaged prove that the plucky LDV can be clever, too.
But things aren't perfect. Our tester, having covered more than 3000km by the time we picked it up, had started to creak in various pressure points. Things such as the driver's door handle and the front centre arm rest squeaked when pulled or leaned on.
Then there’s that big screen. In the most part, it’s fantastic; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are present for those who crave them and the choice of vibrant colours in some menus give an otherwise nondescript interior a little zest.
But the menus themselves are haphazardly arranged and labelled, making most navigation a chore. The air conditioning functionality is another beast, too. Everything is controlled via a bevy of buttons and knobs underneath the screen. Touch any of them, and it prompts the infotainment screen to switch to a dedicated air-con page. This would be fine, if the page could stay up for longer than a couple of seconds without disappearing.
It’s things like the odd screen and the interior build quality that instill doubt in the mind of buyers who, at heart, are still sceptical of buying a Chinese-built vehicle.
To counter this, LDV’s T60 brochure proudly lists the noted international companies — such as Bosch, BorgWarner, and Delphi — whose products have been cherrypicked (pun not intended) for T60 usage. More to the point, LDV also offers an impressive five-year/130,000km warranty on each ute; potential piece of mind for hesitant new-car buyers.
And once you’ve deciphered the infotainment and you’re ready to hit the road, its true character steps out.
From the moment you press the start button, the T60 feels like a pick-up truck throwback. The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine (standard across the range) emits that familiar, loud rumbly diesel rasp, the steering requires big handfuls of lock, and the ute’s dimensions feel big. Really big — a ute that feels like a car, this certainly is not.
But to some that’ll be endearing, and a reminder of the genre’s roots. The LDV’s 110kW engine performs well enough despite generating middling power figures. With 360Nm of torque, it has a three-tonne (braked) towing capacity and 815kg payload in our specific trim. A few more horses wouldn’t go amiss for motorway passing lanes, but otherwise it gets the job done.
The only true negative in the driving experience is the Luxury model’s suspension set-up.
While the standard T60 gets a heavy duty system, the Luxury gets a “softer” double-wishbone front and leaf-spring rear combination. It soaks up big bumps, but is tuned too softly for our roads — often turning our test vehicle into an unpredictable four-wheeled bouncy castle when presented with even mild challenges.
Indeed, the LDV T60 isn’t a perfect first entry into the pick-up world. But in many ways, it impresses. The likes of Toyota and Ford might not be losing any sleep yet, but give it time — change could happen sooner than you think.
2018 LDV T60
Price: $33,338 (entry level), $40,238 (Luxury spec)
Pros: Great value proposition, safe as houses, plenty of toys
Cons: Refinement lacking, suspension in Luxury-spec models