LDV’s new twin-turbo T60 Max can lay claim to being Australia’s most powerful four-cylinder diesel ute. But does that mean you should buy one?
Riding a wave
The updated 2021 LDV T60 Max is launching in interesting times. Pandemic factors like surging domestic travel, shipping and supply issues, the government’s instant asset write-off scheme and more – it’s been a topsy-turvy old time…
But ute sales remain strong, demand is outstripping supply for many brands, and it’s clear LDV is making headway with its keenly-priced 4x4 dual-cab platform.
First arriving here in 2017, the LDV T60 has racked up 5650 sales in the first 10 months of this year – a rise of almost 50 per cent on 2020 – to place it ahead of the SsangYong Musso and on an even footing with its compatriot GWM Ute. It’s also not outlandishly far off the Volkswagen Amarok…
Now, with the new 2021 LDV T60 Max, the Chinese brand is hoping to build on that momentum.
Previewed in concept form at the Chengdu motor show in mid-2020, a power upgrade for the T60 was a good place to start.
To that end, the new 2.0-litre biturbo diesel – already found in lower-output form in the LDV D90 SUV – produces a claimed 160kW and 500Nm.
Not only does it address a weakness of its predecessor, on paper it makes the T60 Max Australia’s most powerful four-cylinder ute, edging out the 2.0-litre biturbo Ford Ranger (157kW) and 2.8-litre Toyota HiLux (150kW).
That sharpens the newcomer’s sword as it battles both budget-minded and big-ticket rivals alike.
A four-model range spans entry-level Pro and higher-spec Luxe trim grades, with six-speed manual or a new eight-speed auto variants of each. An updated long-wheelbase T60 ‘Mega Tub’ is still in the works, and will return to the line-up shortly.
Pricing has risen by $5000 across the board, now spanning $33,990 (T60 Max Pro manual) to $40,490 (T60 Max Luxe auto). Those are drive-away prices for ABN holders, with a $2000 disparity between manual and auto variants.
LDV Australia hopes the performance boost, among other new features, will – in buyers’ minds – justify the extra outlay.
“It’s power to the people,” LDV Australia general manager, Dinesh Chinnappa, told carsales. “The T60 Max has made power [in the 4x4 dual-cab segment] affordable for hard-working, everyday Australians.”
Facing the future
The 2021 LDV T60 Max also receives refreshed exterior styling and some cabin tweaks.
There’s a larger front grille, new LED daytime running lights and a new bumper incorporating vertically-stacked LED headlights, plus a new moulded panel on the rear tailgate emblazoned with ‘T60 MAX’.
While changes lend the ute a tougher yet more refined look, roof rails and side steps have been dropped across the line-up, along with the sports bar on Luxe variants.
The model’s body essentially carries over, with the same basic dimensions and the same 3000kg braked towing limit. That’s on par with the GWM Ute but 500kg below most dual-cab rivals.
Still, the T60 Max comes loaded with features, with even the base-spec T60 Max Pro receiving tyre pressure monitoring, automatic lights and wipers, climate control, cruise control and a larger 10.25-inch multimedia display with a faster operating system.
The unit has Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay connectivity, plus Android smartphone mirroring. The air-con controls are now neatly tucked beneath the multimedia unit, while in auto models the gear shifter now resembles that found in the D90.
The T60 Max Luxe tested here builds on all this with a dark front grille and chrome mirror caps, keyless entry and starting, a 360-degree camera and leather-trimmed seating with six-way electric adjustment and heating up front.
It also has lane departure warning and a locking rear differential, plus auto-folding mirrors and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, while all models receive 17-inch alloy wheels.
Service intervals are 5000km initially and then every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first, while the range comes backed by a five-year/130,000km warranty with complimentary roadside assistance.
The T60 comes standard in Blanc White or, for a $500 premium, prestige hues spanning Metal Black, Jewel Blue, Maple Leaf Orange or Lava Grey.
The updated 2021 LDV T60 Max range carries a five-star ANCAP safety rating that dates back to the platform’s introduction in 2017.
It has the staples like stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and six airbags, plus fatigue alert, an overspeed alert, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
However, the T60 misses out on autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Top tethers and ISOFIX mounting points for baby capsules/child seats are provided for outboard second-row seats.
Powering the 2021 LDV T60 Max is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder biturbo diesel engine.
Producing a claimed 160kW at 4000rpm and 500Nm from 1500-2400rpm, it supersedes a single-turbo 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel good for a claimed 110kW at 3400rpm and 360Nm at 1600-2800rpm.
Both T60 model grades come with either a six-speed manual transmission or a new ZF eight-speed automatic with Power and Eco modes plus full auto or sequential manual shifting.
LDV quotes official combined-cycle fuel consumption figures of 9.2L/100km for manual variants and 9.3L/100km for autos.
That compares with 8.8L/100km and 9.6L/100km respectively for the outgoing T60, while fuel tank capacity has dropped from 75 litres to 73L.
All models come with a dual-range transfer case, with a dial selector on the centre console offering two-wheel drive high range, four-wheel drive high range or four-wheel drive low range.
A BorgWarner torque-on-demand system is also standard, and provides an ‘auto’ mode said to determine the optimal torque split between the front and rear axles to maximise traction.
Luxe variants receive an Eaton rear differential lock that automatically engages or disengages in low range at speeds of under 30km/h.
The 2021 LDV T60 Max has a carryover ladder-frame chassis with double-wishbone front and leaf-spring rear suspension.
Max Pro variants have a ‘heavy-duty’ suspension tune, while Max Luxe variants have a ‘comfort’ tune.
The ute measures 5365mm long, 1809mm high and 2145mm wide. Gross vehicle mass is 3050kg for Pro variants and 2900kg for Luxe variants, with kerb weights ranging from 2115kg to 2150kg.
A 12.6-metre kerb-to-kerb turning circle continues, and there are disc brakes at all four corners.
Payload limits have dropped to 935kg for the Pro manual (down 90kg), 925kg for the Pro auto (down 70kg) and 750kg for both Luxe variants (down 65kg).
The ute’s tub floor measures 1485mm long by 1510mm wide (1430mm at the rear opening), while its 1131mm width between wheel-arches won’t accept a standard Australian pallet.
All variants receive a spray-in bed liner and four tie-down anchor points.
For those heading off-road, the full T60 Max range has an unchanged ground clearance of 215mm and approach, ramp-over and departure angles of 27, 21.3 and 24.2 degrees respectively.
Maximum wading depth is quoted as 550mm.
A pleasant surprise
If you’ve never driven an LDV, most will be very pleasantly surprised by the cabin of the 2021 LDV T60 Max Luxe.
It’s comfortable and quite roomy for both front and rear occupants, while the cockpit layout is – for the most part – practical and logical.
Exceptions include the awkward placement of the mirror adjustment knob on the door and a steering wheel adjustable for tilt, not reach, but everything else is where you want it.
There’s plenty of hard plastic but the commercial underpinnings are muted by soft-touch surfaces, piano black and silver trim, contrast stitching and classy-looking instrumentation.
Add the leather-trimmed and comfy seating in our test vehicle, and it’s no bad place to be.
Pairing a phone is simple. We like the new multimedia unit, although some icons could be bigger and you can only access seat heating via the touch-screen (a button would be simpler). The 360-degree camera works well but the reversing camera display could be crisper.
Once up and running, the LDV T60 Max goes, handles and stops in a manner that, well, really isn’t out of keeping with most dual-cab utes.
The ride is firm and jiggly when unladen, even with our test vehicle’s ‘comfort’ suspension tune, but that’s to be expected from an LCV.
While we’re yet to put the ute’s towing and load-lugging credentials to the test (stay tuned), certainly the previous T60’s biggest flaw – its engine output – has been well addressed.
Whether LDV’s claimed segment-beating power figure translates to segment-beating on-road performance is neither here nor there, but we can say the new biturbo oiler packs plenty of stomp, period.
We did note a bit of lag, however, especially from take-off, but after a moment for the mill to wind up it just takes off, with strong performance across a wide band of revs.
The new ZF auto is thoroughly competent, shifting pragmatically between ratios swiftly and precisely. At 100km/h in top (eighth) gear, the engine is spinning at a relaxed 1800rpm.
But we aren’t entirely sold on the BorgWarner torque-on-demand system. The ute defaults to the ‘auto’ mode after ignition and, while unobtrusive for the most part, seems to promote some hesitation in power delivery during full-lock turns.
In instances of tight manoeuvring on the blacktop, we opted for rear-wheel drive only, which circumvented the issue.
This aside, the overall level of refinement is decent. Engine noise is suitably suppressed for a ute – it’s a bit raucous under load but demure on a steady throttle – and vibration is minimal.
We would have liked a little more initial bite from the brakes but they are progressive and offer reasonable power, with nice modulation at the pedal.
Down and dirty
Off-road, the 2021 LDV T60 Max did everything we asked of it.
The off-road geometry might not match that of front-runners but still affords healthy capability. We only ran out of ground clearance a couple of times, the chassis rails touching down, but the lack of side steps helps.
Underbody protection is modest – you get a plastic guard under the front bumper and a sump guard, but little else.
And off-road the T60 Max makes quite a few ‘interesting’ mechanical noises as it seeks to maximise traction and the diff lock engages or disengages.
We grew accustomed to the din soon enough, while the speed and decisiveness with which the transfer case switched between high and low range was impressive.
Overall, the LDV T60 Max gets the job done on-road or off. It may not quite match the established segment heavyweights for overall refinement, but this update sees LDV continue to narrow the gap, and for a super-sharp price.
Hard to ignore
So, would you buy a 2021 LDV T60 Max instead of an equivalent front-running rival like the Ford Ranger or Toyota HiLux?
As always, it comes down to how much you have to spend, and what you need to do.
Yes, its towing limit is now sub-par, as is its safety tech, and the segment’s established veterans can lay claim to both bigger aftersales networks and more robust resale values.
But with the updated T60 Max’s extra performance, one of its biggest drawbacks has been addressed.
Considering its price, even with the new model’s extra outlay, potential buyers now have one more reason to give this value-packed 4x4 dual-cab ute some careful consideration.
How much does the 2021 LDV T60 Max Luxe auto cost?
Price: $40,490 (drive-away for ABN holders)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel: 9.3L/100km (ADR Combined)
CO2: 244g/km (ADR Combined)
Safety rating: Five-star (ANCAP 2017)