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Lifan X80 2018 spied testing in Victoria

The 'LLL' badge of Lifan Motors can be clearly seen on the tailgate of this X80 caught in north-east Victoria.

An undisguised example of Lifan Motors' X80 was sprung testing in Victoria last week, with the Chinese carmaker likely importing the left-hand drive mule for transmission calibration by Australian-based Drivetrain Systems International (DSI).

Spotted in north-east Victoria wearing local registration plates, the X80 assumes flagship responsibilities in the Lifan range and is a seven-seat large SUV similar to the Haval H8 or Hyundai Santa Fe.

The brand uses six-speed automatic transmissions engineered in Victoria and built in China by DSI, which has been a subsidiary of Chinese automotive manufacturer Geely Automobile since 2009.

It remains unknown if the company is intending to roll out models in Australia.

Initially launched with a front-wheel-drive set-up only, the X80 is expected to receive an all-wheel-drive option, which might explain why it was testing in Australia.

Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, the X80 produces 135kW of power and 286Nm of torque, and measures in at 4820mm long and 1930mm wide.

Following its Chinese launch in March, the X80 is set to be exported next year to markets including Russia, the Middle East and South America.

Lifan already has a presence in these markets where it offers smaller passenger cars and SUVs.

It remains unknown if the company is intending to roll out models in Australia where several Chinese marques, such as LDV, Great Wall, MG, Haval and Foton, are already competing.

For what it is worth, the Lifan name and logo have been trademarked Down Under for the past nine years.

Despite previous X80s featuring a 'Lifan' badge on their rear tailgates, the example in this image has the carmaker's 'LLL' logo.

DSI engineers frequently import evaluation vehicles to test transmission calibration, such as a camouflaged Geely people-mover snapped earlier this year that was later revealed in concept form at the Shanghai motor show.

Formerly known as Borg Warner, DSI produced transmissions at its Albury factory for companies like Ford Australia.

It also supplied transmissions to Mahindra and SsangYong before the Australian plant was shut down by Geely in 2009, with the manufacturing operation sent to China. Nevertheless, DSI's engineering centre south-east of Melbourne, in Springvale, has been retained.

According to Lifan's website, the X80’s chassis was sharpened at Great Britain’s MIRA vehicle development centre.

Similar to Geely and Great Wall, Lifan Motors is a privately owned, stock-market-listed company, unlike state-owned corporations.

Significantly, this likely rules out chassis development by Victoria-based Premcar, which has worked on Chinese vehicles from Geely and ZX Auto, as well as others.

A subsidiary of Lifan Group, Lifan Motors was founded in the western Chinese city of Chongqing in 2003. It manufactures a variety of motor vehicles, including passenger cars, SUVs, motorcycles and small light-commercial vehicles.

Similar to Geely and Great Wall, Lifan Motors is a privately owned, stock-market-listed company, unlike state-owned corporations such as SAIC Motor, FAW and Beijing Auto.

Geely has aggressively grown its portfolio of automotive brands over the past decade, acquiring Volvo, Proton and Lotus, while also creating an export brand, Lynk & Co, that is primarily aimed at western markets.

In Chongqing, Lifan is overshadowed by another of China’s automotive giants, Changan, which has Ford, Mazda and Suzuki as joint-venture partners, among others.

Should Lifan enter the Australian market with the X80? Tell us what you think in the comments below.