Isuzu D-Max VS LDV T60
- Reversing camera as standard
- Suspension upgrade
- Off-road capability
- No AEB
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Still noisy when driven hard
- Packed with features as standard
- Solid all-rounder
- Too-firm suspension (Pro)
- Resale value
Last year heralded a raft of significant changes in Isuzu Ute Australia’s (IUA) D-Max and MU-X line-up.
In its first-quarter 2017 launch on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Isuzu officially revealed the range’s new 3.0-litre engine, new six-speed automatic transmission, and upgraded Aussie-specific suspension – all engineered for Australian drivers and our unique driving conditions – as well as a few nifty styling improvements, including a new front-end.
Well, this year Isuzu chose the Mt Cotton driver training centre, just outside of Brisbane, as the venue to let Australian motoring journalists loose in some new D-Maxs and MU-Xs. The changes this time around aren’t anywhere near as big as they were last year but Isuzu is hoping that extra safety features as standard, styling tweaks and value-added service intervals will help to build on growing buyer interest in its ute and SUV range.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
A lot is riding on the LDV T60. The dual-cab-only ute range is spearheading a new generation of better-built and better-equipped Chinese utes and (very soon) SUVs, aimed at carving out their own slice of the lucrative Aussie work-and-play market.
It’s the first Chinese commercial vehicle to receive a five-star ANCAP rating, it’s well priced and packed with standard features and safety tech across the range, but realistically is that enough to make it an appealing proposition in the eyes of the ute-buying public? And to overcome the public's wariness about vehicles from the People's Republic? Read on.
|Engine Type||2.8L turbo|
The D-Max was already a solid choice for those interested in a functional family-friendly ute and it seems Isuzu might be justified in banking on the new LS-T’s premium appeal, as well as the range’s safety upgrades, extended service intervals and styling tweaks for even more sales.
What do you think of the new D-Max? Tell us in the comments below.
The LDV T60 is a big step in the right direction for Chinese-built utes and should go a long way to convincing Aussie ute buyers that these are finally a worthwhile consideration. Well priced and feature-packed, this dual-cab range exhibits a marked improvement in build quality, fit and finish and all-round drivability. Right now, the Chinese are not major contenders by anyone's estimation but at least they're moving in the right direction.
For our money, and for work-and-play versatility, the Luxe auto is the pick of the bunch; you get all the standard kit with a few nifty add-ons, including on-demand rear diff lock, chrome door handles and door mirrors, sports bar and more.
Would you consider buying a Chinese-built ute? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Nothing has changed on the D-Max’s outside – it looks chunky, solid and purpose-built for adventure – but the LS-T’s interior now has that perforated leather on body-contact areas and soft-touch leatherette elsewhere. Inside the cabin remains functional but it now has a more premium feel.
From the outside, the LDV T60 is not unpleasant to look at – part-chunky ute, part-SUV styling – but there’s nothing startlingly special about it, either. It has the scalloped sides of an Amarok look-alike, the sporty stretch bonnet of a HiLux wannabe and everything in between.
I like it for its lack of pretension, as if its designers had a beer down the pub, scratched out their ideas on a coaster as a bit of a joke and then they decided they were actually pretty good, so those guidelines have stuck.
The interior is all clean lines and big surfaces, especially the plastic everything in the Pro, which is not a bad thing as this tradie-targetting model has a real everyday working ute feel to it.
The cabin is dominated by the huge expanse of dash-top and the ute’s 10.0-inch touchscreen entertainment unit.
We didn’t have the opportunity to spend very much time in the D-Max this time around but it appears to have retained the previous generation’s easy-to-live-with attributes. Everything is clear to see (the 8.0-inch touchscreen is a good unit), easy to use (big buttons, dials and knobs abound) and the cabin is roomy, comfortable, and hard wearing. Build quality and fit and finish remains solid and touring-ready.
The D-Max's tray is 1552mm long (at floor level), 465mm deep and 1530mm wide across the top, 1105mm wide, between wheel arches. It has four tie-down points in the tray, one at each corner.
This D-Max has a 1024kg payload, 3050kg GVM, a maximum braked towing capacity of 3500kg and 750kg unbraked.
The cabin is neat and roomy with adequate storage space for driver and front-seat passenger; a lidded centre-console bin, big door pockets, a dash-height cupholder for driver and front passenger (although our supplied water bottles only fit in with a little bit of twisting and forcing) and a knick-knacks tray, replete with two USB ports and a 12V socket.
Those in the rear get door pockets, a centre armrest with two cupholders and a 12V socket.
The front seats are comfortable enough but lack support, especially at the sides; the rear seats are flat and workmanlike.
Interior fit and finish is a big improvement on what’s come before in Chinese-built utes and these build-quality positives may go a long way to helping convince Australia’s ute buyers that the LDV T60 is a worthwhile purchase – or at least worth considering.
The 10-inch touchscreen is clear, neat and simple to operate, although prone to glare. I did see one colleague struggling to get his Android OS phone working through his Luxe. (I didn’t even bother trying to hook up my iPhone; I’m a dinosaur like that.)
The LDV T60 is 5365mm long, 2145mm wide, and 1852mm high (Pro) and 1887mm high (Luxe). Kerb weight is 1950kg (Pro manual), 1980kg (Pro auto), 1995kg (Luxe manual) and 2060kg (Luxe auto).
The tray is 1525mm long and 1510mm wide (1131mm between the wheel arches). It has a plastic tub liner and four tie-down points (one in each corner) and two ‘tub rim anchor points’, which seem like a bit of a flimsy afterthought. Loading height (from tray floor to ground) is 819mm.
The TDV T60 has a 3000kg braked tow capacity (750kg unbraked); many rivals hit the 3500kg benchmark. Its payload ranges from 815kg (Luxe auto) to 1025kg (for the Pro manual). Towball download is 300kg.
One final quirk we should mention is that the two Pros we tested had the indentation for a driver-side 'Jesus!' handle, but no actual handle. Strange.
Price and features
There are 23 variants in the D-Max line-up, ranging from the 4x2 single cab chassis SX manual ($28,600) through to the new LS-T (formerly known as the LS-Terrain), costing $54,700 (recommended retail price).
There are four variants in the crew cab (dual-cab) range – SX, LS-M, LS-U and the new LS-T (formerly known as the LS-Terrain), which we’ll focus on in this yarn. There are 4x4 and 4x2 variants for everything in the 2018 D-Max range; and manual or auto transmissions for a lot of the line-up everything.
The LS-T is auto only and costs $54,700 (recommended retail price). Available in 4x4 or 4x2 guise, the LS-T gets, above and beyond what came before, perforated leather on body-contact areas, soft-touch leatherette in other spots (also in LS-m and LS-U), 18-inch wheels, sat nav, roof-rails, and two USB charge points.
Safety upgrades include trailer sway control for all new D-Maxs – except the 4x2 low-ride SX single cab chassis manual – and rear bumper and reversing camera as standard on everything, except cab chassis models, but it is an option on those.
There are also three new exterior colours available for the D-Max: 'Magnetic Red Mica', 'Cobalt Blue Mica' and 'Graphite Grey Metallic'. The new MU-X also has the Magnetic Red Mica option.
In an age where each new vehicle seems to offer a mind-boggling variety of trim and spec levels, the LDV T60 range is a refreshingly small and simple one.
The diesel-only five-seater LDV T60 is available in one body style – dual-cab – and two trim levels: Pro, aimed at tradies, and Luxe, aimed at the dual-purpose or family recreation market. The range is limited to dual-cabs at the moment, but, at the launch LDV Automotive Australia did tease the arrival of single-cab and extra-cab models in 2018.
The four options are Pro manual, Pro automatic, Luxe manual and Luxe automatic. All are powered by a 2.8-litre common-rail turbo-diesel engine.
The base-spec T60 Pro, the manual, is $30,516 (drive away); the Pro automatic is $32,621 (drive away), the Luxe manual $34,726 (drive away), and the Luxe automatic $36,831 (drive away). ABN holders will pay $28,990 (for the Pro manual), $30,990 (Pro auto), Luxe manual ($32,990) and Luxe automatic ($34,990).
The ute’s standard features in Pro form include cloth seats, a 10.0-inch colour touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, automatic height adjusting headlights, 4WD with high and low range, 17-inch alloys with a full-sized spare, side steps, and roof rails.
Safety gear includes six airbags, two ISOFIX child-seat restraint attachment points in the rear seat, as well as a raft of passive and active safety tech including ABS, EBA, ESC, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, 'Hill Descent Control', 'Hill Start Assist', and a tyre-pressure monitoring system.
Above and beyond that, the top-spec Luxe gets leather seats and leather-bound steering wheel, electrically six-way adjustable and heated front seats, automatic climate control and a 'Smart Key' system with Start/Stop button, as well as an automatic locking rear differential as standard.
The Pro has a multi-bar headboard to protect the rear window; the Luxe has a polished chrome sport bar. Both models have roof rails as standard.
LDV Automotive has launched a range of accessories including rubber floor mats, polished alloy nudge bars, tow bar, ladder rack, colour-matched canopies, tonneau covers and more. Bullbars for the ute are in the pipeline.
Engine & trans
We only got the chance to spend very little time in any new models and we’d have to drive it for a week or more to get a good handle on real-world fuel consumption but Isuzu claims the D-Max gets through 7.9L/100km (combined cycle). It has a 76-litre fuel tank.
We only did brief drive loops on the launch, including a decent off-road course and towing a 1750kg boat with a D-Max on a twisting bitumen road, designed to replicate real-world driving conditions.
Running 20 psi (pounds per square inch) in our Bridgestone Dueler or Toyo Open Country tyres, the Isuzus handled everything on the 4WD loop with ease, including runs up and down steep greasy-muddy hills peppered with rocks and tree-root hazards, tight turns in between trees, plowing through mud puddles and more.
No surprise at its efficacy on rough terrain because it works off the proven 4X4 'Terrain Command' system, operated via a dial near the auto shifter, and which can be switched on the fly from 2High to 4High at speeds of up to 100km/h. To engage 4L you need to be stationary.
The LS-T is 5295mm long, 1860mm wide (excluding wing mirrors), 1855mm high (excluding roof rails) and has a 3095mm wheelbase and 1570mm track. It has a 12.6m turning circle. Kerb weight is listed as 2026kg.
It has 235mm ground clearance, 30 degrees approach angle, 22.7 degrees departure angle, and 22.3 degrees ramp-over angle. The LS-T's wading depth is 600mm.
The Isuzu ute retains the previous generation’s hill start assist (designed to hold gear during climbs) and hill descent control (which maintains engine-braking speed on downhills and is able to be regulated with acceleration or braking).
The D-Max’s underbody protection includes under-front steel plate skid/splash shield and steel plate guards on the sump, transfer case and fuel tank leading edge; and sheet steel under the fuel tank.
It has double wishbones and coil springs up front and leaf springs at the rear, reduced from a five-span spring set-up to three, which has resulted in a softer and more comfortable D-Max ride than before.
We had the opportunity to drive a 2017 and a 2018 model back-to-back through lumpy sections at different speeds and the newer model exhibited a clear advantage in the ride and handling stakes over its older version.
We did more than 200km around Bathurst in some LDV T60s, most of it in a Pro auto, and much of the drive program was on bitumen. A few things became obvious quite early on and, later, a few quirks popped up as well.
The 2.8-litre four-cylinder VM Motori turbo-diesel never seemed to struggle – on the blacktop or in the bush – but it almost felt too relaxed, as it was slow to respond and wind up, especially when pushed on long, steep hills.
However, a bonus of that under-stressed engine is that it is very quiet – we had the radio off and engine-related NVH levels were impressive. There wasn’t even any wind-rush from the big wing mirrors.
The six-speed Aisin auto trans is a smooth unit – no hard-shifting up or down – but there’s no real discernible difference in drivability between modes; Normal or Sport.
Ride and handling are adequate if unspectacular, although it turned in nicely – steering was very precise for something like this – and the ute held stable through long sweeping bends. Our tester was on 245/65 R17 Dunlop Grandtrek AT20s.
While our stiff-set Pro exhibited no arse-end skipping-around straight away, typical of an unladen ute, we did hit a few surprise lumps and bumps early on in the drive-loop and that got the back end jumping about in a brief but brutal manner.
As for the quirks, our overzealous ABS kicked in on several occasions for seemingly innocuous reasons when we tickled the brakes (discs all round) at lower and high speeds on bumpy stuff, which was concerning.
Secondly, a couple of journalists in a Luxe reckoned the blind-spot monitor in their LDV T60 failed to alert them to the presence of a passing vehicle.
While the Pro suspension was too firm (to cope with heavy loads, no doubt), the Luxe’s tended to wallow.
For off-roading enthusiasts, here are the numbers worth noting: ground clearance is 215mm, wading depth is 300mm, and front and rear departure angles are 27 and 24.2 degrees respectively; ramp-over angle is 21.3 degrees.
The launch off-road loops were more scenic than challenging but when we intentionally veered off-course and onto some steep hilly sections, we had the opportunity to check out the LDV T60’s engine braking (okay) and hill descent control (good).
The Pro auto was an easier drive over any off-road bits than the manual Pro was, as the light feel of its clutch and the loose throw of its gear-stick didn’t inspire confidence.
Underbody protection includes a plastic bash-plate at the front.
The D-Max has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating from November 2016. As mentioned, noteworthy safety upgrades include trailer sway control for all new D-Maxs – except the 4x2 low-ride SX single cab chassis manual – and rear bumper and reversing camera as standard on everything, except cab chassis models, but it is an option on those.
Other standard safety gear includes six airbags (dual front, side and full-length curtain), ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, ESC, traction control and EBA (emergency brake assist), 'Hill Start Assist' and 'Hill Descent Control', plus three top-tether ISOFIX child-seat points in the rear seat.
The LDV T60 packs a lot of safety gear in for the price. It has a five-star ANCAP rating, six airbags (driver and front passenger, side, full-length curtain) and includes a raft of passive and active safety tech across the range including ABS, EBA, ESC, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, 'Hill Descent Control', 'Hill Start Assist', and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system. It has two ISOFIX points and two top-tether points.
It has a five-year/130,000km warranty, with five years of roadside assist and five-year/75,000km capped price service costs. Servicing is recommended at 12-month/15,000km intervals. Prices are: $350 (at 12 months/15,000km), $450 (at 24 months/30,000km), $500 (at 36 months/45,000km) $450 (at 48 months/60,000km) and $340 at 60 months/75,000km – for a total cost of $2090.