LDV T60 VS Volkswagen Amarok
- Packed with features as standard
- Solid all-rounder
- Too-firm suspension (Pro)
- Resale value
- Monster diesel V6
- Ultra-refined (for a ute)
- Massive tray and interior
- No advanced active safety
- No rear airbags
- LED headlights would be nice
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|
Volkswagen turned the tables on its competitors when it flexed its corporate muscle and reached into its parts catalogue to offer a 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 in its Amarok range.
The Amarok, once scoffed at by some die-hards for its European roots and its 2.0-litre engine, had surged to the front of the pack as the most powerful dual-cab ute you could buy in Australia.
The only catch? To get the gruntiest '580' engine option you’d need to spend north of $70k for the Ultimate trim level.
Now, though, Volkswagen has made the bigger engine more affordable than ever, offering it in the lower ‘Highline’ trim.
So we were shipped thousands of kilometres from the nearest major city, to the middle of the Simpson Desert, to put this new Highline 580 through its off-road paces.
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.
The latest addition to the Amarok lineup is easily one of the best you can buy.
While it would be nice to see some more modern safety features, LED headlights and a bigger multimedia screen, there’s no getting past the fact that this truck is capable, comfortable, and packs what is essentially a Porsche engine in the highest state of tune at the lowest price across VW’s entire lineup by far.
Do you think the regular V6 is enough, or is the 580 the only way to go? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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.
The Amarok has always looked good, and it continues to look good even after this many years on the road. Although VW design has moved on with new curves and edges, it hasn’t quite moved far enough to make the Amarok look dated.
The dual-cab still carries all the major VW design pillars, toughening them up with a few extra squared-off angles to make the most of its ladder chassis underpinnings.
Sure it may not look as truly rugged as the Ranger or HiLux, but it also looks more refined and stylish. As at home in the city as it is on a dirt trail. There’s a lot to be said for that.
Of course, VW confirms that most owners go on to spend a small fortune making their vehicles look even tougher with a suite of aftermarket accessories. Our test car for this trip looked extra tough, for example, just with a small set of genuine accessories fitted.
Inside, you’d almost think you were sitting in an SUV. There’s nothing industrial about the Amarok’s interior. It’s a comfortable, passenger-friendly place to be. It has all the familiar switchgear from the VW family, from the leather-bound steering wheel to the Golf-style indicator stalks and cloth seats.
This 580 version then spruces it up a little with the black headlining giving the cabin a moodier feel.
It’s so SUV-like I’d almost feel bad sullying it with tools or mud or sand or dirt. A victim to it’s own classy fit-out, perhaps. The Ultimate goes even further with 14-way heated and electrically adjustable leather seats, colour multifunction display and paddle shifters. Nice, but it all comes at a significant price-hike.
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.
The Amarok is one wide unit, which means even among dual-cab utes it’s about as practical as you can get.
First, it’s one in a very limited pool (including the Mercedes-Benz X-Class) of dual-cabs that can carry a full-size pallet in its standard tray. So, already a win there.
The 580 engine also allows for a max payload of 911kg for a GVM of 3080kg, and also a max towing capacity of 3500kg braked/750kg unbraked for a GCM of 6000kg.
For those interested, the Amarok also has a max towball download of 300kg, and a max roof load of 100kg.
Most impressive is the rear seat, which genuinely offers room for three adults in decent comfort, each with individual seat contours. Legroom is decent, although bested slightly by the Ranger on a recent comparison, and headroom is excellent thanks to the Amarok’s big square roofline.
Rear passengers get a single 12-volt power outlet and decently sized bottle holders in the doors, but no air vents.
Up front there’s loads of room for occupants, nice soft trim features for your elbows on the door and a massive centre console. There are a set of two 12-volt outlets and a massive trench in front of the shift lever, a set of two cupholders next to the old-school handbrake and small trenches in the doors.
The big dash-topper is augmented by a wide storage bin which has an extra 12-volt outlet to make use of the space. The driver benefits from a telescopic manual adjust for the steering column.
The Amarok feels like a spacious and practical place to be, and although hard plastics adorn many of the internal surfaces, they will be a little more hard-wearing for those venturing to the worksite or off-road.
Price and features
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.
Okay, here it is; the 580 engine is now available in the cheapest package across the entire Volkswagen Group, at an MSRP of $64,990. Yes, you can get the regular 165kW/550Nm V6 in the even cheaper Amarok Core, but this is now the cheapest way to get the same '580' engine that appears in the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne. That fact alone gives the Highline 580 a nice leg-up in terms of its value offering, and it also undercuts the only other 580 variant, the Ultimate, by roughly $8000.
The 580 version of the Highline can be told apart from the regular V6 version by the inclusion of a once limited-edition ‘black pack’, including gloss-black bumpers front and rear, 20-inch gloss-black alloy wheels, a slightly redesigned front grille, black interior headlining, as well as black side bars and sports bar.
The car we tested, the one which appears in the video and pictures, had all-terrain tyres, a rolling hard tonneau cover, and a roof platform fitted. All of which are optional, but are genuine VW accessories.
Other standard features carried across from the regular Highline include bi-xenon headlights, LED DRLs, a tyre pressure-monitoring system, manually adjustable seats with cloth trim, dual-zone climate control, as well as a 6.33-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity and built-in nav (a must when we were out in the middle of nowhere, with no phone coverage).
It’s a great set of features for any dual-cab ute, and its thumping V6 engine makes up for the fact that it’s missing a few small items that its major price rival, the Ranger Wildtrak, gets.
It would be nice to see a bigger multimedia touchscreen given the width of the Amarok’s cabin. In a normal passenger vehicle, this size would be enough, but it just seems dwarfed by the Amarok’s big dash. Electrically adjustable seats would be nice at this price, too.
To see what mechanical features you get, check out the Engine and Transmission part of this review, and for more on the Amarok’s safety features, check out the Safety subhead.
Engine & trans
This is what you’re paying for. The 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 in ‘580’ tune.
That ‘580’ is incidentally the amount of torque (Nm) this engine produces, alongside 190kW of power. Not to be outdone, this engine is also capable of ‘Overboost’, which temporarily disables some restrictions to allow the engine to reach a whopping 200kW.
This engine also appears across VW’s more premium offerings from Audi (the Q7) and Porsche (the Cayenne diesel), and outdoes the regular V6’s 165kW/550Nm power outputs by a healthy margin.
Is the added 25kW/30Nm worth the almost $4k extra spend over the regular Highline V6? If you believe comment sections anywhere, the resounding answer from Australian ute consumers is a resounding yes.
This allows VW to correctly assert that the Amarok has beyond class-leading power figures - the Ranger Wildtrak Bi-Turbo draws 157kW/500Nm from its 2.0-litre twin-turbo engine, while the X-Class Power 350d, comes much closer with its 3.0L V6 (producing 190kW/550Nm).
The Volkswagen makes do with a simple eight-speed torque converter auto. That’s right, no dual-clutch here.
It’s also worth noting that the Amarok has no transfer case or manually selectable low-range options. It has a constant ‘4MOTION’ all-wheel drive system with a 40:60 front/rear split.
It sounds suspiciously simple, but thanks to smart software and fit-for-purpose hardware (including a mechanical rear diff lock) it punches well above its weight when you need it to. For what it’s worth, the new Touareg uses this system to great success also.
We were surging up hills and plowing through sand and gravel, so it seems hardly fair to pitch our Highline 580’s 11.0-plus litres per 100km against its claimed/combined 8.9L/100km figure.
It’s worth making note of the fact that the Amarok will get fairly close to that 8.9L/100km rating on the road in the real world as per our previous V6 tests, and that’s not a bad thing at all considering its lower-capacity rivals will produce similar real-world figures.
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.
You can talk numbers and figures all day, but it’s behind the wheel of the 580 where you suddenly see exactly what it is you’ve paid for.
The 3.0-litre V6 absolutely hammers. You can go as fast as you like, press that accelerator down as far as you want, and it feels like it just has an infinite well of torque to pull from. That’s all well and good on the straight of course, but is also means glorious scrabbling power when you’re contending with rocks or sand up hills.
Despite its apparent lack of traditional off-road running gear, the Amarok more than makes up for it with brute force. Driving up the Simpson Desert’s Big Red dune, with its soft red sand, was a cinch with the VW.
You will need to turn on “off-road mode” and disable traction control for the most hairy of situations, but even when I forgot to do so it didn’t let me down (I did wonder where the thundering torque had disappeared to, however).
What will shock you the most, though, is the refinement of the whole package. In terms of sound and responsiveness you could tell someone it was a naturally aspirated petrol and I think many would believe you. It’s almost unbelievably quiet, even under load.
The suspension and steering are so well sorted you almost forget that there’s a ladder chassis underneath you. It’s really like being at the helm of one of VW’s SUV offerings, and that’s big praise.
We’ve talked at length about how the Amarok’s slightly less powerful V6 variants handled in both towing and load scenarios (spoiler: they handled it with ease), so make sure you check out our comparison tests for more on that.
All in all, the Amarok is so well-refined on the road, you’ll almost forget how capable it is on the rough stuff.
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.
V6 versions of the Amarok do not have current ANCAP ratings, and given the lack of active safety items, and especially the lack of rear airbags, it would be a stretch to imagine it getting more than the 2.0-litre version’s four stars, given ANCAP’s more stringent 2019 rating criteria.
Although major competitor dual-cabs like Mitsubishi’s Triton, Toyota's HiLux, and Ford’s Ranger are rolling active safety tech like auto emergency braking (AEB) as standard, the majority of dual-cabs still lack active safety of any kind. It’s the fact that the Amarok still has no rear airbags in 2019 that’s the real shame here.
VW’s representatives tell us it’s likely we’ll be waiting for the next-generation ute to see these kinds of updates.
Volkswagen has made some strides here in recent months, now offering a permanent five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, up from its previous three-year offering.
The Amarok is also covered by a capped-price servicing program, costing between $482 and $923 per 12 month/15,000km service. The total cost over five years is $3115 for an average annual cost of $623.
Although this is pricey, Volkswagen says its fixed-price service program is all inclusive and has no extras, and on top of that, your Amarok should be returned to you cleaned and vacuumed.