2020 LDV T60 Trailrider 2 review

With a smaller yet more powerful turbo diesel, is the LDV T60 Trailrider 2 better than the original?

Chinese automaker LDV has made a lot of effort to gain a foothold in the booming ute segment in Australia. From the launch of its original T60 in 2017, which, while acceptable, was found wanting in some areas, to the ute we have here, the 2020 LDV T60 Trailrider 2, which represents a marked step up for the workhorse. Best of the breed? Let’s find out.

The Trailrider 2 is all the LDV T60 you can eat. Pricing starts at $39,990 drive-away for the manual or $42,095 for the auto we have on test here. However, those prices are for regular folk like you and me. Got an ABN? Then the auto can be yours for $39,990 drive-away, while the manual is $37,990.

The Trailrider 2 makes a decent play for the burgeoning ‘lifestyle’ ute segment, certainly in terms of value. It’s an increasingly busy segment, with most of the major players throwing tech, creature comforts and cosmetics at their workhorses to make them more appealing to more buyers. Think Nissan Navara N-Trek, Toyota HiLux Rogue or the Ford Ranger siblings, Wildtrak and Raptor.

But whereas those utes command prices well north of $50K, and in some cases north of $60K and for the Raptor circa-$77K, the Trailrider 2’s sub $40K tip-in point means it should appeal to buyers on a budget.

LDV’s Trailrider first made an appearance on our roads in 2019. Back then it suffered for being powered by LDV’s 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel with modest outputs of 110kW and 360Nm. It was, in short, an asthmatic engine with a narrow power band and an unwillingness to respond to throttle inputs.

For the sequel, LDV has ditched that breathless unit in favour of a smaller yet more powerful turbo diesel. With displacement now at 2.0 litres, the turbo diesel four makes 120kW and 375Nm. Modest gains, yes, but it’s made a world of difference to the T60’s performance.

Power delivery is smoother and more urgent, with none of the lag we found with the older unit. Even on the move, there’s enough under foot to not leave you wanting. The six-speed auto, too, is decent, with smooth shifts and a willingness to let the revs run free under harder acceleration.

There’s both low-range and high-range four-wheel drive, while the Trailrider 2 also scores an on-demand rear diff lock (self-engaging below 30km/h when required). Hill descent control is standard, as well.

It should be noted, peak power comes on song at 4000rpm, while those 375Nm are at their happiest between 1500–2400rpm. That’s a nice and usable torque spread for most situations, especially around town, where the Trailrider 2 moves off briskly and effortlessly.

The ride, too, should be noted. Tweaked locally by Walkinshaw, the suspension tune shows a marked improvement over older models. Bump absorption is good, the Trailrider settling quickly when negotiating larger holes or speed humps, while the usual scars our roads are littered with are dispatched comfortably. There’s some inherent wobbliness to the ride, but it’s not to a point that is a detraction.

The biggest criticism that can be levelled at the Trailrider 2 is that the new four-pot diesel engine is very noisy. Even under mild acceleration, there is a dull roar inside the cabin that overpowers the ambient senses. We ran a quick noise check on a decibel meter. Sitting in the car, with the engine off in a quiet side street, the T60’s cabin returned a reading of 38dB. Standard.

At engine idle that jumped, unsurprisingly, to 61dB. Once on the move, the noise really kicked in: 74dB at 50km/h, climbing to 77dB at 100km/h with a spike at 79dB. That’s deep inside the ‘noise’ range, although well short of the 100dB that’s considered ‘danger’. It should also be noted it’s well inside the legal 90dB limit for vehicles in NSW.

In short, some sound deadening wouldn’t go astray to up the comfort levels inside the cabin.

And the comfort levels are high (engine clatter and noise notwithstanding). LDV has thrown plenty, if not all, of the fruit at the Trailrider 2 to enhance its ‘lifestyle’ appeal.

Exterior treatments to distinguish the Trailrider 2 from mere mortal T60s include a matte-black sports bar, side steps and nudge bar, as well as blacked-out logos and accents. The 19-inch alloys (black) come fitted with Continental ContiSportContact 255/55R19 tyres all ’round, while the lined tub comes fitted with a Mountain Top lockable roll cover, also in black.

When set against the standard white paint of our test car (there are also grey, blue, red and black available for an extra $500), the Trailrider 2 presents as a decent package.

Inside, LDV has made a good fist of blending comfort with practicality. The seats are finished in leather with contrast stitching, while a 10.0-inch touchscreen looks the business. There’s no inbuilt sat-nav, so you’ll need to rely on Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for your route guidance.

And herein lies the first gripe. Run smartphone mirroring while listening to the radio (AM/FM only, no DAB+), and if you take a call or listen to an SMS, the radio naturally – and helpfully – mutes. However, once you’ve finished your call – or listening to your text message courtesy of Siri – you’d expect radio transmission to resume, as it does in just about every other vehicle we’ve tested. Not so in the LDV, which instead greets you with a stony silence.

Worse, it takes several button pushes and screen swipes to get back to listening to your favourite AM/FM station. Annoying the first couple of times, but increasingly frustrating the more it happens. And, as an aside, the sound quality from the six-speaker audio isn’t too flash, either.

Neither is the resolution of the 360-degree camera. Sketchy and grainy at best, it’s even worse at night where the edges disappear in a fuzz and the main, central portion is barely illuminated. Cars behind when trying to park appear as little more than shadows. And it’s only marginally better in daylight.

It’s a shame because it mars what is otherwise a nicely finished and specified cabin. Sure, there are plenty of harder plastics, but the leather seats are comfortable, electrically adjustable, heated, look smart with their contrast stitching, and lend the entire cabin a more premium-ish air than the T60’s pricepoint suggests.

There are a couple of USB points up front as well as cupholders, a smallish storage bin in the centre console, and handy tray for your phone forward of the gear lever.

The second row is spacious, too, with plenty of room in all key areas. There are air vents, as well, but no separate climate controls, while devices can be topped up via a 12V outlet. Cupholders lurk in a fold-down armrest.

Out back, the lockable tub is lined, saving your pretty paint from scratches and dings. It’s par for the course, too, in terms of dimensions, measuring in at 1485mm long and 1131mm between the wheel arches. Payload is rated at 865kg for the auto (895kg for the manual), which is on the low side for the segment, while towing is rated at 3000kg braked or 750kg unbraked, also below some rivals where 3100–3500kg is available.

If you want to take your Trailrider 2 riding on trails (we didn’t, this time), here are the key stats you need to know. Ground clearance is 215mm, while front and rear departure angles (unladen) are 27 and 24.2 degrees respectively. Ramp-over angle is 21.3 degrees, while wading depth is 550mm. None of those numbers are particularly segment-shattering.

LDV was justifiably proud of the fact the T60 was the first Chinese-built ute to score a five-star ANCAP rating when it first launched locally in 2017. That rating remains in place for the MY20 Trailrider 2 with safety smarts like blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning, as well as six airbags covering both rows of seating. There’s no autonomous emergency braking, however, while cruise control is of the standard non-adaptive variety.

A tyre pressure monitor comes standard, too, while those looking to haul kidlets will be comforted by ISOFIX child seat mounts.

LDV covers the Trailrider 2 with its five-year/130,000km warranty, which includes roadside services for the same period. The Chinese brand does not offer a capped-price servicing program at the moment, but routine check-ups are required every 12 months or 15,000km.

LDV claims the T60 Trailrider 2 will sip 8.5L/100km of diesel from its 75L fuel tank. Our week of mainly urban and highway touring returned an indicated 10.3L/100km.

There’s no question the Trailrider 2’s heart transplant has done it a favour. Whereas it once lacked the oomph expected of a diesel-powered dual-cab ute, the new 2.0-litre four-pot has lifted the performance of the T60. Add in the local suspension tune, a decent if not class-leading level of standard equipment, not to mention some pretty sharp pricing, and the LDV T60 Trailrider 2 is certainly worth considering.