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The Chinese invasion gathers momentum

Following the Australian launch of the T60 ute, LDV released the  D90: a seven-seat SUV that made its Australian debut in November 2017, was upgraded in 2019 and given a bi-turbo diesel option in 2020.


The D90 release was LDV’s first foray into the SUV market.

“LDV clearly knows that while the SUV sector is now the dominant vehicle type around the world, it is also highly competitive, so LDV has drawn on the expertise, knowledge and technology of China’s largest vehicle maker, its parent SAIC, to produce the D90,” explained Dinesh Chinnappa, general manager of LDV Automotive Australia.

“This means that the LDV D90 not only has everything expected of an SUV, it also has a range of luxury features.”

Power came initially from a turbocharged petrol engine that produced 165kW of peak power and 350Nm of torque from 2500rpm up to 3500rpm.

Claimed fuel consumption was 10.9L/100km and automatic engine stop/start is standard. However, our testing revealed a real-world consumption figure of 12.1L/100km.

In April 2020, LDV released a bi-turbo, two-litre, SAIC-developed, diesel engine, with outputs of 160kW and 480Nm.

The main transmission behind the petrol engine was a six-speed electronically-controlled automatic and the four-wheel-drive system had high and low range, terrain selection and an electronically-actuated rear differential lock.

Behind the diesel engine the standard box was a ZF eight-speed automatic.

The LDV D90 had blind spot warning, lane wander alert and traffic sign alerts, which automatically spotted road signs such as speed limits and stop signs and brought them up in the instrument display.

The D90 also had adaptive cruise control,
autonomous braking, front collision warning and electronic stability control.

There were six airbags and energy absorbing technology around the passenger safety cell. The D90 rated five-star crashworthiness.

The top-shelf model had two display screens: a 300mm touch screen for entertainment and communications in the centre of the dashboard and a multi-function 200mm one for the instrument display in front of the driver.

As well as having advanced technology, the LDV D90 measured just over five metres long and nearly two metres wide, providing a spacious interior for seven seats, or, with the two rear rows of seats folded, 2.3 cubic metres of space.

At launch the specification levels were progressive, as you’d expect, but the model descriptions were odd: the base 4WD wagon was known as the ‘Deluxe’ version and the top-shelf model was called ‘Luxe’: that’s weird.

The $42,990 D90 Deluxe 4WD in 2018 came with a sunroof; dual-zone climate-control air conditioning; ambient lighting; luggage rack; leather steering wheel; hands-free opening tailgate; a driver’s seat that was eight-way adjustable, four-way lumbar support; leather upholstery for the first and second rows of seats and an eight-speaker audio system.

The 2018 $46,990 LDV D90 Luxe added a 360-degree exterior camera; panoramic sunroof; auto-dimming mirror; power adjustable driver’s seat with four-way lumbar support, front passenger seat with four-way electronic adjustment, four-way lumbar support and heating; second row seats with electric adjustment and heating; 12-speaker audio system; puddle lights under each door and a 220V/150W power socket.



2019 upgrades


For 2020MY D90’s LDV reduced the number of choices and cut the pricing.  The only 4WD model was the Executive, replacing the previous ‘Luxe’ model, at $43,990. The diesel options added $4000. Even with some feature deletions, those were very, very keen prices.

Possible hidden costs were servicing, because there was no fixed-price, scheduled servicing available. However, there was a five- year/130,000km new-vehicle warranty, roadside assistance and access to a loan car program in the event of a need for warranty repairs.

The diesel obviously improved on the petrol engine’s economy, with our preliminary testing indicating 9-10L/100km. Also, performance for the diesel was considerably better than the petrol version’s.

Our testing suggests that what’s really needed is a petrol-hybrid powertrain, using the existing petrol engine. Many modern diesel owners are fed up with fuel-quality-related risks and the reliability issues with diesel emissions after-treatment systems.

Despite many requests we never scored a 2018MY test vehicle, but we did get a 2020 petrol model and a 2020 diesel.

Equipment levels were as described for the initial model release, but a new grille gave the D90 tidier appearance.



On and off road in the 2020MY D90



The Champ met the Challenger. Could the half-priced petrol D90 take on Toyota’s 200 Series? Not quite, but for those who wanted seven seats, some off-road ability and didn’t need to tow heavy trailers the Chinese effort was well worth a look. The diesel came even closer to the 200.

Our LDV D90 test vehicle ran on 19-inch street tyres and was fitted with vulnerable side steps, so we confined our testing to on-road freeway, bitumen secondary roads, gravel and some mild fire trails.

We varied load from driver only to checking out the seven-seat arrangement.  Thanks to a proper wheelbase just shy of three metres the D90 had ample legroom in all seating positions. Also, converting the second and third rows to cargo space was easily done from the open tailgate position. The tailgate was, of course, powered.

Handling and ride quality were very good, although large ruts caught out the somewhat civilised suspension settings. Steering was accurate, with good road feel.

All the sub-systems worked well enough, but there were some unexpected quirks. For example, the driver’s side mirror had very limited adjustment range and the seat belt buckle-stops were very sharp and could pull threads on light clothing, or scratch exposed bellies!

This second-generation LDV wagon was better than the first ute offerings on this ladder frame chassis, but more needed to be done.

The biggest flaw we found was powertrain calibration that saw a petrol engine with too much turbo lag matched to a transmission that had very slow gear-shifting reaction time. A press on the loud pedal – at a roundabout, for example – resulted in some indecision in the box, soaring engine revs and then, eventually, acceleration. We don’t enjoy driving jerkily, but were forced to.

That engine would mate ideally to an electric motor/generator system, with the hybrid electric motors doing low-rev work below the petrol engine’s 2000-3500rpm sweet spot.

Jerky progress was heightened on freeways, where weird adaptive cruise control radar seemed to command power or brakes and not much ‘coasting’ in between. The system couldn’t distinguish lanes clearly and often braked the wagon because of feedback from an adjacent vehicle in another lane. We turned cruise control off after a few hours of frustration.

These calibration issues must have been already understood and were rectified by the time we collected the diesel in April 2020. The diesel’s response was ideal and the adaptive cruise control worked as well as any we’ve tested.



The D90 liked dirt roads very much and, with four 17-inch road wheels that match the full-sized spare wheel, would have done very well on our off-road test course. 

We thought that LDV let fashion overpower form in 4WD mode selection and a simpler system would have been: ‘2WD’; ‘part-time 4WD’ and ‘low range’. As it was, you had to know that of the various terrain modes displayed, only ‘rock’ gve you low range gearing. Once that was understood we found the gearing ample for rough terrain, but were limited by the ground clearance, tyres and side steps.

A driver-controlled rear-axle diff lock was provided and worked positively.



As the LDV D90 petrol 4WD model sat in early 2020 we reckoned it would make a very good people mover that could tow up to two tonnes – single-axle horse float, boat or camper trailer – and be able to handle soggy paddocks and smoothish fire trails.

With the post-2020 diesel and, hopefully petrol-hybrid, powertrains it could do a lot more. The diesel economy worked out at 8.9L/100km to 12L/100km, depending on load and road conditions.

The diesel scored a three-tonne trailer capacity rating.




About LDV


LDV is a division of SAIC (Shanghai Automobile and Industrial Corporation), the largest and oldest automotive manufacturer in China as well as being the largest auto company on China’s share market.

SAIC sold six million vehicles in 2016 and its set to top the seven million mark in 2017. It was the first company to enter joint ventures with non-Chinese car makers and has formed joint ventures with Volkswagen, IVECO and General Motors.

In 2009 SAIC acquired LDV, the light commercial vehicle division of the Anglo Dutch commercial vehicle company Leyland DAF, a company formed from Leyland Trucks and DAF Trucks.



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