Pickup trucks are darn expensive now. If you grew up at a time when you could get a Mitsubishi Strada 4×4 for under a million bucks, today’s prices are mind-boggling especially if your income hasn’t kept up with inflation.
To be fair, the latest trucks have plenty of features for the money—much more than they did a decade ago. They have efficient drivetrains, better suspension, auto climate control, and sensors everywhere. Pound for pound, the average pickup of today packs a lot more value and versatility than the average car.
Maxus—the Chinese brand of SUVs and trucks brought in by Ayala Corporation—seeks to upend the market by offering nearly the same performance and features as Japanese and American brands but at a significantly lower price. The T60 here in Pro spec, with 4×2 and an automatic transmission, retails for P1,078,000. Meanwhile, comparable products from the likes of Toyota, Ford and Isuzu start at P1,215,000. Whether a buyer is paying in cash or installment, there are significant savings to be had with the T60.
While it’s a great price point, nobody will say that the T60 is a looker. Yes, it has the obligatory sculpting by the flanks to give it some girth, but that octagonal grille with the chrome surround and oversized emblem looks cartoonish—a bit trying too hard. The honeycomb lower air dam and recessed fog lamps do give the front bumper a sporty look. There’s a bit of Chevrolet Colorado in the profile, which isn’t a bad vehicle to mimic. But overall, the T60 has a bland design that could easily be mistaken for any other truck until you check out the badge.
The interior is similarly conservative, but everything works. The ergonomics are sound, but the drive-mode switches for the transmission are on the center stack beside the air-conditioning panel rather than by the shifter. There are steering-wheel controls for the stereo and the multi-information display, but they’re not backlit. At night, you’ll be fumbling with the buttons. These foibles aside, the T60 has comfortable seats that are adequate for long road trips. And while the door panels are plastic, I like this better for utilitarian reasons—one of them being the ease of cleaning.
I took the T60 on a weeklong business trip to the island of Marinduque involving several hundred kilometers of winding provincial roads. On the highway, the 2.8-liter diesel provides good power and torque, and I preferred leaving the transmission in Power mode as it gave quicker gear changes and held onto lower ratios for longer. On smooth pavement, the suspension is comfortable but quickly gets juddery on small, high-frequency ripples. It’s worth noting that all variants have an 800mm wading depth, and nearly identical load capacities (1,010kg for the 4×2 automatic and 1,020kg for the 4×4). Comfort takes a back seat to utility with trucks like the T60, so the only thing you really lose in the two-wheel-drive version is the added traction. The heavy-duty suspension system is the same.
In city traffic, the T60 feels ponderous. It’s hard to maneuver in tight spaces as the bulging hood blocks your view of the corners, and the six-speed automatic does its best impression of an overeager student driver. It’s programmed to stay in the lower gears whenever possible (which is actually a good thing), but shifts are abrupt and intrusive. Press just a little deeper on the accelerator for some power and then you’ll hear and feel a “thunk,” like the gearbox is responding to a call for general quarters.
But things get better when you give it the spurs as the T60 likes to be driven hard. I only had a few hours to go to the other side of the island and back on my last day, and this involved around 100km of serpentine two-lane highway. With the transmission in Power mode, the T60 is a willing partner for enthusiastic driving. The steering has just the right amount of lock to tackle switchbacks, and the stiff suspension works a treat in helping to rotate the tail on particularly tight corners.
The front and rear disc brakes with ABS give good stopping power and control especially in blind curves where there’s an oncoming vehicle in your lane and you need to steer while braking. The turbodiesel engine isn’t gushing with horsepower, so it’s necessary to keep it on the boil by maintain 3,000rpm or more. In this scenario, the fussy transmission comes into its own on the open road. There’s a manual shift mode, but I never felt the need to use it except to hold first gear on some particularly tight and steep roads. Power mode and a heavy right foot are enough to ensure that it’s always in the appropriate ratio.
Throughout the test period, the 9,000km-old demo unit felt solid and unperturbed. It didn’t wow me or my passengers in any single area of concern, but it got the job done without any drama or glaring faults. That’s probably what most truck buyers look for anyway. In fact, if someone had covered up all the badges from the start, I would have mistaken the T60 for just another Japanese truck.
Safety tech includes driver and front-passenger airbags, reversing sensors and camera, and even a tire pressure monitoring system. It’s understandable that the luxury-feature list is lean, but it still includes rear air-conditioning vents and a seven-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay. Rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlamps are included, but I found them too lazy to respond.
Truck buyers are a conservative lot, though. It’s doubtful that those loyal to Japanese brands will shift to the T60. On the other hand, customers getting a pickup for the first time may find the big cash savings and overall product value enticing enough to give it a shot. Maxus also addresses long-term concerns with a five-year (or 100,000km) warranty, 24/7 emergency roadside assistance, and even home-service maintenance. Customers who are looking for a no-nonsense truck and don’t want to spend any more than is necessary would do well to check out the T60.
MAXUS T60 PRO 4x2 AT
|Engine||2.8-liter four-cylinder turbo diesel|
|Power||148hp @ 3,400rpm|
|Torque||360Nm @ 1,600-2,800rpm|
|Dimensions||5,365mm x 2,145mm x 1,809mm|
|Upside||Torquey drivetrain, extensive list of standard equipment, and solid build quality.|
|Downside||Transmission is jerky at low speeds, and the grille looks quirky.|