Haval H9 and H6 Northern Territory drive

The drive was part of a multi-faceted motoring media event hosted by Haval Australia in the Northern Territory recently.

The unsealed road through Litchfield National Park is speed limited to 80km/h for good reason. Its gravel surface is pock-marked with corrugations and potholes from the extremes of heat and rain – and the heavy-duty wear-and-tear that nearly 400,000 visitors, in convoys of four-wheel-drives, bring each year. Just the place, then, to put a Haval H9 SUV with experimental suspension to the test.

The prototype is the first step in the engagement between off-road dynamics specialists Ironman 4×4, engineers at Haval R&D and Haval Australia. Haval Australia Public Relations and Product Planning Manager Andrew Ellis takes up the story…

“Ironman 4×4 was approached by Haval earlier in 2017 to work with them in building upon the foundation of the H9, by tuning the suspension for better appeal to the Australian buyers,” he said. “After assessing the vehicle, we recognised the H9 offers a great starting platform for us to improve the handling dynamics and suitability to Australian conditions.

“This resulted in a prototype suspension system consisting of upgraded coil springs with revised spring rates, tuned matching shock absorbers and adjustments to the wheel alignment settings. The change in ride and handling is obvious compared to the base Chinese specification, with notable improvements to bump absorption, composure around corners and straight line stability.

We feel a partnership between Haval and Ironman 4×4 is a great marriage for the Australian market, with the aim to develop well-suited, quality vehicles for this growing automotive sector.

Without the opportunity of driving a standard H9 and the prototype a back-to-back, it’s hard to quantify the improvement. But from where I sit – behind the wheel – the modified H9 smooths out the bumps and lumps with an absence of ‘floatiness’. It’s an impressive, compliant ride.

The drive was part of a multi-faceted motoring media event hosted by Haval Australia in the Northern Territory recently. The event provided ‘motor noters’ with a reveal of the forthcoming 2018 H7 model as well as the opportunity of driving the current range of H2, H6 and the aforementioned experimental H9 SUVs from Darwin through to the Litchfield NP and return.

But, first, who is Haval?

Haval is the biggest-selling SUV in China, a title the Chinese company has now held for 15 consecutive years. In 2016, Haval and its partner company, Great Wall Motors, hit one million sales for the first time.

Haval vehicle driving through water off road

Haval SUV sales have increased 233 percent over the past five years. In 2016, the H6 was the biggest-selling SUV nameplate in China, with 580,000 sales, making it the fourth biggest-selling SUV on the planet. Year-to-date in 2017, Great Wall and Haval sales have reached 460,743, up 2.6 percent year-on-year.

The global expansion continues, with Haval now on sale in more than 30 countries worldwide including Australia, Russia, Ecuador, Chile, Malaysia, South Africa and, as in a couple of months. New Zealand. The Australian dealer network has grown from four at launch in 2015 to 15 by the end of financial year 2017.

“That number is expected to reach 25 by the end of 2017, and 50 by 2020,” Haval’s Australian Chief Marketing Officer Tim Smith forecasts.

The earlier-mentioned localised suspension tune could flow through to the all-new 2018 H9 set to arrive in Australia in the last quarter of this year, with significant upgrades under the hood. Power has increased from 160 to 180kW, and torque from 324 to 350Nm, resulting in the previous 0-100km/h time of 13.4 seconds being slashed to 10.6. The addition of the ZF eight-speed automatic has harvested improvements of 10 percent in fuel economy, from 12.1 to 11.0 litres/100km.

Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Monitoring are standard, as is a new instrument panel with digital speedometer. The LUX version also scores a new panoramic sunroof. Exterior changes include a new grille, front fog light treatment and new alloy wheel design.

Following early in 2018 will be the all-new H7, a new member to the Haval family in Australia. At 4900mm long, the H7 boasts a distinct advantage over similarly-priced, mid-sized seven-seat SUVs.

It will come with a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, good for 170kW and 350Nm, feeding power to the front wheels via a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission. Features on the LUX model include a panoramic sunroof, electric tailgate, 12.3-inch virtual instrument panel and semi-automatic parking. Safety features include blind spot monitoring, lane change assist, rear cross traffic alert and a 360-degree camera.

Being a pre-production model, we were unable to drive the pre-production H7 model revealed in Darwin. But we did get to inspect it at close quarters and be driven on a short urban commute. By any standard, the newcomer is a step forward in every way.

Engine of Haval vehicle

In other developments, the Haval R&D team is working on adding Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) and Forward Collision Warning (FCW) to all Australian specification models that will arrive in the first quarter of 2018.

Acting on customer and motoring media feedback is crucial in the company moving forward in the Australian market, according to Andrew Ellis.

“Haval management welcomes constructive criticism and that feedback has resulted in the various upgrades to Australian product,” he said.

The upgrades include:

  • ESC intrusion. Media feedback over the ESC intruding on the drive experience and engaging the hazard lights has resulted in a new ABS module with re-calibrated ESC. This is now fitted to all Haval models since the second quarter of 2017.
  • Reverse camera voice: Removed from the 2017 H2 and H6. Will be removed from the MY18 H9.
  • H6 rear seatbelt warning lamp: running change to production to update rear seat sensor.

Satellite navigation: an accessory unit has now been developed and is available for the H2 and H6.

Images by Peter Watkins.