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JAC T9 (2024) Launch Review

by Media

June 20, 2024
Category: Reviews

REVIEW BY: Cars.co.za  | AUTHOR: Nicol Louw

Original Article Link: https://bit.ly/3VaG4xc

JAC’s halo bakkie model – the T9 – demonstrates that the rate at which Chinese manufacturers are catching up with the bakkie market’s legacy brands is accelerating. Should the established players be checking their rear-view mirrors more closely?

“In 3 years’ time, 40% of the local automotive sales will be of Chinese origin”, said JAC Motors SA CEO Karl-Heinz Göbel. Such a comment would have prompted sneers and guffaws a few years ago, but his words (spoken during the press briefing at the JAC T9 launch event) were met with a reserved hush.

60 years of JAC

The rising popularity of Chinese brands is evident in SA’s new passenger-vehicle sales figures; the more conservative (risk-averse) bakkie market has been slower to follow that trend, but with the influx of new models from GWM (with the P500 in the pipeline, LDV (T60) and JAC (also with the J8), that will change.

The JAC Group, which started building trucks in 1964, turns 60 this year and even though it’s a “small” manufacturer (it falls outside the top 10 Chinese automakers), it sells more than 500 000 vehicles a year.

That is more than the total annual vehicle sales in South Africa! The fact that Volkswagen bought a 50% share in the company in 2020 shows the establishment is taking notice and, maybe, hedging its bets.

Since 2017, more than 7 000 JAC products have been put on our roads, including a fleet of 21 electric trucks for the Takealot group. Göbel says JAC Motors SA hopes to sell more than 3 000 units this year.

What is new for the JAC T9?

Compared to its T8 sibling (one of which shuttled us from the airport to the launch venue), the JAC T9 constitutes a significant step up in luxury and hardware components, not to mention its exterior styling, which is bold. Did you see that grille? It literally takes centre stage and may not be to everyone’s taste. Slim headlights, wide black wheel arches, side steps, roll bar and fancy new alloys complete the picture.

Inside, the step up from the T8 is even more impressive. The JAC T9’s cabin is fitted with sports seats, a 10.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a digital instrument cluster. The quality of the headlining, door cards and dash areas is much improved. Oh, and it has a sunroof – not a typical bakkie feature.

The most influential change is an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission (operated by a shift-by-wire lever), which drives the rear wheels (or all wheels, through a BorgWarner transfer case on the 4×4 derivative). The bakkie’s 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel engine produces peak outputs of 125 kW and 410 Nm.

What is the JAC T9 like to drive?

I was most impressed by the refinement of the JAC T9’s powertrain and the way that the ZF transmission kept the engine “on the boil” to deliver a more-than-acceptable level of performance during our short evaluation drive. The ride quality is on the firmer side of the bakkie spectrum and loses some composure when the bakkie traverses broken road surfaces. Claimed fuel consumption is a promising 7.8 L/100 km.

The driving position is acceptable for an average-sized person, but taller drivers may find the steering column’s lack of reach adjustment frustrating. The large touchscreen looks modern, but is a tad difficult to read in bright sunlight and, thankfully, you can adjust climate control settings with physical buttons.

We did not get to drive off-road to sample the newcomer’s 4×4 abilities, but they appear to be at least equal with those segment rivals: the JAC T9 is said to have a wading depth of 800 mm, plus approach and departure angles of 23- and 27 degrees. The rear diff is of the mechanical limited-slip variety and will lock automatically when required. Hopefully, we will be able to test these claims at a later stage…

Who will buy it?

Owners of 5-year-old, top-of-the-range bakkies from established brands (such as Toyota and Ford) may be in for a shock when the time comes to replace their vehicles. As a result of new-bakkie price hikes over the past few years, there are now several R1-million-plus offerings. This is where the T9 comes in…

The JAC T9 (priced from R550k to R670k) offers a buyer a brand new bakkie with similar performance and spec to the vehicle they currently own, but for a similar price that what they paid for it 5 years ago.

Have we reached a stage where budgets are more important than brands? JAC will not have it all its own way with the popular GWM P-Series and recently launched LDV T60 aiming to attract the same crowd.

What does the JAC T9 cost in SA? (May 2024)

JAC T9 2.0CTI double cab Lux – R549 900

JAC T9 2.0CTI double cab Super Lux – R599 900

JAC T9 2.0CTI double cab 4WD Lux – R609 900

JAC T9 2.0CTI double cab 4WD Super Lux – R659 900

The JAC T9 is sold with a 5-year/100 000 km manufacturer’s warranty, a 5-year/100 000 km service plan and 24-hour roadside assistance programme. Service intervals are set at 10 000 km.

See also: JAC T9 (2024) Price & Specs

Summary

Cash-strapped consumers appear ready to place their trust in new models that meet their requirements at a reduced cost, without compromises. In that light, the JAC T9’s value-for-money proposition is highly impressive. It is a solid offering with a national dealer network, plus good parts availability and backup.

It’s an election year, but politics aside, it will be very interesting to see how prospective buyers will vote with their wallets in 2024. Perhaps Mr Göbel’s prediction – that “40% of local automotive new-vehicle sales will be of Chinese origin” in 3 years’ time – is not far-fetched at all. Hold my (Tsingtao) beer.

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