By: Colin Windell
Pretoria - Going way off road and testing both yourself and your vehicle is fun only if you have confidence in the ability of the vehicle to meet the challenges and overcome them so, driving the new BAIC (pronounced ‘bike’) B40 Plus produced just that – the ability to conquer and make it fun.
The design of the BAIC B40 Plus is bold and imposing with aggressive bumpers and wheel arches. The front of the B40 Plus is striking, with the 5-slot grille design inspired by the Great Wall of China.
The design features imposing headlights with Daytime Running Lights (DRL) as well as front and rear fog lamps. The vertical windshield design, large exterior mirrors and high seating position make for great all-round visibility.
NVH dampening is provided by the Liquid Application Sound Deadening (LASD) technology, which increases the application area of the sound-dampening material in a vehicle by 50%, is environmentally friendly and allows for weight reduction in the vehicle while resulting in increased noise reduction.
The cabin is modern, sleek and contains all the appointments you would need in an SUV, from dual zone air-conditioning, six-speaker audio system, colour-coded interior trim, chrome accents and reclining rear seats. There are also features such as the reverse camera, Park Distance Control (PDC) and customisable Multi-Information Display (MID).
The info display provides a multitude of choices with niceties such as altimeter, pitch and yaw angles, inclinometer and other settings while the reverse camera has various angle choices available from close up on the rear bumper to parking view and a wider angle view.
This ultra-modern look on the dashboard is offset by – to my mind – a plasticky dashboard crying out for a more tactile finish and feel as well as the cutely retro passenger grab handle or, rather strap, and the chain restraints on the door opening.
Now BAIC has been an active player in the local market since 2016 and has its own assembly facility in Coega in the Eastern Cape where, currently it puts together SKD (semi knocked down) versions of the passenger cars it markets.
While the BAIC B40 Plus is fully imported from China, the plant is slowly ramping up to its full production capacity of 50 000 vehicles with CKD (completely knocked down) assembly coming next year when it will also start to supply both left and right had drive cars to the Sub-Saharan market.
The company currently has eight fully operational dealers around the country with a number of contract service centres over and above that and, while it has a small footprint in the local market, is reasonably content to allow demand from car buyers to dictate the pace of the dealer network expansion.
Mr Hu, Vice President of Marketing Operations for BAIC South Africa says “BAIC SA is proud to add the B40 Plus to the model line-up. We believe this vehicle will be well received by the market and will find quite a following amongst consumers that want to stand out in a crowd.
“We are committed to the people of South Africa. We are actively working to improve the standard of the local automotive manufacturing industry, whilst creating more local employment opportunities. Our goal is to provide South Africans with a wide range of quality products to suit various lifestyles and requirements.”
It is impossible not to seek comparisons between the B40 and the Jeep Wrangler – they look similar and, indeed, both have their roots in the military with the original B40 having been designed and assembled specifically for the Chinese army.
Basil Costa, Senior Manager for Sales and Marketing, told me: “The B40 Plus is more than capable off-road. The testing on extreme environmental adaptability included a process called ‘5 high and 1 drought’ which included high temperature, high altitude, high humidity, high cold, high salt content and of course, a drought. This stringent testing process ensures adaptability to extreme conditions that is 10% higher than regular passenger vehicles.”
The front suspension is a double wishbone/coil spring independent suspension while the rear suspension is a 5-link/coil spring non-independent suspension. The overhangs are minimal and combined with a ground clearance of 210 mm, it results in an approach angle of 37 degrees, departure angle of 31 degrees and rampover angle of 23 degrees.
The selectable 4WD system with mechanical central transfer case and rear differential lock allows driver control over how the engine is powered, dependent on the terrain, conditions and requirements.
The B40 Plus is available in 2.0-litre petrol turbo or 2.0-litre turbo diesel. The petrol engine kicks out 160kW at 5500 r/min while the diesel pushes out 110kW at 4000 r/min and 350Nm of torque between 1800 r/min and 2800 r/min.
With a chance to put bot engines and both the manual and automatic gearbox options through their paces on the off-road course, the auto box comes out as the top choice. The diesel is available only in six-speed manual, but I found the clutch quite heavy and the gearbox a tad notchy or, if you prefer, old school where a positive movement is required as opposed to a racing style ‘snick’ through the gates.
The B40 Plus comes standard with ABS, EBD and Electronic Parking Brake, while some models also feature Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), Traction Control System (TCS), Hill Ascent Control (HAC) and Hill Descent Control (HAC).
The B40 Plus also has a built-in cage anti-roll body structure and anti-roll bar framework composed of a high strength steel plate and pipe beam, doubling protection and able to maintain integrity in a 50-metre hillside roll, ensuring the safety of driver and passengers alike.
An interesting element is the removable roof that has individual panels over the driver and passenger and the remainder over the rear passengers. Each can be removed singly or together.
* B40 Plus Diesel
* B40 Plus Petrol
* B40 Plus City Hunter Diesel
* B40 Plus City Hunter Petrol
* B40 Plus Champion Petrol
The BAIC B40 Plus range starts from R549 500 and goes up to R629 500 for the top-of-the-range offering.
All B40 Plus models are sold with a 5-year/120 000 km warranty and service plan options are available. Service intervals are 15 000 km/12 months for both the petrol and Diesel models.
Visit Colin-on-Cars for more driving impressions by Colin Windell