There are two types of latecomers in school. One are those who over-prepared for classes, and then there are those who just forgot to set their alarm.
As for the 2019 BAIC M60, it’s late but it proudly entered the room and made you look away from the competition, even for a bit. At P 1,068,000 for the Luxury variant, it sits in the front row of the MPV class, along with the honor students. Is it worth it? I took it out for a drive to see if it can spar with its Japanese classmates.
Let's get it out of the way, the M60's grille is reminiscent of the Spindle Grille by Lexus. Happy? Good. Now, the gloss-black grille is bordered by a modest amount of chrome, flanked by projector headlights highlighted by LED daytime running lights. All of this, with the black apron and clean lines, round up for the classy front fascia of the M60.
The wheels too, despite being sporty, go well with the overall look of the car thanks to the subtlety of the two-tone finish.
What didn't work for me are the black cladding that surrounds the lower half of the vehicle and the decorative roof rails. The black apron up front was nice since it just accented the fascia, but on the sides and on the back, it pulls back the luxury aesthetic that was established. The rear also got a chrome diffuser and faux exhausts that look out of place.
I understand that BAIC wants to make it look versatile, that it can exude an aura of roughness, but it should've just went all-in into the luxury side. It's a family vehicle anyways.
Open the doors and the nice interior of the M60 will greet you. There's leatherette cover on the door panels, elbow rests are lightly padded, and controls are spaced well enough for a clean look. The brushed metal accent on the dashboard adds to the luxury vibe of the car, which is further emphasized by the nine-inch infotainment system and the configurable 12-inch digital instrument cluster.
The seats in the front cabin are comfortable but still has enough bolsters to keep you in place. Second-row captain seats are a delight to be on thanks to the good amount of legroom even if you give space for the third row. As for that last bench, it’s wide enough for three Filipinos or two large ones. Trust me, I sat there, put markings where my body ended, and sat on the other side.
The airflow inside the cabin is also excellent. Decent-sized vents up front, a dedicated rear aircon control at the second row, then two dedicated vents for the second row and three for the third row. Rearmost occupants will never beg for air again, I reckon.
Luggage area was decent, even with the third row up. To be honest, I doubted if it could fit all our bags, pasalubongs, even a small chair at the back but it was able to accommodate all of it. It was a simple game of Tetris and didn't really require me to cramp things up to close the rear door.
The M60 got you covered in terms of tech, with a bit more to impress you. It has a push-start button, nine-inch infotainment system, back-up sensors, a reverse camera, cruise control, and steering wheel audio controls. There's a USB slot for the second and third row, too, for much-needed charging during long drives and yet you also get headlight leveling, six-way powered driver's seat, intelligent rear-view mirror, and a massive 12-inch digital gauge. With all these toys it could've been perfect, really, if not for a couple of things.
I only connect my phone to the infotainment system for music, and in the M60, you will not get any display of what's playing. It's just a blank music logo. Connect your iPhone via USB and you'll get excited because 'BAIDU Car Life' will pop-up on screen. I thought I can use Apple CarPlay but then it needs the BAIDU app, which is the Chinese equivalent of Apple CarPlay.
As for the intelligent rear-view mirror, it's great because it can double as a dashcam, though I wasn't able to find out where to store the microSD. The thing about it is, it occupies almost the whole rear view mirror, which will hinder the purpose of the rear-view mirror. Granted, it will turn into a clock screensaver after a few minutes but still, I'd rather have the dashcam just a small portion of this mirror.
The M60 runs on a 1.5-liter turbo gasoline engine coupled to a CVT that puts out 147 horsepower with 210 Nm of torque, which trumps even the 2.0-liter engine of a gasoline-powered Toyota Innova. It’s the same engine found in the BJ20, but housed in a lighter body. These figures are more than enough to carry the M60 even if it's on full load.
Overtaking can be tricky, though. Once you floor the gas pedal, you can hear the engine roar but you're not gaining speed. It will take a second before you can feel the car pulling itself but once it does, speed increases significantly. This is common among CVTs and makes you wish for a normal automatic transmission, but then CVTs have better fuel consumption so even though this is bothersome, you have to accept it if fuel economy is your thing.
Steering is nice and light. I just get turned off whenever I have to make full turns because the steering wheel doesn't feel nice on the hands – but that's just me nitpicking.
If you can get over that overtaking lag and the feel of the steering wheel, the M60 is very comfortable to drive. I got stuck in Tagaytay traffic over the holidays (don't ask me why I took that route) and had a total of six hours travel time, from the usual two and a half. In that stretch from Batangas to Quezon City, I was not really tired. Sure, there is a bit of fatigue, but it's not as bad as I thought. My legs didn't cramp up (which is a norm whenever I drive through EDSA in weekday rush hours) and my back didn't hurt at all from that long drive. Is it in the way the pedals are placed? Did I find the perfect sitting position on the powered driver's seat? Who knows?
The M60 has a lot of toys but there's still room for more as BAIC didn't skimp on safety. The M60 Luxury comes with dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, and child lock just like its rival, the Innova E but that’s where the similarities end. This one has front side airbags, keyless entry, ISOFIX, anti-theft measure, back-up sensors, and a reverse camera - which also has guidelines that turn with the steering wheel.
The 1.5L turbocharged engine under the hood is powerful enough for the M60's size, that it was able to be frugal despite the odds. City driving during rush hour put out 8.5 km/L while highway runs on full load gave a 15.6 km/L at an average speed of 90 km/h. Not bad. Not bad at all.
When we released the unboxing video of the 2019 BAIC M60 Luxury, almost all comments pointed at the grille's similarity to the Lexus – but this MPV is more than that. It is a solid option for those starting a family or individuals who just need a people hauler. Sure, it has some rough edges that need polishing, but it's easy to look past those once you drive this on full load. You will not get the usual "hoy, ang sikip naman" or "pahingi ng hangin" because that's what the M60 tackled – comfort on every drive. Everything else is a bonus.
For P1,068,000, the BAIC M60 Luxury can stand wheel to wheel with its rivals and it sets the new standard for Chinese cars in the country. Kudos to BAIC for that.