Re-launched under new management and with a new location in Jordan in recent weeks, Chinese auto manufacturer BAIC hits the ground running with the BJ40 Plus topping its’ current local product portfolio. An authentic off-road oriented SUV in design and execution, – much in the same vein as the Jeep Wrangler – a first drive of the BAIC BJ40 Plus however also reveals it to be a comfortable, seemingly well-constructed and practical daily driver with handling and road manners even better than many road-oriented crossovers.
One of the more interesting and impressive among the numerous Chinese cars that have collectively and quickly gained popularity and acceptance in the Jordanian market in recent years, the BJ40 Plus’s primary appeal is that a dedicated off-road capable machine, in engineering and design. Utilitarian for daily use with its 5-door configuration, high equipment and comfort levels, the BJ40 Plus’ design is however that of a fun-loving, high-riding adventure-mobile, with squared-off styling, removable roof and wheels pushed out to the corners.
Reminiscent of the Jeep Wrangler with its wide grille slots, boxy upright body and bulging squared-off wheel-arches, the BJ40’s clamshell bonnet, short grille and slim, browed and squinting headlights meanwhile evoke a vague Land Rover styling influence. Familiar yet different, the BJ40’s design inspirations nevertheless coalesce into a uniquely rugged and dramatically purposeful aesthetic sensibility. Built using tough body-on-chassis construction, the BJ40 Plus meanwhile rides with generous 210mm ground clearance, which with short overhangs provides excellent 37° approach, 23° break-over and 31° departure angles.
Powered by a single engine option for the Jordanian market, the BJ40’s updated but Saab-derived turbocharged 2.3-litre engine was last used for the Swedish manufacturer’s own swift 9-5 Aero sports saloon back in 2009, but still proved quite mighty in propelling the Chinese car maker’s heavier, higher riding off-roader with better than expected verve. Developing 247BHP at just 5,300rpm and a deep 258lb/ft torque output throughout an accessibly broad 1,900-4,500rpm plateau, the BJ40 Plus is reasonably brisk through 0-100km/h, despite its 2-tonne mass.
Capable of pushing its high, heavy and upright frame through wind resistance to a 170km/h top speed, the BJ40 Plus certainly has an abundant mid-range torque reservoir that it rides with muscular confidence on inclines and when overtaking in town or on the open road. Smooth and mostly well-insulated, the BJ40’s engine develops an evocative distant raspy growl when pushed towards redline at heavy load. Comparatively low revving, the BJ40’s engine is meanwhile quick-spooling from standstill, with any turbo lag seemingly imperceptible.
A ‘proper’ traditional off-road oriented SUV with ladder-frame chassis and longitudinal engine – unlike some ersatz alternatives – the BJ40 is equipped with a lockable four-wheel-drive mode for tough off-road conditions and low ratio transfer case for the most demanding conditions, when high power crawling is necessary. It also features an automatically engaging electronic locking rear differential when in low gear mode for added traction. The BJ40 is meanwhile a modifier-friendly platform for fitting 33-inch tyres and mechanical differential locks for further enhanced off-road abilities.
Driving the rear wheels in normal on-road conditions the BJ40 channels power through a slick shifting 6-speed automatic gearbox. Gear-lever actuated manual-mode shifting is available, but seldom needed due to intuitive kickdown auto mode responses. Balanced in weighting, the BJ40 is meanwhile more eager and agile through corners than expected for its class. Turning in tidily and intuitively despite its light, tall ratio off-road oriented steering, the BJ40 grips well at the front and feels reassuringly stable, yet potentially adjustable through briskly driven corners.
Powering smoothly and confidently out of corners with committed road-holding as power is fed through the rear wheels, the BJ40’ ladder-frame construction meanwhile feels stiff and refined to allow its suspension to function with accuracy. Riding on sporty double wishbone front suspension, the BJ40’s front feels fluent and adaptable to sudden direction changes. At the rear, a live axle and coil spring set-up is rugged but more sophisticated than leaf springs, and well damps and well controls opposite side reactions over rough road imperfections.
Comfortable over large bumps and ruts, the BJ40 feels better settled in vertical movement that many ostensibly more road-oriented high riding vehicles. Cabin refinement is meanwhile of high quality given that the roof is fully removable, except for safety bars, while the front windshield can be folded down for an al fresco driving experience. Driving position adjustability and comfort are meanwhile good, as is front visibility. Rear space is decent, but rear door length could be better, as often the case with dedicated off-road SUVs.
Well-equipped with convenience, safety and infotainment features, the BJ40’s cabin is also well-appointed in terms of material quality, design, fit and finish. Luggage room is meanwhile generous at 532-litres and can expand to 965-litres with rear seats folded. As driven, it was however fitted with a removable rear luggage box with useful compartmentalized spaces for tidy storage of smaller objects and cargo. Competitively priced at JD34,000-35,000 on the road with third party insurance, the BJ40 comes with a 200,000km or 6-year warranty.
- Engine: 2.3-litre, in-line, 4-cylinders
- Bore x Stroke: 90 x 90mm
- Compression ratio: 9.3:1
- Valve-train: DOHC, 16-valve, variable timing
- Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
- Drive-line: four-wheel-drive, low ratio transfer, rear electronic differential lock
- Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 247 (250)  @5,300rpm
- Specific power: 107.8BHP/litre
- Power-to-weight: 117.9BHP/tonne
- Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 258 (350) @1,900-4,500rpm
- Specific torque: 152.8Nm/litre
- Torque-to-weight: 167Nm/tonne
- 0-100km/h: 9.5-seconds (estimate)
- Top speed: 170km/h (estimate)
- Fuel consumption: 8.5-10 litres/100km (estimate)
- Fuel capacity: 75-liters
- Length: 4,645mm
- Width: 1,925mm
- Height: 1,871mm
- Wheelbase: 2,745mm
- Track: 1,610mm
- Ground clearance: 210mm
- Approach / break-over / departure angles: 37° / 23° / 31°
- Seating: 5
- Cargo volume min/max: 532-/965-litres
- Kerb weight: 2,095kg (estimate)
- Gross vehicle weight: 2,520kg
- Steering: Power-assisted rack & pinion
- Turning circle: 12.5-meters
- Suspension, F/R: Double wishbone / solid axles, coil springs
- Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs / discs
- Tires: 265/65R17
- Price, on-the-road, including 3rd party insurance: JD34,000-35,000
- Warranty: 6-years / 200,000km