A slippery off-road track allowed me to show my old man the benefits of the Mazda BT-50’s downhill descent control.
What are we testing? The 2018 Mazda BT-50 GT 4×4 Dual-Cab
What’s running it? Isaac Bober
Why are we testing it? To find out if the BT-50 is the best real-world dual-cab 4×4…
What it needs to do? While we’ve got the BT-50 we want to find out if it really can do it all, from the school run to the supermarket shop, to highway runs, towing and off-roading.
2018 Mazda BT-50 GT 4×4 Dual-Cab Specifications
Price From $56,990+ORC Warranty five years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 15,000km/12 months (capped price servicing ranges from $431-$502) Safety five-star ANCAP Engine 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 147kW at 3000rpm Torque 470Nm from 1750-2500rpm Transmission six-speed automatic (as tested) Drive 4×2; 4x4H; 4x4L Dimensions 5365mm (long) 1850mm (wide) 1821mm (high) 3220mm (wheelbase) Angles 28.2-degrees (approach) 26.4-degrees (departure) 25.0-degrees (ramp over) Ground Clearance 237mm (claimed) Wading Depth 800mm Weight 2147kg Towing 3500kg maximum braked GVM 3200kg GCM 6000kg Fuel Tank 80L Spare full-size steel underslung Thirst 10.0L/100km (claimed combined)
Week 6 – September 14, 2018
My old man is old school and preferred to use the gearbox and low-range to slow down on steep scrabbly hills. So, the other day I decided to take him out into the bush and educate him on how far technology has come, not that downhill descent control is ground-breaking anymore.
That said, every time I step off the brake after engaging downhill descent control my stomach still feels squirty. Seems so unnatural to not touch the brakes when you’re driving down a steep hill.
With the old man sat beside me and a steep, scrabbly and rutted descent ahead of us, I showed him the button to press and how to adjust the speed up or down via the cruise control ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons on the steering wheel. Release the brake, stay away from the throttle and simply steer the thing down the hill adjusting the speed up or down as necessary.
The process is simple. But it starts with you getting out of the vehicle and inspecting the hill you’ll be driving down. So, you always want to come to a stop before descending a steep hill. Make sure you know where you know the route you want to take down the hill. Then, switch the car back on, and with the vehicle in Park and your foot on the brake select Downhill Descent, and press the minus button on the cruise control; this tells the system you want to start off slow and continue to press the minus button once you’ve released the brake and the car moves off. This will ensure the thing doesn’t run away. You can always speed it up via the ‘+’ button.
On the hill we drove down, I adjusted the speed down to a slow walking pace and the BT-50 maintained that pace all the way to the bottom. Anyone with a Ford Ranger will be familiar with the system as they’re one and the same. The speed you can get the thing down to is impressive – it works from 2km/h to 40km/h.
And I reckon it’s a better system than that on the HiLux which feels snatchy and can lurch between braking moments. The BT-50 on the other hand feels more like a constant nibbling to maintain control. The system works by killing power and applying the brakes to the wheel(s) that’s slipping.
Sometimes these downhill descent control systems won’t work if you’ve got the rear diff-lock activated, but that’s not the case on the BT-50, meaning the system will continue to work with rear diff-lock turned on to ensure maximum traction on bumpy or sloppy descents.
When I jumped out and let the old man have a crack he couldn’t believe how slow the system could be dialled down to or that the vehicle didn’t slip, no matter how slippery the section was. And the fact he could use the cruise control functions to speed up and slow down meant there was none of the accidental deactivation you get on some vehicles if you try and adjust the speed via the throttle or brake.
Downhill descent control isn’t unique to the BT-50 but it sure makes driving off-road a whole lot easier and don’t believe the argument that a driver in a vehicle with a manual transmission could do a better job. They couldn’t.