Find a 2024 Mazda BT-50

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    When Mazda threw me the keys to its latest and greatest dual-cab ute, the BT-50 Thunder Pro, we headed off-the-beaten-track for some fun on the pristine New South Wales South Coast leaving the daily grind behind.

    Picking up the BT-50 I was excited to see the full-fat Thunder grade waiting patiently for collection, ready for whatever we could throw at it.  

    Our BT-50 was also fitted with the Pro Enhancement Pack, adding equipment including adjustable Old Man Emu suspension, a snorkel, and two Lightforce driving lights complementing the standard double-stacked 20-inch light bar. 

    It looks the part too, with a black single hoop bull bar, black side steps, fender flares, and a thoroughly useful electric tonneau cover.

    The BT-50 boasts a good selection of paint colours, but the True Black Mica paint on our tester is my pick of the bunch. Given the all-black modifications of the Thunder Pro Pack, it looks fantastic.

    If you’re heading on adventures like ours regularly, the only aftermarket additions we’d suggest are an electric winch and a set of quality all-terrain tyres ensuring you could get out and home from even the stickiest situations.

    Why not, given the duality of talents this dual-cab has going for it.

    We might have driven the range-topping BT-50 Thunder Pro on this occasion, but it’s well worth noting the number of grades available in the Mazda BT-50 ute range. It’s bookended by the XS single-cab chassis 1.9 auto from $35,520 before on-roads and the top-shelf Thunder dual-cab pickup 3.0L auto driven here from $74,095 before on-roads.

    For the current line-up, Mazda offers its BT-50 ute in seven different 4×2 variants and no fewer than 15 4×4 versions, with a setup to suit almost any work/life/play situation.   

    I certainly became accustomed to the array of features and niceties in the range-topping Thunder Pro seen here. First and foremost was the electric tonneau cover. Better still, the tray includes an LED light bar that showers the entire tray bed with evenly distributed light; something that proved useful during our late night filming in the forest.

    And while it is a 4×4 capable dual-cab ute, it’s blessed with plenty of luxury trappings inside, making the BT-50 Thunder a very comfortable place to spend hours behind the wheel.

    Climbing in and out of the high-set cabin is no issue with robust sidesteps and perfectly placed grab handles that make it easy to haul yourself into the well bolstered, leather seats which include power adjustment for the driver – they proved perfectly comfortable for both city and off-road duties.

    It’s not just the seats, the same brown stitched leather extends to the door cards and other trim bits throughout the cabin giving it a premium ambience.   

    Technology is in abundance with wireless CarPlay and wired Android Auto; we used this to lean on Waze as much as possible (at least on tarmac) and used the USB-A cable to keep my phone juiced up for the journey.

    While trays on dual-cab utes have never been massive, I still managed to pack a dual-suspension MTB with 29-inch wheels as well as an extra-wide, six-four twin-fin surfboard, and kit including wetsuits, helmets, and a decent Esky – all safely secured under the lockable electric tonneau cover.

    Leaving the confines of Sydney in pitch darkness meant I avoided the tradie rush hour on my way to the spectacular seaside town of Kiama, before hooking up with our crew to capture some shots of the BT-50 while it was clean… something we knew wouldn’t last long.

    From there it was a short hop to the quaint town of Berry. With its country feel and cosmopolitan vibe, it’s a must-stop location on any South Coast adventure. 

    Just South of Wollongong it offers plenty of adventure within 10 minutes striking distance. Namely the well-known surfing spots of Gerroa and Seven Mile Beach, both of which offer good waves in different wind conditions.

    It’s also the home of the Berry Donut Van, now an institution and a popular tourist stop among others in the town. Somehow, we bagged a parking spot in front and got to enjoy a couple of their world class cinnamon treats.

    It’s also the spot where we showed off BT-50’s remote start feature, just as the mercury was on the rise. It’s a great way to pre-cool the cabin to a more civilised 20 degrees before getting under way again.

    Next on the agenda was another relatively short hop inland (and off-road) to the Coondoo MTB Park at Comberton in the Nowra State Forest. Still no requirement to switch from 2WD to 4H, due to the dry conditions of the dirt roads.

    The trail here is rated Intermediate and it didn’t take long before we were suited up and were ready for some fast pedalling on the MTB.

    While I ride trails fairly frequently around Sydney’s Northern beaches, I also fancy myself on jumps – but after negotiating a novice drop, it didn’t end well after I attempted the higher plunge. Rookie mistake if there ever was one, with not nearly enough pace!

    Time was already getting away from us and we hadn’t yet stopped for lunch (it was 2:30pm) and the world-famous pie shop was shutting at 3:00pm sharp.   

    What made it more challenging in terms of timing, was that the dirt road was no longer flat and fast. In fact, it looked like a full-blown 4×4 trail requiring 4H at the very least.

    Thankfully, conditions on the ground were dry making for quicker progress than initially expected. It’s also super easy to switch from 2WD to 4H, you just turn the dial on the fly and presto, the BT-50 was instantly far more composed on the dirt road.

    Hayden’s Pies at Ulladulla is another one of those iconic South Coast destinations, frequented by surfers and punters alike – all of whom are looking to enjoy the best pies in NSW.

    They’re known for their delicious fillings, flaky pastry, and friendly staff. It’s still a family business and its been around for more than 20 years. But be warned, you can’t just can’t stop at one.

    I’ve been surfing the various Ulladulla breaks for 20 years or more, from the Bommie to Sandmines and Potholes when conditions turn it on. There’s Bawley Point too, where I’ve had some insane waves with only one or two other surfers in the water.

    But while conditions were pretty good on the day, the idea of missing out on river crossings and hardcore trails in the BT-50 meant we had to bail almost immediately after a quick stop at Bawley.

    You can drive part of the way down to the point (in a 4×4), but it’s rocky with sharp edges and best done in 4H. It was also the first time I felt the extra cushioning effects of the Thunder’s Old Man Emu suspension system with its twin-tube shock absorbers soaking up any major hit.  

    Nearing evening at 5:30pm, with grey skies and light drizzle falling, we were keen to get to the river crossing before dark – never mind the hardcore trail climb to test the Lightforce kit still to come.

    From here on it was full-time 4H, until we hit the trail to the river crossing at Flat Rock at which time I switched into 4L, just to be on the safe side. Truth be told, it was a lot lower than on previous crossings.

    Despite taking it pretty easy on the step off point, we still hit a large underwater boulder which instantly ripped off the front number plate, requiring me to wade into crossing to retrieve it… followed by some quick repair work on the plate itself.

    Daylight was slipping away from us fast and we still had a bit of ground to cover if we were going to make the rutted trail. This time there was even more dust; properly blinding this time, any closer than 300m between the two vehicles meant I couldn’t see a thing.  

    By now it was 8:15pm and pitch black, but to be honest I couldn’t have been happier.

    While the BT-50 Thunder already has good LED headlamps with auto high beam, this was next level darkness and a difficult climb over properly serious ruts and bumps.

    The trio of Lightforce LED driving lights on board with the Thunder Pro Pack can effectively illuminate an entire forest or at least up to 1.1km ahead of the vehicle.

    It’s incredibly reassuring when tasked with crawling up deep-rutted trails, but even more so when it’s 10:30pm in the middle of a forest with a 90-minute dirt road just to get back to sealed roads.

    While there are plenty of aftermarket 4×4 driving lights around, I can’t praise the Lightforce spotties on our BT-50 Thunder Pro enough. It’s not just the road ahead that lights up, it’s the animals you can avoid hitting with a system like this. At least one wallaby and one wombat walked away unscathed.

    As I reflected on this action-packed trip, it got me thinking how good dual-cab utes are these days.

    Comfortable heated leather seats with dual-zone climate control, and much of the same kit you’ll find in a premium SUV, with the benefit of a tray out back, and proper off-road hardware like a low-range transfer case and rear differential lock, which make trips away like this not only doable but also endlessly fun at the same time. 

    No animals were harmed during the making of this film, just a bent number plate!

    MORE: Everything Mazda BT-50

    Anthony Crawford
    Anthony Crawford is a Senior Road Tester at CarExpert.
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