2024 Mazda BT-50 Thunder Pro (car review)

When it debuted its third-generation BT-50, now based on the Isuzu D-Max rather than the Ford Ranger like the two generations before it, the main differentiator between the twins was Mazda’s sleek styling and premium interior finishes.

Now, though, there’s a new reason to separate the two, in the form of a toughened-up off-road version, laden with accessories. Dubbed the Thunder Pro, it’s based on the already beefy Thunder version we’ve previously tested, but with a few extra changes.

Principally, because it’s technically marketed as an options package, rather than a standalone trim level, the Thunder Pro adds $9,046 to the vehicle cost, taking the price to a whopping $82,991 before on-road costs.

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Just don’t expect a more powerful engine, such as what you’d find in the Ford Ranger Raptor; this is more of a rival to things like the Nissan Navara PRO-4X Warrior which add some styling tweaks and aftermarket toys without messing around under the bonnet.

The regular BT-50 Thunder adds massive fender flares, chunky 18-inch alloys, a hoop-less bull bar with a Light Force LED lightbar, and electric roller tonneau cover – nice to have, but almost all visual upgrades alone.

The big ticket upgrade for the Pro is Old Man Emu medium-duty suspension with adjustable ARB BP-51 nitrogen-filled shock absorbers, along with a snorkel, some round Light Force spotlights and bespoke decals for good measure.

It’s worth noting these extras are all fitted locally in Australia. There’s also no denying that the Thunder Pro has some serious presence, looking ready to tackle any adventure you’d ever want to take it on, especially in Volcano Red Mica.

2024 Mazda BT-50 Thunder Pro
2024 Mazda BT-50 Thunder Pro

Admittedly, this writer is not the biggest fan of how the bull bar looks, with its design constrained by the shape of the BT-50’s grille, there’s no denying it’s practical given the integrated bash plate and impressive corner approach angles it offers.

The interior remains identical to the standard BT-50, and in this case that’s the same stunning interior as the one found int the GT, which is trimmed in supple brown leather. There’s plush carpet floor mats too.

You’ll also find heated front seats with power adjustment for the driver, an eight-speaker audio system, and a 9.0-inch infotainment screen with sat nav and wireless Apple CarPlay (Android Auto requires a cable). Cabin comfort is off the charts by ute standards.

The seats are not only very comfortable but supportive in all the right places thanks to the comprehensive thigh, side, and even shoulder bolstering. The cabin ergonomics are right on the money too, with plenty of steering wheel adjustment.

In terms of storage, there’s dual gloveboxes on the passenger side, although the BT-50 misses out on the third storage cubby atop the dashboard, like you’ll find in the D-Max. It also lacks its pop-out cupholders.

The bottle holders that do remain in the centre console and door pockets are massive, and there’s a square cupholder in the centre console for iced coffee cartons. You’ll also find decent cupholders in the rear centre armrest.

Considering the weight of the extras fitted to the BT-50 Thunder Pro, principally the heavy suspension setup, the overall weight balloons to around 2,310kg, meaning payload is somewhat limited at roughly 790kg. Braked towing capacity remains unchanged at 3500kg.

2024 Mazda BT-50 Thunder Pro
2024 Mazda BT-50 Thunder Pro

Under the hood is an Isuzu-sourced 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine producing 140kW and 450Nm, with a six-speed automatic transmission and part-time four-wheel drive. A locking rear differential is standard.

Considering the extra heft, the 3.0-litre doesn’t feel its punchiest here. Its smooth and linear torque delivery certainly helps it feel confident enough, but it doesn’t feel quite as potent as you might expect when you’re trying to hustle it.

Mind you, it’s still a solid and proven engine which feels pretty refined for a diesel, and the Aisin transmission it’s paired with – the same you’ll find in a Toyota HiLux – is a smooth unit. It’s quite economical as well.

The 9.5-litres/100km we managed during our 622km of testing does show what a difference the extra weight and reduced aerodynamics make, having managed 8.9-litres/100km in the mechanically-identical D-Max X-Terrain.

It’s fair to say the new OME suspension setup is the difference-maker the BT-50 needed. It feels far more settled thanks to the adjustable compression and rebound rates which, somewhat conveniently, you can simply alter by hand.

While the BT-50 was already one of the more comfortable and compliant utes to drive, with the BP-51 suspension, it’s far more composed here over big hits, corrugations, and perhaps most importantly, on poorly-maintained city streets.

There’s also a good amount of articulation on offer when you’re off-roading, ensuring all four wheels stay on the ground more of the time. Our biggest complaint though is the decision not to include a set of proper off-road tyres.

2024 Mazda BT-50 Thunder Pro
2024 Mazda BT-50 Thunder Pro

The Bridgestone Dueler highway-terrain rubber it comes with is fine on sealed roads, but a lack of all-terrain or mud-terrain tyres clearly holds its off-road potential back. That aside, the suspension rides particularly well unladen.

Considering not only the fancy internal bypass shock absorbers but also the progressive rate front coil springs and revised rear leaf springs, it also handles a bit better, remaining fairly flat through the corners, although it doesn’t feel very sporty.

As for the other upgrades, the snorkel is nice to have if you plan on driving on a lot of gravel roads (to ensure clean air gets to the engine) or if you want to exploit the BT-50’s 800mm wading depth.

Likewise, the Light Force driving lights manage to illuminate trails at night with the power of a binary star. Certainly, everything Mazda has added to the Thunder Pro makes the BT-50 a better vehicle, but still raises the question of value.

Given the Old Man Emu suspension can be had as a standalone option for $6,803, it’s worth about simply ticking that box and skipping the rest. Of course, you could look at aftermarket options instead.

The benefit of both the Thunder Pro or Mazda’s standalone options though is that they’ll be covered by the BT-50’s standard 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty with no issues – plus, you know they’ve been selected and tuned specifically for this ute.

The BT-50 Thunder Pro is certainly a capable vehicle that finally gives the Mazda ute a clear differentiator from the donor Isuzu D-Max, and not to mention a rival to the other factory-modified utes that have found popularity in Australia.

2024 Mazda BT-50 Thunder Pro
2024 Mazda BT-50 Thunder Pro

The massive price tag is a real stumbling block, especially without a bump in power. If it were up to us, we’d be choosing a GT model and simply fitting the suspension to that, retaining the same plush interior while saving $13,678 in the process.

With a snorkel and a light bar added back in, you’ll still see a saving. That said, if you’re serious about off-roading and prepared to fix the one glaring issue by fitting proper off-road tyres, it’s worth considering, since the upgrades are all excellent on their own merit.

You can find out more aoub the 2024 Mazda BT-50 Thunder Pro on the Mazda Australia website, or by talking to your local dealership. If you’re keen on one and need finance, talk to CreditOne.

This article originally appeared on drivesection.com and has been republished with permission. Test vehicle provided by Mazda Australia.


Driving experience
Exterior styling
Interior look and feel
Technology and connectivity
Family friendliness
Value for money


Pros – excellent Old Man Emu suspension setup improves an already good ride; proven and reliable engine; plush interior; supportive seats.
Cons – it’s mighty expensive; no off-road tyres; suspension is available as a standalone option.
Patrick Jackson
Patrick Jacksonhttp://www.drivesection.com
A car fanatic from a young age, Patrick has put a childhood spent obsessing over car magazines and TV shows to good use over the past six years as a motoring journalist. In addition to managing Drive Section, a website he founded in 2019, he has been a contributor to many other online and print publications including DriveTribe, Vehicle History, Finder, WhichCar, ForceGT, and the Adelaide Hills Herald.


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<strong>Pros –</strong> excellent Old Man Emu suspension setup improves an already good ride; proven and reliable engine; plush interior; supportive seats.<br> <strong>Cons –</strong> it’s mighty expensive; no off-road tyres; suspension is available as a standalone option.2024 Mazda BT-50 Thunder Pro (car review)