Last week Holden launched its all-new Colorado, now we have just stepped out of Isuzu’s D-Max. The two share a lot in common, at least on the surface. However, they two vehicles have a different look to one another and are built in two separate factories, although both are in Thailand.
The new D-Max starts at $27,200 for the manual single cab chassis model which previously cost $25,100. Prices go up to $51,700 for the new five-speed auto LS-Terrain. The top-spec car has a reversing camera, leather upholstery and a satnav system. Service intervals have been doubled to 20,000km and one year.
Isuzu Ute Australia is quick to point out that the D-Max uses Isuzu truck engines and transmissions exclusively. The company has made its name on durability and reliability and says the use of true truck drivetrains is an important factor in this. Keeping in mind that Isuzu trucks have been number one in the sales race in Australia for the past 23 years, we are inclined to respect the argument put forward by IUA.
The powerplant is a 3.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-diesel and puts out 130 kW at just 3600 rpm, the low revs showing the commercial nature of this engine. Torque is much more important than power and the Isuzu puts out 380 Nm between 1800 and 3600 revs. Engineers say they could have achieved quite a bit more torque but the most important factor in their design was that flat graph.
Transmission options are five-speed manual and five-speed automatic. On the road and off, we found the engines to be superbly tractable and were able to hold onto high gears in the interests of lowering fuel consumption and emissions.
Isuzu is importing the D-Max with both rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive. Showing the tough nature of the typical buyers of D-Maxes is the fact that the majority of buyers have opted for 4WD. Nothing is likely to change this time around, so it looks as though these owners are serious.
The cabin has plenty of legroom front and rear and my six-foot frame can sit comfortably behind itself with legroom and foot room that makes it fine for long trips.
Safety in the new D-Max is right up with that of the latest cars. It carries comprehensive crash avoidance electronics including ABS with force distribution and brake assist as well as stability and traction controls. Protection during a crash takes the form of six airbags and lap-sash safety belts in all seats.
The D-Max has yet to be crash tested by ANCAP and Isuzu, always a conservative operator, won’t comment on an expected star rating. But the guys do sound very confident.
Well aware that many dual-cab utes and pickups are being bought by Australians as family cars, not just light commercial vehicles, Isuzu has put a lot of effort into making them quieter, smoother and easier to drive than ever before.
We were particularly impressed by the tight turning circle that made it easier to manoeuvre around town, but also on the harsh off-road tracks we traversed during our introductory drives in far north Queensland.
Like any big four-cylinder engine the Isuzu powerplant has some vibration but we have felt worse. While you wouldn't mistake the D-Max’s interior for that of a large passenger car the big ute comes pretty close in terms of refinement and smoothness.
We did some serious off-road driving in the Isuzu D-Max and it passed every test to which we put it; including slippery clay, very steep climbs and descents and driving on river sand.
New Isuzu D-Max is a solid generation in front of the previous one and looks likely to continue Isuzu Ute’s sales success in Australia.
Prices: from $27,200-$51,700
Warranty: 3 years/100,000 km
Service interval: 20,000km/12 months
Safety rating: 4 or 5 stars
Engine: 3.0-litre turbo-diesel 4-cyl, 130kW/380Nm
Transmission: 5-speed auto and manual; RWD/4WD
Body: 5-5.3m (L); 1.7-1.9m (w); 1.7-1.8m (h)
Towing: 3 tonne
Thirst: 8-8.3L/100km; 212-220g/km CO2