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Isuzu D-Max X-Runner 2019 review

Isuzu's latest X-Runner sits atop the rugged ute's model range.
EXPERT RATING
7
Isuzu's simple two vehicle range continues to buck sales trends with its loyal customer base and rugged off-road appeal. How does its latest X-Runner limited edition ute fit into the equation?

It seems if there's one brand in Australia that proves that there's success to be had in doing just one thing and doing it right, it's Isuzu.

The brand markets just two passenger vehicles, the MU-X SUV and D-Max ute, yet manages to buck sales trends year on year despite its obvious limitations.

Australia's seemingly endless appetite for all things ladder-chassis almost necessitates an endless slew of special editions for every taste, and this car is Isuzu's latest crack at the formula, the X-Runner.

If that name sounds instantly familiar, it should. Isuzu has made an X-Runner edition almost every year since 2011, (only skipping 2012 and 2018).

Limited to just 645 examples and based on the top-spec LS-T dual-cab D-Max ute, this iteration is also the priciest vehicle Isuzu sells. Oh, and we should also mention the fact that the X-Runner was revealed alongside a slew of minor changes for the D-Max range in 2019.

So, what's Isuzu done to set the X-Runner apart, and is it worth your consideration in an ever-crowded ladder-chassis market? We drove one at its unveiling in Victoria to find out.

Isuzu D-Max 2019: X-RUNNER LTD ED WHITE (4x4)
Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$54,990

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

This X-Runner is the most expensive vehicle Isuzu sells at the moment, but despite that carries a very humble sounding drive-away price tag of $54,990. You'll notice not only is that not in the high sixty-thousand-dollar bracket like some top-spec big-name competitors, but it's also just $3000 more than the LS-T on which it is based.

The extra spend nets you X-Runner specific decals on the sides and rear, red Isuzu badging all round, a grey grille insert, an X-Runner specific set of 18-inch alloy wheels with 255/60R18 Toyo Open Country Highway Terrain tyres (Isuzu says the choice to use H/Ts is because most high-spec D-Max buyers spend most of their time on the tarmac), an Isuzu under-rail tub-liner in the tray with a matching matte-black sports bar (major value adds here) as well as bespoke red and black leather interior trim.

On top of the standard reversing camera the X-Runner gets rear parking sensors as standard. As part of the MY19 update to the D-Max range, you can now also add front parking sensors to that suite for $545.

It has 18-inch alloy wheels with 255/60R18 Toyo Open Country Highway Terrain tyres. It has 18-inch alloy wheels with 255/60R18 Toyo Open Country Highway Terrain tyres.

The X-Runner is only available in two colours, Pearl White, which is unique to the X-Runner, or Magnetic Red (y'know, to match those red badges).

That's it for the X-Runner specific bits. Otherwise the standard suite of D-Max LS-T features are present including an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (which, sorry, still does not host Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), a set of LED DRLs (but still no LED headlights like the MU-X) and newly designed for 2019 side-steps.

Like the LS-T the X-Runner comes with a full-size alloy spare.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The D-Max's design has moved at a truly glacial pace since 2012. Not much has changed at all with this update, aside from a re-designed grille insert.

I do like the way the X-Runner adds a bit of contrast (even though it's mostly stickers) and gets its own alloy wheel design.

Say what you will about this truck's outdated design language, at least you'll never feel bad about taking it off the tarmac and onto the rough stuff.

Not much has changed at all with this update, aside from a re-designed grille insert. Not much has changed at all with this update, aside from a re-designed grille insert.

Inside is also in need of a refresh, but for 2019 the D-Max gets gloss plastic bits in the doors and dash to help spruce it a little. The multimedia screen is big and easy to use despite a less than impressive software suite. The GPS is surprisingly good, and as Isuzu says it's important to many D-Max owners to be able to have navigation outside of the cellular network grid.

There are leather seats, which in the X-Runner come with contrasting black and red trim with leather doorcards and a raised centre console box making for decent touch points throughout.

The dash and centre stack are still mainly comprised of hard plastics so there's plenty of room for improvement but again, the brand's fans will tell you that it's all part of the rugged appeal.

The X-Runner comes with bespoke red and black leather interior trim. The X-Runner comes with bespoke red and black leather interior trim.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Available only as a crew-cab means the X-Runner has a pretty roomy cabin for both front and rear passengers. It's not cramped in the back, legroom behind my (182cm tall) driving position is good and you could realistically fit three adults across the rear seats.

Sadly, rear passengers won't benefit from air vents, however.

Up front there's a good amount of storage in the (deliberately) off-shaped cupholders which will easily swallow phones and wallets. There's a good storage box under the centre arm rest and quaint, old school fold-out cupholders at the extremities of the dash.

It comes with an Isuzu under-rail tub-liner in the tray. It comes with an Isuzu under-rail tub-liner in the tray.

There's no storage trench under the centre stack, where the USB ports and power outlets are hosted, so your cables will become a bit of a mess.

The seats are comfortable all-round, but a consistent D-Max complaint is the seating position, which is too high, and the lack of telescopic (reach) steering adjustment can make it difficult to achieve a truly ergonomic piloting position.

Front passengers also get great legroom, but no padding on the inside of the dash, increasing your risk of a bruised knee, particularly when gallivanting off-road.

With that said, visibility is great out of the truck, and you're never going to be worried about breaking any trim sections or features.

As well as the tub-liner, it comes with a matching matte-black sports bar. As well as the tub-liner, it comes with a matching matte-black sports bar.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Nothing has changed here, the D-Max maintains its single engine option - the much-trusted 3.0-litre (4JJ1-TC) turbodiesel engine producing 130kW/430Nm.

All LS-branded D-Max models, including the X-Runner, are exclusively six-speed torque converter automatics and retain a low-range transfer case.

There's no fancy torque vectoring or specific computer-controlled terrain modes, and still no rear locking differential (probably the most requested feature), but there is a 'smart' downhill accelerator control which will allow you to adjust your descent speed using the brake only.

The X-Runner shares its 1024kg payload, 750kg unbraked towing capacity and 3500kg braked towing capacity with the LS-T.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The X-Runner has an official fuel consumption number of 7.9L/100km and toward the end of our day-long test which included two long freeway stints and an off-road park the dash was showing in the mid nine-litre territory. Not bad.

All D-Maxes have 76-litre fuel tanks and there's no factory option for a longer-range setup.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

We had the opportunity to spend the better part of a day in the X-Runner around Victoria's Great Ocean Road, followed by a stint at a nearby off-road proving ground.

Again, not much has changed here, so if you're already familiar with the D-Max there's no news - the X-Runner drives exactly the same as the LS high-riding 4x4 models.

That does mean that some common complaints about the drive experience are still there. The steering is heavy at low speeds (the D-Max misses out on a lighter re-calibrated steering rack from this year's MU-X), the engine makes a racket past 2500rpm, and the suspension is rougher and bouncier - particularly around the rear - than more road-friendly competitors like the Ford Ranger.

That having been said, the very mechanical feel of everything lends it trustworthy feedback when you venture off the tarmac. It's easy to feel out where each of the wheels are at any given moment, and there's no need to place your faith in computers or electronics to keep you from slipping or sliding - it's a feel that the brand has built a reputation for.

The X-Runner drives exactly the same as the LS high-riding 4x4 models. The X-Runner drives exactly the same as the LS high-riding 4x4 models.

The downhill accelerator control software does have the neat feature of letting you arrest speeds to something you're comfortable with on steep declines, but on our short off-road test it did have a slight lurch when you let your foot off the brake, which could lead to slip on sand or gravel.

Another point to note is the six-speed auto was remarkably intuitive when cruising down hills on the freeway. It was quick to change down to help control speeds but not so much that you needed to encourage it with a prod of the accelerator to remain at the speed limit. A personal gripe: even this halo model still misses out on touch indicators for when you just want to change lanes.

The X-Runner has a ground clearance of 235mm with an approach angle of 30 degrees, a ramp-over angle of 22.3 degrees and a departure angle of 22.7 degrees. We had a chance to test pretty much all of these at the off-road proving grounds, and I can tell you it lends you a fair amount of confidence behind the wheel.

A bonus: The X-Runner is void of any pretty spoilers, excessive chrome, light fittings, or extra trim bits jutting out, so it stays true to the D-Max's whole 'not too pretty to take off-road' vibe.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

6 years / 150,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   6/10

All Crew Cab 4x4 D-Maxes have a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of November 2016.

These days, that largely means it has all the expected six airbags and electronic stability controls. Going forward, the key is going to be advanced active safety items, even in the light commercial class.

In that department, the D-Max still lags behind. The only safety addition as part of the 2019 update was the optional ($545) front parking sensors, and the ute still misses out on the addition of blind spot monitoring (BSM) and rear cross traffic alert (RCTA) which are now optionally available on the MU-X.

The X-Runner gets rear parking sensors as standard. The X-Runner gets rear parking sensors as standard.

Perhaps the most important item - auto emergency braking (AEB) - probably won't arrive until the next-generation D-Max (due around 2020 or 2021), as Isuzu representatives said there are no firm plans for the time being to add the tech to the D-Max or MU-X range.

No radars or forward cameras also means no active cruise control or forward collision alert, and there are no ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the rear row, so you'll have to make do with the top-tether mounts available in all three seats.

The very welcome trailer sway control was added as part of the D-Max's previous 2018 update.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Isuzu announced as part of its 2019 D-Max update that its entire range would be covered by an improved six-year 150,000km warranty, with a matching included six-year roadside assist plan.

This warranty is ahead of most competitors and is only beaten by SsangYong which covers its Musso ute with a seven-year unlimited kilometer promise and Mitsubishi which currently offers its new-generation Triton with seven-year, 150,000km coverage.

Isuzu offers capped price servicing up to seven years or 105,000km for a total cost of $3600. Yearly services, which occur at twelve-month or 15,000-kilometre intervals will cost between $350 and $1110.

Verdict

The X-Runner adds a bit of visual flair and some value additions to the D-Max range without adding too much to the price-tag.

It's a shame it's still missing some tech and safety items – particularly those upgrades that are now available on the MU-X – but for now it makes a suitable limited-edition halo for the rugged brand's ute range.

Do you think that Isuzu has done enough to make the X-Runner stand out? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$40,990
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$26,990
Highest Price
$54,990

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Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
EX (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $35,000 2019 Isuzu D-Max 2019 EX (4x4) Pricing and Specs
LS-M (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $49,000 2019 Isuzu D-Max 2019 LS-M (4x4) Pricing and Specs
LS-M Hi-Ride (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $40,990 2019 Isuzu D-Max 2019 LS-M Hi-Ride (4x4) Pricing and Specs
LS-T (4x4) 3.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $54,800 2019 Isuzu D-Max 2019 LS-T (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Driving7
Safety6
Ownership8
Tom White
Journalist

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$54,990

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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