The 2021 Isuzu D-Max is not only an all-new D-Max, it’s also the first time the brand has offered this particular variant anywhere in the world. It’s the new Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain, a flagship model that aims up squarely at the Ford Ranger Wildtrak.
But it does so for less money, and with better equipment. Is this the new king of the high-grade dual cab utes?
We put it through its paces - as a lifestyle ute, first and foremost, as that’s the sort of buyer this grade is set to attract - to see what it’s like to live with.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 9/10
You might think a price tag of $62,900 for a D-Max is too high. We get it. It is rather lofty considering the old LS-T model was $54,800.
But those are MSRP/RRP prices - not the drive-away deals we know Isuzu will be doing, and already is doing, on the X-Terrain double cab. In fact, at launch, the company is selling the new flagship variant for $59,990 drive-away. That’s effectively a ten-grand discount straight off the showroom floor!
You might think a price tag of $62,900 for a D-Max is too high. We get it.
It’s no wonder we’ve had hundreds of comments on Facebook from eager customers who are awaiting the arrival of their very own X-Terrain. It is a hotly anticipated model for the brand.
And for your sixty grand (give or take) you’re getting quite a bit of kit. Remember, this is a dual cab, four-wheel drive, automatic ute - there is no manual model and no 2WD version of the X-Terrain, because, well, no-one would buy it.
We can’t consider the X-Terrain without incorporating all the design changes that have been made, but suffice to say it looks more Wildtrak-like than the LS-U below it. We’ll delve deeper on the visual changes below, but in terms of standard gear there’s plenty.
For your sixty grand (give or take) you’re getting quite a bit of kit.
The X-Terrain comes with 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, electric seat adjustment with electric lumbar adjust for the driver’s seat, carpet flooring, a 9.0-inch multimedia screen with satellite navigation and eight-speaker stereo, and leather steering wheel.
The X-Terrain also gets keyless entry, push-button start, leather-accented seats, and clever ute extras like side steps, a tub liner, and a roller tonneau hard cover for the tub, too.
Missing from the top-grade D-Max is an auto dimming rearview mirror (which is standard on a bunch of other utes in lower grades) plus there is no available seat heating or seat cooling, no steering wheel heating, and no passenger seat electric adjustment.
A 9.0-inch multimedia screen comes standard with the D-Max.
If you buy an X-Terrain but want to add more accessories to help it stand out, there are 50+ options available from Isuzu Ute Australia. Options include: bull bar and nudge bar options designed to work with the safety tech systems (detailed below), a roof rack, roof box, canopy, headlight protectors, bonnet protector, snorkel and floor mats.
The X-Terrain gets a model specific colour choice - Volcanic Amber metallic - which adds $500 to the price. Other options include Marble White pearl, Magnetic Red mica, Mineral White, Cobalt Blue mica (as seen here), Basalt Black mica, Mercury Silver metallic, and Obsidian Grey mica.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
If you said to me that Isuzu talked to its design team and instructed them to “make their own Wildtrak”, it wouldn’t surprise me. It’s a very similar formula, and it has been a winner for Ford - so why not?
No surprise there are additional sporty extras fitted including a lot of dark grey finishes, such as the 18-inch wheels, aero sports bar, side steps, grille, door and tailgate handles, side mirror caps, and the front spoiler and rear spoiler (lower body kit). Practical design elements include a roller tonneau cover and under rail tub liner, while there are also roof rails fitted.
And say what you will about the fact it looks very distinguishable as an Isuzu, I think the brand has done a great job of a black page, ground-up rethink of its ute. Yep, it’s different in a number of ways - shorter nose-to-tail but with a longer wheelbase, and we’re about to go deep on some dimensions data below.
Practical design elements include a roller tonneau cover and under rail tub liner.
Here’s a table with all the measurement information you might care about.
Cargo floor length
Cargo width / width between wheel arches
1530mm / 1122mm
Like most dual cab utes in the segment (apart from the VW Amarok) you can’t fit an Aussie pallet (1165mm by 1165mm) between the arches.
Righto, so now let’s take a look at some important weight and capacity considerations, because a ute isn’t much good unless it can do the ute things it has been designed for.
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)
Gross combination mass (GCM)
750kg unbraked / 3500kg braked
Tow ball download limit
350kg (with Isuzu towing kit)
Like most dual cab utes in the segment you can’t fit an Aussie pallet between the arches.
Anyway, here are some things you might still be keen to know in terms of the X-Terrain 4x4:
Ground clearance mm
Break over/ramp over angle
Sorry for the digital data overload. Next up, we’ll look inside the cabin.
How practical is the space inside? 8/10
You feel like you’re sitting in a top-spec ute. That’s important.
In fact, that’s where the last D-Max fell so short. Compared to its rivals, the cabin just wasn’t special. In fact, it was relatively unpleasant, unrefined, and not a smidge on what the new-gen model brings to the table.
Now, though, you sit in the X-Terrain’s leather-accented seats, grab hold of a lovely leather-lined steering wheel, and look around at new tech, new materials and a new level of perceived quality from the brand that wasn’t evident before.
You feel like you’re sitting in a top-spec ute. That’s important.
The X-Terrain (and LS-U below) have a 9.0-inch media screen, biggest in the segment, with wireless Apple CarPlay (another segment first) and USB-connect Android Auto. There’s GPS navigation if you don’t like to use your phone for your sat nav, and it has an eight-speaker sound system with little surround sound units in the roof lining, just like the previous model.
That’s great, but the usability of the media system could be better. There are no volume or tuning dials, with buttons instead controlling that. Not great when you’re off road, or when you’ve got work gloves on.
But nice elements like soft plastic finishes on the door tops and the dashboard make for a nice change, and there’s good practicality to back it up, too: dual glovebox, twin pop-out cup holders in the dash, two cup holders between the seats, and a decent storage caddy in front of the shifter, as well as a closable dash-top caddy (which actually works, unlike the old model!).
Headroom, knee room and shoulder space is good in the back.
There are decent door pockets with bottle holders up front, and the rear seat of the X-Terrain also gets bottle holders, map pockets, a flip-down armrest with cup holders and a little storage box near the rear USB port (there’s one in the back, one up front).
The front seats are comfortable, and the driver gets decent adjustment for their seat and the steering wheel, now with rake and reach adjust. There’s a nice instrument cluster design with a 4.2-inch driver info screen, including a digital speedometer. You might need a few hours to figure out the controls for that little screen, and it controls the lane keeping and other safety systems, if you’re the sort of driver who doesn’t want that steering interference.
The rear seat directional air vents are a bonus for anyone in the back.
Rear seat comfort is good too, with enough space for me (182cm/6’0”) to sit behind my own driving position with ease. Headroom, knee room and shoulder space is good, while toe room could be a little better, and you do have a bit of a flat seat base to contend with, so taller occupants might find it a bit of a knees-up position.
The rear seat directional air vents are a bonus for anyone in the back, but don’t go thinking you can fit three kid seats in the rear row - read the safety section for child seat details.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 7/10
This is the bit where you might be wishing for a little more.
I mean, an all-new engine and transmission is a great step forward, but the new powerplant under the bonnet of the D-Max is the same no matter which grade you buy. So, there’s no point of difference for this flagship model.
That’s right, you still get the same 4JJ3-TCX turbo diesel 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel motor in this grade, just like you do in the base ute at half the price.
The new powerplant under the bonnet of the D-Max is the same no matter which grade you buy.
And compared to the last model, power is only up 10kW and 20Nm, to 140kW (at 3600rpm) and 450Nm (from 1600-2600rpm).
That’s well short of the 157kW/500Nm you can find at the snout of a Ranger Wildtrak Bi-Turbo. Or even a HiLux Rogue, which has 150kW/500Nm in auto.
This grade comes with a standard-fit six-speed automatic with selectable four-wheel drive (4WD/4x4) with high range (2H and 4H) and low range (4L).
How much fuel does it consume? 8/10
Official combined cycle fuel consumption for the X-Terrain 4WD auto dual cab is 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres.
I saw 8.9L/100km on test, and that figure was taken at the pump. That’s fine by me, considering the driving I did.
The fuel tank capacity for the X-Terrain (and all D-Max models) is 76 litres, and there’s no long range fuel tank option.
The new-gen D-Max meets Euro 5 emissions, with 207g/km CO2 emissions officially. And while there is a diesel particulate filter (DPF, which Isuzu calls a Diesel Particulate Diffuser, or DPD), it doesn’t use Adblue urea treatment - which is why it’s not Euro 6 spec, and it doesn’t have engine start-stop, either.
You might have hoped for a more cutting edge powertrain for the X-Terrain top-spec ute, - maybe hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric? - but the brand says there’s nothing to talk about yet on the electrification front.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 10/10
Updated 17/09/2020: The Isuzu D-Max has been awarded the first five-star ANCAP crash test rating for a commercial vehicle under the strict new 2020 crash test criteria. That's a huge plus for customers.
That would usually see us err on the side of caution when it comes to giving a full 10/10 score for safety tech, but the D-Max is a benchmark-setting ute for advanced driver assistance technology, and it has all the gear to get the maximum five-star rating.
Every version of the D-Max has auto high-beam lights as well as auto lights.
The X-Terrain comes with a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, auto emergency braking (AEB) that works at speeds above 10km/h, and it has mis-acceleration control for lower-speed bump prevention. Add to that all-speed pedestrian detection and cyclist detection, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, active lane keeping assistance (between 60km/h and 130km/h), a turn assist system that can stop you from turning in front of oncoming traffic (operational between 5km/h and 18km/h), blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control, and your checklist is probably more than full.
But this grade, and every version of the D-Max, also has auto high-beam lights as well as auto lights, auto wipers, speed sign recognition and warning, driver fatigue detection, and eight airbags - including a front-centre airbag to protect those in the front seats in the event of a side impact (in addition to driver’s knee, dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags).
Like most other dual cab utes you’ll find a pair of ISOFIX child seat anchor points and two top-tether loops to feed straps through to a centre attachment tether for baby seats.
Warranty & Safety Rating
6 years / 150,000 km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 9/10
Isuzu Ute Australia has a strong reputation, and it backs its products with warranty cover of six-years/150,000km - among the best in the class.
Isuzu further offers a seven-year capped price servicing plan, with service intervals set every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs soonest. Servicing costs are decent, with the average cost per maintenance visit over seven years/105,000km coming out at $481.85.
I mentioned in the engine section that you might want more for your money at this end of the price scale, and I stand by that - but this isn’t a bad engine at all. Really, it’s quite good.
Like, it isn’t zippy or overly urgent. If you want a more ardent engine, you could probably check out the 2.0-litre bi-turbo Ford Ranger, which is a more enlightened powerplant.
But the thing is, for a ute, the D-Max’s mill doesn’t do much wrong. Sure it’s a bit noisier than you might want, but it pulls honestly from a standstill, revs in a linear fashion, and never really feels low on grunt at all.
For me the biggest surprise is the D-Max’s steering.
Indeed, a lot of that comes down to how the new six-speed auto works. It is quicker shifting, more eager to be in the right gear to keep the engine in its torque sweet spot. It’s more active than the lazy old auto of the previous model, but that’s no bad thing - considering it makes for better in-gear response and easier overtaking moves, it’s a win in my book.
But for me the biggest surprise is the D-Max’s steering. It’s very good. Like, almost Ford Ranger good - that being it does not require arms like PopEye to park, is easy to keep in its lane at all speeds, and actually makes you feel involved in the drive if the road is a fun one.
The electric steering setup is a lot more driver-friendly than the last model, and while the turning circle is still 12.5 metres, it’s an easy ute to manoeuvre in most situations.
For a ute, the D-Max’s mill doesn’t do much wrong.
The suspension is much improved, too. With independent front suspension and leaf springs at the rear - and almost a tonne of payload capability, with maximum towing of three and a half tonnes - it’s pretty bloody impressive how the suspension copes with lumps and bumps.
You can tell it’s a still a ute, with noticeable rear-end skitters at times, but while we haven’t load tested an X-Terrain, it might be more fitting to load a week’s worth of camping gear than half a tonne of sand, as that’s probably what most buyers will be using it for.
Price up a HiLux SR5 on the Toyota site and you’ll be greeted by a $65k drive-away deal (at the time of writing). Do the same on the Ford site, and it's a $65,490 on-the-road price for the 3.2L version of the Ranger Wildtrak.
So if you are simply looking at price, the Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain’s drive-away promotional price of $58,990 on the road makes it look like a comparative bargain. And, truth be told, it really is.
But more than that, it’s also a compelling and complete offering, with outstanding safety and a level of refinement edging towards the Ranger, but not quite eclipsing it for driving dynamics.
Does it matter? You tell us! Let us know what you think in the comments section below. But I called out the X-Terrain variant as potentially being the best option in the all-new D-Max 2021 range, and after spending more time with it, it certainly seems to stack up.