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Isuzu D-Max


Toyota Land Cruiser

Summary

Isuzu D-Max

This has been a long time coming - an all-new Isuzu D-Max. It’s here, and it has changed the game in the ute segment forever. 

Seem like an overstatement? Really, it isn’t. There are elements of the Isuzu D-Max 2021 model which set the pace for the dual cab ute segment. No other pick-up or cab-chassis ute offers as much safety tech, but that’s just the beginning.

In this review we’ll cover off all the important parts of the all-new D-Max, including the cabin space and presentation, safety tech, pricing and specs for the model range, ownership credentials and of course, how it drives - on-road, and off-road. There’s a lot to get through, so let’s get to it.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Toyota Land Cruiser

If you’re a fan of the Toyota LandCruiser – and, let's face it, who isn't? – then you’re probably really enjoying the exciting time right now in its long and illustrious history.

A tweaked 200 Series is expected here soon-ish, and the 300 Series is also expected here in the not-too-distant future. Problem is, anyone who wants a 300 will have to choose between smaller-engine options – a V6 diesel, V6 petrol or petrol/hybrid – and will have to cop an even bigger price-tag all-round than the current 200 line-up.

So, is the current 200 Series a LandCruiser enthusiast’s last chance to own a new V8-powered upper large 4WD wagon that’s capable of handling family and work-life, but also be more than capable of taking your family into remote areas in comfort and style?

We tested a top-of-the-range Sahara on- and off-road. Read on.

Safety rating
Engine Type4.6L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency13.4L/100km
Seating7 seats

Verdict

Isuzu D-Max8.3/10

The all-new Isuzu D-Max appears to be a massive step forward for the brand - but perhaps more importantly, it also pushes the entire ute segment ahead, with new safety technologies that are often reserved for luxury brands.

The fact Isuzu has democratised safety across its range is worthy of applause, and it therefore makes it a bit hard to choose a sweet spot in the range. But based on the fact that there are drive-away deals being done, and the D-Max X-Terrain - at less than $60k drive-away - undercuts similar offerings from Ford and Toyota by thousands of bucks, makes it our pick of the range.

That may change once we spend some time in the broad-ranging SX trim line, but for now, the X-Terrain seems hard to pass up. Tell us what you think in the comments below.


Toyota Land Cruiser7.1/10

The LandCruiser 200 Series Sahara is one of the best upper large premium 4WD wagons on the market.

It’s capable and comfortable, with plenty of standard features – some of them handy, some of them not – but the interior feels dated and less than premium, that multimedia system just isn't up to scratch and the price tag just feels too high for what you get.

But none of that will sway any die-hard Cruiser-loving adventurer, who wants a big comfortable and capable 4WD for family life, off-road adventures, or to tow a caravan or boat.

And who can blame them? Afterall, it’s hard to ignore the long-term appeal of a 200 Series.

Design

Isuzu D-Max8/10

Say what you will about the vampire grille, there are lots of major changes around the body of the D-Max. It is all-new, and that means it was treated to a clean sheet design that is more modern, more aggressive, more sleek and yet still entirely recognisable as an Isuzu.

It still has smallish headlights, a broad grille, and a recognisable ute silhouette. I think it looks good as a single cab, extra cab or dual cab, and Isuzu has managed to make the D-Max a little bit shorter than it used to be (30mm), but all D-Max models get a longer wheelbase to help settle things down and make it more stable.

Just a word of warning - this part of the review gets heavy on dimensions.

First, here’s a table of the body dimensions:

 

Single cab

Extra cab

Dual cab

Length

5325mm

5265mm-5285mm

5265mm-5280mm

Wheelbase

3125mm

3125mm

3125mm

Width

1870mm

1870mm

1870mm-1880mm

Height

1790mm

1785mm-1800mm

1785mm-1810mm

The dimensions vary depending on the variant and the tray body fitted if it’s a cab chassis. But there’s nothing really out of the ordinary here.

When it comes to load space dimensions, things are also dependent on the tray for cab chassis bodies, but the following figures are for a factory-offered tray. 

 

Single cab-chassis

Extra cab-chassis

Extra cab ute

Dual cab-chassis

Dual cab ute

Cargo floor length

2550mm

2100mm

1835mm

1800mm

1570mm

Width

1777mm

1777mm

1530mm

1777mm

1530mm

Width between wheel arches

-

-

1122mm

-

1122mm

Depth

-

-

490mm

-

490mm

The D-Max isn’t unusual in not offering enough space between the wheel-arches for an Aussie pallet (1165mm by 1165mm), so don’t go buying a pick-up and expect to be able to do the delivery run if it involves pallets.

Okay, so what about payload capacity for the different body styles in the range? Only one dips below the one-tonne expectation, as you’ll seen below - and remember, cab-chassis models will be affected by the weight of the tray body fitted, and these figures are:

 

Single cab-chassis

Extra cab-chassis

Extra cab ute

Dual cab-chassis

Dual cab ute

Payload capacity

1300-1320kg

1240-1250kg

1090-1100kg

1175kg-1200kg

970kg-1080kg

Gross vehicle mass (GVM)

3000kg (4x2) / 3100kg (4x4)

Gross combination mass (GCM)

5850kg (4x2) / 5950kg (4x4)

Towing capacity

750kg unbraked / 3500kg braked

 

You will no doubt want to know the off road dimensions and angles, too. And because there’s no low-riding model any more, even the 4x2 versions - which have the High-Ride chassis - are more accommodating to drivers who wish to jump gutters or need to deal with gravel tracks and potholes.

But to keep it within the realms of use, we’re just covering off the 4x4 models in terms of off-road specs below:

 

Single cab-chassis

Extra cab-chassis

Extra cab ute

Dual cab-chassis

Dual cab ute

Ground clearance mm

235mm

235mm

240mm

235mm

235mm (LS-M),  240mm (LS-U / X Terrain)

Approach angle 

29.6

30.0

30.5

30.0

30.0 (LS-M), 30.5 (LS-U / X Terrain)

Break over/ramp over angle

23.9

23.9

23.8

23.9

23.3 (SX / LS-M), 23.8 (LS-U / X Terrain)

Departure angle

28.9

27.0

24.2

27.0

23.9 (SX / LS-M), 24.2 (LS-U / X Terrain)

Wading depth

800mm

That’s a lot of numerical data to take in. But rest assured, we’ll cover off how the D-Max’s off-road dimensions translate to its ability when we get to the driving section. 


Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

The LandCruiser’s appearance hasn’t changed much in years. This variant does have Sahara-specific branding on the rear horizontal-split door, but otherwise, it remains wholeheartedly 200 Series: a big chunky, distinctively imposing 4WD wagon.

The 200 Series is 4990mm long (with a 2850mm wheelbase), 1980mm wide and 1970mm high. 

The Sahara has three rows of seats; two in the front, three in the second row, and two in the third row, for a total of seven seats. The base-spec GX has five seats in total; the GXL has eight; the VX also has seven.

Practicality

Isuzu D-Max8/10

The first impression you get in higher grade D-Max models is that it has made more than a stride in the right direction - it has looked over its shoulder at the existing interior, and run for the hills to start a new life.

That’s because the cabin has been completely overhauled. The LS-U and X-Terrain versions adopt a class-leading 9.0-inch media screen, while in the lower grades there’s a 7.0-inch screen - which, yes, does look a little too small for the surrounding bezel, but still offers wireless Apple CarPlay and USB-connect Android Auto

The screen is let down somewhat by a lack of volume and channel dials/knobs - instead it has buttons underneath, which are slower and more fidgety, especially when you’re driving. Oh, and the D-Max’s default noises that accompanies every button press is certainly not to Aussie tastes - but you can turn it off, thankfully. 

The LS-U and X-Terrain both get inbuilt GPS sat nav, and the media system’s controls and menus are colourful but perhaps a little confusing. You get used to it - I mean, if you could live with the media screen in the old D-Max, this is going to be like finding a bunch of presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

The materials are of a high perceived quality, including soft-touch plastics on the doors and dashtop - plus the LS-U and X-Terrain models get a really pleasant leather-trimmed steering wheel. To get yourself comfy there is height adjustment for the driver’s seat, reach and rake adjustment for the steering wheel, steering wheel audio and cruise control buttons, and conventional stalks for lights and wipers. And for what it’s worth, our team reckon the seats are more comfy in the D-Max than plenty of the other utes in the class.

There’s a digital driver info screen with digital speedometer, but - like the main screen - it takes a bit of learning. 

The D-Max’s dashboard design is eye-catching, but still packs in all the smarts you’d expect. There’s still a pair of pop-out cup holders on the edges, there’s still a pop-up opening on top of the dash (which works properly, this time around!), and a double glovebox, too. Plus there are big cupholders between the seats, a decent centre console bin, and bottle holders in the front door pockets.

In the back there is a pair of cup holders in a flip-down armrest in the LS-U and X-Terrain, plus all dual cabs get door pockets with bottle holders, and there are rear seat directional airvents, too. 

Space in the second row is good - with the driver’s seat set for my position (I’m 182cm / 6’0” tall)  there was enough space for me to move my knees and toes, and I had a good amount of headroom, too. 

Three adults will be able to fit across the back, but if you have children, keep in mind there are outboard ISOFIX child seat anchor points and a centre-mount top tether point for two top-tether attachments. You have to loop the restraints through behind the outboard headrests. That means you legally can’t fit three baby seats across the back… but that’s normal for this class of vehicle.


Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

The Sahara is a seven-seater divided in three rows – two at the front, three and two at the rear – as does the second-from-top spec, the VX. The base-spec 200 Series, the GX, has five seats; the next spec up, the GXL, has eight.

It has a listed kerb weight of 2740kg, as do all the other 200s, except the GX, which is 2640kg.

The 200 Series is a big unit on the outside, but has quite a small interior. It is a bit of a premium space though with leather inserts on seats and around the cabin, woodgrain highlights on the steering wheel and dash, plus chrome-look finishings throughout. 

With all three rows in use, there’s not a lot of space at all. Toyota does not have an official figure for cargo capacity of the rear area, but it’s plain to see that there isn’t much room. We packed a first-aid kit and a portable air-compressor and there wasn’t much room left over. You could probably fit a few other bits and pieces, but not much. There are cargo hooks and a 220V power socket. 

When the third row (side folding, 50/50 split seat backs) is stowed away, the cargo capacity is officially listed as 1276 litres, but the reality is those seats protrude into the cargo area, taking up a lot of useful space.

No cargo capacity figure is officially listed for when the second- and third-row seats are stowed away.

Getting into the third row is not difficult as the door opens wide and there is a side step on the Sahara to aid your ingress, but once you’re in the third row, space is a bit pinched and the seats are rather flat and not really that supportive. It’s comfortable enough and really a kids-only zone, but that’s not a newsflash for a third-row. Bonus: you can watch the second-row 11.6-inch DVD screens, one each on the driver and front passenger head-rest.

There are plenty of storage spaces back there: two cup-holders on each side, stash-away spots for bits and pieces, cup holders in the middle, directional air vents, and lights. 

Passengers in the second-row (40/20/40 split folding feat backs) have access to a lot of controls: air con, seat-warming (outer seats), and DVD remote (hidden in the fold-down centre arm-rest, which also has cup-holders and a shallow grippy tray for the DVD remote or a smartphone). There are also directional air vents, lights and storage spaces in the form of hard-plastic door spaces and mesh pockets on the back of the driver and front-passenger seats.

As mentioned, the DVD screens are on the driver and front passenger head-rests.

The seats here are, as expected, more comfortable than the third row with plenty of support.

Upfront, it seems like a bit more of a premium space, and it’s all well laid-out and easy to navigate – to quickly establish which controls are where – but the dash and centre console is all starting to look and feel a bit dated. Especially when the Sahara carries such a hefty price tag.

That 9.0-inch multimedia touchscreen doesn't help either, because it's a bit clunky to use, with its mix of controls, on-screen and dials.

There are a fair few storage spaces though: glove box, door pockets, the cool box (in between driver and front passenger), and cup holders (with a flip-top lid). There is also a wireless smartphone-charging tray.

There are USB charge points upfront, as well as a 12V power socket.

The Sahara also has a moonroof if your passengers want to look at the sky, night or day, while you’re on the move.

Overall, it’s a well put-together cabin, build quality is very impressive and there’s nothing terribly wrong with the interior, but it just doesn't feel like such a prestige space, worthy of a $125,000 price-tag. It feels old, so a facelift – or better still a 300 Series – can’t arrive soon enough.

Price and features

Isuzu D-Max8/10

A lot of pundits out there have claimed the all-new 2021 D-Max range is too expensive. The counter argument goes that you get what you pay for, and nothing comes for free.

I subscribe to the latter school of thought, and while it has to be stated that Isuzu Australia admits it has been seen as a cheap and cheerful brand in years gone by, the new-generation D-Max will see the company push customers into higher price points than they might otherwise have been willing to pay.

But there’s good reason for the increased cost. The price list starts at $32,200 (MSRP/RRP) before on-road costs, and spans through to the flagship model at $62,900 (MSRP/RRP).

Those are the list prices, but Isuzu Australia has already said that it has drive-away deals running on multiple models in the line-up - the entry level SX cab chassis 2WD, for instance, will be available for $29,990 drive-away, while the flagship X-Terrain has promo pricing of $58,990 on the road - essentially a $10,000 discount straight off the bat!

Okay, let’s break it down in terms of the model grades.

The SX is the broadest reaching badge in the D-Max line-up. You can have it in single-cab, extra-cab and dual-cab body styles, as well as in 2WD/RWD/4x2 (but there is no low-ride model anymore) or 4WD/4x4. All D-Max models come with the same engine, but there’s a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Here’s a table to make it easier to understand the SX line-up.

ISUZU D-MAX SX RANGE

Drivetrain

Body type

Transmission

RRP



 

4x2

 

Single cab-chassis

Manual

$32,200

Automatic

$34,200

Extra cab ute

Automatic

$38,900

Dual cab-chassis

Automatic

$40,700

Crew cab ute

Automatic

$41,900







 

4x4

 

Single cab-chassis

Manual

$40,200

Automatic

$42,200

 

Extra cab-chassis

Manual

$43,700

Automatic

$45,700

 

Dual cab-chassis 

Manual

$46,700

Automatic

$48,700

 

Dual cab ute

Manual

$47,900

Automatic

$49,900

In terms of standard equipment for the SX, the list comprises: manual air-conditioning, power windows, power mirrors, automatic wipers, a 4.2-inch customisable driver display, a 7.0-inch multimedia screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, a four-speaker sound system and voice commands, cloth interior trim, rubber flooring, tilt and telescoping multi-function steering wheel, 17-inch steel wheels and a matte grey front grille. Dual cab models have rear seat directional air vents, too.

How many seats in the D-Max? Single cab and space cab/extra cab models have two seats only, while dual cab variants have five seats.

The second tier up the D-Max range is the LS-M. Here are the parameters of this variant: 

ISUZU D-MAX LS-M RANGE

Drivetrain

Body type

Transmission

RRP

 

4x4

 

Dual cab ute

Manual

$51,000

Automatic

$53,000

Considering the step up from the SX to the LS-M? For the extra outlay you’ll score 17-inch alloy wheels, body colour door handles and mirror caps, as well as LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, LED front fog lights, and inside the sound system gains two additional speakers (for a total of six) while the rear seat occupants get a USB port. 

Above the LS-M sits the LS-U variant, which is more easily differentiated due to a number of exterior changes. First, here are the LS-U options available:

ISUZU D-MAX LS-U RANGE

Drivetrain

Body type

Transmission

RRP

4x2

Dual cab ute

Automatic

$48,900

 

4x4

Extra cab ute

Automatic

$53,900

 

Dual cab ute

Manual

$54,900

Automatic

$56,900

That’s right, you can get a high-grade 4x2 LS-U, or the 4x4 in a few different configurations. As for standard equipment, there’s a decent jump up in terms of spec: 18-inch alloys, a chrome grille, chrome mirror caps and door handles, blacked-out B-pillars, dual-zone climate control, electronic lumbar adjust for the driver’s seat, carpet flooring, a 9.0-inch multimedia screen with satellite navigation, and leather steering wheel. The LS-U dual cab gets an eight-speaker stereo, while the two-seat Space Cab has six speakers - yep, only two seats for the extra cab models this time around.

And the new range topping model is the X-Terrain, and boy do you get some kit for your cash here.

ISUZU D-MAX X-TERRAIN RANGE

Drivetrain

Body type

Transmission

RRP

4x4

Dual cab ute

Automatic

$62,900

The X-Terrain has been to the same finishing school as the Ford Ranger Wildtrak, that’s for sure - so it’s no surprise that there are a bunch of additional sporty extras fitted to this model, including: dark-grey-coloured aero sports bar, side steps, front grille, door and tailgate handles, and side mirrors, dark grey 18-inch wheels, a roller tonneau cover, an under rail tub liner, front and rear underbody spoilers.

Plus the spec list adds keyless entry, push-button start, a leather-accented interior, driver’s electric seat adjustment, and remote engine start over all the LS-U gear.

What’s missing from the entire D-Max range? There is no auto dimming rearview mirror, no seat heating or seat cooling, and no passenger seat electric adjustment. 

And if you’re wondering about accessories, there are more than 50 genuine items in the Isuzu D-Max accessories catalog, including: bull bar and nudge bar options, roof rack, roof box, canopy, tub liner, window tint, headlight protector, bonnet protector, snorkel, side steps, and - of course - floor mats. 

Trying to figure out which colour you’ll choose? There are eight options, but 'Marble White pearl' and 'Magnetic Red mica' are exclusive to LS-U and X-Terrain grades, while the X-Terrain grade has exclusive access to 'Volcanic Amber metallic'. The others are: Mineral White, Cobalt Blue mica, Basalt Black mica, Mercury Silver metallic, and Obsidian Grey mica. All the metallic paint choices add $500.


Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

The seven-seat top-shelf* Sahara, as tested, costs $124,996 ($124,396 plus $600 premium paint), plus on-road costs. [* The limited-edition Sahara Horizon costs more, at $129,090 (plus on-road costs), but there are only 400 of those, so I’m not counting those in the mainstream line-up.]

It has a 4.5-litre V8 twin turbo-diesel engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, full-time four-wheel drive with dual-range gearing, a limited-slip centre differential and a stack of driver-assist tech including Toyota Safety Sense (which incorporates Pre-Collision Safety System with Pedestrian Detection (like Autonomous Emergency Braking – AEB), High Speed Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert and Automatic High Beam), as well as blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, a multi-terrain system (with various drive modes to suit different terrain), a multi-terrain monitor, crawl control (low-speed off-road cruise control), hill descent control and more. 

As befitting a top-spec vehicle, the Sahara has quite an extensive features list including a 9.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with sat-nav, a wireless smartphone charger, a cool box between the front seats, woodgrain-look steering wheel and throughout the cabin, ventilated front seats, heated front and second-row seats, driver’s seat memory settings, four-zone climate-control air-conditioning, 11.6-inch entertainment screens for rear passengers, a nine-speaker audio system, and a moonroof.

It has daytime running lights, a horizontal-split tailgate, side steps, and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Engine & trans

Isuzu D-Max7/10

For an all-new engine with a bigger capacity than most other motors offered in this part of the market, it is a little disappointing to see the horsepower figure for the new 4JJ3-TCX unit isn’t a bit higher.

With the power output pegged at 140kW (at 3600rpm) and a torque rating of 450Nm (from 1600-2600rpm), the 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine is aiming for a less strained approach than some of its more highly strung four-pot rivals (with up to 157kW and 500Nm).

In practice the engine is a willing thing - more on that in the driving section below.

The motor is paired to the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, and there’s the choice of rear-wheel drive (RWD/2WD), or selectable four-wheel drive (4WD/4x4) with high range (2H and 4H) and low range (4L). 

All D-Max models come with the highest possible towing capacity. The towing rating is 750kg for an unbraked trailer and up to 3500kg for a braked trailer. Tow ball down load - when fitted with the genuine Isuzu towing kit - is 350kg across all variants.


Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

The 200 Series has a 4.5-litre V8 twin turbo diesel engine – producing 200kW@3600rpm and 650Nm@1600-2600rpm. That power figure is not whopping, but the engine is very torquey, with plenty of that on tap at lower revs, and the six-speed auto is a clever smooth-shifter. 

On different tests, I’ve towed camper-trailers and an almost three tonne caravan with a 200 Series, and have been happy with its ability to tow safely and comfortably.

It has full-time 4WD and a limited-slip centre diff, as well as a whole bunch of driver-assist trickery, which I’ll detail later in this yarn. (Head straight down to ‘What's it like to drive?’ Right now if you’re too impatient.)

Fuel consumption

Isuzu D-Max8/10

The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure varies depending on the transmission - but there’s not much in it.

The variance is between 7.7 litres and 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres, across the entire range of engine, transmission, body style and drivetrain configurations.

On test - in a pair of 4x4 automatic utes - we saw a real world consumption figure of 8.9L/100km, which is better than acceptable considering that included urban, highway, country road, gravel track and serious off-road driving.

Fuel tank capacity is 76 litres for all models. There is no long range fuel tank option.

The D-Max range is specced to Euro 5 emissions levels, with between 200g/km and 207g/km CO2 emissions. There is a diesel particulate filter as part of the powertrain, but no Adblue after treatment.

Wondering about a petrol, LPG, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric version of the D-Max? There’s not much on the radar just yet, but the brand has stated it wants to offer a hybrid and/or a downsized engine, if the market demands it. 


Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

Fuel consumption is listed as 9.5L/100km (combined). 

I recorded an actual fuel consumption of 12.8L/100km on this test, but I did do a lot of low-range 4WDing.

The 200 Series has a 93-litre main fuel tank and a 45-litre sub tank – that’s a total of 138 litres.

Driving

Isuzu D-Max8/10

When a ute is a ute, it's hard to hide its ute-ness. That was evident in the previous generation version of the D-Max, and - truth be told - still is to a degree in the MU-X SUV.

But the new-generation D-Max is a big step up. It is not only more refined, it’s also easier to drive, more comfortable, and gutsier, too.

In our previous reviews of the D-Max the driving portion - on-road or off - has reflected that the company specialises in trucks. Big trucks. Ones that are more agricultural than amazing. But the new D-Max changes that.

During my time driving the new D-Max (and I had a palate cleansing experience in the existing MU-X between loans!), the thing I noticed most was the improved steering.

The old hydraulic system has been ditched in favour of an electric steering setup, which makes the action considerably lighter and more driver-friendly than it was before. No longer does it feel tractor-like - instead, you get an arm-friendly ease of twirling similar to the Ford Ranger, but still with plenty of feel and feedback through the wheel. 

The turning circle is still large at 12.5 metres, but it takes very little effort to perform three- or five-point turns in narrow streets, because the steering is so pliable.

The suspension in the two dual cab models I tested - the LS-U and X-Terrain - is set to be subtle and well sorted in most situations, but there are still some telltale signs of its hard-working origins. There are some jitters from the rear end without a load on board, but it’s not nearly as thumpy as the last model, and indeed is among the best utes in the segment for unladen ride comfort.

With its revised ladder frame chassis, three-leaf rear suspension and independent front suspension, the way the Isuzu team has chosen to tune the new D-Max is a big step forward. At the time of publication we haven’t had a chance to drive one of the D-Max models with the heavy duty suspension - that’s fitted to SX and LS-M models, and is no doubt stiffer for better load carrying ability - but you can rest assured we will cover that off in future reviews.

The engine isn’t as zesty or quiet as you might hope - the Ranger Bi-turbo and even the facelifted HiLux have sizeable advantages in four-cylinder-ute-land, but it still pulls with enough gusto to get away from a line with ease. There’s a fair bit of diesel engine noise, but it’s not nearly as loud as in the previous generation models.

The revised six-speed automatic offers smart, quick and mostly smooth shifts, though it can be a little eager to shift a lot at higher speed. The logic is trying to step between the higher gears to stay in its torque sweet spot - it’s just a bit more eager to use the gearbox than rely on rumbling along in a higher gear. No doubt that’s partly to help save fuel, too. 

The new Isuzu ute has driver aid like active lane keeping assistance, as it uses a camera system to monitor the road to ensure you keep in your lane and adjust the steering if you’re swaying. Plus the blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert systems work really well, and proved handy both at open road speed and when pulling out of parking spots. 

Okay, that’s the on-road part taken care of. What about the off road review? We’ll dive deeper in an Adventure Guide review coming from Crafty soon, but here’s a quick rundown.

Previously, the traction control system could get in the way when you were dipping in and out of ruts, while the lack of a locking rear differential meant the D-Max could be left at a big disadvantage when things got serious. But now the traction control system is much more adaptable, and - in low range - you can engage the standard-on-4WD-models rear diff lock to help you climb treacherous hills.

Compared to before, the D-Max feels more confident off-road. Perhaps not quite as dialled in to the terrain as a HiLux as the steering is a little light in low speed crawling - but that’s a similar criticism of the Ranger, so really, it’s not a huge issue. On test we did note a bit more belly scraping than we expected with 240mm of claimed ground clearance, but that could come down to the extra wheelbase length, and different design elements, too. 


Toyota Land Cruiser8/10

As mentioned, the Sahara is 2740kg, but it generally never feels like it’s so big and heavy.

Steering is reach-and-rake power-adjustable and it’s pretty sharp and, despite its bulk, the 200 is easy to manoeuvre in city and suburban settings, although it does feel its size every now and again. Turning circle is 11.8m and, on squeezy city streets, quick turnarounds can become a bit of a challenge.

But the 200 Series turbo diesel V8 is a simple, powerful and effective engine and it works supremely well with that six-speed auto. 

Acceleration is particularly smooth, making for easy off-the-mark blasts from a standstill and also overtaking moves on the highway, but you can’t be shy with the go-pedal.

The coil-spring suspension yields a spongy, comfortable ride but the 200 Series never feels like its prone to wallowing as much as you might imagine.

All-round, it’s very comfortable as a daily driver, if not entirely practical in terms of cargo space, for its size, and for its price.

Gravel and dirt tracks provided ample opportunities for us to again experience how settled and composed the 200 Series is at speed, on irregular surfaces. 

The 200 Series suspension set-up – independent front, live-axle rear and coil springs all-around – helps the Cruiser to sit really nicely on the road. It's not even thrown off its game by deeper potholes or sharper corrugations.

The Sahara and VX also have KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System), which acts like a swaybar: on-road its aim is to improve handling and to reduce body roll; off-road, the system performs like a swaybar disconnect in that it adjusts to suit the terrain to maximise articulation and stability. (Note: KDSS is not on base-spec GX variants and is an option on the GXL.)

When it comes time for low-speed, low-range 4WDing, the 200 can feel big and bulky, so it does always require considered driving. 

There’s plenty of visibility out of the 200’s windscreen, but the bonnet is quite large and does at times obscure your forward vision, but it's not a deal breaker, and if you’ve spent any time in a 200 Series – or any large 4WD wagon for that matter – it likely won't annoy you too much.

Steering remains light and responsive at lower speeds, and that's important for such a big almost three-ton beast on tight bush tracks and bush routes that twist and turn. 

The 200’s torquey V8 engine, which works really well with the auto off-road as well as on on-road, offers up plenty of that torque at low revs and you can always rely on it. 

Low-range gearing is good and the 200 also has a limited slip centre differential if you get the urge to hit that button as well. 

Wheel travel is pretty decent, but with that KDSS, which acts like a mechanical swaybar disconnect off-road, the Sahara gets even more flex, more wheel travel, to help you get a wheel to the dirt and keep moving.

As well as reliable low-range gearing, good wheel travel and all-around suitability for 4WDing, the Sahara can also tap into a stack of driver-assist tech, including the multi terrain select*, which gives you the capability to dial through five different terrain modes – Mud & Sand, Loose Rock, Mogul, Rock & Dirt, and Rock – and that tweaks, among other things, the traction control system to suit the terrain you're on. (The VX also has multi terrain select, but the GX and GXL do not.)

Crawl Control, which regulates your speed at very low speeds via engine power and brake input to each wheel, gives you the ability to select a different low-speed setting to suit the conditions and terrain. This system incorporates turn-assist, which is handy when you need to make a very tight turn while 4WDing, as it applies brakes to your inside rear wheel at low speeds to help reduce your turning circle.

Visibility is good all around, as there’s plenty of glass at the front, rear and to the sides but, as stated earlier, that large bonnet can obscure your forward vision, especially when you’re cresting hills. If you’re finding your vision is hampered, then you can always make use of the multi terrain monitor – standard also in the VX and Sahara, but not available in the other variants.This system is a four-camera set-up designed to offer you views at the front, back, and down the sides, but I wouldn't rely on it. The lenses easily become dirty, as they did on our stint, and it only provides quite a basic, distorted view. Instead of relying on these cameras, the driver should get out, walk the track to see where you're going to drive or, at the very least, stick your head out the window to make sure you can see where you’re going, just to be on the safe side.

Engine braking is good, as is the hill descent control, although on some of the very slippery muddy hills we tackled, the 200 tended to run away a bit on the downhill runs.

The Cruiser has 225mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 700mm, so we had no problems driving through deeper wheel ruts and mud-holes.

An easily-fixed weakness in the 200’s off-road armoury are its standard-issue Dunlop Grandtrek AT25s (285/60R18), which are not aggressive enough for anything more than light off-roading, I reckon. So get rid of those if you plan any four-wheel driving and replace with a set of decent all-terrains. That standard rubber’s on 18-inch alloy wheels. (GX and GXL variants get 17-inch wheels and tyres.)

The 200 Series has a full-sized spare tyre.

It has a 750kg unbraked towing capacity and 3500g braked towing capacity. 

Safety

Isuzu D-Max10/10

Updated 17/09/2020: The Isuzu D-Max has scored the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test safety rating - and it's the first commercial vehicle to achieve that accolade under the stricter criteria from the safety watchdog for 2020.

And we've given the D-Max five stars in terms of its tech inclusions - that translates to a 10 out of 10 for this part of the test.

Why so high? Well, it comes comprehensively kitted out, and even offers a few segment firsts.

Standard on all models is a reversing camera, auto emergency braking (AEB) that works at speeds over 10km/h, but there’s also mis-acceleration control to lessen the likelihood of lower speed bingles. There is all-speed pedestrian detection and cyclist detection as part of the AEB system, and forward collision warning, too.

The D-Max also gets 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 all automatic models get adaptive cruise control (manuals get regular cruise).

Every D-Max also has auto high-beam lights as well as auto lights and wipers, not to mention speed sign recognition and warning, and driver fatigue detection. Rear parking sensors are on LS-U and above, and the X-Terrain gets front sensors, too.

Perhaps one of the most interesting inclusions is a front-centre airbag - to protect those in the front seats in the event of a side impact. That is required for a five-star ANCAP rating under 2020 criteria, but the D-Max is the first ute to get it. And all D-Max models also have driver’s knee, dual front, front side and full-length curtain airbags, for a total of eight.

As with most other utes, there are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points and two loop-style top-tether attachments for baby seats, which hook to a centre mounted brace. This is only applicable to dual cab models.


Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

The 200 Series has a five-star ANCAP rating (from testing conducted in 2011), 10 airbags and plenty of driver-assist tech, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, multi terrain monitor, front and rear parking sensors and more. 

Ownership

Isuzu D-Max9/10

Whether you’re spending $30,000 or $70,000 on your new ute, there’s a good chance you want it to be reliable.

Well, while we can’t vouch for reliability per se, if there’s a brand with a good reputation for ownership in the ute segment, Isuzu would be it.

The company backs its products with a six-year/150,000km warranty plan, which is among the best of the best. SsangYong has seven years, and Mitsubishi is constantly dabbling there, too.

But Isuzu offers a seven-year capped price servicing plan, with service intervals set every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. The costs are reasonable, considering you don’t have to take it in twice a year (as you do with a HiLux).

The average cost over seven years/105,000km works out at $481.85 per visit. But if you want a rundown on the interval cost, here you go: 15,000km - $389; 30,000km - $409; 45,000km - $609; 60,000km - $509; 75,000km - $299; 90,000km - $749; 105,000km - $409.

For those that are curious, the previous model had an average service cost of $549 over the seven year plan ($3843).

And Isuzu still gives owners seven years of roadside assistance cover at no cost, too.


Toyota Land Cruiser7/10

As of 1 January 2020, the service pricing for a LC200 Sahara turbo-diesel under Toyota’s capped price servicing is $300 per service for three years/60,000km (up to the first six services). The service interval is every six months/10,000km.

The warranty period for any new vehicle bought after 1 January 2019 is a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty that covers any part, panel and accessory made by Toyota. In addition to this, Toyota will extend your engine and driveline warranty from five to seven years if the annual service schedule is adhered to.