Test Drive

Isuzu – it’s all in the detail


Well the chassis is the same, and the driveline formula – 3-litre turbo diesel and manual or auto transmission – is basically the same, but the detail is far more impressive than much of the competition, at the moment. Big Rigs takes the new D-Max for a spin.

With the explosion of dual cab sales, all the brands of utes and dual cabs are upping the ante on safety and digital systems to capitalise on buyers looking for multi-purpose vehicles but tiring of vanilla style SUVs.

Isuzu’s D-Max is a stalwart of that sector of the market where simplicity, rock-solid reliability and capacity for hard work reigns supreme. The range is not as wide as others, but Isuzu has done very nicely in keeping it simple and remembering why its buyers stick with the product.

The third generation D-Max injects a better people experience into a ute that is known as the towmaster – a full chassis, grunty 3-litre turbo diesel power, 3.5-tonne towing capacity and a payload between 970kg and 1.32 tonnes , depending on the model.

The exterior is completely reworked for a more aggressive get-it-done outlook, but it’s on the inside and under the skin that the most significant changes are made.

Starting with under the bonnet, the new engine – 4JJ3-TCX – now delivers 140kW at 3600rpm and 450Nm between 1600 and 2600rpm, with a healthy 300Nm at just 1000rpm, outstanding for a small diesel. Block, head, crankshaft and pistons are all-new and the new electronically controlled VGS turbo is claimed to be sharper for more instant effect. The DPD works harder and the exhaust system is redesigned to save nearly 9kg in weight.

The six-speed manual has a shorter, crisper throw and the Aisin auto box has tightened up the shift timing to even out the flow of torque.

There’s an electronic actuator in the transfer case – 2-high to 4-high up to 100km/h will now engage in less than a second, as will the change from 4-high to 4-low, which previously took enough time to arrange a cuppa and a slice of toast. A one-piece aluminium tailshaft is stronger, lighter, more corrosion resistant and quieter (harmonics are smoothed out).

Isuzu-D--all-in-the-detail---pic-2Biggest news is the Intelligent Driver Assistance System (IDAS) which packages no less than 35 mostly electronic safety systems into every model. Reversing camera and rear cross-traffic alert are biggies, but the “Misacceleration Mitigation” caught my interest. Apparently the stereo cameras detect a prod on the throttle that wasn’t intended, and say ‘no-way’. It works to keep an embarrassing lurch in a car park in the family instead of the courts.

Eight airbags turn D-Max’s interior into a bouncy castle if you really screw up and now most secondary driving functions such as lights, high beam and wipers are done for you. Adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking are now moving into the arena of standard fitment and Isuzu is firmly in that camp. You need to check out the brochure to get the whole list.

The PR people have excelled themselves. The release suggests Aussies want a vehicle interior that invokes a sense of “Zen and Solitude.” In a ute? Full of kids? Good luck with that.

But the designers have had a shot at it, and the D-Max interior is completely reworked, with some glaring omissions finally addressed – ie: the steering wheel tilts and telescopes.

To keep the 2-tonne plus caravan junkies happy, vented front rotors are now the largest front brakes in the 1-tonne ute market – 320mm diameter by 30mm wide and are clamped by twin-piston floating callipers.

Suspension is tuned for Australia. Front double wishbones and the rear leaf springs are new and lighter and repositioned for more on-road precision and stability. Electric power steering is lighter and needs less maintenance than the previous mechanical set-up. Wheelbase is up by 30cm but overhangs are reduced both ends, enhancing the approach and departure angles. Ground clearance is better – the cab floor is 20mm higher.

Wading depth is 800mm and there’s room for easy snorkel fitting if you’re planning on crossing Bass Strait. A 2.482:1 transfer case ratio smooths out cruising while improving low-speed tractability and the traction system includes an electro-magnetic rear diff lock with push button control.

Isuzu offers a 6-year/150,000km warranty with up to 7-years roadside assist and capped price servicing – plan on $3373 for the term ($482pa) if you service at Isuzu dealers.

Isuzu Ute Australia is the envy of its competition. Less models means less parts stock, easier servicing across a common driveline, and easier forward ordering. Customers love it too. It’s a cinch to pick the grade you want, pick the colour, then head off into the great outdoors. If supply isn’t a problem and the dealer network strengthens, even the biggest brands can expect to get a hurry-up from this new D-Max. Looking forward to the first drive.


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