Messrs Carter, Bradley, Turner, Creed & Gorrett, winners of Isuzu UK’s “Journalist for the day” competition.
> > > Watch two videos of the day here and here < < <
A winner of one of only eight places in the national Isuzu D-Maxperience competition
and consequently an embracing recipient of the warm hospitality from the good chaps at Isuzu,
I recently enjoyed a late June day out at Deer Park, in the stunning countryside of Worcestershire, to share a little play time with the new Isuzu D-Max. Almost eight years in the making, it supersedes the now greying but still worthy Isuzu Rodeo. And does so very well indeed.
As I write from experience, please indulge me an outline of the wider picture. I spent 34 years of my life in gloriously wild southern Africa, from Hwange National Park, Victoria Falls, Kariba Dam and surrounding National Park and Mana Pools, to the desert that is the Okavango Delta, to the mountain ranges of Nyanga and The Vumba which comprise the Great Rift Valley to the region’s east. From the dust-bowls of the Savi and Limpopo Rivers and the scorched earth of an October Matabeleland, to the wild waters of the mighty Zambezi River. Google them all and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve driven a few ‘bakkies’ in my time…in those places and in extreme conditions that – if you don’t know or understand Africa – are difficult to comprehend or tolerate. Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you a story, as the saying goes.
Utes, bakkies, pick-ups, call them what you will, I hold an appreciation for the leaps and bounds made by the manufacturers of these vehicles in the last decade or two. In technological advancements, aesthetic design and life-style practicality, the new Isuzu D-Max is no exception. Isuzu only make pick-ups, it’s their sole focus and really is what they do best. What’s more, they blithely re-wrote the class rule-book in several areas with this new pick-up. But enough of the waffle and puff, let me tell you what I really think.
The D-Max is an all-round stonker of a pick-up.
My D-Maxperience included country pursuits such as clay pigeon shooting, archery and falconry displays, and of course the opportunity to test the capabilities of both ourselves and the Isuzu D-Max on an off-road driving course and a challenging trailer reversing section. But, if truth be known, the auto-box D-Max variant that I commandeered made the task just that little bit easier, with light, precise steering at creep and great all-round visibility.
With a subtle nod and a wry wink, I was informed that the day’s off-road route was hastily configured only a day before and afforded a final tweak that morning before we arrived. Well, believe that if you will, but then you will also believe that bears don’t defecate in the woods, and never have. I am of the unwavering opinion that someone riddled with unhealthy, Cruella-like genes, spent many gleeful, hand-rubbing hours in a candle-lit cellar, shoulders hunched, determining a treacherous route I can at best only describe as bloody terrifying. If you’re reasonably new to this off-roading malarkey (me: no), or haven’t done much of it in recent years (me: yes), it was a truly lumpy-throat experience. Rest very assured, the D-Max coped considerably better than I did, taking the severest of ups and stomach-churning downs in its stride as calmly as you like. Me? Think of varying hues of green tinged with amber gills and you’ll get the full, unabridged picture.
The foot-free hill decent control, more commonly found on more up-market and thus expensive SUV soft-roaders, kept the D-Max within the realms of common sensibility. There were a several detectable moments when you felt the car wanting to slip away from you but it was guided very impressively and safely by the traction control system, ABS and ESC all working together. A ‘look-Ma-no-feet’ descent is somewhat disturbing as every fibre of one’s senses demands that you ‘regain’ physical control. Weirdly exhilarating!
A crucial rigidity test for any vehicle in this category is to rest it, chassis twisted to the point of being only on three wheels…and assess the smooth action of the doors. Nothing untoward was felt on the doors of the D-Max, with all four opening and closing as normal with impressive structural integrity.
The muddy and water-logged forest section would be a challenge to the hardiest of Unimogs and while there were one or two moments of concern, the Isuzu D-Max accomplished the course with aplomb. The odd driver miscalculation accounted for two attempts in traversing a very muddy uphill section, with threatening trees too cosy for comfort preventing any possibility of finding an off-track purchase for the drive-train. Again, impressive.
Boasting greater dimensions in length, width and height than the Rodeo, the new Isuzu D-Max holds a commanding presence on the road. The integrated wheel arches, removable side steps, roof rails, wider rear access doors on the twin cab, alloy wheels and the new aerodynamic styling belies the tough, no fuss, workman-like reality exuding from every glance and from any angle. For a pick-up, it’s quite a handsome fellow.
All D-Max models enjoy the improved fuel efficiency and poke of Isuzu’s home-grown 2.5 twin turbo common-rail oil-burner, offering 163PS and delivering 400Nm of usable grunt and a handy 38.2 combined mpg. With 3000kg of sheer pulling power, one can expect the equine fraternity to embrace it warmly. A first for the class, Isuzu offers the D-Max as an extended single cab with access side panels. There are two newly-developed transmissions available, a 6-speed manual and 5-speed autobox with sequential manual shift when required. Another first is the five-year, 120,000-mile warranty. The Isuzu D-Max is the only pickup available in the UK today that offers such a generous warranty, reinforcing Isuzu’s level of confidence in its new beastie-boy.
There are four variants in the new Isuzu range, the D-Max, D-Max Eiger, D-Max Yukon and the top-spec D-Max Utah and prices range from a very attractive £14,499 (cvotr) for the D-Max single-cab 4×2, up to the double-cab Utah auto at a highly-respectable £21,499 (cvotr). All models across the D-Max range have daytime running lights, dual front/side impact and curtain airbags, ESC, TCS and ABS, electric windows, air conditioning and electronic shift on the fly. The load tray comfortably accommodates a Euro-pallet.
But it is in the area of comfort and refinement that the Isuzu D-Max sets itself firmly apart from its class peers. Not overly perturbed about its apparent dual personality, the Isuzu D-Max combines tough practicality with luxury car-like comfort and refinement.
First and foremost, occupants benefit from a bigger, more spacious cabin compared to the Isuzu D-Max’s predecessor. In the double cab variant, with the windscreen moved forward, the front-row seats have been repositioned, offering greater comfort for driver and front passengers.
A flat floor and more space under the front dash further enhances the spacious feel of the cabin. Runners on the front row seats have been positioned further apart, creating more foot room for second row passengers, who also benefit from 25mm of extra leg room, and a more comfortable seat back that is reclined to a 24 degree angle, compared to Rodeo’s 21 degrees.
Further space can be created in the versatile double cab thanks to 60/40 split folding rear seats. A new feature of the Isuzu D-Max is the ability to fold one section (seat base) up and one section (seat back) down independently, providing a greater number of load-configuration choices. Additional storage compartments in the floor under the rear-seat base add to Isuzu D-Max’s load-lugging versatility.
In the extended cab derivative, seat cushions fold down from the back panel, creating additional seating, with fold-out thigh supports offering occupants even greater levels of comfort.
Together with impressive cabin space and exceptional comfort for drivers and passengers, Isuzu engineers have spent thousands of hours optimising noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). Engine bay sound proofing, as well as improved cabin and body mountings, makes the Isuzu D-Max one of the quietest vehicles in its class, a level comparable with modern passenger cars.
The new, sleeker exterior design also dramatically reduces drag resistance and wind noise. The Isuzu D-Max’s door window frame design is now flatter, which means that the door sits closer to the door seals, providing better insulation from exterior noise and a quieter ride when traveling on motorways.
Treat yourself to an extended test drive and then place the new Isuzu D-Max atop your shortlist. It has every right to be there.