Isuzu’s updated adventure vehicle
ANYONE KEEN ON getting away for a big adventure knows you need a vehicle that will both get you there and back, and also be able to carry you and your family’s gear. Whether it’s a camping trip, mountain biking escape, paddling journey or a combo of all three, a vehicle that can lug all your adventure toys is a must – hence the popularity of dual-cab 4WD utes in Australia.
One of the quiet achievers in the burgeoning lifestyle 4WD ute market is Isuzu.The Japanese company has been around for 100 years this year, but its popular D-MAX 4WD ute has only been on the market since 2008. However, in that time it has proved robust, reliable and very popular with farmers, tradies and adventurous families – and has sold accordingly, in ever-increasing numbers, bolstered by excellent dealer support and an ANCAP 5-star safety rating (the maximum attainable).
The 2017 D-MAX has been updated with a new Euro 5compliant 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine that is now more powerful and economical, and really boosts the appeal of this popular vehicle. The ‘old days’ of bouncy, firm, hard-riding utes is long gone, and the latest incarnation of the D-MAX, which AG Outdoor tested at its recent Australian launch, is proof. Isuzu UTE Australia (IUA) fought hard to keep a 3.0-litre TD4 in a buyer market that still views ‘big,’ in terms of engine capacity, as better, rather than opt for already available small-capacity (2.5TD or 1.9TD) options. With 430Nm (up 50Nm from the previous-gen model) of torque, the new engine and six-speed gearboxes ensure performance, economy and driving refinement.
The D-MAX is still, first and foremost, a utility vehicle capable of carrying up to one tonne or more in its tray. Balancing the workhorse with the family wanderer has seen substantial work on the suspension, as well as that updated drivetrain.The smooth-shifting six-speed automatic gearbox works well with the engine; the wider torque band, with 380Nm (the old engine’s max torque figure) now available from 1700-3500rpm, is matched perfectly with the auto’s ratios and allows for both excellent fuel economy and plenty of oomph when you need to climb up that rocky track to your campsite.The interior is a mix of hard plastics, big audio touch screens (7- or 8-inch, model-dependent), wellbolstered (but short in the base) seats, and good fore and aft vision.
A nice surprise is the D-MAX’s on-road handling. It isn’t a sports car in this respect – that’s obviously not its design brief – but when cornering, body roll is well controlled, and backed up by effective and non-intrusive electronic driver aids.
For off-road tourers, the D-MAX is a mix of (mostly) good and bad news.The good: all models (even 4X2) now come standard with Hill Descent Control and the switch-on-the-fly 2WD to Hi-4WD is brilliant.The bad(ish): the D-MAX relies solely on electronic traction control for off-road driving – there’s no limited-slip diff or rear diff-lock available, both of which are now standard or a factory options on many competitors. Still, decent wheel articulation and the Electronic Traction Control (ETC) do enable the D-MAX to clamber over most obstacles, and the Hill Descent Control is intuitive in operation. Reverse camera is standard only on top-end LS-U – it’s optional on all other models.
For adventurous families it is hard to find fault with a dual-cab ute as a viable vehicle option.The D-MAX proves that good handling on- and off-road, plus impressive carrying capacity (especially if you add an optional canopy to the rear tray), raft of interior features, and that excellent ANCAP 5-star safety rating, can make a dual-cab 4WD ute a viable alternative to a wagon when looking at a vehicle that will take you and your family anywhere in search of adventure. For pricing and more info, see
The Isuzu D-MAX makes an ideal family adventure vehicle. Add a canopy for huge gear storage space in the rear tray. Fuel economy is excellent and it has an ANCAP 5-star safety rating.