Isuzu’s up­dated ad­ven­ture ve­hi­cle

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - News -

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.

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