Isuzu D-Max

ISUZU D-MAX The D-Max is one of the old­est de­signs here, so is it up to com­pet­ing with the new boys?

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -


You may no­tice the D-Max here has a new tail­gate, new al­loys and a ‘shark-fin’ an­tenna. There are a few changes in­side too – a new in­stru­ment clus­ter and a touch­screen on the mid-spec vari­ants, but that’s the ex­tent of the D-Max’s most re­cent (MY15.5) up­dates. Along with the BT-50, the D-Max is ef­fec­tively the old­est de­sign here given that the Hilux, Navara and Tri­ton are all-new, and the Ranger and Colorado have been sig­nif­i­cantly re­vamped (in­clud­ing me­chan­i­cal changes) in the last year.

As be­fore, the D-Max’s tub has four de­cently sized tie-down hooks and, with the 800kg loaded and se­cured, the rear ride height dropped around 60mm – as good as the least af­fected of all the utes here. Not that this is a de­fin­i­tive mea­sure, given the va­garies of the age and his­tory of the as­sem­bled utes – it’s only an­other piece of in­for­ma­tion. Our to­tal pay­load of 970kg (in­clud­ing driver, etc.) is 40kg to 80kg shy of the max fig­ures of the var­i­ous D-Max dual-cab 4x4 pick-ups, so very close to max pay­load.

With the 800kg pal­let in the tub and head­ing up, the D-Max felt a lit­tle nose-up at the front, but it didn’t bot­tom out on any of the bumps. And while the steer­ing felt a lit­tle light, the chas­sis felt gen­er­ally com­posed, sta­ble and con­fi­dent.

Not so good is the D-Max’s 3.0-litre en­gine that felt the weight of the tub more than any of the oth­ers in the test. While the max­i­mum power of 130kW is com­pet­i­tive with the less pow­er­ful en­gines here, its 380Nm of torque max is be­tween 53Nm and

90Nm short of what the oth­ers of­fer. This lower torque out­put trans­lates to less power off idle and at low rpm, some­thing you don’t want when haul­ing a big load up a steep hill.

The D-Max still got the job done, but it had to work at it more than the oth­ers. It is, af­ter all, a much older en­gine de­sign than any of the oth­ers here, and even pre­dates this gen­er­a­tion D-Max. The en­gine re­fine­ment is also noth­ing spe­cial in this com­pany.

The five-speed auto also does the en­gine few favours. Not only does it have fewer ra­tios than all but the Tri­ton’s auto, but there’s noth­ing flash also about the way it shifts up or down the hill. Like the en­gine, it’s an older de­sign.

But there is a flip­side to all this in as much as the D-Max’s en­gine is a ro­bust and re­li­able Isuzu in-house de­sign that’s done more than a few laps. Like­wise, the gear­box is well proven and comes from an Aisin gear­box fam­ily pre­vi­ously widely used by Toy­ota.

With the dead­line for Euro 5 emis­sion com­pli­ance loom­ing, Isuzu will have to do some­thing en­gine-wise for the D-Max for MY17, even if it’s just an ad­di­tion of a diesel par­tic­u­late fil­ter. Per­haps the changes will run deeper than that, and there will be more power and torque as well…


The unas­sum­ing Isuzu and its lack of pre­tence make it a sen­ti­men­tal favourite with many. The hard-work­ing Isuzu shares the un­der­pin­nings of the Holden Colorado, yet it has been the pre­ferred choice as a work­horse for those in the know. A vir­tu­ally bul­let­proof 3.0-litre en­gine and five-speed auto trans­mis­sion combo has gone a long way to build­ing this rep­u­ta­tion over a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time.

The Isuzu took our load rea­son­ably well. The D-Max’s bum sagged a lit­tle un­der the weight, but its sto­icism gives you the im­pres­sion it’ll have a crack at any­thing.

In this cur­rent cli­mate, how­ever, the D-Max has been se­ri­ously chal­lenged in terms of per­for­mance and re­fine­ment by the re­cent on­slaught of prod­uct in this segment. In true Isuzu fash­ion, the D-Max had a se­ri­ous crack at the ti­tle.

The ven­er­a­ble 130kW/380Nm pow­er­plant aimed to please, but was left want­ing in this com­pany. And, like the Navara, it also lacks elec­tronic trailer sway con­trol.

The gen­er­a­tional lag be­tween the Isuzu and the rest of the flock is very ap­par­ent at max weight. On up­hill drags the D-Max roared, clam­bered and snorted, yet didn’t de­liver the kind of per­for­mance set by its ri­vals. The tacho hov­ered at 3000rpm in sec­ond slot and it stayed there as the D-Max hauled its way to the top of the hill.

The rear end also had a tough time with a bit of bump steer out back. Steer­ing feel re­mained rea­son­ably com­posed, and the Isuzu was eas­ily con­trolled on the up and down. Again, the five-speed self-shifter may be a tough unit, but it’s not the most in­tu­itive bit of gear. On the up­side, the en­gine helped hold back our load on the down­hill runs once there was some man­ual in­ter­ven­tion.

You do, how­ever, get the im­pres­sion that the Isuzu would take this sort of beat­ing day in and day out with­out a hic­cup.

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