D-Max is more Taranaki than Taka­puna

The Horowhenua Mail - - WHAT’S ON -

We drive Isuzu’s re­cently facelifted D-Max ute and find that it’s still one of the most hon­est one-tonne trucks around. By Rob Maet­zig.

It’s not very of­ten that it is ac­cept­able to log in to an in­ter­net site and ac­cept an in­vi­ta­tion to get dirty.

But you can if the site is the one op­er­ated by Isuzu Utes New Zealand. There, you can se­lect a pho­to­graph of one of its fleet of D-Max utes, choose a paint colour to see what it looks like, and then choose Get Dirty – and the ute will get cov­ered in vir­tual mud.

And why would any­one want to see what a ute looks like in such a filthy state? Be­cause that’s the orig­i­nal ute tra­di­tion. Their orig­i­nal in­tent was as a rugged four-wheel drive carry-all that could go al­most any­where. It’s only in re­cent years that utes have mor­phed into ur­ban trans­port with more bling than US en­ter­tainer Fla­vor Flav.

Of all the utes now avail­able in New Zealand, it seems it is only Isuzu that is re­sist­ing this urge to dress up and gen­trify. Nope – those D-Max utes are keep­ing them­selves re­strained, leav­ing it up to the other brands to go all flash-Harry. The only ma­te­rial that’s go­ing to adorn the D-Max flanks is mud.

Well – that’s not quite true. There is a list of ac­ces­sories for the D-Max range, in­clud­ing such things as a canopy, bull bar, roof rails, side steps and tow bar. But all these items are of­fered to en­hance the ute’s ca­pa­bil­ity rather than give it ex­tra street cred.

What all this means is that the Isuzu D-Max is more Taranaki than Taka­puna, a ute that presents it­self more for its sheer abil­ity than for its looks, al­though it must be said it is a hand­somelook­ing truck. But it’s just that there are no adorn­ments in­side or out.

The D-Max has re­ceived a facelift this year. The LS dou­ble­cab ver­sion we’ve been driv­ing has a new nose that’s got a bit more chrome than be­fore, new­style head­lights, and there have been some up­grades to the in­te­rior, with the LS now get­ting such items as satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion as stan­dard. But over­all the in­te­rior re­mains clean al­most to the point of be­ing sparse.

There’s an 8-inch touch-screen that can be used for in­fo­tain­ment in­clud­ing a re­vers­ing cam­era and the sat-nav, un­der that there’s the cli­mate con­trols, then there’s the shifter for the six-speed au­to­matic, and south of that there’s an ef­fi­ciently-lo­cated Ter­rain Com­mand dial which is used to se­lect 2WD, or 4WD High and 4WD Low.

And that’s about it. Well de­signed with all the es­sen­tial de­signs nicely grouped, this D-Max in­te­rior is a model of sim­ple ef­fi­ciency. Oh – and talk­ing about sim­ple ef­fi­ciency, the back seats in our dou­ble-cab ver­sion split and fold 60/40 so help store more in the se­cu­rity of the cabin.

Let’s go back to that Isuzu Utes New Zealand web­site. We’ve Given It A Tickle-Up, it says of the D-Max. Ob­vi­ously the com­pany isn’t talk­ing about the mi­nor cos­metic changes made to the ute. Nope – it’s talk­ing about some sig­nif­i­cant im­prob­ve­ments that have been made to the ve­hi­cle’s pow­er­train.

The en­gine un­der the ute’s bon­net con­tin­ues to be its well- known J Se­ries diesel, in this case the 4JJI-TC Hi-Power, which fea­tures elec­tronic com­mon rail di­rect in­jec­tion and a vari­able ge­om­e­try sys­tem (VGS) tur­bocharger with in­ter­cooler.

Thanks to such changes as in­stal­la­tion of new-de­sign pis­tons, re­vi­sions to the tur­bocharger and a new fuel pump and in­jec­tion sys­tem, the torque has been im­proved by 50 new­ton me­tres so it is now 430Nm. That torque peaks at lower rev­o­lu­tions too – it’s now down to 2000rpm.

In ad­di­tion, the ve­hi­cle’s au­to­matic trans­mis­sion has been up­graded from five to six speeds. It all adds to the un­der­stated ef­fi­ciency of this ute. De­spite the facelift it might re­main a lit­tle nois­ier than the op­po­si­tion, and it cer­tainly doesn’t have the bling of­ten as­so­ci­ated with the lat­est one-tonne utes, but there’s no doubt­ing that it con­tin­ues to be an hon­est and re­li­able truck – and im­proved too, which is what should be ex­pected from any facelift.

It’s worth not­ing that Isuzu has been build­ing utes and other 4x4 prod­uct for more than half a cen­tury, and that it is the world’s largest man­u­fac­turer of diesel en­gines. It’s built more than 26 mil­lion of them – and if that doesn’t un­der­line the sheer re­li­a­bil­ity of the D-Max, then noth­ing will. But the com­pany doesn’t shout about it. In­stead, it leaves it up to the prod­uct to do the talk­ing.

The facelifted and more pow­er­ful Isuzu D-Max LS ute.

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