Na­ture’s call: Driv­ing the 2018 Isuzu D-Max and mu-X in Bo­hol

The Philippine Star - - MOTORING - IN 2013, three weeks af­ter a pow­er­ful earth­quake struck the is­land of Bo­hol, it was rav­aged by su­per ty­phoon Yolanda, one of the strong­est storms ever recorded. The de­struc­tion left by Yolanda re­minded peo­ple that cli­mate change was real, and that ev­eryon

In pur­suit of eco-friendly diesel tech­nol­ogy, Isuzu en­gi­neers pur­sued four main ob­jec­tives that make Blue Power tech­nol­ogy stand out: max­i­mum en­gine out­put, low emis­sions, best fuel econ­omy, and dura­bil­ity.

At the heart of the 2018 mu-X and D-Max is the 4JJ1-TCX. Now com­pli­ant with re­vised pro­vi­sions of the Philip­pine Clean Air Act, the 3.0-liter 4-cylin­der en­gine now has 177 horse­power and 380 Nm of torque. Mated to this en­gine is a new 6-speed au­to­matic on the mu-X, while the D-Max re­tains the ser­vices of a carryover 5-speed au­to­matic.

Start­ing off from the Tag­bi­la­ran Air­port, the Blue Power en­gines made its dif­fer­ence felt al­most im­me­di­ately, es­pe­cially if the hu­man nose was the judge. They weren’t emit­ting the tell­tale whiff of diesel; in­stead, thanks to a diesel par­tic­u­late fil­ter, they’re now much friend­lier even to passersby.

From there, the con­voy drove dropped by Isuzu Bo­hol on the way to the is­land’s most fa­mous land­mark: the Choco­late Hills. Af­ter a quick photo op at the look­out point, the fleet of mu-X and D-Max charged their way through the man-made for­est. Through the sweep­ing, hilly roads, the Blue Pow­erequipped ve­hi­cles felt will­ing and re­laxed. It of­fered a clean, smooth re­sponse along with a broad band of pull that ex­tends past 4,000 rpm. And even at higher speeds, the en­gine never felt taxed or stressed. Noise, Vi­bra­tion, and Harsh­ness (NVH) is also re­mark­ably im­proved from its pre-Euro 4 days.

The next day man­dated a switch to dif­fer­ent ve­hi­cles: those in the D-Max, were given the op­por­tu­nity to drive the mu-X and vice-versa. Be­cause of this, the dif­fer­ence be­tween the carryover 5-speed au­to­matic of the D-Max and the new 6-speed au­to­matic of the mu-X was made even more dis­cern­able. While the D-Max’s au­to­matic felt much bet­ter suited to the en­gine with smoother shifts, the mu-X’s is even bet­ter. Shifts are quicker, en­abling the en­gine to op­er­ate at lower RPMs thus im­prov­ing fuel mileage by as much as 20 per­cent.

As one would ex­pect out of a body-on­frame ve­hi­cle, the ride is firm on both the mu-X and D-Max. Yet, they both ex­hibit great qual­i­ties that ex­ceeds the ex­pec­ta­tions in this class. The D-Max had no un­wanted buck­ing even over choppy sur­faces, and the han­dling was sorted. The mu-X is even bet­ter. With ex­ten­sive work con­cen­trated on low­er­ing un­wanted Noise, Vi­bra­tion, and Harsh­ness (NVH), this 7-seater SUV has be­come a truly com­fort­able and ca­pa­ble fam­ily cruiser. There­fore, it’s no sur­prise that 40 per­cent of mu-X buy­ers are fam­ily-ori­ented women.

Aes­thet­i­cally, the D-Max re­mains un­changed—no prob­lem since it was just re­freshed last year. Mean­while, the mu-X re­ceives a plethora of changes in­clud­ing a re­vised front fas­cia with new head­lights, bumpers, and grille. Con­tin­u­ing Isuzu’s pen­chant for tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from na­ture, the mu-X’s bi-beam LED head­lights and in­te­grated LED day­time run­ning lights (DRLs) are rem­i­nis­cent of a bald ea­gle. At the back, it gets a re­shaped rear bumper along with an LED light­ing sig­na­ture that look like ea­gle’s wings. Cap­ping off the changes are larger, sportier look­ing 18-inch al­loy wheels.

In­side, the 2018 mu-X gets slight tweaks with more soft-touch ma­te­rial and up­graded seat­ing ma­te­rial. A new in­stru­ment clus­ter com­pletes the changes. In terms of com­fort and con­ve­nience, the mu-X adds more features such as auto-lev­el­ing for the head­lights, Hill De­scent Con­trol, and a re-de­signed 8-inch in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with USB smart­phone link and GPS nav­i­ga­tion. Mean­while, Isuzu’s ven­er­a­ble pickup gets soft pad­ding on the arm­rests and pi­ano black ac­cents on the dash­board. It also gets Hill Start As­sist and Hill De­scent Con­trol. Both mod­els also ben­e­fit from the ad­di­tion of mul­ti­ple USB charg­ing ports.

The space is quite gen­er­ous for all oc­cu­pants. The seats, be it the front or back, are com­fort­able even for long drives. Stor­age is abun­dant and well thought out with twin glove­boxes, a deep cen­ter con­sole bin, cup hold­ers on both sides of the dash, and an­other stor­age spot at the cen­ter of the top of the dash. The mu-X is even avail­able with an op­tional stor­age box that fits knick-knacks like tools and an Early Warn­ing De­vice (EWD) while also mak­ing the load­ing area flat.

While the 2018 Isuzu D-Max and mu-X are not break­ing any molds, the ad­di­tion of the new Euro 4-com­pli­ant Blue Power en­gine is a wel­come up­date to this well-sorted, wellthought of pack­age. It re­mains true to Isuzu’s prom­ise of be­ing “your re­spon­si­ble part­ner” while also be­ing able to han­dling any­thing life throws at it: work, play, or ad­ven­ture. More than any­thing, it’s Isuzu Philip­pines Cor­po­ra­tion’s most vis­i­ble an­swer to heed the calls for more en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly mo­tor­ing. It’s all the power, ef­fi­ciency, and dura­bil­ity you need with­out the guilt.

IPC’s VP for Sales Ya­suhiko Oyama (left) and Pres­i­dent Ha­jime Kose pose be­side the 2017 D-Max and mu-X.

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