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Road Test: Isuzu D-Max

Isuzu is looking for pickup sales growth, particularly at the premium end of the market, says Dan Gilkes.

  • ROAD_Isuzu_D-Max_front2_VFW_Oct19
    Isuzu D-Max
  • ROAD_Isuzu_D-Max_int2_VFW_Oct19
    Isuzu D-Max
  • ROAD_Isuzu_D-Max_side_VFW_Oct19
    Isuzu D-Max
  • ROAD_Isuzu_D-Max_int_VFW_Oct19
    Isuzu D-Max

Isuzu’s D-Max pickup is a workhorse for many business users. In a market where luxury dual-use specifications take the lion’s share of sales for many competitors, Isuzu’s Utility, Yukon and Utah trim levels are far bigger sellers than its range-topping Blade and Arctic Trucks models.

In an attempt to increase its top-end sales, the company has developed an additional model – the D-Max XTR – to sit between the Blade and AT35. The XTR is far more than a new set of alloys and graphics, however. It features uprated suspension and braking, a full body kit and an upgraded interior.

The most noticeable feature is that styling package, which includes an in-your-face front bumper guard and bonnet protector, along with wheel arch extensions, new rear bumper and tailgate spoiler. The trucks also come with angular sidesteps, black door mirror housings and door handles, plus satin black 17-inch alloy wheels. The reason that the wheel arches have been extended, is that those wheels now wear a new 32-inch Pirelli Scorpion tyre as standard, specifically tuned to work with the D-Max driveline. Available in a choice of white, silver, grey and black colour schemes, there are also various graphic packs for the bodywork, along with a range of accessories.

The upgrade continues in the cab, where the heated sports seats are clad in leather, suede and carbon fibre leather, with contrast green stitching. A new D-shaped steering wheel is also covered in a mix of leather and suede. The XTR will be offered in standard or Nav Plus trim levels, with an aftermarket touchscreen navigation system dominating the dash in the latter.

The biggest change to the running gear is the suspension and braking system, now supplied by after-market company Peddars. Offering an additional 250mm of ground clearance, the suspension includes Peddars TrakRyder Foam Cell shock absorbers, TrakRyder heavy duty springs and strut mounts at the front and TrakRyder Foam Cell shocks at the rear. Peddars slotted brake discs are now fitted up front too, with Kevlar ceramic brake pads and bright green callipers.

While the XTR might look like a Sunday morning off-roader that will be unsuitable for road use, that is not the case. Indeed, the softer suspension actually makes for a smoother on-road ride, while there is very little roar from the larger tyres, which provide plenty of grip and traction on the road or off. That said, there are advantages off-road, where the additional ground clearance in particular helps the D-Max to tackle fairly daunting conditions with ease.

What’s more, the XTR remains a proper working truck, with a payload of up to 1,136kg and a 3.5-tonne towing capacity. It also retains Isuzu’s five-year/125,000-mile warranty. That is in part because there haven’t been any changes under the bonnet, with the XTR using the same 1.9-litre turbo diesel as the rest of the D-Max range. Its 164hp and 360Nm of torque can still be transmitted through a choice of six-speed manual or auto transmissions and the engine meets existing Euro 6 standards without the use of AdBlue.

That engine, however, may be the Isuzu’s biggest challenge, as prices start at a fairly hefty £33,999. Those pickup buyers who want a pumped-up lifestyle truck also tend to go for the most powerful engines, such as the 3.0-litre motors offered by Mercedes and VW.

The Verdict

The D-Max XTR has been properly engineered to offer increased performance without sacrificing practicality. It comes at a cost though.

Sector: Pickup Power: 164hp Payload: 1,125-1136kg Towing: 3,500kg

FW Rating ****

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Written by Dan Gilkes

Dan has been a commercial vehicle and construction equipment journalist for almost 30 years. An automotive engineer and former fleet manager, he has driven almost every van, pickup and truck that has been launched in Europe over that time. As editor of VFW, his aim is to keep readers up to date with the latest developments in the light commercial world.

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