Isuzu D-Max Auto
  |  First Published: October 2010

I’ve had the pleasure of driving manual gearshift Isuzu D-Max utes in the last year but I always wondered how an auto might fare.

A lot of competitors have been offering automatic transmissions for combined family and work use and these vehicles – if sales figures are an accurate guide – are becoming mighty popular.

Isuzu were perhaps a little slow on the uptake, but they have jumped on board this year releasing a 2010 four-speed auto model.

Reviewed was the 4x4 Isuzu D-Max LS-M, a four door crew cab ute with the four-speed auto shifter as an option. While it’s not quite top of range in the Isuzu stable it was still a stylish ute with a little bling, ample features and a lot of get up and go from the 3L 16 valve in line four-cylinder common rail intercooled turbo diesel engine.

With the same engine that powers the Isuzu two tonne truck under the hood, a D-Max ute owner can expect a long life from the engine, given the lighter nature of all round work in a ute compared to a truck.

This sixth generation one tonne ute from Japan’s oldest auto manufacturer has come a long way from the early models of the sixties. The Isuzu ute of 1963 was very sparse and designed purely as a work horse. But the modern models, while having Isuzu’s underlying truck engineering strength and durability, are designed to offer the best of both worlds as a work mate during the week and a recreational vehicle on the weekend.

The LS model features conveniences like cruise control, air conditioning, electric side mirrors, power windows, overhead console with map lights, bi-level centre console, cup holders and additional storage pockets plus a flush fascia CD/FM AM/MP3 enabled player linked to an audio system with six speakers.

The fastidious driver will warm to the five-function trip computer to monitor progress and the all important fuel consumption attained from the 76L tank. Night driving is capably enhanced by the strong projector headlights that provide considerable low beam vision and depth.

In all the D-Max is an excellent package that can certainly hold its own as a work ute if required to go the hard yards. It has a load capacity of 1031kg and towing capability is rated as 3000kg for a braked trailer and 750kg for a non-braked trailer.

On the road the Isuzu auto is about as good as one could hope for in many respects. It’s very quiet, comfortable and well appointed with plenty of head and leg room for rear seat passengers, as well as those seated up front.

The low emission (Euro Four classified) four-cylinder 3L double overhead cam (the overhead gear driven by steel belts for greatest longevity) common rail turbo diesel engine churns out a strong 333Nm of torque and 120kW of power. This equates to some impressive response but it can still provide excellent fuel consumption in the normal driving situation.

Factory rating is for 9L per 10km consumption depending on road and traffic conditions. My usage saw 10.5L per 100km on a country run, with two people in the car, a moderate load in the rear compartment and light traffic.

The LS-M classification D-Max auto comes with a special high ride suspension kit incorporating 16” wheels. This combined with the tuned front and rear suspension, does a mighty job of ironing out bumps and thumps from less than perfect roads. Ground clearance is 225mm mark up front.

With its short overhang the Isuzu D-Max crew cab auto can offer some impressive four-wheel driving opportunities for the adventurous types thanks to a 34.6º approach angle mated to a 23.3º angle.

True four-wheel drive is also available in either high or low range via the Isuzu’s dash mounted push-button 4WD system that can be activated at speeds up 100km/h. The unit also features a limited lip differential for extra traction.

Underbody protection is assured too, thanks to steel – not alloy – bash plates under all major components including the fuel tank.

The auto unit is equipped with Adaptive Grade Logic Control which is designed to hold the chosen gear in either ascents or descents, depending upon circumstances.

Last but not least is the Isuzu the range of nine different grille options plus a selection of alloy bull and nudge bars to complement the chosen grille, so you can easily personalise your new D-Max.

Overall the D-Max LS-M is an excellent vehicle for both work and play. In many ways it’s understated with minimalist styling and no gimmicks, but this ute is both a tradesman’s delight through the week and a weekend family vehicle.

It’s perfect for a run up the beach with a family sized load of fishing and camping gear in the cargo, towing a boat or camper trailer on the back thanks to the torque of the powerful 3L diesel engine. And best of all it’s comfortable for the whole family.

The Isuzu ute as reviewed is priced at around the $43,000 mark.

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