Few would ever think that last year’s D-Max ute with it’s 3L common rail turbo diesel engine was in any way underpowered, but Isuzu have seen the need to upgrade the previous four-cylinder power plant to an entirely new one – remaining at 3L, but with significant differences and designed for Australian conditions. It has more torque, which equates to easier towing and easier work in the rough going.
The power output at 130kW remains unchanged from the previous model, but torque is now upgraded to 430Nm from the previous 380Nm. That torque makes itself felt at a low 2000rpm and it’s available through most of the useful engine range to make towing a braked trailer of up to 3.5t and an unbraked trailer of up to 750kg a breeze.
Figures on paper are great to look at but there’s more to the new Isuzu D-Max than just some interesting engine output data. The Euro 5 compliant engine features major innovation and redesign. Variable-geometry turbocharging, an engine timing chain that lasts forever, new injectors, and new fuel supply pump are all part of the picture. Also in line with the coveted Euro 5 compliant system is a new particulate filter in the exhaust system, which is designed to burn off captured material every 500km.
Working willingly with the new engine is a six-speed Isuzu manual gear box or alternatively an even better Japanese Aisin six-speed auto, which was standard in the LS two-wheel drive ute reviewed.
The D-Max Crew Cab five-seater as reviewed carries much the same overall styling as the previous model. That means all the doors look neatly proportioned when compared to competitors where rear doors might look somewhat awkward or out of place. And those wheel arches look as tough as ever.
There are some styling changes, especially up front. The bonnet appears smoother and there’s restyling to the grille, the headlights (which now feature daylight LEDs) and fog lights. There’s still a very good approach and departure angle for both front and rear, door sills are still protect against obstacles displaced by wheels and the 465mm deep rear tray is big enough – at 1550mm long and 1105mm between wheel arches – to be really useful for work during the week or play on weekends.
Inside, little has changed as the vehicle continues with much the same interior layout. Starting at the left front door there’s a neat retractable cup holder on the outside of not two, but three different glove box storage compartments with a deep bin for extra storage between both front seats.
Features include a DVD and CD player, FM/AM radio, USB port, phone streaming and Bluetooth connectivity. A 7” touch screen with Sat Nav display, radio controls and reversing camera is central as is the air conditioning dial for the climate control air-con. Other major controls for functions are centred around the steering wheel: radio, cruise control, phone. All were easy to use.
This is a big factor of the D-Max. Things work very well. It’s a user-friendly ute. The comfort levels up front are excellent with wide supportive seats for the driver and front passenger. In the three person rear seat, which is higher that the front row, there’s ample head and legroom. The rear seat has its own cup holders as well.
It has big door handles and large but not overdone side steps. The rear doors are wide enough to make entry easy; that’s what the D-Max is all about.
The first thing the driver will notice is that there is still ample evidence that a diesel engine in under the bonnet. It’s not overly quiet at idle, but it settles into a much quieter attitude when cruising. Some very slight vibration reminds us that this is still basically a truck engine and yes the typical take-it-in-its-stride 3L D-Max cruising capability is still there with 100km demanding only around 1750rpm. Overtaking at 100km sees the extra 50Nm of torque earning it’s keep with the ute really moving off the mark when accelerating.
The Aisin six-speed auto unit has a well-engineered adaptive learning function that shifts gears according to driving conditions. I was impressed with the manner in which the Aisin dropped gears when heading down a long sloping section of the Cunningham Highway. I touched the brake gently once and the gearbox did the rest. The Hill Descent Control function is now standard on all D-Max utes and the 4x4 enthusiasts will doubtlessly find it very handy for their off-road work.
For a ladder chassis work ute, the ride of the 4x2 Crew Cab was very good on most road surfaces, but inclined to let driver and passenger know when the road surface was not all it should be. The independent coil springs and gas shocks up front and leaf springs on the rear setup took care of most road conditions. The totally unloaded ute reminded us of its heritage as a work vehicle on some of the rougher patches.
On a corrugated gravel section of road the ride was surprisingly good. I wasn’t travelling so fast then. In fairness it must be remembered that the D-Max is designed as a work ute and with some weight in the rear tray things would be very different all round.
Economy is a strong point of the new D-Max. With a 76L fuel tank and an achieved 8.2L/100km, this ute has a very extensive touring range indeed.
A new engine and some extra work on the front styling sets the 2017 D-Max well ahead of it’s predecessors. It’s a tough but user-friendly sort of truck, which would fulfil a lot of work or fun related tasks in quite good comfort. It doesn’t pretend to be a Ranger or a Hilux, just a much better value for money ute with the runs on the board as a user-friendly practical, tough-as-nails unit.
The warranty is five years or 130,000km with five year or 50,000km capped price servicing as well. A maximum five-star ANCAP rating is awarded to the D-Max.Reads: 830