Sales are moving steadily forward for Isuzu Ute Australia's D-Max. Isuzu have been making trucks and light commercial vehicles for many years so they do know a thing or two about what drives and sells well.
After General Motors sold Isuzu to Mitsubishi in 2006, Isuzu then started fresh as Isuzu Ute Australia (IUA), with the D-Max as their flagship.
Since then the Isuzu D-Max has gained ground, as IUA have released more models, increasing the number of dealers Australia wide, and generally making their presence felt as the sales charts started to gather momentum.
Look around as you drive and it won't take long before you start to notice the D-Max 4x2 or 4x4 vehicles. Whether it's hauling a trailer, loaded with tradesman’s gear or towing a boat with the family in the cab.
Specifically the versatile D-Max four-door utility is the subject of this review. Powered by a four cylinder 3L double overhead cam direct injection turbo charged intercooled diesel engine churning out 120kW of power and 360Nm of torque – with a stainless steel timing chain for extra long life – the D-Max is designed for the long haul.
I found the ride quite smooth and steady on the road. Off road it was not too rough or bouncy, although like other work orientated utes with leaf springs in the rear, really rough or corrugated roads can make things pretty lively in the around the back axle if the ute is totally unloaded.
With the work-first-priority of the D-Max LS, a separate ladder chassis under the body, with torsion bar independent front suspension and leaf springs, takes the one tonne load without any fuss. And that same load capacity makes the D-Max a formidable play vehicle given its ease of driving and the size of the rear tray.
The D-Max has a chunky style, business-as-usual look rather than the sleek and svelte lines seen in the Triton and Hilux, this vehicle still offers quite a lot for the owner who is looking for substance over outright style.
Reviewed was the D-Max LS Crew Cab five-speed manual four door. It only took around five minutes behind the wheel to note everything was in the right place; controls and functions were easily managed and the gear change, although a little on the long side, was precise without any need to be overly careful when changing up or down through the gears. The clutch was both direct and light: my wife drove the car for a spell and agreed it was “easy” which is not always her opinion of manual vehicles.
The first job for the ute was to take us to and from Borumba Dam for a crack at the saratoga, while towing the TABS Bullshark and it's 25 Evinrude E-Tec. The ute has a tow rating of 3 tonne for a braked trailer and 750kg for an unbraked trailer. We easily towed the Bullshark’s unbraked trailer behind the D-Max, even with all the associated camping gear, a very large ice box and other paraphernalia stacked into the back cargo area.
We also had a passenger for the trip and we all agreed the D-Max was not short of head or leg room in either the front or rear compartments, which made the two and a half hour trip very comfortable.
The Isuzu managed the 110km/h limit easily on the Bruce Highway, as well as the winding back road to the dam via Imbil.
I found night travel on the Imbil road (which is known for kangaroos and even the odd deer) to be no issue thanks to the Isuzu's excellent headlights, which were also supplemented by fog lights.
Next job for the ute was to launch and retrieve the boat. Launching was a mere formality, but when we retrieved the boat on the first morning we fished we had to use the four-wheel drive system to haul the boat up the somewhat steep ramp.
The four-wheel drive system in the D-Max was engaged via a dash-mounted button. The system engaged without a clunk or perceived jar and disengaged just as easily. Full marks there. Full marks for economy too, as we averaged around 9.4L per 100km on the 450km trip.
The Isuzu D-Max LS Crew Cab is on the move in more ways than one. The LS specification offered some fruit within the interior of the ute with an excellent six speaker sound system with MP3 facility as standard, along with the air conditioning, electric windows, mirrors, and cruise control system.
The seating is comfortable for five although children would be the ideal rear seat passengers. Comfort levels all round are high, well above the work ute status of the vehicle. At a price of around $41,800 it’s good value these days.Reads: 5443