2012 Isuzu D-Max LS-U And SX Crew-Cab and Space Cab Ute Launch Review

Tim O'Brien | 23 Comments

2013 ISUZU D-MAX REVIEW

Engine: 3.0 litre turbo-diesel DOHC
Power: 130kW @ 3600rpm | Torque: 380Nm @ 1800rpm-2800rpm (auto)
Transmission: Aisin five-speed with sequential shift

Fuel consuption (claimed): Auto: 8.1 l/100km
Fuel consumption (on test - highway section): 8.0 l/100km
Fuel consumption (on test - including off-road): 9.6 l/100km

If you're in the market for a 4X4 ute at the moment, you're in a very happy place. A week after Holden dropped the new Colorado into our laps, Isuzu has landed its new D-Max.

And has any segment delivered the advances in capability, quality, safety and and all-round driveability as we've seen in the light commercial vehicle sector in recent years?

Top to bottom, they can carry more, tow more, go further and deeper off-road (in 4X4 spec), and with more features, more comfort and safety that can barely have been imagined just five years ago.

Enter then Isuzu's bigger, better, quieter, smoother, tougher and more refined D-Max.

Like its cousin the Colorado, the new D-Max is a better car all round than the model it replaces.

And, despite sharing a platform, subframe, interior and the external dimensions of the Colorado, the D-Max is produced in a different factory, but from the same industrial park in Thailand. It feels like, and is, a different car.

The suspension tune is slightly different, but it's the driveline that sets each apart.

We've always liked the gutsy 3.0 litre 4JJ1-TC diesel in the previous D-Max, and, although picking up some internal improvements and a boost in power and torque, it carries on under the bonnet of the new model. It's mated to an Isuzu MUX five-speed manual or Aisin TB50-LS five-speed auto transmission.

The Colorado gets a new 2.8 litre diesel, six-speed auto, and class-leading towing capacity.

Each has its strengths, but which is better? And can either knock the Ford Ranger and BT-50 off the 'best in class' podium?

We drove the LS-U and SX Crew-Cabs and LS-U Space Cab at launch in North Queensland, both on-road and way off it. In particular, we gave the crew cabs a real workout off-road into some pretty challenging terrain.

No problem - the only casualty a number plate (from another vehicle). These are tough trucks.

The Interior

There's quite a bit to like when you open the wide doors to the new D-Max. It looks a lot like the Colorado, and there are only minor differences to separate them. But we found a couple of flaws to the fit and finish of the Colorado that we did not find in the D-Max.

Overall, it's spacious front and back, with well-shaped front seats with extra bolstering and back and shoulder support.

They're really quite comfortable, and you can specify leather (found in the top-spec LS-T model), although the dark cloth trim is appealing enough and looks quite durable.

It's also not uncomfortable in the rear of the crew-cab which is easily accessed by wide-opening rear doors and much wider door arches.

There, like the Colorado, kneeroom, legroom and footroom (thanks to wider-set seat mountings) is very good. Even with long legs in front, we had no trouble being comfortably accommodated.

Rear seat comfort is helped by additional 'decline' on the back-rest. In this new generation of crew-cabs, you don't feel like you're sitting bolt-upright if relegated to the rear (that's something Knackers, Chooka and Dino will appreciate when moving the crew between work-sites).

Even the Space cab (that we really like for style) can accommodate two passengers for a short trip on the jump seats.

Like the Colorado, the sports wheel is nicely square on, has a really good feel but only adjusts for rake, not reach.

2013 isuzu d max launch review road test australia 11a
Combined with manual seat adjustment in the LS-U, it can take a moment or two to get the driving position exactly as you want it (but no such trouble with the electric seat adjustment of the up-specced LS-T).

For creature comforts, the LS-U (and LS-M) come pretty well-specced, and there are no 'must-haves' missing from the SX.

Each get air-con, power windows (driver-only in the SX), central locking, power door mirrors, cruise control, leather multi-function steering wheel (with audio controls for LS-U models) and multi-information display.

The sound system, CD, MP3, FM/AM, plus Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, is pretty good. LS-U models get a six-speaker roof-incorporated 'sky sound' system; the SX misses out with just two-speakers.

LS-U models are carpeted, the SX gets easily-washed vinyl flooring.

On The Road

The D-Max's 3.0 litre common-rail turbo diesel delivers 130kW and 380Nm of torque. That's nearly a hundred Newton-metres shy of the Colorado and Ranger, but you'd hardly know it.

It is a well-proven unit - you'd expect no less from the world's biggest truck-maker - with a stainless-steel timing chain (driving the camshafts via a scissor gear), but now comes with revised internals for a longer harder life.

And it's clearly holding a lot in reserve; Bruce Garland pulls 180kW and 590Nm from the same 4JJ1-TC engine in his Dakar D-Max ("And you don't have to do too much to it," he said).

The D-Max is also, in auto, carrying one ratio less than the six-speed auto transmissions in each of those contenders.

But don't underestimate the capabilities and driveability of the D-Max on the basis of its power and torque figures, or its drivetrain.

Peak torque comes in at 1800rpm, with a long flat torque curve to 2800rpm. On-road, and off it, it's an easy understressed unit and well-matched to a very settled five-speed.

Fourth is direct-drive, with a loping overdrive fifth. As we found on a stretch of private sealed road, it will do the old ton, no problems at all - and reasonably quietly (which was the biggest surprise).

While the Ranger feels particularly strong, we'd need to put the Colorado and D-Max side-by-side to be really certain where the performance differences are found - it's certainly not as apparent as the numerical differences might suggest.

Certainly, on the highway, the extra ratio of the Colorado provides a little more flexibility when overtaking or accelerating out of corners, but each is lively away from the line and will pull strongly in any gear.

2013 isuzu d max australia 05a
On road, we left the five-speed 'sequential sports mode' box to its own devices, but used it manually off road.

The ride is also pretty good. It's a vast improvement over the old D-Max and perhaps a little better than the Colorado.

Again, we'd need to put them side-by-side and over the same roads to be certain. But, our gut feel is that the coil-sprung independent front end of the D-Max is slightly firmer, but the leaf-spring rear slightly softer, giving a more settled on-road feel.

On mixed-purpose Dueller Bridgestones, the ride is reasonably compliant and also surprisingly quiet.

The class-leading Colorado blitzes the D-Max for towing capacity; it will drag 3.5 tonnes out of a hole and along the highway, as opposed to the D-Max's maximum 3.0 tonne. (Of course, those figures develop all sorts of holes once you start putting people in the cab and a load in the tray.)

For safety, it comes with ABS, EBD and brake assist, as well as traction control, six air-bags (dual front, curtain and side), seat-belt pre-tensioners and lap-sash belts for all passengers (even for Knackers in the middle rear seat).

Off The Road

This is a really good rig off road.

We gave it a serious workout up some long, loose and very steep gradients and some equally long descents.

2013 isuzu d max launch review road test australia 22
Approach and ramp-over angles - 30 degrees and 22.4 degrees respecively) are very good, and you can pick your way through steep washouts and deep ruts without bashing the undersides to bits.

The departure angle is a little compromised with the chrome bumper overhang on the LS-U models (22.7 degrees; more than one number-plate met its Waterloo on the off-road drive), but no trouble with the SX (27.4 degrees).

The rigid chassis, really good wheel articulation, and enormously tractable low-down torque give the D-Max serious capability for serious off-roading.

It's simply a matter of selecting low-range via the rotary dial on the transmission tunnel, slipping the box into first or second, and letting the D-Max wind its way up and over.

On really rough going, the traction control operates like a diff-lock, feeding drive to the wheels with traction.

For really steep descents, the auto has a hill-descent function that 'holds' the descent speed and allows you to creep down on the engine braking.

The photos barely tell the tale, but we took an SX on a special run over some really challenging roads and came away very impressed.

Launch Review Verdict

So where does Isuzu's new D-Max fit in the scheme of things?

We like the D-Max. It's a genuine 'tough truck', one with a proven record for strength and durability and good-value buying.

Pound for pound, it's bettered by the exceptional Ranger and BT-50, but there's not much in it and the D-Max offers a considerable saving over those two contenders.

It loses to the Colorado on power and torque, and a missing transmission ratio, but wins for that proven under-stressed gut-busting diesel under the D-Max bonnet.

Like others in the segment, the crew-cab D-Max is a viable option both as a family car and versatile work-companion.

Add in genuine off-road capability and it's certainly one we would put high on the short-list if shopping in this segment.

Pricing

The new D-Max is available from July 2, and is offered with 3 years or 100,000km warranty, whichever occurs first, as standard.

All-New Isuzu D-MAX Model line-up Pricing & Fuel Consumption

Fuel Consumption Values

Model Description

Trans

RRP
i
nc. GST

l/100km
(combined)

CO2
(combined)

Drive

Cab Style

Tray Style

Model Trim

4 x 2

SINGLE

Cab Chassis

SX

man

$27,200

8.0

212

4 x 2

CREW

Ute

SX

man

$33,200

8.2

216

4 x 2

CREW

Ute Hi-Ride

SX

auto

$36,300

8.0

211

4 x 2

CREW

Ute Hi-Ride

LS

man

$38,800

8.3

220

4 x 2

CREW

Ute Hi-Ride

LS

auto

$41,000

8.1

214

4 x 4

SINGLE

Cab Chassis

EX

man

$33,400

8.3

220

4 x 4

SINGLE

Cab Chassis

SX

man

$36,400

8.3

220

4 x 4

SINGLE

Cab Chassis

SX

auto

$38,600

8.1

214

4 x 4

SPACE

Cab Chassis

SX

man

$39,100

8.3

220

4 x 4

SPACE

Cab Chassis

SX

auto

$41,300

8.1

214

4 x 4

CREW

Cab Chassis

SX

man

$41,300

8.3

220

4 x 4

CREW

Cab Chassis

SX

auto

$43,500

8.1

214

4 x 4

CREW

Ute Hi-Ride

SX

man

$42,000

8.3

220

4 x 4

CREW

Ute Hi-Ride

SX

auto

$44,200

8.1

214

4 x 4

CREW

Ute Hi-Ride

LS-M

man

$44,000

8.3

220

4 x 4

CREW

Ute Hi-Ride

LS-M

auto

$46,200

8.1

214

4 x 4

SPACE

Ute Hi-Ride

LS-U

man

$43,700

8.3

220

4 x 4

SPACE

Ute Hi-Ride

LS-U

auto

$45,900

8.1

214

4 x 4

CREW

Ute Hi-Ride

LS-U

man

$45,500

8.3

220

4 x 4

CREW

Ute Hi-Ride

LS-U

auto

$47,700

8.1

214

4 x 4

CREW

Ute Hi-Ride

LS-Terrain

man

$49,500

8.3

220

4 x 4

CREW

Ute Hi-Ride

LS-Terrain

auto

$51,700

8.1

214

Filed under: Featured, review, 2012, rwd, 4wd, 4x4, Isuzu, isuzu d-max, commercial, lcv, automatic, Manual, utility, pickup, launch, light commercial, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 5m, 5a, tim o'brien, 4x2, available, 2013 isuzu d-max, 2013 d-max

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  • D jones says,
    3 years ago
    17 likes
    Great ute and in terms of bang for buck,the best ute on the market.great look and engine is as strong as a t-Rex.given that I tow on the limit all day 5days a wk in the old dmax 2011 model,I can tell you that this engine is as tough as they come and still has plenty in reserve,anyway enough said.
    • Geejay says,
      1 year ago
      1 like
      What a joke. My d max engine broke up after 26000 miles. I could have been killed. The revs wouldn't stop going up and up till I was doing 115mph on the motorway. Isuzu say my fault because I missed the 24000 mile service. The vehicle was only a year old in September when it happened. Isuzu think I should be happy with a new engine but I could never trust it again. What if my wife had been driving with my grandkids inside and she couldn't stop. There could have been carnage on that motorway.
      • CAZZO says,
        1 year ago
        2 likes
        What a joke. My d max engine broke up after 26000 miles. I could have been killed. The revs wouldn't stop going up and up till I was doing 115mph on the motorway.


        rolleyesrolleyesrolleyesrolleyesrolleyes

  • troop carrier says,
    2 years ago
    Your article is informative. I love land cruiser. land cruiser looks awesome. I am going to buy1999 model land cruiser troop carrier 4x4 4.2lt diesel high roof camper 5 speed but I need more information about it. Because I don’t have proper knowledge.
  • Damion says,
    2 years ago
    7 likes
    Love this truck, am going to get one, just sold my Hilux, had problems with the engine. I am told by alot of persons that Isuzu makes better diesel engines.
    like this new look
  • johnt57aus says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    I have mine on order...expected delivery is 12th Feb 2013..I am on the countdown with 9 days to go....I loved the test drive..cant wait for the real deal....
    • Willie says,
      2 years ago
      2 likes
      johnt57aus, plse let us know when you received your Suzy, what its like? It will only be for sale towards the end of March here by us (SA)can't wait for mine.
      Willie.
  • Mick says,
    2 years ago
    5 likes
    Just had our 3,000k service done and love our new dmax LSU auto
  • debra hams says,
    2 years ago
    2 likes
    thank you so much for a great review we are settled now on what car to buy very excited do you know who is the best dealer in darwin to go to ????
    • Steve great Dmax crap dealer says,
      2 years ago
      2 likes
      I got mine from Isuzu ute dealer. NT automotive group. They were crap. Purchased a 2013 plated car and they tried to slip a 2012 plate in at delivery. Really with contracts and all that. Oh and the dented door and the three weeks wait on delivery even when the car was sitting in the car yard. Buy interstate. Oh and service..... My friend has his 2011 model serviced at Ultartune as well. Great car so far but bad dealer. Real bad.
  • The Truth Fairy says,
    2 years ago
    6 likes
    Good article. I have been researching my next purchase, The DMax misses out on much of the technology found in the Ranger/BT50, smart charging, can-bus electrical system etc and that is exactly why I am moving toward the DMax! It just works.
    you can add electrical accessories without upsetting the can-bus/computers found on the Ranger, The engine may give away some power/torque to the 3.2 ford unit but it will run all day long and be ready for work the next day, where as the ranger may well have a flat battery.
    (some recurring problem ford have as yet been unable to fix)
    While I was drawn to the Ranger the continual and persistent problems with the electrical systems as found on owner forums have left me cold.
    So to the trusty DMax, might I say a good honest workhorse that will never let you down.
  • steve says,
    2 years ago
    6 likes
    Did my research and brought the top of the range D-Max upgraded it with every possible extra for a once in a life time trip. The trip will be most remenbered by doing a clutch at 30ks walking 11kms through mud and pooring rain and being stuck in the middle of no where. WORST of all once I finally managed to get the vehilce to a dealer the clutch was not covered by warranty, cost me all my travel money to get back on the road. The trip will also be remenbered by the isuzu customer service team telling me after my long walking that I was being difficult , feel free to call if any wants a true d-max review
    0401089652
    • Geejay says,
      1 year ago
      5 likes
      Check out what I've written regarding the engine in my d max Utah tharen tell me they.re the best. Written reply to diesel .
  • rokebyriver says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    I need to pull 3.5 ton of gooseneck trailer, would love a new model, but can only afford 2011/12, I havent had a D Max before do you think a 2011/12 would tow that comfortably or not? car dealers are giving conflicting advice...Cheers
  • Ian Redgrave says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    I bought my LS twin cab in June last year at our Field Days and it included every acc I could think of including the nicest canopy[think made in the same factory]. I find the seats just perfect for me and I am just over 6ft.I do 35k a year on the open road about 100kph.I have had lots of diesel utes[bought my first in 1980] This one is a manual and by far the most economical I have ever had. I keep a log book so this is fact. My average fuel consumption is 7.6 liters to the 100km that is quite a bit below the window sticker. The odometer is bang on. The two previous Mitsubishis I had bought new used to over read the K,s by about 3% that is annoying as in NZ we have prebuy road user charges so I was paying extra tax.

    love the D-Max
  • warren willis says,
    1 year ago
    3 likes
    I have a twin cab d-max 4x4
    manual with cruse control
    the cruse control has faild .
    is this normal
    the left hand side tail light burnt out not long after perchase this melted the plastis reflector behind the globe
    the radio has an intermitint static akin to some sort of electric fault
    what other faults am I to except in the future
    warren
    • Geejay says,
      1 year ago
      My d max was bought new last September and s now in the garage with the engine blown up. I was doing 70 mph on the motorway when the revs started to go up and up till I was doing 115 mph. I couldn't stop it. I was flashing my lights to warn drivers to get out the way. There was then a loud bang before the car stopped. Luckily I had managed to get into the inside lane and the the hard shoulder but what a fright. There could have been carnage on that motorway. Now my Isuzu dealer is asking why my pick up is 3000 miles over its second service. What difference that makes I don't know because that had nothing to do with the fact I and numerous other people on the motorway that day could ave been killed. I me find out it has happened to other d Max's.
      • CAZZO says,
        1 year ago
        4 likes
        My d max was bought new last September and s now in the garage with the engine blown up. I was doing 70 mph on the motorway when the revs started to go up and up till I was doing 115 mph. I couldn't stop it.


        SO you forgot where neutral position was?

        What a load of c rap!

        • Kermit says,
          1 year ago
          Why reply to that now? In the words of Basement Jaxx, "where's your head at?"
  • Paul says,
    1 year ago
    2 likes
    I bought my top of the line dmax 12 months ago, and it is awesome, I had a 82 Isuzu ute with the 1600 Gemini engine and tha car was the most capable 4wd I have ever owned, I am sure the dmax will be just as good when I get around to test it. Previously I have owned many hiluxes, a 100 series, and am saddened at the dimishing quality Toyota have been producing over the last ten years, which includes the 2006 hiace I have at the moment with 250,000 on the clock, and have replaced 2 complete sets of rotors, 4 sets of brake pads, radiator, water pump, diff. Fuel consumption in the van is around 10 ltr per 100. On the other hand the dmax ( when empty and not towing) is always around 8.3 ltr per 100, when towing a tandem sterling jayco van it's 10.5 ltr per 100. Last Christmas my wife and I with our 16 year old daughter went for a drive around the hills of bright , yackandandah, mt. Beauty in the 40 degree heat with the air cond going flat out and no load in the tub, sitting on around 90 klm and got an amazing 7.9 ltr per 100, very very happy
  • Ron says,
    12 months ago
    I was told that the D-max has a towing capacity of 3.5 ton, with an additional load of 1 ton in the tray.
    I'd like an honest opinion as I'm not sure on whether to buy a D-Max or Colorado auto 4WD.
    I'll be towing a Camper.
    Regards, Ron.
    • Anthony G says,
      12 months ago
      Isuzu have now had their 4x4 towing capacity upgraded to 3,500kg, as of December 2013.
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