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Save up to $5,002 on a new Isuzu D-Max
Tim O'Brien | Jun 23, 2012 | 25 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

 

Overview

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

Save up to $5,002 on a new Isuzu D-Max
Get the best deal on this car!
Get a great deal from our national accredited supply network. Fill in the form or call 1300 438 639
 
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Last Name should be a hidden field. Please delete if you are a real person.
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