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Isuzu D-MAX Ute Range – First Drive Photo:
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Tim O'Brien | Oct, 06 2008 | 31 Comments

Click here to read our 2009 D-MAX LS-U Crew Cab Road Test

Isuzu UTE Australia (IUA) has launched its new Isuzu D-MAX ute range. Diesel only, tough as nails, but well-finished and not lacking in creature comforts, IUA has Toyota's venerable HiLux firmly in its sights with the D-MAX.

A short on-road drive and a few laps of a four-wheel drive track at Sirromet Winery (south of Brisbane) showed that the new D-MAX ute, in either cab-chassis, single or twin-cab form, is worth consideration as a rugged work-mate, for recreational use, or as a dual-purpose family car.

Like its 'badged' competitor, the Colorado (more about the complexities of the extended family later), the D-MAX shows good road manners for a ladder-framed, high-steppin', 'light truck'.

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There's also ample power in the diesel, class-leading fuel consumption and three-tonne towing capacity (in the 4x4) if the D-MAX has to turn itself to weekend duties ferrying the family around, or heading up the highway with the off-road bikes or boat in tow.

Under the bonnet is Isuzu's 4JJ1 3.0-litre common-rail, direct injection turbo-diesel producing a healthy 360Nm from 1800-2800rpm (in manual). In the automatic, peak torque of 333Nm arrives at a lower 1600-3200rpm. Peak power of 120kW arrives at 3600rpm. It's an unstressed, proven unit with roller rocker arms, variable geometry system (which tunes the turbo's air intake), and stainless steel timing chain for durability, lower maintenance costs and long life.

Fuel consumption figures of 7.9 l/100km (combined cycle) for the D-MAX 4x2 puts it at the head of the 3.0 litre one-tonne ute class, and in 4x4s, D-MAX takes the cigar for one-tonners at 8.1 l/100km (combined cycle).

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(Economy driver Hans Tholstrup achieved 1528 kilometres – at 4.698 l/100km – driving a single cab manual 4x2, complete with aluminium dropside tray, from Birdsville to Brisbane.)

With a heavy-duty low range, limited slip diff, steep approach and departure angles, steel guards protecting sump and transfer-case and hefty ground clearance, the D-MAX made light work of the four-wheel driving at the Sirromet launch. For the real test, we'll put it through its paces over Wonnangatta in Victoria's high country, and report back, once a few start filtering into the press fleet.

All in the 11-model D-MAX range are powered by the 3.0 litre diesel – there's no petrol variant in the range (which may raise some eyebrows). There is a good reason for this: in 2004, diesel utes accounted for 36% of sales; in 2007, that had risen to 58%, and is still rising.

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The D-MAX comes from the world's second-largest ute market: Thailand (second to the US). There, out of total annual car sales of 631,000 (2007), utes account for more than 140,000 sales. (And you were thinking Australia might have been second on that podium?)

Recommended retail prices start from $23,300 for the base 'farm ute' 4X2 (air-conditioning and limited-slip diff included) rising to $42,500 for the top of the range 4x4 LS-U automatic crew-cab. This gives the D-MAX range a significant price advantage over HiLux. Should be an interesting punch-up if IUA can establish a wide-enough sales footprint through its new dealer network.

And what about Colorado? Yup, it's also an Isuzu, supplied under agreement to GM Holden, but with four cylinder and alloytec V6 petrol variants. And IUA? To further complicate the family picture, IUA is owned by Mitsubishi Corp, but not Mitsubishi Motors. All clear now…? (Didn't think so.)

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IUA is working hardest to get the dealer footprint in place, and to prepare its sales teams and technical support. "We expect to start sales at a moderate level and as the already excellent truck brand of Isuzu becomes also known for its D-MAX one-tonne range, we forecast its popularity will increase steadily in the next few years," Isuzu UTE Australia Managing Director Hitoshi Kono said.

All D-MAX models carry a three year/100,000km new car warranty and are backed by 24/7 roadside assistance during this period.

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TMR's first drive showed that Isuzu's D-MAX is worth a close look if you're in the market for a road-friendly dual-purpose work-horse. The 3.0 litre diesel in particular is an appealing unit.

Following is D-MAX pricing details and Isuzu press release notes about its relativity to HiLux – in case you were in any doubt as to whom Isuzu Ute Australia has the cross-hairs on.

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Pricing

D-MAX 4x2

SX single-cab/chassis 4x2: $23,300 rrp; ($6,390 less than HiLux SR TD which lacks D-MAX's standard air-conditioning, ABS and LSD).

SX crew-cab 4x2: $31,800 rrp; ($3,790 less than the HiLux SR TD version which lacks a centre rear 3-point retractable seat belt as well as air-con, ABS and LSD).

LS 4x2: $34,800rrp (auto $36,800rrp); ($4,430 less than the conventional ride-height HiLux SR5 with its smaller 15"x6" wheel/205 tyre package, steel spare, two less speakers, 250kg less tow capacity and whose petrol V6 consumes 12.6 l/100km versus D-MAX LS's 8.4 l/100km).


D-MAX 4x4

EX single-cab/chassis 4x4 manual: $27,800 rrp; ($7,190 less than HiLux SR TD 4x4 which omits air-con, tows 750kg less and runs a narrower 6"/205 wheel/tyre set but has SRS).

SX single-cab chassis 4x4 manual: $32,000rrp; ($2,990 less than HiLux SR TD despite out-equipping it with standard air-con, ABS, superior wheel/tyre package and towing 750kg more)

SX crew-cab chassis 4x4: $36,700rrp; (the same equipment advantages stretches its price savings over HiLux SR TD to $4,190).

LS-M crew-cab ute manual 4x4: $38,700 rrp (auto $40,700rrp); ($3,190 less than HiLux SR TD crew ute which lacks standard air-con, ABS, cruise control, alloy 1" wider wheels including the spare, four extra speakers, projector-lens headlights, roof console, electro-luminescent cluster, wider tyres and 3-tonne tow capacity).

LS-U crew-cab ute 4x4: $40,500rrp (auto $42,500rrp); (just $70 shy of $10,000 more affordable than HiLux SR5 TD).

 
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