6 Key Takeaways from the
All-New Isuzu D-MAX

WRITTEN BY: DAVID WILSON

I can guarantee you that I wasn’t the only one hanging to get my hands on the All-New Isuzu D-MAX and after seeing its Thai release back in October of 2019, I’ve been salivating at the prospects of getting into one of those comfy new seats. Well, the anticipation is finally over, they’ve landed in Australia and wow, what a difference!

Here was a D-MAX for the future, a ute that promised significant improvements in all dynamics, but COVID-19 well and truly got in the way of the proposed national launch, which I was looking forward to sharing with you, right around the country. Nonetheless, now, after test driving two new D-MAXs , I’m in a much better position to offer a comment on how they drive. Here are my Six Key Takeaways of the All-New Isuzu D-MAX.

 

1. The engine is new and better than ever. Ask any D-MAX or MU-X owner what they thought was the greatest strength of the brand and they’ll all utter sagely – the 4JJ1 three-litre turbo diesel. It’s a motor with a long-standing commercial truck heritage that has been the envy of every other light-vehicle maker because of its proven reliability, fuel-efficiency, and low-cost-to-maintain index.

 

Well, that’s set to continue, because the 4JJ3-TCX in the All-New D-MAX has been refined, smoothed over and tweaked where it matters, to be quieter, more civilised, and thoroughly a more-torquey grunter everywhere. Unleash that 450Nm, down low, up high, it doesn’t matter because the engine is willing and waiting for whatever accelerator-squeeze moment you might muster!

2. It looks bigger, and better. Not that the old one was small, but the subtle increase in wheelbase means more comfy cabin accommodations, and combined with a bolder look, it’s got some new presence. You wouldn’t think 30mm would amount to much, but Isuzu’s engineers have got the tape measure and the slide rule out and somehow both front and back seat spaces feel roomier.

The bodywork is deeper too, you’re now sitting in the car rather than on it and the tub measures 490mm deep, useful for stowing taller loads. More importantly, the front and rear axles have less bumper over hangs, which aid in the All-New D-MAX’s approach and departure angles; more on off-roading soon.

3. It steers beautifully. The most immediate thing about the All-New D-MAX I noticed once you’re on the move is the way it steers.

Isuzu’s engineers have heavily optimised the geometry of the front end substantially and added electric power steering. If you don’t know what that difference is, the world previously used hydraulics to power a vehicle’s steering which required a pump, hoses, fluid, a pulley and a belt connected to the crank. All of which relied on the motor to be running, the belt to be serviceable, and the fluid to be fresh.

Steering powered by a belt consumes energy, meaning compared to the new one, it was thirstier. Less drag equals greater efficiency and a feel that is sublime, with little to no effort required to manoeuvre the D-MAX—Rose (AKA the Wife) certainly approves.

The distance between the upper and lower control arms (you might know them as wishbones) has increased and that gives the geometry more control, rigidity and stability under cornering loads. Being more upright prevents the tyre in a hard turn from rolling onto its shoulder and keeps the tread face in contact with the road longer. Then there’s the rear suspension, a revised 3-leaf design with more flexibility, ductility and control.

The new D-MAX goes around corners with un-ute-like balance and composure. Trust me when I say, no other ute is as composed across all surfaces.

4. It is safer. Much safer. Make no mistake on this—the All-New D-MAX is no doubt one of the safest new vehicles on Australian roads at the moment!

There are two aspects to this, crashworthiness and dynamic safety.

Not only has the level of safety been dramatically improved with Isuzu’s Intelligent Driver Assistance System (IDAS), but the new D-MAX was also the first vehicle to be tested under a new 2020 ANCAP testing regime. This new testing criteria not only analysed the typical front, offset and side impacts in the laboratory, but also examined the effectiveness of the new active technologies, such as lane keeping and autonomous braking in all its forms.

I’d recommend you visit the ANCAP website and watch the videos and read the analysis, because it’s fascinating viewing. Well, it was for me but I’m a bit nerdy when it comes to tech stuff.


5. More awesome off-road. Yep, this is another great takeaway as the off-road capability of the new D-MAX is immense and right off the showroom floor.

 

If you’ve been to an I-Venture Club event you would have heard me level some criticism at where the traction control system could be improved, but no more. The brake-traction algorithm Isuzu’s engineers are now using fits low-range engagement to a tee, with a much lower engine speed threshold. In layman’s terms, as soon as a wheel starts to spin, the brakes are applied and what would have been wasted torque left spinning out through an unchecked wheel is now redirected into positive drive.

 

But that’s not all, because Isuzu listened to their customers and added a factory-fitted rear-axle differential lock across the entire 4x4 D-MAX range.

This is the greatest off-road asset you can muster apart from letting air out of your tyres and when you use the two in tandem… well look out, because the All-New D-MAX will go places where others fear to tread.

 

Compelling both back wheels to rotate in unison means the diagonal loss of drive is no more, rather, it adds the opportunity and ability to convert wheel-slip into wheel-grip.

 

Another little gem is the improved speed of the 4WD actuator ‘Terrain Command 4x4’, permitting quick changes into and out of high- and low-range.

 

Lastly, there’s the angles, the all-important clearance, approach, departure and ramp-over angles, which have all been improved with the new body and chassis. The increased ground clearance now quoted at 240mm affords plenty of space between terra-firma and chassis and that is off-road bliss.

 

6. Creature comforts everywhere. Today you can only be gobsmacked at what is expected in a modern vehicle. Who would have thought a 9" touchscreen in a dashboard would work?

 

I can cast my mind back to my first Isuzu ute, a 1995 Rodeo that featured an umbrella handbrake, vinyl floors, vinyl seats, an AM/FM stereo-cassette player and A/C, and I thought that was pretty flash!

 

New D-MAX also has A/C, but unlike my old TF Rodeo this one has dual-climate controls—call them “his and hers”. Dial-up your preferred temperature left or right and potentially preserve your promise to your spouse of fidelity forever!

Mobile phones didn’t exist then but today your Android or iPhone will hook up to the Android Auto™ or wireless Apple CarPlay® seamlessly and provide you with access to all of your phone’s functions through that large touchscreen. Whether it be navigation (instead of the UBD paper directory), your playlist and podcasts (whatever they are) and a radio band called DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) which happens to be full of proper music, it’s all there, right at your fingertips.

 

The interior has seats that hug my hips, cosset me in soft fabrics (or smooth leather depending on which champion you choose), and with up to an 8-way adjustable driver’s seat, it was reassuring to know that my throne could be adjusted for comfort at the flick of a switch. Not to mention I really appreciated my left elbow resting on a soft-lidded console top. It’s the little things that matter!

 

So do yourself a favour and take one for a test drive when you can—I am sure, like me, you will be very impressed. Onward to all-new adventures!

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