No Stopping the D-Max ….
The previous Isuzu Rodeo was a tough truck, it was also tough on the posterior! But given the fact that it would go anywhere it was pointed, it was going to be a hard act to follow. So does this latest new Isuzu D-Max live up to its promise?
Not only is the new one longer and slightly wider than the outgoing Rodeo, but there is an addition to the range. Joining the single cab and double cab versions, there is an extended cab option with an ‘occasional’ rear bench and a longer load floor.
At 5295 mm, the new pickup is 215 mm longer than the original, and the extra space has been used to good effect inside the cabin.
The extra length has also allowed larger rear passenger doors in the double cab, which makes entry less like posting an elephant through a letterbox. A lot of thought has gone into this new cab, typified by the design of the ‘B’ pillar which has been chamfered slightly to allow those of us with big feet to get in and out less awkwardly!
The 3095 mm wheel base is also 45 mm longer than the outgoing Rodeo and that has allowed another subtle design tweak that will mostly go un-noticed – longer rear leaf springs. In the Rodeo, on-road ride comfort always benefited from a bit of weight in the back, but the use of longer rear springs has greatly improved ride quality.
But don’t go getting the idea that Isuzu has gone soft. The D-Max is still very much a working truck, although the improvements will ensure that it is more ‘family friendly’ at weekends.
One of the strengths of the old Rodeo was the ‘old-school’ 3 litre oil burner clattering away up front which imbued drivers with the assurance that forward momentum could always be maintained regardless of what stood in its way.
That same feeling of unstoppability has been built into the new model, even with a smaller engine. This latest 2.5 litre twin turbo Euro-5 unit generates 161 bhp at 3,600 rpm and produces 400 Nm of torque. That equates to a 20 per cent increase in power and 43 per cent rise in torque, compared with the previous 2.5-litre engine and virtually the same power output as the previous 3.0 litre engine but with more torque.
The six speed gearbox (a 5 speed automatic is optional) is new too and although it lacks the precision of some current gearboxes it is much better than it was, and shifts smoothly between the ratios with less ‘waggle’ in the ‘stick.
Thankfully there is no change to the handbrake. It still consists of a pull-up lever between the seats and none of this electronic nonsense so beloved of the current generation of CV designers.
This latest engine and drivetrain is also extremely efficient with Government fuel consumption tests indicating fuel economy of 38.2 mpg (4×4 manual models), representing a 10 per cent increase over the outgoing model, and emissions of 194 g/km CO2 .
If the new D-Max is a more ‘sophisticated’ than the old Rodeo with better on-road ride quality and reduced noise levels reduced, has off-road ability been compromised?
Not a bit of it. The usual ‘elephant footsteps’ on 4×4 courses which demonstrate axle articulation were dispatched with ease, ultra steep inclines shrugged off with nonchalence and boggy holes plunged through with aplomb.
There’s no second lever to engage four wheel drive these days, switching between four wheel drive and lo-ratio 4WD is done electronically with the turn of a dial, even on the move. Electronics have taken much of the fun and skill (guesswork?) out of serious off-roading these days, but on the other hand, it has made the exercise a lot safer, especially for the fearful and the inexperienced.
There was one really scary drop that I thought would have defeated the D-Max. It consisted of a run along the top of an embankment then a sharp 90 degree turn over the edge and down a steep slope. It was so steep, that as the pickup turned round and dropped down, the front offside wheel was pawing the air until the weight transfer dropped it down simultaneously lifting the nearside rear wheel completely off the deck. In other words, for some of the manoeuvre, the pickup was travelling in two wheel drive because the other two weren’t doing anything at all.
The pickup slipped and slithered worryingly during the initial turn over the edge, but it was all under control, and there was no real threat of it ‘running away’. As soon as the four wheels regained ground contact, the electronics started clicking and clattering as engine power was controlled and wheels braked inching the pickup almost undramatically down the slope.
There will be four different specifications for the UK with the entry level Isuzu D-Max double cab followed by the ‘Eiger’, the ‘Yukon’ and the ‘Utah’.
The entry-level Isuzu D-Max features air-conditioning as standard with all-round electric windows, electronic two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive selection-on-the-fly. It will have easy-clean vinyl floor covering, daytime running lights, front/side/curtain airbags and radio/CD player with two speakers.
The 4×2 single cab rides on 15-inch steel wheels, while 4×4 models are fitted with 16-inch steel wheels. This model is priced from £14,499 (+VAT) for the single cab 4×2; £16,249 (+VAT) for the single cab 4×4; £16,749 (+VAT) for the extended cab 4×4, and £17,749 (+VAT) for the double cab 4×4.
Priced from £18,499, the Isuzu D-Max Eiger double cab 4×4 adds 16-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers, an additional two speakers plus iPod/USB/Bluetooth connectivity, remote central locking, carpets, heated and folding door mirrors (including repeaters), chrome door handles and projector headlamps. The automatic gearbox option will add another £1,000.
Expected to be the biggest seller in the UK, the Yukon double cab 4×4 from £18,999 comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, a six speaker audio package with an ‘Exciter’ speaker in the roof lining, leather steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, chrome grille and rear bumper, side steps, LED rear lights, rear load liner and management information display on the dash. Again, the automatic option adds another £1000 to the price.
The range-topping Utah gets full leather upholstery with heated front seats and six-direction electric adjustment for the driver’s seat and automatic climate control air-conditioning. Roof bars and rear parking sensors are standard with prices starting from £20,499, and all plus VAT.
Isuzu has big plans for the new D-Max pickup. Having gone from fifth in the pickup sales rankings last year to fourth, and is planning on further advances aided by the extended line-up and wider appeal.
According to Isuzu managing director Paul Tunnicliffe, they aim to become the top selling pickup in the UK. pointing towards the fact that they were still extending their 93 strong dealer network. Another 30 dealers or so in strategic places would complete the network, he reckons, and help them to generate 40% more sales.
Another factor which will undoubtedly raise the appeal of the new pickup even further is the five year / 120,000 mile Warranty, a first in the pickup sector.
On that basis, the new Isuzu D-Max does more than live up to its promise.