Size matters, apparently. I twitch and breathe in every time we meet an oncoming vehicle and wonder whether something this big actually has its own gravity. No way do I want to drive the thing where I live – I’m convinced that the enormous sticky-out wing mirrors are going to behead everybody over 150 cm. Subang Jaya will become a town culled into hobbits.
Pick-up trucks are everywhere and becoming something of a norm sight these days. Naturally, they are used mainly to carry construction items and move agriculture goods. They’re highly durable and later became a highly capable jungle-mobile for the enthusiasts, thanks for its massive ground clearance and four-wheel drive. Head to Cameron Highlands and you would see hundreds of old Land Rover Defenders that really defines a pick-up truck. But now they have gone all metrosexual by living in the city where they are found carrying empty handed at the rear load bay. They’re also free from dust or dirt, suggesting that they are used as a recreational vehicle or probably just the must-have fashion accessory.
So here we have the all-new Isuzu D-Max. Yes it really is all-new despite most car marketers tend to abuse the word ‘all-new’ on their minor change model. Isuzu first began making pick-up trucks back in 1972 with over 6.4 million units worldwide. The first-generation D-Max was introduced back in 2002 and has sold over 2.5 million units in over 80 countries globally, that’s a staggering figure for an eleven year old product. The latest second-generation truck however sits on an entirely new platform with major improvements.
Don’t look for any serious departures from the norm. Despite being able to design from a clean sheet of paper, the new D-Max bears a striking resemblance of the outgoing model. At the front, the truck wears the company’s distinctive shiny grille and features a pair of stylish projector headlights. Sleek is the best word to describe the smooth new look of the D-Max. Those fat flared wheel arches makes it look muscular too. Because this is a practical utility vehicle, the back end of the D-MAX looks like any ordinary pick-up truck with a thin horizontal tail lamps. To spice things at the rear, our truck is fitted with an optional stylish roll bar for a more modern appearance.
Form follow function. The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose. Think of a pick-up truck as the 21st century horse with a cart, only more desirable and reliable. The D-Max is a pick-up truck and therefore it is a workhorse. It will spend most of its time carrying goods and venturing to places most vehicles can’t. Technically it is a mini all-wheel drive lorry that is car-like to drive. The truck weighs 2-tonne and has a maximum towing capacity of 3.5-tonne. The rear bed is measured at 1,485 mm x 1530mm x 465 mm and has a payload of one tonne. It is enough to move furnitures or carry long ladders, cement bags, home water tank or baskets of fruits. Because it is a pick-up truck, future owners can customize and style the rear bed with various accessories options.
The car-like feel continues inside with a spacious interior with a cockpit control that is similar to a family sedan. All the buttons are well located while the steering column and seats can be adjusted to match the driver’s ideal position, clearly a big leap over the previous model. There are plenty of storage compartments to put your items with a neat retracting cup holders that can be used to cool drinks. The rear bench can be flatten down if one wants to put a large items on it without dirtying the cloth seats. We particularly like the smart trip computer monitor that displays various information such as the range, distance, fuel consumption figure and temperature, it is located between the instrument dials. The driver and passengers will enjoy generous amount of legroom the truck offered with a comfortable well-shaped seats that has extra cushioning for the back and shoulder support. They will also love the good all-around view from their seats, especially when they’re out for an adventure.
You can connect your mobile phone to the D-Max via Bluetooth in just a few simple steps. Once connected, you can pick or end a call by push a button located on the steering wheel. The only downside that we could think of is there isn’t a full size USB port but a mini port to play our music. Luckily there’s an auxiliary input to connect to our music player. There’s a rotary dial knob located between the gear lever and the handbrakes. No, that is not BMW’s iDrive but an all-wheel drive mode controller. Just twist the knob to transform the D-Max from a rear-wheel drive to an all-wheel drive machine. Isuzu says you can use this function even when you’re travelling up to 100 km/h. Clearly that is something to brag about to your Audi Quattro friends because Audi doesn’t make rear-wheel drive cars (nonetheless, it would be cool if the Ingolstadt carmaker can do this).
The passengers will also feel safe travelling in the D-Max knowing the fact that the latest model is probably one of the few pick-up truck that is on sale here in Malaysia that is fitted with Traction Control and Stability as standard. Granted that most road accident happens at slow speeds during city crawls. But what happens, if your car spins and gets out of control? Even more scary if it is something as gigantic as the D-Max when the vehicle is loaded with heavy goods. They’re not just used for improving acceleration under slippery conditions, but it can also help a driver to corner more safely by decrease the effect of driver error or compensate for a driver’s inability to react quickly enough to wheel slip. Other safety features includes a rigid chassis, an antilock braking system, dual front airbags for the front passengers and a speed sensing automatic door locking for greater peace of mind.
At this moment, the D-Max is only available in 2.5-litre form. Thanks to a new variable geometry turbocharging, the diesel-powered D-Max has 134 hp with 320 Nm of pulling torque that kicks in at 1,800 rpm. Our four-cylinder unit is fitted with a five-speed manual transmission. The first four speed has a short ratio, ideal if you’re offroading or stuck in traffic. You can also opt for the self-shift version that features a five speed automatic transmission with manual control. In terms of performance figures, it won’t set your trousers on fire and it is not what the company is after.
For decades, Isuzu are experts at building lorries, busses and trucks for commercial use. They understand the needs of their customers and prioritise reliability over performance. Their latest powerplant is an improvement of a well-proven unit that features a stainless-steel timing chain with revised components for a longer life. As a result, they’re easy, reliable and inexpensive to maintain that should give its owners some fuel and servicing savings.
Speaking of fuel consumption, Isuzu Malaysia positioned their latest offering as one of the most efficient pick-up truck in its class. It doesn’t have as much acceleration as some of the more trucks, but you don’t really need that anyway. Fuel economy is 8-litre per 100 kilometres (12.5 kilometres per litre for petrol) pretty much all the time. This is largely contributed to its new economical powertrain and its soapbar shape. Isuzu engineers spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel to smoothen the sculpting the D-Max’s sheet metal. It is worth mentioning that back in 2007, the company drove from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur in a 3.0-litre D-Max clocking 1,501 km in a single tank of diesel! Apparently they going to outdo their previous challenge to the city of Malacca in the latest D-Max, by covering a distance of some 1,600 km. Daily drivers could get 880 kilometres easily out from the D-Max’s 78-litre fuel tank capacity.
Pick-up trucks become increasingly car-like in their road manners, thanks to improved controls and driving ergonomics. This is by far the biggest improvement made to the latest D-Max that makes the outgoing model feels very agriculture. Since a pick-up truck has to meet all the physically demanding terrain, a refined double wishbone at the front and a heavy-duty leaf springs in the rear are employed on the truck’s solid ladder frame chassis. This is to make the D-Max behave more like a car while carrying heavy goods at the rear. But in reality the truck’s ride feels slightly bouncy at any given speed coupled with a numb steering rack. Dirt road muddy rocky terrain behaviour isn’t bad either but the rear end rebound and ride quality on bumps could do with some fine tuning. Don’t worry, there is plenty of grip nonetheless with the brakes gives a positive bite. With a good level of refinement, it is quiet and a fine place to be.
While driving might not be D-Max’s strong key selling point, its strength lies for its known solid bulletproof reliability. It still remains as one of the most popular pick-up truck for commercial use. Easy maintenance and solid reliability is becoming such a trouble free business operation. The D-Max is considered to be one of the top pick for business owners as they might also have a larger Isuzu in its company fleet. Industrial strength running gear should ensure years and years of trouble free motoring.
It is true that Isuzu used to build some of the most memorable passenger cars on the road such as the beautiful Giorgetto Giugiaro styled 117 rear-wheel drive Coupe, the Trooper SUV and who could forget that futuristic Isuzu VehiCROSS. Today they only build commercial vehicles and the latest D-Max is probably the most civilized and passenger car-like to date from Isuzu. It’s a high time for Isuzu Malaysia to re-enter the passenger market by bringing in the D-Max based seven seater mu-X SUV. It will be very interesting to see how the mu-X will fare against Ford’s latest Everest, Toyota Fortuner and the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
I like the D-Max. I think it is a genuine ‘durable truck’, one with a proven record for strength, efficiency and long term durability and good-value buying. The new D-Max retails at RM94,619 while the automatic version costs RM100,689. All D-Maxs comes together a three year or 100,000km warranty, whichever occurs first, as standard.
RM94,619 (On the road with Insurance)
2,499 cc four-cylinder inline turbodiesel engine
Front-engine, all-wheel drive
134 hp at 3,600 rpm
320 Nm at 1,800 – 2,800 rpm
Front ventilated disc brakes with 2-pot calipers, Rear leading & trailing drums
Front independent double wishbones with coil springs & stabilizer, Rear semi-elliptical leaf springs
0-100 km/h in 13.8 seconds, 150 km/h maximum speed (limited)
Fuel Consumption (average)
11.2 kilometer per liter of petrol, 8.9-liters of petrol per 100 km
255/65R17, 17-inch alloy wheels