Hot on the heels of our D-Max 1.9TD Extended Cab Manual review (click here to read it) we got its more powerful and fancy twin on test.
Despite never having owned one, nor having any intention of resolving that, Isuzu is one of my favourite brands. Why? Because they are a single-purpose make which, up to a few years ago, only built bakkies. The GM-derived MU-X added some diversity but Isuzu is one of the last remaining marques which don’t offer nineteen near-identical crossovers for sale.
Long may it be so.
If you visit their website right now (late in 2023) you will find a plethora of pick-ups, the solitary MU-X SUV, and a couple of small trucks. And, as already explained in previous reviews of the new D-Max range, this Japanese manufacturer is still catching up to its main competitors when it comes to style and power.
They recently upped the power of their 3L turbo-diesel four pot, but only by a humble 10kW on some models. My best guess as to why they’re not chasing big numbers is that their target market has almost zero desire to win drag races. Instead, a small and conservative increase in voomah should ensure something far more valuable: longevity.
I’ve also touched on the new Isuzu design language before, which is pleasantly interesting while conforming to modern bakkie trends. A bit shiny and garish in places, but still hiding a chunky and practical silhouette. Think of it as Dik Frik the Freestate farmer who’s wearing a nice shirt and long pant; for a night on the town.
Where things get a bit troublesome for me is ou Frik’s experience with all these new goodies. He’s very skilled at hooking up a harvesting trailer, or catching calves, but he’s not so lekker with paying for city parking with an app. Of course he’s used a cellphone for years but he avoids unnecessary digital clutter.
What do I mean by “clutter”? Well, this erstwhile farm implement (in LSE trim) comes with keyless entry and start, LED headlights, snazzy 18-inch alloy wheels, a colour trip computer, cruise control, seven airbags, 9-inch infotainment screen, three brake assist systems, rear-view camera, stability and trailer control, blind spot monitor, hill assist, rear cross-traffic alert and parking sensors.
Pardon the blunt analogy, but that’s what most of the binging-and-bonging driver aids in this top-spec model feel like. A bit frustrating. Having said that, there are instances of sheer perfection to be found in here. Like the digital climate control, whose buttons and screen are extremely easy to understand and use.
I respectfully applaud Isuzu’s attempt at capturing some of that overcrowded luxury bakkie market but my ideological image of a KB slash D-Max is trundling along a farm fence with manual ventilation controls, a single-din radio playing RSG and slightly deflated BF Goodrich All Terrains. Maybe power windows, at a push.
Luckily, Isuzu S.A. is well aware of this so you can still opt for simpler models in all D-Max body shapes. As a last negative remark, I personally have no use for an extended cab bakkie… but plenty of working folk know what to do with the cool butterfly doors, weird vacancy behind the seats and three-quarter load bed.
The handy roller shutter on our “Blue Me Away” metallic test vehicle was slightly deformed but scars on the load bed floor bore testament to the hard work that had clearly been performed. With a bit of not-so-gentle persuasion, the fully retractable security lid (and lockable tailgate) proved to be extremely versatile.
Another plus I’d like to mention is the automatic gearbox, which leisurely glides through its six ratios to the tune of the rattling turbo-diesel host. The manual is still a great choice for better control (or initial purchase price) but this relaxed auto-box is a superb commuting companion; or soft sand master when paired with four-wheel drive.
Although it’s a trivial figure for this type of vehicle, we stuck our trusty Racelogic PerformanceBox to the windscreen and gave this D-Max 3.0TD Extended Cab LSE 4×4 the spurs, which resulted in a best 0-100km/h sprint time of 10.51 seconds. Our single 100-0km/h braking test was over in a time of 2.94 seconds at 42.23 metres.
Not too shabby for a bakkie.
So. It goes and stops well, shifts smoothly and rattles a bit, rides slightly hard and beeps a lot. But thankfully, most of that can be remedied by moving down the price and spec list of the all-encompassing Isuzu D-Max range. Each new one is sold with a 5-year/120,000km warranty and 5-year/90,000km service plan.