Australia used to be the land of the big six-cylinder family car, but these days dual-cab 4×4 utes rule the roost, and there’s little wonder why when you consider how versatile these go-anywhere vehicles are.
Modern 4×4 utes not only offer load-carrying capability far greater than a sedan or wagon, but they can venture far off the beaten track while still providing car-like ride and handling, all while cosseting occupants in a comfortable and well-equipped cabin… and providing the latest in passive and active safety technologies.
What is D-Max?
Isuzu has built a solid reputation in Australia for building tough, reliable, economical and capable 4×4 utes, and the latest iteration of the D-Max is no exception. The D-Max is a traditional one-tonne 4×4 ute that follows a now well-established and proven formula for the class: separate body on chassis construction; independent double wishbone front suspension; live axle rear with leaf springs; large capacity turbo-diesel engine; auto transmission; two-speed part-time 4×4 system; and disc brakes up front and drums at the rear.
While many competitor utes have smaller capacity high-tech diesel engines, Isuzu has stuck with a larger 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that produces a handy 130kW of power at 3600rpm and 430Nm of torque at 2000-2200rpm.
How does it drive?
Despite the modest peak power and torque claims, the engine delivers impressive performance both around town and on the open road. It makes plenty of torque from low in the rev range and doesn’t need a lot of throttle input to deliver good acceleration, and the engine is well-mated to the D-Max’s optional six-speed automatic transmission. Tall fifth and sixth gear ratios result in relaxed highway touring and contribute to the economical nature of the D-Max, and you can expect real-world average fuel consumption of around 8.9/L100km. With a 76-litre fuel tank, this results in a safe touring range in excess of 800km.
On-road ride is comfortable and controlled, and the D-Max carries a load well, exhibiting minimal rear-end sag when loaded up. The power-assisted steering is on the heavy side, but it offers good feel and the D-Max corners with confidence and not too much body roll.
A short front overhang gives the D-Max a good approach angle for off-road driving although a long rear overhang means care needs to be taken when exiting gullies and dropping off rock shelves (as is the case with most 4×4 utes). Shifting between 2WD, 4WD high-range and 4WD low-range is via a large console-mounted dial, and the D-Max offers decent low-range reduction. An effective electronic traction control system, good wheel travel, ample ground clearance and a claimed 600mm wading depth combine to provide strong off-road capability, although there’s no rear diff lock as fitted to some class competitors – those after better off-road performance can always fit aftermarket locking differentials.
No matter what model grade, the D-Max offers plenty of space for front seat occupants and class-average rear-seat comfort. The driver’s seat offers a generous base and comfortable backrest, with plenty of fore and aft adjustment and lumbar adjustment and, despite the steering wheel being adjustable for rake only, it’s easy to find a comfortable seating position. The back seat offers reasonable width and good legroom, and all rear seat positions have three-point safety belts and adjustable headrests. There are three child seat anchor points and a storage bin under the seat.
Higher-spec models are anything but agricultural and the top-of-the-range LS-T is packed with equipment such as electrically adjustable driver’s seat, leather trim, climate control air conditioning, 8-inch touchscreen with satnav, premium audio and keyless entry and start. There are plenty of storage options including a double glovebox, a dash-top bin, a centre console bin, various cup holders and generous door pockets. There are also several 12V power outlets and USB ports for charging/powering devices.
Depending on grade, the 4×4 D-Max offers a load capacity of around one tonne, making it well suited to carrying several people and loads of gear. In other words, for those adventures in faraway places, the D-Max is ideal.
You can throw plenty of gear in the generous tub (1552mm long; 1530mm wide; 465mm high) and load accessories include a tub liner, soft and hard tonneau covers and a canopy. There are plenty of item specific load-carrying options available for D-Max, including bike carriers, roof-rack systems, tub racks, cargo tie-downs and more, so no matter what your adventure leaning, there will be a tailor-made load carrying solution to suit your needs.
Towing and safety
The D-Max has a class-standard braked-trailer towing capacity of 3500kg and it’s one of the better-performing utes when hauling a camper trailer. It comes standard with trailer sway control, as well as other active safety features including ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, emergency brake assist, and hill start assist. It also has dual front, curtain and side air bags.
There are currently four D-Max Crew Cab 4×4 models on offer starting with the SX at $44,600 ranging through to the LS-T at $54,700 (plus on-road costs).
D-Max Crew Cab 4X4
D-Max Crew Cab 4X4 SX Ute $44,600
D-Max Crew Cab 4X4 LS-M Ute $46,900
D-Max Crew Cab 4X4 LS-U Ute $48,800
D-Max Crew Cab 4X4 LS-T Ute $54,700
Isuzu D-Max Crew Cab 4X4
Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel (130kW at 3600rpm/430Nm at 2000-2200rpm)
Transmission: six-speed auto (optional)
Drive: part-time 4×4; two-speed transfer case
Dimensions: 5295mm (L); 1860mm (W); 1855mm (H)
Turning Circle: 12.6m
Ground Clearance: 225-235mm
Kerb Weight: 2001-2026kg
Cargo bed: 1552mm (L); 1530mm (w);
Towing Capacity: 750kg/3500kg
Tyres: 245/70R16; 255/65R17; or 255/60R18
Fuel Tank: 76L
Thirst (combined): 7.9L/100km (claimed); 8.9L/100km (tested)
For more on the D-Max, head to Isuzu.