Isuzu D-MAX X-Terrain: Tested

By Aus Geo ADVENTURE Staff 15 December 2020
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Is the all-new Isuzu D-MAX the ultimate escape machine for adventurous families? We put it to the test to find out.

Dual-cab 4WD utes are ideally suited to those seeking outdoor adventures thanks to their versatility and go-anywhere capability, but some struggle to hide their commercial-vehicle origins. The new Isuzu D-MAX X-Terrain is not one of these.

While the D-MAX X-Terrain offers versatility and go-anywhere capability in spades, it also comes with car-like refinement, a veritable shedload of comfort and convenience equipment and more safety features than any other 4WD ute before it. And it looks the goods, too.

The Isuzu D-MAX has been around in Australia for many years and over that time it has built a solid reputation as a no-nonsense, reliable and economical workhorse. Those traits appear to remain in this latest iteration, which continues with a new version of its predecessor’s 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine mated to a six-speed auto transmission and part-time 4WD system. 

The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine offers ample power and torque and is a quieter, more refined , and more frugal unit compared to the previous model’s powerplant.

The new engine now makes more power and torque than before, now producing a claimed 140kW at 3600rpm and 450Nm at 1600-2600rpm, and in addition to offering much better on-road performance than the previous generation D-MAX, it’s also much more refined. Claimed fuel consumption is 8.0L/100km and the D-MAX has an 76-litre fuel tank, so you can expect a touring range of close to 900km on the open road.

In top-spec X-Terrain guise, as tested by Aus Geo ADVENTURE, the D-MAX is only available with a six-speed auto (lower grades are also available with a six-speed manual gearbox), and it’s a smooth shifting transmission with a good spread of ratios and a nice tendency to downshift on descents to use engine braking to keep speed in check. Despite being slightly down on power compared to the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger, D-MAX offers impressive acceleration from standstill and in fact feels just as quick as its four-cylinder diesel competitors; only the Volkswagen Amarok V6 and the Mercedes-Benz X-Class V6 models feel particularly quicker.

Isuzu D-MAX on- and off-road

On-road ride and handling is also up there with the best in class. The new electric-assist power steering is well weighted and responsive. The revised front suspension has relocated upper control arms and a thicker anti-roll bar, and the result is well-controlled body roll when cornering. The rear suspension has also been revised and now offers better unladen ride quality while still handling a decent load without too much sag.

The D-MAX’s active safety features work well on the road, with the adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and lane departure prevention useful on long freeway drives.

The addition of a rear diff-lock and a recalibration of its already impressive traction-control system has significantly upped the D-MAX’s off-road performance.

As well as better on-road performance and refinement, off-road performance is also an improvement on the previous-generation D-MAX, thanks mostly to the fact the electronic traction control system is now bolstered by inclusion of a standard rear diff-lock. If wheel travel is exceeded over uneven ground, and the traction control can’t contain wheel spin, the rear differential lock can be manually engaged to help the D-MAX crawl through difficult sections. Low-range gearing is best described as acceptable rather than fantastic, with a crawl ratio of 33.3:1, but hill climbing capability is still effective thanks to the automatic transmission’s torque-multiplying effect, while steep descents are made easy by engaging hill descent control.

Features aplenty

While the X-Terrain offers a reasonable 240mm of ground clearance, the side-steps hang quite low and are vulnerable to grounding in rough terrain, as are the front and rear underbody spoilers fitted to this top-spec model, but other underbody bits and pieces are protected by a series of skid plates under the engine, the transmission and the fuel tank.

While it’s equipped with highway terrain 265/60R18 tyres, there are plenty of tougher off-road rubber options.

The interior package is impressive with a neat dash dominated by the large, centrally located colour touchscreen. The front seats are comfortable and there’s plenty of scope for adjustment to find a comfortable driving position, and all of the materials and trim used have a high-quality finish.

The D-MAX interior (X-Terrain pictured here) features all the latest driver technology, plenty of storage, comfortable and supportive seating, and the maximum 5-star ANCAP safety rating, making it ideal for that around-Oz road trip.

The standard equipment list on the top-spec D-MAX X-Terrain is long and includes a nine-inch colour touchscreen with sat-nav, DAB+ digital radio Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity. Other features include auto bi-LED self-levelling headlights, daytime running lights, fog lights, auto ‘smart-wet’ wipers, dual-zone climate control aircon, eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather seat trim, steering wheel and gear knob, remote engine start, keyless entry and start, to name some, as well as that exclusive ‘X’ badging.

Isuzu D-MAX X-Terrain safety features

The D-MAX comes with ground-breaking safety features and it recently scored a five-star ANCAP (Australian New Car Assessment Program) safety rating. The D-MAX’s Intelligent Driver Assistance System (IDAS) includes adaptive cruise control with stop and go traffic functionality, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane departure prevention, Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) and more. It also has a full complement of eight SRS airbags, including the world’s first centre airbag in a ute. 

The final word

Equally at home on the road as it is off it, the all-new Isuzu D-MAX has proved a firm favourite with Aus Geo ADVENTURE staff-members when on assignment.

The D-MAX X-Terrain lists at $62,900 plus on-road costs but its currently available at a $58,990 drive-away price, at which it’s a lot of ute for the dosh – especially when you add in the six-year/150,000km warranty, seven years of road assistance and seven years of capped price servicing.

There’s no doubt the D-MAX has lifted the 4WD ute bar in terms of performance, refinement, comfort and safety… but not at the expense of versatility and off-road capability. In short, it’s an ideal option for the active family looking to explore Australia’s plethora of adventure destinations.

Go to Isuzu Ute to see the full D-MAX range.