Among the top 5 or six utes on the Australian market, Isuzu Ute holds a special place with it’s D-Max utility.
The latest Euro 5 compliant ute heralds a cost effective, hardworking, robust vehicle that is as equally at home on the road, working for tradies or on the farm and on Australia’s outback roads towing something adventurous behind.
However while it was at the forefront of design when it was launched some 5 or 6 years ago, it has started to lag a little behind the aggressive competition.
So the recent upgrade was long awaited and well received but noticeable for a few things that weren’t included.
Given that utes are now expected to be all things to most people, they are more car like and the Isuzu now has improved cabin comfort (NVH) and safety features.
What is noticeable by its absence is the reversing camera across the range, rear diff lock, some safety features and reach adjustable steering wheel.
There have been a few design modifications to the external appearance of the Isuzu. A newly designed engine hood and bold grille gives the D-MAX a bolder yet sleeker appearance.
As part of the front end redesign there is a new headlamp design that includes projector headlamps with LED Daytime Running Lamps.
The LS-T variant 17MY D-MAX also receives new design 18 inch alloy wheels.
Internally the D-MAX has received significant improvements to cabin comfort with the addition of new sound and vibration insulation that provides a more composed driving experience for all occupants.
They certainly are quieter inside.
The front seats are now more comfortable with greater squab padding and back support. The driver has in front of him the dash with two large dials and a dual centre MFD.
The steering wheel is unfortunately only height adjustable.
To the centre lies the 8-inch touch screen display audio system with in-built audio and sat-nav. On top is a handy little enclosed storage area.
Below on the stack is a round dial for A/C and other features, while it look large it is handy.
Behind the transmission is the 4WD select dial for shift on the fly changes and cup holders. Storage is good with dual glove box and little door pockets etc. USB ports now number three.
Two are located in the front dash and one in the rear, providing convenient charge points for mobile phones and other portable devices with USB charge ports.
Rear seats are, as most utes, a little flat and upright. Things are a little tight back there for taller occupants.
Drive and Engine
Let’s have a quick look at the new Euro5 compliant 3.0 litre turbo-diesel engine (world first for Isuzu) pumping out an improved 130kW and 430Nm of torque.
To assist with transferring the higher torque to the road there is a new 6-speed auto or manual transmission.
The second main story here is the new Aisin AWR6B45 6-Speed Automatic Transmission with “lock-up” torque converter.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the previous transmission, this one is simply better.
We have had the opportunity to drive the new D MAX over a range of different conditions, ranging from city peak hour, highway driving, secondary back roads, beach driving and a relatively simple 4WD track.
I have always liked the way the Isuzu’s drive, they are now better.
Having towed lots of trailers with anything from an old Nissan Patrol through furniture trailer, loads of hay and camper trailers, caravans.
I can attest to the real world usability and economy of the previous engine again the new engine is better. Much better. Off road the D-Max is equal to any of the top 4WD utes.
As mentioned before the once humble ute now occupies multiple uses for the family. One pleasing aspect of that change is a renewed focus on safety upgrades.
The D Max LST offers an extensive and impressive level of occupant protection, including,
- six airbags (dual front, side and full-length curtain),
- 4-channel 4-sensor anti-skid brake system (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD),
- electronic stability control (ESC),
- traction control system (TCS) and
- brake assist (BA), as well as
- hill start assist (HAS) and
- hill decent control (HDC) for both 4X4 and 4X2 vehicles, plus
- dual pre-tensioners with load limiters for the front seatbelts and
- reversing camera.
However some of the competition has taken safety features even further with features like forward collision alert, blind spot indicators, trailer sway control, and lane departure warning. There are height adjustable head restraints for all occupants along with ISOFIX child restraint points. .
- Towing ability
- Torque band
- Reliability and robustness
Not so Good Bits:
- Surprisingly pricey
- Lacking some safety features
- No rear diff lock
So to sum up, the upgraded Isuzu D MAX has received a much needed and awaited engine that boosts not only the headline torque figure but also the spread of delivery.
They have a new Aisin 6 speed transmission in both manual and auto format.
They have both external and internal design changes that improves comfort and reduces NVH. They are priced at excellent value.
Overall Isuzu deserves a number of big ticks for the upgrade.
Facts and Figures: 2018 Isuzu D-MAX LS-T
- Engine: 3.0 litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder 130kW/430Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed AT 4WD
- Safety: Five stars
- Origin: Thailand
- Warranty: 5 yrs/130,000 km
- Price: From $59,632 RDAP