Isuzu D-Max Ute is a quiet achiever in the Australian automotive landscape. Here is a company with a long heritage overseas, and in Australia under different names.
Isuzu came to Australia in 2008 with one vehicle. The D-Max. Their sales in 2008 were 273 vehicles. Now they sell in excess of 24,000.
Which brings me to the real purpose of this article. I just spent a day with Isuzu as they launched a few upgrades on the MY18 D-Max. These are essentially:
- D-MAX LS-T 4×2 and 4×4 joins the official range
- Refreshed D-MAX interior
- Increased D-MAX GVM: 2,950kg on 4×2 and 3,050kg on 4×4
- Suspension upgrades
- Safety upgrades including Trailer Sway Control and Rear View Camera
- Extended service intervals across range
- Fresh new colours
There really isn’t much in this in terms of major changes, but those that have come are significant.
While the D-Max LST has been a special edition for a while, customer feedback has led to it being introduced as a permanent fixture at the head of the model line-up.
- 18” wheels with Highway-Terrain (HT) tyres,
- Sat Nav,
- roof rails and a
- Passive Entry and Start System (PESS) on 4×4 LS-T only.
Borrowing styling cues from the MU-X LS-T, the 18MY D-MAX LS-T has been tastefully refined with the additions of a new premium leather accented interior, featuring rich genuine perforated leather (on body contact areas) which is proven to breathe better than non-perforated — plus additional accents of polyurethane leatherette on the hard wearing bolsters and rests.
The dash, glovebox and armrest are trimmed in soft touch leatherette, door handles finished in chrome and the air vents and window switches finished in gloss black for a premium look — these soft-touch refinements can also be found inside the D-MAX LS-M and LS-U variants.
Another interior update for the D-MAX 18MY LS-M, LS-U and LS-T variants and entire MU-X range is the addition of two 2.1-Amp USB charge points; one in the dash, and one in the rear console.
The overall feel is now more comfortable than before. The trend in range topping Utes is now for more luxury and comfort.
While the LST has made great strides in improving comfort, it still sits in the middle of the pack with features though. I would dearly love to see it with reach adjustable steering wheel, air conditioned seats, rear diff lock as standard, auto headlights, auto wipers, increased safety features, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and the screen resolution for the Sat Nav in daylight with the lights on is atrocious.
This is where the Ute segment is heading and hopefully the next gen D-Max will be a segment leader.
Drive and Engine
Just like the rest of the range the 18MY D-MAX LS-T is powered by Isuzu’s exclusive 3-litre turbo diesel 4JJ1-TC engine — generating 130kW and 430Nm — paired with the smooth Aisin-built AWR6B45 6-Speed Automatic Transmission.
Given the recent trend towards 2WD Utes, the LS-T is available in two drivetrains; two-wheel drive or through Isuzu’s “Terrain Command” 4WD Select System.
Isuzu has improved the suspension with the upgrade to a newly developed 3-span leaf spring setup for SX, LS-U and LS-T Crew Cab Ute variants, providing a softer ride with no effect on payload capacity.
Having driven the new suspension system over a few different road and track conditions, the first impressions were very favourable. It seemed to be more compliant with progressive damping and reduced the Ute bounce so often associated with empty Utes.
Along with the 18MY suspension upgrade for Crew Cab ute variants, Isuzu Engineers have reassessed the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) capacity of the entire 18MY D-MAX range — increasing the GVM on 4×2 models to 2,950kg and the GVM on 4×4 models to 3,050kg.
If you have read anything we have written about Isuzu before you will realise that they make excellent towing vehicles, a fact reinforced by almost half of the purchasers.
Isuzu has introduced Trailer Sway Control (TSC) across all 18MY models (excluding the D-MAX 4×2 low-ride SX Single Cab Chassis manual), improving on the active safety system offerings.
Stemming from the vehicle’s Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system, the TSC system monitors trailer movement through the ESC sensors and modulates throttle and brake inputs to individual wheels — bringing the towed trailer under control if unsolicited sway is detected.
On the launch I towed an 1800kg boat and a van between 1900 – 2000kg. Both simply followed without issue. The low flat torque curve faultlessly pulling away without any complaint.
I have to say that I have towed heaps with both Isuzu’s and never experienced an ounce of trouble, but the TSC is an added peace of mind addition.
Previously reserved for LS variants, all 18MY D-MAX Ute models now feature a rear bumper to improve occupant collision protection, along with a reversing camera as standard for increased safety and visibility — however both remain optional on cab chassis models due to the nature of the tray.
- Reliable and robust engine and transmission
- Excellent towing vehicle
- Improved interior comfort
Not So Good Bits
- Still lacking some desirable features
- No Apple Car Play or Android Auto
- Sat Nav screen clarity in daylight with lights on atrocious
Isuzu has improved an already excellent product. Making the LS-T a permanent model is a good idea. Improving the interior comfort even better.
The changes to the suspension, adding trailer Sway Control, extending service intervals and increasing GVM and payload are all great improvements.
The Isuzu D-Max LS-T remains an honest, robust, genuine Ute that now comes in both 2WD and 4WD.
Facts and Figures 2018 Isuzu D-Max LST
- Engine: 3.0-litre, turbo diesel SOHC, four cylinder 130kW/430Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed Aisin auto with Dual Range Terrain Command 4WD
- Warranty: 5-years/130,000km
- Safety: Five-Star
- Origin: Thailand
- Price: From $46,900 (4×2) $54,700 (4×4)