Isuzu’s D-Max knows it’s not a car
Ever since the first variety of this generation of Isuzu’s popular bakkie was introduced as the KB a good few years ago, we've called it the working man’s bakkie. There’s an honesty of purpose about a pickup that fails to pretend it’s a car and we have always admired that in what they call the D-Max these days.
So, despite its length of tooth, the good old flagship D-Max 300 DC LX Automatic 4x4 is still a pretty slick and purposefully styled bakkie. It should be – it was reputed to have been the most aerodynamic of all double cabs in its day and at first glance, it seems it may very well still be able to claim that slice of fame.
Which means we think it’s still among the better looking bakkies on the market, never mind that this model has lived through Isuzu becoming a local manufacturer in its own right down in PE. It’s even had its name changed to D-Max in its time, to finally bring the SA Isuzu in line with other markets.
We can’t call it all that efficient versus some of its downsized small-bore rivals, but the burly 130kW 380Nm 3-litre 16-valve turbodiesel remains refined and works well with its automatic gearbox that was upgraded to a six-speed a few years back and drives Isuzu’s 4x4 system. It managed zero to 100km/h in a quite handy 10.39 seconds in our tests, while pulling from 80 to 120km/h in just under nine seconds.
Pretty impressive, versus some of its allegedly significantly more powerful smaller-bore rivals, all of which bodes rather well for the old girl.
D-max also delivers a smooth and resilient ride on all road surfaces, overall handling and road manners are good and it’s still right up there in most dynamic respects.
Off the beaten track this 4x4 delivers handsomely and it tows well too – power and torque may well be down on paper, but out there chugging along with a race car behind on the trailer, you’d be telling a lie if you noticed much of a difference to among its more modern bruiser rivals. It certainly felt worthy of its 3500kg rated braked towing ability too.
All in all, the flagship Isuzu D-Max is still a pleasure to drive – probably thanks in part to Isuzu’s ongoing process of extensive local suspension tuning, while this big red bakkie certainly still looks the part, don’t you think?
D-Max has also kept up with the tech chase – the recently-upgraded big-screen infotainment complete with Bluetooth for audio streaming and handsfree calling, and a cool a leather-clad multifunction steering wheel, sees to it that D-Max has it all and then some. That said, we failed to stop it asking for a Bluetooth device every time we switched it on and some actions are hindered by less than perfect logic and graphics, but it gets better as you learn the system.
There’s nothing new about the likes of keyless entry, button starting and cruise control too, or the rest of the Isuzu’s high spec – that’s all been there since the KB days, but there’s a lot more tech now from the reversing camera to the most modern connectivity too. Progress is good and Isuzu has kept its faithful bakkie well up with the times…
D-Max also packs a reasonable active and passive safety spec, including electronic stability and traction control, ABS, EBD and EBA braking; driver and passenger airbags and side-impact protection too.
Even if its getting on, there are good reasons to consider this run-out model. It’s reasonably well priced to start with, which makes up for that missing degree of novelty. A compatible auto 4x4 DC Hilux for instance, costs over R710K, while the closest old school Ranger rival goes for twenty grand new and the latest-tech Ford is R100K north of the Isuzu. The Isuzu undercuts most of most of its other rivals too.
Of course Isuzus come backed by keen and well-established back-up, warranty and service too, which makes this bakkie all the more attractive. Don’t’; forget that the higher-tech new one is also likely to be proportionately more expensive, when it comes.
So while there may well be several more modern and newfangled double-cab 4x4s out there, and we all know that the trusty old Isuzu is about to be replaced soon, there is still a lot of allure in this handsome, reliable and trusty bakkie that continues to deliver on its core strength of honesty of purpose and that remains the big D-Max attraction – Michele Lupini
ROAD TESTED: Isuzu D-Max 300 TD DC 4x4 LX auto
Engine: 130kW 380Nm 3-litre turbodiesel I4
Drive: 6-speed automatic 4x4
0-60km/h: 4.41 sec
400m: 17.4 sec @ 124km/h
80-120km/h: 8.85 sec
Towing capacity: 3500 Kg
Fuel: 7.8 l/100km
CO2: 206 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y 120K/5y 90Kkm
LIST PRICE: R666K