7 April 2022

The all-new Isuzu D-Max: the Tonka truck for grown-ups

| James Coleman
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Isuzu D-Max

Slippery mud and palettes – the natural habitat for the D-Max. Photo: James Coleman.

The suburb of Hume is Canberra’s cupboard under the stairs. Located on the outskirts of the ACT near Jerrabomberra, it’s where stuff is dumped until its true fate can be decided.

The timber, the scrap cars and all the archives that don’t fit in the National Library – to name just a few odds and ends – all live out here, alongside trucks, heavy machinery and a lot of mud.

It’s no surprise then that the only vaguely residential dwelling is a disintegrating homestead from 1910. And that according to the 2016 census, Hume has a population of 430, almost all of which is courtesy of the Alexander Maconochie Centre, also known as ‘the prison’.

The prison also gives Hume its ‘highly unusual’ gender ratio of 93.4 per cent male.

All of which is why I’m passing through in my Isuzu D-Max dual-cab ute, and I can almost feel the chest hairs sprouting. Bear with me.

Isuzu D-Max.

Like a Tonka truck (but in blue). Photo: James Coleman.

Every young boy dreams of owning a life-size Tonka truck, and this dream never really goes away. The Tonka truck simply morphs into a dual-cab ute, just like my Isuzu D-Max.

At least, that’s the way it was. Australia makes up the second-biggest export market in the world for this Japanese ute, but tradies and farmers are far from the only ones driving them.

The Australian car market has fallen for posh dual-cab utes hook, line, sinker, rod, and alarmed-man-on-camping-chair. They went from rugged workhorses one week to refined family cars the next, and everybody simply had to have one.

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While other segments have crawled along in sales, the dual-cab utes have romped in.

We have ended up with the Ford Ranger Wildtrak, HSV Sportscat, Toyota Hilux Rogue, Nissan Navara PRO-4X Warrior, Mitsubishi Triton GSR, and now this, the Isuzu D-Max X-TERRAIN.

Sales manager at the John McGrath Isuzu dealership in Phillip Steven May says that up to 90 per cent of all D-Max models sold nowadays are this top-of-the-range model, with the bulk of them being automatic.

Isuzu D-Max.

No cows were harmed in the making of the D-Max’s interior. Photo: James Coleman.

Such was the level of demand, Isuzu felt compelled to raise the original price by about $10,000 to prevent the factory being overwhelmed with orders. It now retails for $65,900 plus driveaway costs, and this seems a little steep at first glance.

Isuzu had spent the last few decades with its head down, tinkering with trucks and diesel engines, only looking up in time to spot the masses swarming after dual-cab utes with leather and body kits. The X-TERRAIN was a bit of a last-minute scramble.

They threw in all the mod-cons they could think of, including Apple CarPlay, adaptive cruise control, a reverse camera, and lane-keeping assistance. So what if the speedo beeps every time you exceed the limit by 2 km/h? Just give the people everything they could possibly want.

Such was the haste, Isuzu forgot to fit an electrically adjustable seat on the passenger side, but Steven tells me heating has since been added to both front seats and mirrors, which they also forgot with the initial 2021 editions.

Unlike many higher-end utes, the D-Max still uses basically the same rear leaf springs as were pioneered on French carriages in the mid-17th century. On the tarmac, this translates to a ride that somehow both wallows and jiggles, although it is worth noting I had not so much as a laptop bag for luggage. No doubt the situation improves when there’s a palette of pot plants in the tray.

As icing on the cake, they have trimmed the cabin with the hide of a plastic cow.

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So, Isuzu may have rocked up to the party late and wearing a piano-key tie, but it also brought a case of Jäger.

Their 3-litre turbo diesel engine has forged a key part of Isuzu’s reputation for rugged dependability. But for the new D-Max, they have put their heads down once more and replaced everything except the conrods to create an ‘all-new’ 3-litre turbo diesel.

Not only has this engine clocked up more than four million kilometres of durability testing, but it also boasts more power and torque; specifically, right where you want it in the rev range.

Mazda was impressed too, even asking very nicely if they might be able to borrow it for their dual-cab ute, the BT-50.

Isuzu D-Max.

X marks the spot. Photo: James Coleman.

Your D-Max will be trundling along in two-wheel drive most of the time to save fuel, but as soon as the going gets slippery, you can engage all four wheels with the click of a dial. Another button locks the differentials to prevent wheelspin and keep it powering on.

Other things? Well, it’s rated to tow up to 3.5-tonnes (braked), and there’s ground clearance to rival a horse.

And it might start with a rattle, have suspension that dates back to the dray cart, and the interior has not harmed an actual cow in any way, but at the end of the day, there are also those Tonka truck looks.

Between bites of sausage roll, tradies are gawking at it. So it seems, Hume has spoken.

Isuzu D-Max.

A good-looking workhorse. Photo: James Coleman.

2022 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain

  • $65,900 plus driveaway costs
  • 3-litre turbo diesel, 140 kW / 450 Nm
  • 6-speed automatic, optional 4WD
  • 8 litres per 100 km combined fuel usage
  • 5-star ANCAP safety rating.

This vehicle was provided for testing purposes by John McGrath Isuzu in Phillip. Region Media has no commercial arrangement with John McGrath Isuzu.

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Had the 2011 diesel. Good until the fuel pump went. $4000 to fix. Never own a diesel again.

Electric would be nice. Oh sorry… this is Australia. We’ll need to wait until sea level rises.

Capital Retro12:10 pm 07 Mar 22

That could be a long wait, ironknot.

Ha ha, especially noting the current rate of climate-scare-mongering predictions eventuating… are we now 12 years overdue for the north pole to supposedly have no ice left?! And our dams that will supposedly never fill… we’ll probably see them overflowing again by the end of this week.

Driven by Neanderthals and their bimboes and coming to block and destroy footpaths, verges and nature strips near you.

Yes, some young boys do dream of having a truck but when they grow up reality sinks in. Higher registration costs, running costs and the increasing fuel prices will soon put these extravagant dinosaurs into the recycling bin of history. Enjoy them while you can.

Capital Retro1:44 pm 06 Mar 22

I’m glad you have a good sense of humour, Earthdog.

swaggieswaggie9:50 am 06 Mar 22

If you live in the suburbs and buy one of these ego massagers as a family car then do everyone a favour, stay off the local roads and away from suburban car parks, Thank you.

There’s a horsepower war coming, if not already started. Isuzu may think they’re OK with a lazy 3.0 engine, but the power and torque will soon be at the back of the pack. The Chinese LDV T60 has 160kw and 500Nm just beating the Ford Ranger bi-turbo at 157kw and 500Nm. The current Toyota Hilux has 150kw and 500Nm. Who cares, you may ask? The proposed Toyota Hilux GR is expected to have the the motor from the 300 series Land cruiser and the new Ford Ranger will have a V6 diesel shared with the new VW Amarok. Granted that these new models will be more expensive, but it is clearly evident from sales data that people will pay the prices. And if they are going to pay, they want power

But the Isuzu’s lazy 3.0 will be still going strong long after the Chinese LDV T60 has run out of puff and been scrapped.

Capital Retro7:34 am 08 Mar 22

It was planned 10 years ago that Isuzu’s Chinese plant, which will operate as a 50:50 joint venture with Jingaling Motors Group that includes diesel engine production, will be based in Jiangxi province and be called Jiangxi Isuzu Motors.3 so the engines for the LDV probably come from the same factory anyhow.

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