Farmers love a D-Max. Arguably they’re the backbone of the agricultural industry in the UK. Affordable, rugged, they just get the job done.
The last generation launched in 2012, and there are some pretty big changes under the skin for the 2017 Isuzu D-Max.
First up the 2.5 litre engine is gone, replaced with a 1.9. This is unheard of when it comes to pickup trucks. Power is the same at 160 bhp, but torque has dipped by 40 Nm to 360. To compensate for that, the gearing in first and second has been altered.
But downsizing to a 1.9 means the engine is Euro6 compliant and you don’t need AdBlue…win win.
The new D-Max also stays below the weight penalty that means you can only drive it at 60 MPH. Most pickups with doublecabs in the market have this weight disadvantage which many buyers are unaware of.
Well…it looks much like the old D-Max. Slight tweaks to the front bumpers and an upgrade in standard spec are the order of the day.
You now get projector headlights with LED daytime running lights as standard, as are hill start and hill descent along with electric windows and air con.
As the range goes up in price you gain body coloured bumpers, silver side steps, load liners and even tinted windows on the top spec Blade.
Now, you have to take such vehicles with a pinch of salt. They’re a cross between farm machinery and a van. A workhorse. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you need to come in knowing what to expect.
Acceleration is sedate, feeling a little sluggish off the line, but the torque helps it feel quicker than it is. When towing a braked trailer (containing another D-Max) that was nearly at the cars 3.5 tonne limit the Isuzu ambled along without struggling.
The 6 speed manual box is closer set than the one to be found in the Navara, but it’s still a bit hit and miss finding the gears at times. If you opt for the automatic ‘box expect to pay £1,000 more across the range.
It saunters along nicely, although on occasion it wanders off to a place of its own, where it seems to drop down a cog when you’re on the slightest of inclines. The hill assist no doubt.
Weight is down across the range, with a basic spec single cab coming in at a huge 154 KG’s less. But due to the addition of a spare wheel the rest of the line up receives a more modest weight drop.
|17MY Kgs||Improvement Kgs|
Braking takes a bit of getting used to, there’s a lot of bite towards the end of the pedal but initially the anchors seem a tad slow to respond.
Ride quality is on the bouncy side without a load, but that’s to be expected as the rear setup is old fashioned in its leaf spring design. On road handling is a tad stilt like, but it hangs on well in the corners with controlled lean when pushed.
What the D-Max may lack in finesse on tarmac it certainly makes up for when venturing into the wilderness.
We drove up a river, on loose, sharp, rocky slopes, through mud and down hills all on standard road tyres and without any modifications at all. With its switchable drive system you can change from two to four wheel drive on the move, then down to a low range box whilst stationary.
It’s all controlled by a centrally mounted jog dial, with a reassuring clunk being heard beneath you once everything’s in place and ready to go.
Dropping down to a 1.9 litre engine seems to have had little to no effect on performance. Those closer ratio first and second gears really help with the slight dip in torque. Across the differing types of terrain we tested, the D-Max was never left wanting, and could’ve easily gone toe to toe with the current gaggle of pickups on offer.
Engine roar is still quite raucous, but Isuzu are proud that noise is down by a noticeable 1 decibel. Hmm.
Sitting at the top of the range is ‘Blade’ trim, it’s only available in double cab form and will set you back £26,999 CVOTR / £32,341.80 for the manual. With the auto costing £27,999 CVOTR / £33,541.80.
Inside the D-Max is a sea of hard wearing plastic. It’s utilitarian in feel but pretty easy on the eye. Like the Dacia Duster, you know it will last a lifetime and stand up to a lot of abuse.
Grab handles are still featured on the inside of the A pillar, many a pick up now forgoes these.
Dependant on spec the interior can look quite different. A basic Utility model sees a standard stereo mounted in the dash. The next level ‘Eiger’ gives you a different rear view mirror with a reversing camera fitted and soft padded armrests on the doors.
It’s only when you get to the middle of the range ‘Yukon’ that you’ll get a 7” dash mounted infotainment system. Utah adds DAB, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and leather trim. But range topping blade (pictured) adds a huge 9” screen that sits atop the dash and a full leather interior with Blade branding throughout.
Rear seat legroom is a little tight, but acceptable and you can lug around one ton in the back. Equivalent to six Suffolk sheep, two male thoroughbreds (not whole) or 400 facing bricks. Impressive huh?
You can opt for a single, extended and double cab version of the D-Max. All of them come with a 5 year, 125,000 mile warranty.
With the death of the iconic Land Rover Defender, Isuzu pitch the D-Max as the new pickup on the farm. Those are some huge boots to fill, but the D-Max proves it can be a jack of all trades supremely well.
Farmers, your transport needs are safe for the foreseeable future.