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Isuzu D-Max GT: Ruggedly robust and sensibly versatile

By Ghaith Madadha - Jan 12,2016 - Last updated at Jan 12,2016

Photo courtesy of Ghaith Madadha/Isuzu

Rugged, utilitarian and capable yet economical, manoeuvrable and comfortable, the light double cab pickup truck is a versatile and accessible multi-purpose vehicle. Designed for work and private use, the light truck segment is as effective at play as a recreational off-roader as at war, where it is a favourite of guerrilla forces and some conventional armies.

Renowned, robust and reliable, the Isuzu D-Max is among the leaders in its light pickups milieu, where being fit for purpose is the defining principle. If ultimately not as refined as more car-like SUVs, the D-Max’s attainable and rugged sensibility and cargo and off-road capabilities lend it a greater utilitarian appeal and authenticity than less capable, more precious SUVs or soft roaders.

Urgent and utilitarian

Redesigned in 2012 and offered with different cab, trim, cargo bed and drive-line configurations and specifications offered across the model range, the D-Max GT is a conveniently equipped,  more lifestyle-oriented regional edition. Introduced in 2014, the D-Max GT features racy twin-stripe bonnet and tailgate stripes, gunmetal grey 17-inch alloy wheels, a red grille emblem and an automatic gearbox. 

More dynamic looking than its predecessor, the GT aesthetic treatment emphasises the current D-Max’s urgent posture, created by a centre grille slat extending across the top of swept back headlights and along the ridges of a more defined bonnet. Better defined wheel-arches and a swept back windshield angle further lend the D-Max a sense of athletic momentum.

With two-tone red and black cloth upholstery and robust hard-wearing plastic surfaces, the D-Max GT’s cabin is spacious and utilitarian, with wide doors and side step for easy access and generous head, leg and shoulder room for five passengers. Meanwhile, a generous bed measuring 1550mm long, 1530mm wide and 465mm deep features tough plastic lining and numerous latching points. 

Confident and reliable

Powered by a 2.5-litre turbo-diesel engine with direct common-rail injection, the D-Max GT features a robust steel timing chain — unlike some competitor’s belt designs — for thorough reliability. Developing 134BHP at 3400rpm, the D-Max spins with comparative ease towards its redline. But in a machine like this, it’s generous and readily available 236lb/ft torque output at 1800-2800rpm is more relevant.

Idling with a typical but subdued diesel clatter, the D-Max’s turbo swiftly spools up with little discernable lag, and pulls hard throughout a robust mid-range sweet spot. Muscular in mid-range, on-the-move acceleration and incline climbs are dispatched muscularly at low and moderate speeds. Overtaking at higher speeds requires one more planning and use of gears, given power-to-weight and a diesel engine’s low-revving nature.

Driven through a 5-speed automatic gearbox for daily use convenience, the D-max GT’s economic shift points well suit its robust low-end output. Responsive to throttle input and smooth and timely, the GT’s gearbox also features gear-lever actuated sequential manual shifts, which can hold gears to the rev limit for added driver control. 

Rugged and manoeuvrable

Built on a rugged ladder-frame chassis with improved cross bracing and 42 per cent more rigidity, the D-Max delivers improved durability, ride, handling and stability when hauling or towing. With improved ride, the D-Max’s rugged rear live axle and leaf spring set-up is less bouncy over low speed bumps, and with 255/65R17 tyres proved surprisingly refined, supple and unruffled over sizeable medium speed lumps, bumps and cracks. 

Tough and unfazed by rough roads, the D-Max feels stable at highway speeds and with more sophisticated independent double wishbone suspension feels agile and nuanced turning into corners. 

Manoeuvrable through narrow winding roads, the D-Max features a tight 12.2-metre turning circle, and while tall gearing requires 3.84 turns lock-to-lock, steering feels accurate and with power assistance well-weighted. Dual piston front disc and rear drum brakes proved responsively effective.

With either rear-drive mode for fuel efficiency or four-wheel drive for sure-footed traction and grip over low traction surfaces and through brisk cornering, the D-Max benefits from balances weighting. Manoeuvrable and easy to drive, the D-Max also offers good front and side visibility from its spacious and airy cabin and big side mirrors to accurately place it easily on the road.

Versatile and frugal

Versatile, rugged and manoeuvrable, the D-Max is a thoroughly capable work and off-road vehicle well able to cope with a hard knock life. It features a low-ratio four-wheel drive gearbox transfer for towing, climbing or crawling across treacherous terrain and generous 235mm ground clearance and 49° tilt, 30° approach, 22.4° break over and 22.7° departure angles for traversing rough terrain.

Practical, capable and hard-wearing, the D-Max is also economic and sensible, especially in light of low JD0.36 per litre diesel prices at time of writing. Stated to consume 7.57l/100km at an unspecified cycle, the D-Max also anecdotally proved to be a particularly frugal oil burner during test drive, as observed over almost 600km of various conditions. A huge 76-litre fuel tank also allows for long driving range.

 

Equipped with numerous convenience features, the GT tested is fitted with remote central locking, electric windows, A/C, centre armrest, child lock rear doors, tilt-adjustable power steering – but not reach adjustability and a CD/MP3 audio system with Bluetooth and mini-USB connectivity. Optionally available are driver and passenger airbags and ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, while a reversing camera would be a welcome addition.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Engine: 2.5-litre, turbo-diesel, in-line 4 cylinders

Bore x stroke: 95.4 x 87.4mm

Compression ratio: 18.1:1

Valve-train: 16-valve, DOHC, common-rail injection

Gearbox: 5-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, low gear transfer case

Gear ratios: 1st 3.52:1; 2nd 2.042:1; 3rd 1.4:1; 4th 1:1; 5th 0.716:1

High/low gear range: 1:1/2.482:1

Reverse/final drive: 3.224:1/3.909:1

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 134 (136) [100] @3400rpm

Specific power: 53.6BHP/litre

Power-to-weight: 69.6BHP/tonne

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 236 (320) @1800-2800rpm

Specific torque: 128Nm/litre

Torque-to-weight: 166.2Nm/tonne

0-100km/h: approximately 13 seconds (estimate)

Fuel consumption: 7.57l/100km

Fuel capacity: 76 litres

Wheelbase: 3095mm

Track: 1570mm

Overhang, F/R: 905/1295mm

Legroom, F/R: 1070/915mm

Ground clearance: 235mm

Water fording: 600mm

Approach angle: 30°

Break over angle: 22.4°

Departure angle: 22.7°

Tilt angle: 49°

Kerb weight: 1,925kg

Gross vehicle weight: 2,800kg

Suspension: Double wishbones, coilovers/leaf springs, live axle

Steering: Power-assisted rack & pinion

Lock-to-lock: 3.84 turns

Turning circle: 12.2 metres

Brakes, F/R: Ventilated discs, 2-piston callipers/drums

 

Tyres: 255/65R17

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