The all new Isuzu D-Max will be officially on sale from the 1st of September and here at “Truck and Bus News ” we have been given the opportunity to take one for a test drive. In this road test we will give an overview of our first impressions of this brand new 4WD Ute.

If you are reading this and you know the D-Max well, you will need to re-acquaint yourself, because the MY21 model is a complete re-design, the first since 2012. It has a new Engine with more power and torque, all new electronics and computerised safety systems and a new chassis that is said to be built for Australian conditions.

The model we have for the test drive is the LS-U Crew Cab 4×4 model, which is one down from the top of the range X-Terrain and our first impression is it is very comfortable to drive. The seating position feels remarkably high and you sit up above the traffic, which most people like. The adjustability of the steering wheel and driver’s seat allows you to get into the perfect driving position. The adjustments are all mechanical except for the lumber support, which is electronic.

The engine is incredibly quiet, and vibration is said to be improved over the previous model. In the driving we completed over a week, it was exceedingly difficult to hear the engine at all and there is no noticeable vibration coming from the engine.

The new 4JJ3-TCX engine has been completely re-designed and Isuzu claims that the durability and reliability that they are renowned for continues with this engine. The D-Max powerplant produces 140kw of power, up 10kw from the previous model and 450Nm of torque, with the torque curve delivering 400Nm at just 1400 rpm and the full 450Nm of torque at 1600rpm.

The new lattice chassis design is said to be more rigid with larger side rails and an extra cross member. This new design has certainly improved the handling which was extremely responsive and when pushed into the corners it gripped extremely well. It has a double wishbone front suspension setup, with higher mounting points to help overall stability and we think it is one of the best handling utes we have driven.

The safety systems in the D-Max are available in every model and include 4-channel 4-sensor ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Electronic Stability Control and Traction Control. But it is the other electronic safety features, called Intelligent Driver Assistance System (IDAS) that are impressive. Here is a full list:

  • Emergency Brake Assist (EBA)
  • Hill Start Assist (HSA)
  • Hill Descent Control (HDC)
  • Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
  • Turn Assist with AEB
  • Post-Collision Braking
  • Forward Collision Warning (FCW)
  • Mis-acceleration Mitigation (Auto models only)
  • Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) (Auto models only)
  • Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR)
  • Intelligent Speed Limiter
  • Manual Speed Limiter
  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
  • Lane Departure Prevention (LDP)
  • Lane Keep Assist (LKA) (Auto models only)
  • Emergency Lane Keeping (ELK)
  • Driver Attention Assist
  • Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM)
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)
  • Reversing camera
  • Rear parking sensors

The adaptive cruise control allows you to use it in traffic. The car stops and moves off again as the traffic moves. On the highway it is also highly effective and whilst we are not fans of adaptive cruise control, we found ourselves using the cruise control more often than we would normally.

The 3D camera system on the front of the windscreen also gives Autonomous Emergency Braking, Turn Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Departure Prevention. We were not keen on the lane departure prevention feature in other 4WD’s tested, but the steering wheel pressure as it manoeuvres you back into the lane seems far more subtle in the D-Max and we found it easy to get used to. The power steering is electric, not hydraulic and we really liked the feel of the steering at both low and high speed.

The Traffic Sign Recognition was incredibly accurate and the warning for exceeding the posted speed limit is also subtle, which is not annoying like it can be in some cars, so you’re more likely to leave it turned on.

All these safety systems can be configured in the settings menu on the dash, meaning you can turn the ones you do not like off, but we found we were happy with them all switched on.

The reversing camera and the Rear Cross Traffic alert is another great feature, which is present on many modern cars. It gave warnings regularly as the car was backed out of parking spots, indicating passing traffic which could not be seen because of other parked cars.

The LSU and X-Terrain versions also have a 9-inch entertainment screen with apple CarPlay that works with a cable and also wirelessly. The sound system pumps out great audio through the eight speakers in this model. There is also built in satellite navigation, but realistically, most drivers much prefer Google Maps that can be accessed through Apple CarPlay.

This model also has dual zone air conditioning, which delivers plenty of air to all passengers, including those sitting in the back. Speaking of which, whilst it is tight in the back seat for adults, the rear seating space is perfect for children and teenagers and compares well with most utes in this category.

We would have loved to take the D-Max off road, but unfortunately didn’t have the opportunity.  However, the specification sheet indicates that the wading depth has been increased to 800mm (from 600mm) with the design of the engine location and diff breathers.

The change from 2WD to 4WD is also extremely easy, with a quick turn of a dial in the centre console, which can be operated up to speeds of 100kmh. There is also a diff lock that we believe should be standard on every 4WD. In the D-Max, the lockable diff is a magnetic based lock that will make four wheel driving much easier in rugged terrain. We just wish we could have had the chance to get it dirty.

The towing capacity is 3500kg with a braked load, but our test vehicle didn’t come with a tow bar so unfortunately, we didn’t get to test its towing capability, but we have no doubt it will tow with ease. The towing capacity is the same for all model variants.

What is our conclusion?

The new D-Max is a pleasure to drive. The road feel and handling capability are excellent this off-road Ute should go to the top of your test-drive list if you are in the market for a 4WD Ute.

The six-speed automatic gearbox is smooth through gear changes and overall, the D-Max is extremely quiet and very refined. Our only criticism of the drivability is it is a bit firm in the suspension and you notice how stiff it is on an uneven or bumpy road. But other than that, we could not fault it.

We think this new D-Max is going to upset the balance in the 4WD Ute market. We highly recommend taking one for a test drive, and we are sure you will be extremely impressed.