All-new Isuzu D-Max arrives Down Under

Isuzu fires first shot in new ute wars.

The all new third-generation Isuzu D-Max has officially launched in Australia, the first salvo in a barrage of new utes coming our way in coming months.

The new D-Max was first seen at its global unveiling in Thailand in late 2019, but Australia is the first country outside of south-east Asia’s ute manufacturing capital to debut the new model, in deference to our position as the D-Max’s second largest market globally.

The new D-Max brings with it a significant increase in spec and refinement but also increases in pricing, which may disappoint some fans of the ute’s previous position as a durable and affordable no-frills model. 

While Isuzu has taken the once utilitarian D-Max notably more upmarket with some of its new specification levels, there has also been a strong focus on tech and safety across the entire D-Max range. 

The new model introduces a number of active and passive safety technologies not previously available, including eight airbags as standard, a new centre airbag, and the addition of Intelligent Driver Assistance System across the entire range.
 
Despite this new-found sophistication, Isuzu Ute Australia says the new model has been engineered to build upon the D-Max’s formidable reputation for rugged durability and reliability, following six years of R&D and 4 million kilometres of durability testing. 

The company says specification of the new D-Max is also unique to Australia, with a host of safety and other innovations driven by feedback from owners and designed specifically for our harsh environment. 

The long list of safety features include autonomous emergency braking, blind spot identification system, forward collision warning, driver attention assist, emergency lane keep assist, lane departure prevention, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control (auto models only), traffic sign recognition, intelligent speed limiter, hill start assist, hill descent control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and a reversing camera on all models.

D-Max X-Terrain Crew Cab ute

The new D-Max range is handsomely styled and comes in three cabin types – single cab, space cab and crew cab – and four model variants – SX, LS-M, LS-U and X-Terrain. 

The SX and LS-U can be had in 4x2 and 4x4 guises with multiple body styles, while the LS-M and X-Terrain are available as 4x4 crew cabs only. The workhorse SX is the only model available with the full selection of body styles and drivetrain variants. 

All models are powered by a new 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine that makes 140kW of power and a peak 450Nm of torque at a low 1600rpm. 

That’s a 10kW/20Nm hike over the preceding unit and Isuzu says the engine has been engineered to deliver strong low-end torque across a much wider band for towing, load lugging and off-road duties. 

It’s a big capacity engine by current standards, which Isuzu claims is one of the attributes of the D-Max its customers love.

The engine is designed for Euro 5 emissions compliance, with other markets getting a smaller 1.9-litre Euro 6 compliant engine which the company says it has no plans to bring that here at this stage. Braked towing capacity is a healthy 3.5-tonne, with trailer sway control as standard.  

Despite being the same capacity as the outgoing model, Isuzu says the engine is brand new, with a new block, head, and internal components such as injectors and timing gear. 

The four-cylinder diesel features a variable geometry turbo and is designed to be smoother and quieter than its predecessor, with much of the engineering effort focused on improving NVH.

D-Max X-Terrain Crew Cab ute

Other changes include a steel timing chain for greater reliability, redesigned combustion chambers for increased fuel efficiency, and a new common-rail injection system that increases injection pressure. 

The engine comes mated to a six-speed manual with new short-throw gear shift, or a six-speed automatic with sequential sports mode.

Isuzu says the new Aisin auto gearbox features a new software tune designed to make it more efficient, with faster and smoother shifts and less hunting than its predecessor. 

From the outside, bold new styling gives the once staid D-Max some serious wow factor, especially in the upmarket X-Terrain model (pictured) which is designed to go up against the likes of Toyota’s HiLux SR-5 and Ford’s Ranger Wildtrack.

The X-Terrain comes dressed to impress with features like an aero sports bar, roof rails, a roller tonneau cover and tub liner, fender flares and unique front and rear spoilers. 

Inside, there’s a noticeable lift in cabin quality across the range, with more luxurious materials and better finishes. 

The interior is also roomier and Isuzu claims there have been improvements to NVH, meaning less road, wind and engine noise entering the cabin. 

In a win for back-seat battlers, all crew cab variants get rear air-conditioning vents as standard, while cabin space has been increased across the range, including more shoulder room across the rear seats. 

D-Max X-Terrain Crew Cab ute

The angle of the rear seat is also now more reclined for greater comfort, while wider door opening makes getting in and out of the rear seat easier.

The driving position is said to be more comfortable, too, thanks to ergonomically sculpted seats and steering that is adjustable for both tilt and reach. 

A new 4.2-inch customisable multi-information display in the main instrument binnacle offers a variety of different information displays. 

The top-spec X-Terrain features dark and piano black finishes with shapely perforated leather-accented seats that offer eight-way electric adjustment. 

There’s also a large customisable 9.0-inch touchscreen display at dash centre with voice recognition on the top-spec model, while entry level models make do with a 7.0-inch digital dash display. All models feature Apple Car Play, Android Auto and DAB+ radio.

Underpinning the new D-Max is a completely reengineered ladder frame chassis and suspension, with more use of ultra-high tensile steel, larger side rails and an extra cross member ensuring greater rigidity. 

The suspension comprises independent double wishbones up front and a tempered three-leaf rear spring suspension. 
 
In terms of off-road ability, the D-Max boasts enhanced steel under body protection, increased wading depth up to 800mm and a standard electromagnetic rear diff lock for enhanced traction in difficult terrain on selected models. A rotary dial selector switches the D-Max from 2H, to 4H and 4L, with shifts between 2H and 4H permitted at speeds up to 100km/h.

D-Max X-Terrain Crew Cab ute

While the new D-Max is undeniably more sophisticated and loaded with much more kit than its predecessor, there are some fairly steep prices rises.

The least expensive single cab chassis model with manual transmission now starts at $32,200, while the most expensive Crew Cab X-terrain has an RRP of $62,900. 

The LS-U crew cab 4x4 automatic is up about $6K on its previous equivalent, while the flagship X-Terrain is $8100 more expensive than the previous range topper. 

Isuzu says the price rises seem steep because of the addition of new models that didn’t exist in the previous line-up, and that in 80% of cases the RRP of the new models has gone up between $2000 and $4000. 

The company also notes the decision to make the safety tech standard right across the range as having a material impact on pricing. 

“Yes we are going upmarket and we do expect to sell a high degree of premium models,” said Ben Jaeger GM of sales at Isuzu Ute Australia. 

Mr Jaeger said that as a short-term goal, Isuzu Ute Australia was looking to grow its market share with the new model from approximately 7% of overall 4x2 and 4x4 utes in 2019, to 10%.

The new D-Max is on-sale from September with an introductory drive away pricing deal of $29,990 for the entry level 4x2 Single Cab Chassis SX with manual transmission and $58,990 for the flagship D-Max X-Terrain taking some of the sting out of the price hikes. 

The D-Max range also comes with seven-year capped price servicing and seven-year roadside assist, but curiously the new vehicle warranty itself remains at six years.

Service intervals are the same – 15,000km or 12-months – but Isuzu said the cost of servicing was now about 10% less due to the extension of scheduled replacement of some components in the capped price serving program.