Thursday, July 2, 2015

Battle Hardened Warrior: Off-Roading with the Isuzu D-Max

Photos by Ulysses Ang
The local pickup truck segment is tightening and the one that’s starting to feel the pinch is long-time leader, Isuzu. For years, the D-Max has enjoyed brisk sales, but the increased competition from within the segment has caused its sales to plateau in recent months. Knowing quite well its importance to its line-up, the D-Max had to learn to sing a different tune from the “dependable workhorse” formula it has known from Day One. Earlier this year, Isuzu has done just that. They introduced the 2015 version of the D-Max, a timely upgrade that the company hopes will lure weekend warriors and lifestyle-oriented buyers to join the long list of satisfied Isuzu customers.

The launch of the 2015 model at the Clark International Speedway last April seemed odd. However, now, the D-Max has finally moved from the smooth tarmac of the racetrack to its home turf: the great outdoors. And you can’t get more outdoors than the lahar beds of the Sacobia River surrounding Mount Pinatubo.


Driving a bone-stock Cobalt Blue 4x4 LS M/T, there were apprehensions at first to its abilities; after all, it was neither the biggest nor the most powerful pickup out there. But those were all laid to rest this day. Of course, before heading to its off-road playground, it first had to make its way from the confines of Manila to Pampanga. From the meeting point in Greenhills, San Juan, the convoy of D-Max pickups made its way to the North Luzon Expressway.

Tucked under its hood is the new 2.5-liter 4JK1-TC common rail direct injection diesel engine with variable geometry turbo. Shared with the mu-X, it makes 136 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and 320 Nm of torque from 1,800 to 2,800 rpm. In plain numbers, it’s certainly down against the competition, but from behind the wheel, it doesn’t feel it; at least when it’s paired with the 5-speed manual. There’s ample punch from the drivetrain and thanks to the slick and easy operation of the shifter and clutch, it’s an easy vehicle to adjust to. The gear ratios clearly emphasize acceleration more than top speed as 100 km/h comes in at a relatively high ~2,500 rpm. Still, it achieves 13.88 km/L.


From the Clark Freeport, it’s a further 20-minute drive to the start of the trail heading up to the Puning Hot Springs. Those in the group riding 4x2 units boarded specially-modified open-top 4x4 jeeps, while the two D-Max 4x4 including this Cobalt Blue unit, proceeded deep into lahar bed country. The question is: can the Isuzu handle it as well? Certainly.

As the GPS navigation started showing blank fields as opposed to roads, it was time to engage the 4WD system via the 4WD Terrain Command Select Dial. The rotary dial located near the shifter allowed it to shift from 4x2 to 4x4 Low or even 4x4 High even at speeds up to 100 km/h. A small caveat is that you had to, at least in the M/T variant, stop completely and shift to neutral and clutch in for the 4x4 to engage.


Once the 4x4 system comes online, nothing seems to stop the D-Max. Aside from its robust 4WD system, it also comes with Limited Slip Differential or LSD allowing it to climb higher obstacles with ease and even if one side of tires is off the ground. Plus, it has a 235-mm ground clearance, one of the highest in its class. The 255/65R17 all-terrain tires also provide a good balance between grip and comfort. Plus, you could actually go through obstacles almost head on with its 30-degree approach and 22.7-degree departure angles. The suspension system, composed of Double Wishbones upfront and over-slung leaf springs at the back, provided generous suspension travel enabling it to absorb large bumps.

Given all of the D-Max 4x4 LS’s off-road prowess, it also proved mighty civilized thanks to features such as black leather seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, and even a 2-DIN infotainment system with GPS and Bluetooth connectivity. Isuzu is also highlighting the 2015 D-Max’s newfound safety since it’s been recognized in the ASEAN NCAP or New Car Assessment Program where it garnered four stars in both adult and child protection. Being made of high-tensile steel, it’s already solidly constructed. Then add to the mix, airbags which come as standard across the line. Higher-end models such as the LS come with anti-lock brakes and even ISO-FIX child seat anchors.


This off-road/on-road drive of the 2015 Isuzu D-Max highlights its capabilities. Although it doesn’t necessarily standout in terms of outright power or size, it still delivers everyday usability that can deliver maximum enjoyment even when it’s pushed once in a while outside its comfort zone.

17 comments:

  1. So...... Is the MT better than the AT?

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    1. Depends. I think the M/T is good more for workhorse stuff. Drove the A/T going back to Manila (4x2). Feels much better at highway cruising and in traffic, it does better.

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    2. Is it true that the clutch is light?

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  2. The dmax is a fine truck on its own but once you compare it to the competition it does not make sense to buy it over them.

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  3. Someday Isuzu will realize how tough the competition in this pickuptruck segment. Not so crazy to drive Dmax nowadays, pickup trucks are not all workhorses, they are now family-car default.

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    1. 4x2 AT Calibre is a big bang for your P1,108M, a civilized truck. Spend a little bit for 19"rubber & wheels plus a tonneau cover & this could be a family/sport truck.

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    2. No thanks. At that price I'd get myself a Ford Ranger or a Nissan Navara. Both are much better looking than the D-Max.

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    3. reliability not for nissan rating for NCAP as 3 only. Ford Ranger has problem with TURBO..what do u think?

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  4. This D-Max might have been good if it was released 10 years ago. Now, it's looks like an outdated piece of crap compared to its competitors. What's the point in buying this? Isuzu's "legendary" reliability? Don't make me laugh, Isuzu.

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  5. I don't understand in manual version from 4X2 to 4X4 stop then neutral b4 4X4... it's isuzu is really behind where as other segment go can go 4X4 then 4X2 at anytime at speed less 100...

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    1. Its for 4x4 low range standard to all pick up trucks and some suvs. On 4x4 high shift anytime.

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  6. I don't understand in manual version from 4X2 to 4X4 stop then neutral b4 4X4... it's isuzu is really behind where as other segment go can go 4X4 then 4X2 at anytime at speed less 100...

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    1. every truck has to stop in Low Gear mode..but for High Gear 4 x 4 engaged can be done at 100 KPH this is even for FORD

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  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-ZZ_RYArJM

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  8. Isuzu Dated Max. The "D" should accompany the name of every Isuzu product. To counter this sorry fact, they lavish perks on Motoring writers. PR is all the brand has going for it. It couldn't survive in the U.S. market so what they do now is they junk their junk to Pinoys whose brand perception is as dated as the Isuzu Gemini. Thankfully, this breed of buyers is dwindling as the other brands have indeed left the DMax in the dust.

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  9. Sir talaga po ba nasa 2500 RPM na at 100KPH?

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