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October 5, 2020

Review: 2020 Isuzu D-Max Boondock 4x4 MT

Consider this as the current Isuzu D-Max’s last hurrah. After eight long years in the market, an all-new version is on its way. But before then though, Isuzu Philippines has come up with a fitting send off in the D-Max Boondock.

Isuzu is no stranger to customizing its vehicles to suit the local market. Case in point, its Highlander AUV has gone through countless iterations, culminating in the SUV-inspired Crosswind Sportivo. The same can be said about the D-Max and the Boondock moniker. Showing how competitive the local pickup truck market as become, Isuzu had it extensively changed. Whereas previous versions had skin deep changes, the 2020 model actually adds mechanical modifications.

Before getting to the subject of the D-Max Boondock’s running bits, let’s talk about the aesthetics first. The Boondock 4x4 is based off the newest D-Max LS-A which, in turn, is based off the previous Boondock 4x2 done a year ago (you follow?). There’s one change though, and that’s the addition of in-your-face body decals that run from tip to stern. The silver-colored graphics, depicting mountainous terrain, are eye-catching to say the least, especially when the canvas is this Cosmic Black body color. Other changes include steel side steps and giant 32-inch tires mounted on 17-inch black alloy wheels.

With that out of the way, let’s discuss the biggest change for the D-Max Boondock: the new shock absorbers. These new nitrogen-charged shock absorbers have managed to raise the ground clearance by a whopping 12 mm (247 mm) over the stock LS-A 4x4. Climbing aboard and getting down requires considerably more effort, and with a 1,900 mm overall height, it comes precariously close to hitting the maximum headroom of most underground or multi-level parking spaces. 

More than just adding a considerable amount of buffer against Manila’s flash floods, Isuzu says the new suspension is also designed to improve the D-Max’s ride. And surprisingly, it does. The D-Max is already known for its balanced ride—not too harsh, but not too plush, but the D-Max Boondock tips the scale more towards being pliant. Corrugated surfaces are simply no match for the bigger, thicker tires and the new shock absorbers. They’re easily quelled before reaching the cabin. The same goes for larger obstructions such as overnight potholes—they’re minimized without any unnecessary buckling or bouncing.

As for the handling aspect, it takes more guts to push this two-ton pickup truck through corners. With the increased ride height, there’s initially a sensation that it’ll tip over at the slightest provocation. Yet, once adjusted for, the handling is surprisingly well-sorted. The body roll is natural and progressive, enabling the driver to feel the D-Max Boondock’s limits. On the flip side, the bigger tires have affected its sense of agility. Already one of the heftier feeling trucks, this one’s even heavier. With 3.8 turns lock-to-lock, it already takes numerous tugs of the wheel to get it to turn, but add the hefty steering and 6.3-meter turning radius (one of the largest in its class), and it’s a bane through tight maneuvers such as negotiating U-turn slots. Those with weak arms may want to steer clear altogether.

Just as taxed as the D-Max Boondock’s steering system is the 3.0-liter turbo diesel engine. With no modifications done on the 4JJ1-TCX engine and gearbox, it feels bogged down especially from a standstill. The rather low peak torque, 380 Nm, means you’ll feel the engine actually straining to propel this pickup truck forward, and this is with the 6-speed manual. You’ll actually feel power being transferred from the engine through the propeller shaft to the wheels, where they struggle for grip. It’s very unnatural to say the least. As for the gearbox itself, the throws are long and the engagement vague, especially between third and fifth gear. However, the clutch is easy to master. 

Once it gets underway through, there’s good momentum with a broad band of pull. Sixth gear is only used on the highway, and it does help in keeping things fairly quiet. Fuel economy is alright at 10.52 km/L (average speed of 20 km/h).

If there’s a place where the D-Max Boondock needs some work, it’s on the inside. It’s solidly put together, well-wearing, and easy-to-clean. But it’s also extremely plasticky. Plus, Isuzu could have added more differentiation here over the regular D-Max LS-A.

Encouragingly, the ergonomics have managed to withstand the test of time. The front seats are comfy even during long stints in traffic, though its worth noting that even at its lowest setting, is mounted high. The space upfront is good despite the clunky climate control system taking a good chunk of knee room. The second row can actually accommodate three adults comfortably with everyone getting their own 3-point seatbelts and adjustable headrests, or if there are just two occupants, a center armrest. Oddly enough, ISOFIX child seat anchors are absent but at least there are top-tethers to accommodate traditional child seats.

Storage is abundant and well thought out with twin gloveboxes, a deep center console bin, cup holders on both sides of the dash, and another storage spot at the center of the top of the dash.

On its own, the D-Max is already well-speced with power seat adjustment for the driver, leather upholstery, a push-button start/stop system, electronic stability control with traction control, hill start assist, rear parking sensors, and a backup camera as standard. Add a respectable P 95,000 premium (P 1,725,000), and you get all the D-Max Boondock goodies. While this sounds expensive, in the greater scheme of things, it must be remembered that its rivals—the Hilux Conquest, Strada Athlete, and Ranger Raptor all cost more. Honestly, it just needs smartphone connectivity and cruise control to make it a more formidable package.

The re-appearance of the Boondock moniker means that the current D-Max is on its final strides. That fact may be off-putting for those who must have the newest toy on their driveway. Yet, as far as product modifications go, the D-Max Boondock is a surprisingly well done. It takes the honest-to-goodness D-Max, and transforms it to something more adventure-ready and extroverted. There are various points which Isuzu could do to improve the D-Max—the powertrain and steering being the most obvious, but in the end, it also goes to show Isuzu Philippines’s continued ingenuity in modernizing what’s essentially an eight-year old product.

2020 Isuzu D-Max Boondock 4x4 M/T

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Ownership 2020 Isuzu D-Max Boondock 4x4 M/T
Year Introduced 2013 (Refreshed: 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)
Vehicle Classification Pickup
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basic
Body Type 5-door Pickup
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/4WD, Low
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 3.0
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Common Rail
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 177 @ 3,600
Nm @ rpm 380 @ 1,800-2,200
Fuel / Min. Octane Diesel
Transmission 6 MT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 10.52 km/L @ 20 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 5,295
Width (mm) 1,860
Height (mm) 1,900
Wheelbase (mm) 3,095
Curb Weight (kg) NA
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
w/ Monotube Nitrogen-Charged Shock Absorbers
Rear Suspension Leaf Spring
w/ Monotube Nitrogen-Charged Shock Absorbers
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Tires Yokohama Geolandar A/T G015 265/70 R 17 T (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear w/ Camera
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor No
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Hill Descent Control
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 6-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes

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