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March 5, 2021

First Impressions: 2021 Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 LS-E AT

Isuzu has had a lot of time to think about its D-MAX; after all, this is their first-ever full model change in about eight years. Instead of procrastinating, Isuzu got to work, honing and polishing every aspect. And it shows, because when it comes to first impressions, this pickup truck impresses.

With no registration to speak of yet, admittedly our seat time in the all-new D-MAX was quite short. Yet, in the few hours of going up and down the confines of Tagaytay Highlands, you could literally feel the difference with all your senses—barring taste, of course.

The sole variant on offer during the day is the top-of-the-line D-MAX LS-E 4x4 AT. Often seen in its hero shade, Valencia Orange, we purposely opted for the more subdued Mercury Silver since this will likely be the color of choice of most buyers.

Right off the bat, Isuzu scores a homerun. The D-MAX’s style is bold, modern, assertive. Dimensionally, it’s smaller than the likes of the Hilux or Ranger, but those few millimeters don’t matter once your eyes lock on that front-end. The angry headlights, fang-like grille all work to give it gravitas. Plus, the decision to drop all the chrome for the LS-E is surprising given the typically conservative nature of Isuzu, but it works. Those gun metallic elements on the grille, mirrors, door handles, and even alloy wheels give it an extra touch of menace.

Swing the door open, and it shows off its equally impressive interior. The black and brown colorway may not be to everyone’s liking, but it does manage to give it an upscale look and feel. The D-MAX can’t completely shed its workhorse origins—hard plastics can be found on the doors and lower dashboard, but the consistent texturing and soft-dash topper can successfully advert your attention. Furthermore, all the switchgear is well-damped and feel crisp. Like the previous model, there are also a ton of built-in storage bins like the slide-out cupholder below the air vents and the dual glove boxes.

The seats, covered in low-rebound MDI polyurethane material, promote great support. It’s firm and hugs the occupants in all the right places. The 8-way power adjustable seat and tilt/telescopic steering wheel also means it’s easy to find the right driving position. As with any other pickup truck, you sit high, even at the lowest seat height. Visibility is excellent all over thanks to the large windows and generous side mirrors.

Isuzus are known for their on-board entertainment, and the all-new D-MAX doesn’t disappoint in that regard. It comes with a 10.1-inch infotainment system—locally-supplied—but at least it comes with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto out of the box. The screen resolution is sharp, though direct sunlight has a tendency to wash the display out. Drivers may end up having to squint at the display midday, but there’s no question that the speakers installed are the best in the business. Those unique ceiling-mounted tweeters aren’t just for show, they actually help.

Onto the business end of things, the all-new D-MAX is leagues ahead in terms of mechanical refinement compared to its predecessor; and perhaps even the Ranger or Hilux. Press the start button, and the speedometer and tachometer swings in an intricate dance along with the large multi-information screen. The 4JJ3-TCX engine is all-new, and it’s surprisingly quiet with an even, refined tone.

Spec-wise, it doesn’t lead the pack with its 190 horsepower, 450 Nm of torque output. But what it lacks in on-paper grunt, it delivers, convincingly, in real life. Peak torque is available from 1,600 to 2,600 rpm, but 88 percent of that number (400 Nm) comes in from 1,400 to 3,250 rpm—virtually the entire operating rev range. With that, the D-MAX never needs to rev hard to get moving. True enough, even when climbing up steep inclines, the engine muscles through without a sweat.

Previously, the D-MAX was quite notorious for its heavy steering. And while the hydraulic assisted steering is kept for the all-new model, a revised steering ratio has made it significantly lighter at low speeds. Moreover, despite a longer wheelbase, the turning radius has actually shrunk. Stuck on smooth asphalt during the entire duration of this drive, it’s hard to see whether Isuzu’s managed to improve the ride, but the telltale jiggle is absent pointing to better compliance.

Finally, understanding that safety is now increasingly important to pickup truck buyers (especially for high-trim variants), Isuzu’s given its D-MAX a leg up the competition with the introduction of Advanced Driver Assist System or ADAS. It adds features such as Forward Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Turn Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, and Automatic High Beam Assist. Unlike radar systems mounted in the bumper or grille that can get messed up during off-roading, the pair of stereoscopic cameras mounted behind the windshield can always be cleaned by the wipers. Ingenious. Also, 7 airbags are standard as well as ABS with EBD, stability control with hill start assist, and hill descent control. It’s this particular setup that helped the D-MAX score a perfect 5-star safety rating at the world’s toughest crash test: the Euro NCAP.

Improvements for new vehicles are typically incremental, but the rapid pace at which pickup trucks are evolving means Isuzu had to go big in order to battle for the lead. The all-new D-MAX does just that. Simply put, it’s a quantum leap in every aspect. It won’t be surprising for Isuzu to gain a wider audience with this all-new model, especially those who value refinement and comfort just as much as capability and toughness.


  1. Ganda. Sana lang they kept the same front end for the all-new mu-x. Now if i were to buy that suv in the future, i will gladly swap its front end for the d-max's.

  2. Still no feedback on the ride with & without cargo at the back. But I don't expect it to match, much less exceed, a pickup with expensive shock absorbers on all 4 wheels like the Ranger Raptor. If it rides better than the current D-Max & Hi-Lux then that's good enough.

    1. Too quick to tell if the ride's been improved. It has less leaf springs for improved comfort, but you're likely right. It won't match the Navara or Ranger Raptor when it comes to ride...but it is a big improvement over the previous D-MAX.

    2. Yet I want to see the new Isuzu D-Max LS-E.

  3. Too expensive. This will only kill ISUZU. Next few months, 100 to 200th discount.

    1. But I will buy it someday. This will heal ISUZU. Next 2000 years, 1,000,000 discount.

    2. suus..

      wag nalang kasing mag-comment kung wala namang pambili. xD

  4. Hi Uly. How did you find the lumbar support in driver's seat?

    1. The drive was too quick for me to gauge if the seats are really good for long trips, but they're good.

      I typically have the lumbar support turned way down on almost every car, so I may not be the best judge.


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