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May 9, 2021

Review: 2021 Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 LS-E

Seven. That’s the number of times the autonomous emergency braking inadvertently switched on in a span of two days. Me and the people trailing behind me are not amused. To understand why this could be so, you have to understand the way I drive first. I’m gentle on the brake pedal. I make for a piss poor race car driver, but it sure pleased my mother. Heck, on my two-year-old car, the pads are still more than 8 mm thick, when the minimum is two. The 2021 Isuzu D-MAX’s Advanced Driver Assist System or ADAS does not reward drivers like me.

In theory, the D-MAX’s Smart Duo Cam is the best in the business when it comes to providing driving aids. Compared to other systems that use a combination of a millimeter wave radar and a single camera, this one uses a pair of cameras that give the system a way to perceive depth just like a pair of human eyes. If it sounds familiar, it’s because it is related to the best ADAS around: the Subaru EyeSight. True enough, both systems are made by Hitachi, and both systems are perfect for vehicles with a strong off-road bent. With no radar mounted on the grille, there is less chance of it getting blocked or damaged by mud, rocks, and the like; plus, accessories like aftermarket steel bumpers and bull bars can be installed with no issue. It even comes preset with a bulbar and trailer mode.

So, what went wrong? I wish I could tell you, but there is little doubt in my mind that Isuzu’s ADAS needs some tweaking. Mind you, it performs flawlessly when traffic is light, but when it hits a jam, it will apply the brakes suddenly. It will let out a cacophony of beeps too as if you are in imminent danger of a crash when you are not. Worst of all, there was no pattern to it. Sometimes it would activate when there is a car too close to the front flanks; sometimes, it would activate when there is a motorcycle about two car’s length in front crawling to a halt. Whatever the reason, the intervention is almost always unwanted and unmerited. I tried adjusting the way I drive by being very aggressive on the brakes. While that did minimize the occurrence, it did not eliminate it completely.

Thankfully, the ADAS can be tweaked and even turned off completely through the car’s menu. It is buried in layers of sub-menus, and it cannot be modified when the car is moving), but at least Isuzu gives you the option to bypass it. By the third day, I cherrypicked the features I wanted, and turned off two: the aforementioned autonomous emergency braking and the lane departure warning. It was smooth sailing from that point on.

Validating my observations during the pre-launch drive, the all-new D-MAX LS-E is at the top of the pickup truck heap when it comes to every day drivability.

On paper, the 3.0-liter 4JJ3-TCX does not generate class-leading figures, but in practice, it fits the Isuzu bill so well with its relaxed, torquey nature. As a reminder, pickup trucks are designed to haul and carry stuff, so having a fat torque curve, not reliant on boost is more important than peak horsepower. That said, the D-MAX’s 450 Nm figure, available from 1,600 to 2,600 rpm is nothing to slouch at. Moreover, 88 percent of that—400 Nm—comes in from 1,400 to 3,250 rpm. This means it can outmuscle any terrain be it a steep driveway, a rolling mountain road, or even off-road trails. Even better, because the engine does not have to rev as much, even at less than 30 percent throttle (yes, the dashboard has an indicator for that) is enough to hustle its 2,130-kilogram frame. It never felt out of breath, not even once.

Accompanying the engine for the ride is a 6-speed Aisin gearbox. Again, it does not have the same number of forward gears as the competition, but the gearing is well-suited to its character. There’s some hunting between fifth and sixth gear at higher speed though, but the engagement is smooth and free of any shock. Plus, it results in a commendable fuel economy figure of 9.70 km/L (average speed of 20 km/h).

Even lovelier than the D-MAX’s powertrain is its platform. Among its peers, it is the only one that is completely new. Isuzu calls the underpinnings the Dynamic Drive Platform (aka Symmetric Mobility Platform). Featuring expanded cross sections of the ladder frame and the use of ultra-high-strength steel for the first time, it is 23 percent stiffer than the outgoing model. With that, plough it through any road surface, and it will not flinch. Anything from small road corrugations to big potholes are dealt with quickly and assuredly. Even at the recommended 33 PSI front, 36 PSI rear (for load-bearing) tire pressure, it is far more comfortable than the revised Hilux, for example. Drive it through uneven roads, and it feels secure and solid with no evidence of jarring or shimmies.

The new platform also meant Isuzu has optimized the powertrain’s positioning. The engine has been moved slightly behind the front axle, and this has improved its overall handling and stability. Isuzu calls it a “semi-midship” layout, and whether this is due to Mazda’s input (this will be the basis for the all-new BT-50 as well), but as far as pickup trucks go, this one behaves well. Turn in isn’t as quick as you’d hope, but it is up there when it comes to cornering poise. Nothing knocks the sense of stability that this truck offers. For off-roaders though, it is worth noting that this top-trim 4x4 LS-E does not have a rear locking differential; it is a feature only found in the manual-equipped 4x4 LS.

Spec warriors will be quick to point out that the Philippine-spec D-MAX carries over its hydraulic power steering setup—a decision born from its transition from right-hand to left-hand drive (Isuzu has yet to engineer an EPAS for left-hand drive markets). However, revisions to the rack does make it significantly lighter at low speeds. Plus, despite a longer wheelbase, the turning radius has actually gone down.

The same Mazda influence, you could say, also made it to the D-MAX’s interior. Compared to other pickup trucks out there, this one has taken a more elegant, and dare I say it, luxurious approach to its design. Hard plastics can still be found on the doors and lower dashboard, but the consistent texturing and soft-dash topper serve as enough distractions. Furthermore, all the switchgear is well-damped and feel crisp. There are plenty of storage bins too.

The seats may look and feel flat at first, but because they’re covered in low-rebound MDI polyurethane material, they are comfortable and supportive 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, but at least the view all around is clear. Interior space is generous too, and thanks to the rear seat’s ingenious 60/40 split-folding function, it makes the D-MAX perfectly adept as a grocery hauler too.

Isuzu is known for their on-board entertainment, and the all-new D-MAX doesn’t disappoint there. 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, after some fiddling with the equalizer, are pretty good.

In this lengthy 1,400-word review, about 400 of them were used to describe my experience with Isuzu D-MAX’s ADAS. Why? Truth be told, that is single-handedly its weak point; the chink in its armor. The best part is, and it is just how modern cars go, a software update may be enough to solve this issue. Putting that aside, the foundations of the all-new D-MAX are solid.

The rapid pace at which modern pickup trucks is moving means Isuzu had to pull out all the stops to make the D-MAX stay relevant, and it has. Not only is the new package powerful, more comfortable, and more refined than ever, but it retains the characteristics that will surely please its hardcore fans. Clearly, this pickup truck is designed and engineered to appeal to a much wider audience—those who value refinement and comfort as much as capability, toughness, and grunt. With that, the all-new D-MAX delivers. Sure, the ADAS needs some work, but that aside, this is now worthy to be called the gold standard.

2021 Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 LS-E

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Ownership 2021 Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 LS-E AT
Year Introduced 2021
Vehicle Classification Pickup Truck
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Pickup Truck
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 190 @ 3,600
Nm @ rpm 450 @ 1,600 to 2,600
Fuel / Min. Octane Diesel
Transmission 6AT
Cruise Control Yes, Adaptive
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 9.70 km/L @ 20 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 5,277
Width (mm) 1,880
Height (mm) 1,810
Wheelbase (mm) 3,125
Curb Weight (kg) 2,130
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Rear Suspension Leaf Springs
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Parking Brake Manual
Tires Dunlop GrandTrek AT25 265/60 R 18 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front & Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Hill Descent Control
Autonomous Emergency Braking
Lane Sway and Departure Warning
Blindspot Indicator w/ Rear Cross Traffic Alert
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front (LED) & Rear
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
Sunroof No
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, w/ Fold
Rear View Mirror Auto Dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Auto, Dual w/ Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 8
Steering Controls Yes


  1. I have to say that the D-Max has lots of improvment over the previous generation model, I think they should have made some changes in pricing despite the safeguard duties imposed on imported vehicles. And there some typo mistake on the spec sheet, it says Lexus rather than Isuzu.

    1. Thanks for pointing it out, I did the correction already.

      Pricing is actually's the same as the outgoing D-MAX. The safeguard tariff though really hurt them. They should have absorbed it for first batch. It would have made them stronger.

  2. I fucking love the dmax. I have the previous model and it is the best pick up truck vs its competition. Very robust!!!!

  3. Nice, it now also has dual zone in the front. Having said that, the all-new mu-x should come in PH shores already.

  4. I am very satisfied with my Dmax. It never failed my expectations on and off-road


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