Leaping ahead

Published June 17, 2021, 9:51 AM

by Inigo Roces

Isuzu D-Max LS-E 4×4 AT

There’s no questioning the versatility a pickup offers, whether for the every day commute, long drives, or for supporting small businesses. No other brand could be more familiar with these needs than Isuzu, specializing in building heavy duty vehicles that last for decades.

Yet over the past couple of years, truck buyers’ needs have evolved. They now yearn for more tech, comfort, and even more modern styling. With this in mind, Isuzu has taken their time developing this new D-Max, testing it over several years and millions of kilometers. The result is the most modern and versatile D-Max yet.

Not your old D-Max

The biggest indicator that this is a modern age D-Max is its styling. The D-Max boasts of a taller grille and overall façade. It still bears the trademark toothed grille, but it’s no longer interrupted by a bumper. Turn signals and foglamps sit just under the hawk-eye headlights. The rest of the body is much sleeker, with fenders sculpted out of the body.  It’s paired with big 18-inch black wheels seemingly cut out of smooth discs.

Step inside and it shows Isuzu has taken the same care with the interior. Rather than a boring, all-black cabin, it comes with brown, satin silver, and piano black accents that break up the monotony. It hardly feels like a truck at all with its dsahboard and air conditioning vents looking more like a luxury sedan.

 The driver gets a far more modern wheel even more controls integrated into it. Ahead of him is an instrument cluster with twin dials and a massive central color display. It’s designed to show everything from the car’s current status to even what wheels are engaged when in 4×4 mode. The driver and passengers get beatiful brown leather seats. They offer a lot of comfort, adjustment, and best of all, are easy to clean.

Over in the center is a gigantic 10.1-inch touchscreen for entertainment and various info. It comes with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto to easily pair mobile devices and display navigation or entertainment from the phone on the screen. It also routes sound to an eight-piece speaker system.

Now an Isuzu trademark, there’s no shortage of storage with spaces like a dash-top box, double gloveboxes, air-vent cupholders, a large storage area, and even lidded storage bins under the rear seat.

Accessible power

Hauling all this along is Isuzu’s newest engine, the 4JJ3-TCX four-cylinder turbo diesel engine. The new engine boasts of an all-new block, cylinder head, and lightweight pistons. It’s designed to be quieter and more efficient. Of course, it also makes more power at 189-PS and 450-Nm of torque. It comes with a six-speed automatic for smoother operation and better fuel efficiency in a variety of conditions.

Being the top-of-the-line 4×4, it also has a simple dial to quickly deliver drive in 4H and 4L modes. Those new to a 4×4 will certainly appreciate the system as on-screen graphics let you know which wheels are engaged.

Easy to handle

These improvements certainly help to make the D-Max a much more enjoyable drive all around. It returns a comfortable ride on the road and smoothens out large bumps when off-road. The new engine makes quick work of city traffic practically idling along most of the time, barely breaking a sweat. It certainly didn’t feel large either with its light hydraulic power steering and relatively quick steering ratio.

Another surprise is the tires themselves. With tread optimized for road use, I was worried when I got lost and ran into a muddy road. Quite surprisingly, I didn’t have to shift to 4WD as the tires quickly found grip and I rolled out of there with ease.

Smart safety

What the new D-Max brings to the table is Isuzu’s new active safety system suite.  It’s composed of a Smart Duo Camera system that scans the road for vehicles in front and to the sides that may be too close. IT also comes with an emergency braking system that activates the brakes if it senses the driver has not reacted to the vehicle ahead in time. Most of the time, you’ll hardly sense it’s there.

It springs in to action when the driver is on the gas, or worse, accelerating, when it detects the vehicle ahead is slowing down quicker than usual. It’s a handy feature to have as the few times it did activate, I’ll admit I was a bit distracted. Of course, that’s not the only safety feature. The D-Max is also fitted with  ABS, traction control, and proximity sensors, and a reversing camera.

The all-new D-Max has come a long way from its predecessor, updating in every area where critics often say this workhorse is outdated. The result is a pickup that’s more than capable of competing with its contemporaries, offering Isuzu’s reputed reliability with its truly eye-catching look, luxurious interior, and very impressive technology. The new D-Max LS-E 4×4 is now available at P1,825,000.