Isuzu introduced its all-new D-MAX to the Philippine market last March. Like most pickups in the Philippine market (except for the US-made Ford F-150 and the China-made Foton Thunder and Maxus T60), the D-MAX is made in Thailand, the second biggest pickup market in the world, after America.
I was able to spend a week with the all-new D-MAX and, coming from a non-pickup fan, I must say that Isuzu’s new truck has the goods to take on the Big Three—the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, and Nissan Navara—in the truck wars.
Here are six reasons why:
1. The new D-MAX kicked butt in Thailand last year.
Toyota has been the dominant pickup purveyor in Thailand over much of the last 20 years. But Isuzu has managed to snatch a few bestseller victories: the first in 2005, the second in 2017, and last year, 2020, with the all-new D-MAX. Considering that Thailand is the most mature pickup market outside of America, that is serious cred.
2. It’s got that macho look Filipinos love.
Pickup buyers want their trucks to look tough and muscular. The all-new Isuzu D-MAX has the bold, assertive styling that pickup lovers want. The exterior, with its big, blacked-out grille, presents one of the boldest and most compelling front ends ever to grace a truck. That “angry” grille is bracketed by mean-looking headlamps (Bi-LED with LED DRLs on the top variants) and aggressive side strakes that house the foglights.
The fenders and door panels look taut, with a sharp character line that stretches from the front fenders all the way to the rear edge of the cargo bed. Subtle sheetmetal sculpting on the lower part of the doors add more visual character and appeal. Meanwhile, tasteful gray accents under the front bumper, on the fender flares, and on the top edge of the cargo bed, adorn the top end variants.
3. It’s got the legendary Isuzu toughness and reliability.
Pickups having long product life cycles, the D-MAX benefits from six years of research and 4 million kilometers of testing, enabling it to be the most innovative and feature-packed iteration yet of Isuzu’s enduring pickup.
The new D-MAX is now powered by Isuzu’s new 4JJ3-TCX diesel engine, which delivers impressive power (190ps) and a generous torque (450Nm). Lower-end D-MAX variants are powered by the compact and lightweight 1.9-liter RZ4E-TC engine, which delivers 150ps and 350Nm. All engines are mated to either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic with sequential shifting.
Design and engineering innovations, such as the one-piece aluminum driveshaft (for select models), 800mm water-wading capability, new steering wheel with tilt and telescopic adjustment, redesigned gear lever for better gear selection and control (for both MT and AT), Terrain Command Select Dial, and electronic differential lock (for the 4×4 LS MT), ensure that the D-MAX can overcome virtually all types of terrain.
Despite possessing new levels of comfort and convenience, this pickup can withstand the harshest conditions, thanks to its engineering innovations such as the new front suspension geometry, chassis design featuring larger side rails and eight crossmembers for improved torsional rigidity, new rear leaf spring design, ultra-high tensile steel reinforced cabin structure, and a semi mid-ship engine design. High-end D-MAX variants roll on 265/60R-18 all-terrian rubber while mid-range versions are fitted with 255/65R-17 rubber.
4. It’s got a very car-like interior (and a comfy-for-a-pickup ride).
The D-MAX’s cabin showcases Isuzu’s universal design concept of minimizing vibration and reducing cabin noise, giving the ocupants a more comfortable and relaxing drive. On the road, the D-MAX has impressively low NVH. Diesel clatter and road noise are hardly heard inside the cabin. Even more impressive is the tuning of the suspension, which feels more supple and absorbent over speed bumps and potholes, even with an unladen bed.
The new D-MAX has been redesigned to keep its driver and passenger entertained. Its new 10.1-inch infotainment system has Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto connectivity as well as voice control. Its touchscreen head unit features an improved navigation system, all paired with a dynamic surround sound system which delivered surprisingly impressive sound with decent bass, solid midrange, and clear highs.
The new pickup also comes with a welcome light system, which automatically illuminates the cabin when the driver approaches the vehicle. Along with this, the D-MAX also has a new auto lock system, follow me home light function, new turn indicator function and a remote start engine functionality, making even luxury car owners feel right at home with this truck.
5. It’s got world-class safety.
The new D-MAX boasts a wide array of safety features including ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) with Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with Traction Control System (TCS), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Hill Descent Control (HDC), and a Brake Override System (BOS).
Safety goes a notch higher with the top-of-the-line D-MAX 3.0 LS-E variant, with its state-of-the-art Advanced Driver Assist System (ADAS) that employs sensors and a first-in-its-class SMART DUO CAM that enables the D-MAX to constantly monitor the surrounding environment, offering the driver the following active and passive safety features: Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Autonomous Emergency Brake (AEB), Turn Assist, Pedal Mis-application Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Manual Speed Limiter (MSL), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), parking aid, and Multi-Collision Brake (MCB). On top these, the new D-MAX comes with seven airbags and has been given a five-star safety rating by the ASEAN New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).
6. It’s got the numbers (and the prices).
The D-MAX’s rivals have nine or 10 variants spanning a wide price range. Isuzu is playing this game with its own nine-variant arsenal. Prices range from P857,000 for the D-MAX RZ4E 4X2 Single Cab M/T through P1,309,000 for the midrange D-MAX RZ4E 4X2 LS A/T all the way to P1,825,000 for my flagship D-MAX 3.0L 4×4 LS-E A/T test unit.