6 reasons why Isuzu is primed to be the King of Pickups with the all-new D-MAX

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Manny De Los Reyes
Manny De Los Reyes
Manny de los Reyes, motoring editor of wheels.ph as well as its print edition, has been writing about cars since 1995. His life has been deeply intertwined with cars, having cleaned and maintained the family cars as a teenager, operating a paint shop and entering national car shows in college, before joining Nissan after graduation. He handled car brands as a copywriter afterwards. Today, when he's not testing or writing about cars or attending motoring events, he is home reading novels or playing with his shih tzu.

Isuzu introduced its all-new D-MAX to the Philippine market last month. Like all Japanese- and American-branded pickups in the Philippine market (except for the US-made F-150), the D-MAX is made in Thailand, the second biggest pickup market in the world, after America.

I was able to test drive the all-new D-MAX just before the Holy Week ECQ 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, the Ford Ranger, and the Nissan Navara—in the truck wars.   

Here are six compelling reasons why:

1. The new D-MAX walloped the competition 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. The new D-MAX is the Dominic Thiem to the Hilux’s Roger Federer. The veteran has more titles, but the other has what it takes to beat the record holder—on any surface.       

2. It’s got kickass styling.

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. All-new from bumper to bumper, the new D-MAX brings car-like style, comfort, and convenience closer than ever to the workhorse truck platform.

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 6-speed manual with reverse lockout or a 6-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 one of the most car-like interiors (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 is 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 a truly comprehensive suite of safety features.

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 7 airbags and has been given a 5-star safety rating by the ASEAN New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).

6. It’s got the numbers (and the prices).

Toyota owns the volume playbook not just in sales, but in sheer number of variants per model. The playbook involves having a dozen Vios variants (not counting the automatic versions available in some variants) and 10 Hilux variants. Ford borrowed a page from this playbook by having nine Ranger variants. And now Isuzu is playing the game with its own 9-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.

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