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Prime Mover Magazine


Final mile: Isuzu NPR’s high-tech update

Final mile: Isuzu NPR’s high-tech update

Isuzu’s best-selling N-series is a key ingredient to the company’s recipe for success in Australia. For the 2015-16 season, it received a high-tech update.

In line with the old adage to never change a winning team, Isuzu was careful not to overdo this year’s N-series update. Instead, it focused on improving crucial details and adding some high-tech elements to the mix, hoping to retain the healthy balance between reliability and usability that made it famous in the first place.

In driving the updated NPR model, it becomes apparent that much of the fine-tuning has focused on the engine side of the equation. The 4.2-litre engine now produces 188hp (140kW), a significant jump from the 155hp of the previous generation. Torque has also been boosted by 22 per cent, now peaking at 513 Nm between 1600 and 2600 rpm. What’s more, our test truck’s Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) now has six gears instead of five, making for a notable change in on-road performance – especially when starting off.

With an additional ratio and more power available, the transmission has been configured to select the most appropriate gear for the conditions and to return the best fuel economy – including a closer gap between second and third gear. The mode selector lever can still be used to over-ride the automation, though – an option we only use once during our test, on a long descent where added exhaust brake pressure helps us hold a constant speed without touching the brake.

When going up again, Isuzu’s hill start aid holds the brakes for two seconds, which is plenty of time to transfer the right foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator again – a feature that will most certainly endear the NPR to rental fleets.

In addition to the driveline improvements, the N-series is now coming with Isuzu’s Electronic Stability Control (IESC). The system works by constantly gathering information from sensors located around the truck and using the on-board technology to detect and correct any unexpected loss of control.

Much like in a modern passenger car, an electronic-hydraulic control unit applies corrections to engine torque and the braking system, aimed at bringing a possibly hazardous situation back under control. The IESC system also subdues wheel spin under acceleration by reducing the engine torque and applying brake pressure to the spinning wheel.

On the inside, the upgrades evidently focused on driver friendliness. The driver’s seat is now torsion bar suspended and the damping can be adjusted for people up to 130kg. The adjustable steering wheel has also been redesigned to provide the driver with a better view of the instrument cluster.

A standout in the interior is the optional DAVE unit (Digital Audio Visual Equipment), which incorporates both AM/FM and digital radio with Bluetooth, USB, iPod and MP3 inputs as well as a DVD player – all of which function via a 6.1 inch (15.3 cm) touch screen. The screen also displays the optional satellite navigation and can be connected with up to four cameras located around the truck to be displayed via a split screen.  Opt for Isuzu’s Connect or Connect Plus telematics packages and DAVE will handle that as well.

The multi-function screen at the top of the instrument panel displays readouts such as instant and average fuel consumption, the current condition of the diesel particulate filter and the selected setting for the adjustable speed warning system.

The result is an NPR that does everything a little better than its already well-balanced predecessor. At suburban and even highway speeds, it is comfortable and surprisingly quiet, with the AMT taking care of the gear shifting and the engine providing enough poke to keep up with traffic regardless of the load aboard. It’s a smart evolution of the best-selling Isuzu and could see the N-series hold the number one position for yet another season.

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