Since its Australian debut in 2008 the D-Max has undergone a significant evolution which resulted in the second-generation vehicles coming very close to, but not quite matching, the lofty credentials of the long-running ‘big two’ in the current dual cab ute crop.
The recent release of the third-generation D-Max has changed all that, proffering a sophisticated package with notable improvements in exterior styling, interior appointments, safety equipment levels and drivetrain refinements.
For instance, the new 4JJ3-TCX 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine boasts significant improvements over the previous powerplant. It delivers 140kW at 3,600rpm and 450Nm from 1,600 to 2,600rpm which represents increases of 10kW and 20Nm. Low and midrange torque levels are a strong suit with 300Nm produced at just 1,000rpm.
The engine is claimed to be more thermally efficient due to a reduction in internal friction which in turn improves fuel efficiency.
Power is delivered via either a manual or automatic transmission – both of which have six forward ratios – with the automatic having been tweaked to provide smoother and quicker shifts along with more intuitive gear selection.
Shifting from 2WD High to 4WD High – along with electromagnetic engagement of the rear diff lock – can be done at speeds of up to 100km/h.
Safety has taken a huge leap ahead with the standard inclusion of Intelligent Driver Assistance System (IDAS) across the range.
The system combines active, passive and driver assistance safety technologies, with the headline feature being Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with Turn Assist (TA).
FCW alerts the driver before AEB automatically applies the brakes to bring the vehicle to a complete stop if an imminent collision situation is detected.
Meanwhile, TA works in conjunction with the new electric steering to actively steer the vehicle in order to avoid a head-on collision and to keep the vehicle within its lane on freeways.
Centrally mounted in the vastly improved and restyled dash in the upper spec LS-U and X-TERRAIN versions is a new 9.0” infotainment system incorporating a high-resolution touch screen. This enables Smartphone mirroring with wireless Apple CarPlay for iPhones, while Android devices are connected via a USB port.
LS-U and X-TERRAIN models also benefit from inbuilt SatNav.
Delivery tested a previous generation D-Max in 2019 and after recently testing a new LS-U dual cab can sincerely vouch for the fact that no stone has been left unturned by Isuzu engineers in the new generation’s development.
Literally every aspect of the new model feels a cut above compared with the old, and it’s hard to see how a more comprehensive upgrade would be possible.
The only potential niggle, in common with many modern vehicles, is the ‘blind spot’ to forward vision created by the chunky A-pillars.
In the test vehicle this is exacerbated further by the optionally fitted snorkel and dark tinted weather shield that unfortunately compromise the already small viewing space between the right-hand A-pillar and wing mirror.
That aside, the LS-U proves to be a formidable performer both on road and off.
Particularly praiseworthy is the new electric steering which provides a level of precision and smooth-as-butter feel that is simply unachievable with conventional steering systems.
All up, the comprehensive makeover that characterises the new D-Max has given it a substantial look apart and a significant leap ahead in terms of safety and technology compared with the previous generation it replaces.
This has the potential to propel it to leader-of-the-pack status in the hotly contested dual cab ute segment.