Jude Morte / Jude Morte | March 11, 2008 00:00
Bumped up for refined ruggednessWhen it was first launched in 2002, Isuzu's D-Max was arguably the best selling workhorse in the ASEAN market. Since then the competition has caught up big time, ranging from the mass utilitarian (the Toyota Hilux) to the lifestyle-based (the Mitsubishi Strada) to the middle ground (the Nissan Frontier Navara). What does it have to offer for fleet sales flyboys and frequent haulers?
Not much has changed from the previous D-Max outside-wise, save for new tailights, chrome trim for the wheels (as sen in the test unit) and a redesigned front end. It would be better if Isuzu still used the previous model's front end design, as the new face - according to a bevy of onlookers and relatives - looks too menacing.
The inside is vastly improved. Everything is logically placed for easy reach, the gray colorway and aluminum inserts providing a pleasing contrast to the comfortable black-gray moquette seats. Speaking of the seats, any occupant will enjoy riding in the unit due to the decent floor clearance from the aforementioned seats. You sit in the seats instead of squatting in them, which is a good thing. For rear occupants, they will also enjoy an unobstructed view from the sides, as the rear side windows don't have quarter panel glass. The airconditioning is cold (even at blower one) and the audio entertainment - which includes an external jack for one's MP3 player - is way better than the previous model's, but head unit use can be a bit frustrating.
Storage is any pickup is a given, and here the Global D-Max doesn't disappoint. Although the bed was used primarily for loading 10 bags of children's toys and loot carry-ons, two 25 kg rice sacks, an 11 kg LPG tank and a partridge in a pear tree, the unit managed to avoid the bucking bronco rear ride common in utility units with open-air cargo beds. The ride with a full load may not be as smooth as a passenger car, but it's not as rough as a 2004-2006 Nissan Frontier Titanium. Unfortunately the bed only has four tie-down points; it would be better if the bed had additional two tie-down points so that cargo can be secured better. Surprisingly, the current Global D-Max provides a number of storage bins (including four cupholders for front riders), but rear occupants don't get anything.
Isuzu applied its corporate social responsibility theme of late of going green to the P 1.075 million Global D-Max 4x2 a/t, with a powerband - and a healthy dose of common rail direct injection - that's more suited to fuel efficiency than outright power. As a result powerband entry is high (2,250 rpm), waking up the turbo takes sometime (3,000-3,250 rpm) and top speed is somewhat choked (161 kph), but fuel consumption is an eye-opener (11.21 km/l, five days mixed driving). Not helping much either is the four-speed a/t, which has a tall third gear. Nevertheless, this beast's rear-wheel-drive orientation and massive torque moves its 1,815 kg curb weight near-effortlessly on dry earth and moist grasslands.
Handling is middling, but a given. There's significant body roll on turns and the Goodyear Wrangler HP 245/70R16s break traction LOUDLY at 57-60 kph. Beyond 60 kph, the unit displays a dramatic transition from understeer to oversteer, but is manageable due to the grippy brakes and the presence of the letters A, B and S. Steering is lumpy and response is serviceable, but feel is light, even at low speeds.
Safety is never a problem with the Global D-Max. Aside from the strong brakes and the load-in-increments ABS, the unit totes dual front airbags. It also has bright exterior lighting, with foglights that can be used as substitutes for the smallish headlights due to their brightness. And the dashboard gauges (similar to the current Isuzu Alterra) is bright enough to see in daytime, with much bigger fonts, readouts and eye-pleasing blue-red outer arcs for all four main clusters.
The D-Max has always maintained an air of civility despite a rough and tumble nature. But with a significant increase in seating comfort, audio entertainment, interior and safety features, the Global D-Max can be billeted as bumped up for refined ruggedness.