When car manufacturers hold an off-road 4x4 challenge, it usually entails just a nice trail with a few river crossings, maybe a high angle ramp or even just playing in the sand in 4-Low.

Not with the Isuzu DMAX 4WD Challenge.

It was a few days ago that we headed on over to the mountains of the Sierra Madre in Tanay, Rizal for what would be a day's worth of off-roading. Off road expert Beeboy Bargas and Landcraft were sourced to conduct the event, and by reputation, I already knew this wasn't going to be any other ordinary day.

After settling in at the farm in Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal, participants were paired up and briefed on the day's activities, and competition. We were to engage an off-road course designed by Landcraft to showcase the off-road prowess of the venerable D-Max. We were to be timed for our respective runs, with demerits for scraping the chassis and body, as well as having to back up and re-try a particular challenge. As an added challenge, organizers attached a 2 liter container filled to the brim with water on the hood of the D-Max, the objective being to spill as little water as possible... if that was even possible.

Sitting in the lot were 3 examples of the 4x4 Isuzu D-Max, the brand's stalwart pick-up truck. The Isuzu D-Max is actually the first of the current generation of pick ups in the country, having been serving its owners since 2002 in other markets, and debuted locally in 2005 with common rail direct injection power and efficiency. Since it entered the market 5 years ago, Isuzu Philippines Corporation has gradually updated the D-Max with fresher looks, better interiors and high tech entertainment systems, the latest version being the Boondock, having been rekitted for better off-road performance, and can even be ordered with a winch system.

The course was to be taken in 2 parts: one in the morning, one in the evening. The first part consisted of a tight maneuver course, a 30-40 degree climb, a sandtrap sideslip and rock crawling. There was even a blindfold slalom wherein the driver was being guided through by the navigator. The second part had the similar challenges and added waterborne rock crawling and an even steeper climb and reverse descent.

The D-Max Boondock was the definitive choice to take on the course. It's relative width, departure angles and relative short overhangs made it a great bit of hardware to attack the challenges with. The Boondock also doesn't come with a set of stepboards which, as most off roaders wold know, are the first casualties of a challenging 4x4 course, and is even fitted a set of all-terrain rated tires as well as a triple gauge kit that features pitch, roll and displays voltage output.

After several runs, bruises (on the D-Max Boondocks), mud and spilt water, it was clear that the D-Max had proved itself as a true off-road contender. In a course that would have most vehicles running for cover, tailpipe tucked between their wheels, the Isuzu D-Max takes it on... with authority.