Text and photos by Chris Van Hoven
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a steady trend in the automotive industry that veers towards softening up the tough pickup truck. Interiors are equipped with softer, more plush materials. Suspension systems move from rugged leaf springs to more forgiving coil spring set ups. We also see body kits and low-profile tires that certainly make the truck look tough, but actually hinder its off-road capabilities. These adaptations come as no surprise in urban city environments, where pickup trucks are more of a statement than a vehicle that does any real heavy lifting.
Head out of the Metro and into more provincial areas, however, and you’ll find an automotive landscape filled with pickup trucks doing exactly what they’re designed to do. And for decades, one truck has stood the test of time as a reliable, dependable favorite, earning the loyalty of countless blue-collar workers in areas where all roads end: the Isuzu D-Max.
No nonsense exterior
On the outside, the Isuzu D-Max carries no pretensions. There are no sporty aspirations here. It speaks an almost utilitarian design language in its simplicity. A recent refresh has updated its looks to make it look more modern, with its chrome grille, projector headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, and bumper coming together to form a well-integrated front fascia. Its exaggerated fenders give the D-Max a muscular stance, indicative of its ready-for-work attitude.
Its no-nonsense personality carries over inside, where easy-to-clean plastics and a well-laid-out center dash greet you once you open the door. Dominating the center console is a large eight-inch touchscreen display which handles audio, communication, and GPS navigation duties. Below the touchscreen is the circular console that handles air-conditioning duties.
The instrument cluster has been updated to reflect information such as outdoor temperature, water temperature, fuel levels, drive mode, and odometer in a digital readout, with the highly legible speedometer and tachometer reflecting a carbon-fiber themed layout with touches of red. The steering wheel sports audio and communication controls, but sadly lacks telescopic adjustment.
The seats are supportive, and provide a high, commanding view of the road. The rear seats feature 60/40 split capabilities, with three passengers getting adjustable headrests, or two passengers enjoying the availability of an arm rest for long trips. The rear seats are comfortable enough as rear seats in pickup trucks go, and are spacious enough to fit three medium-sized individuals.
Plenty of power
While not as strong as the competition on paper, Isuzu engines should never be taken for granted. There’s plenty of low-end pep in the Euro 4-compliant, 3.0-liter, four-cylinder Blue Power turbo diesel engine, with 177-hp available at 3,550 rpm and 380-Nm of torque from 1,800 rpm. The five-speed automatic transmission is well-suited to it as well, with smooth, linear shifts that never leave you jarred.
As pickup trucks go, the D-Max rides well, despite sporting traditional leaf springs at the rear. However, it’s clear that the D-Max feels more at home in wide open spaces than negotiating tight parking lots with its rather large turning radius.
The Isuzu D-Max, in its top-of-the-line LS variant, is loaded with features, making it worth its P1,670,000 price tag. Power seat adjustments for the driver, leather seats, push-button start/stop, traction control, hill assist, hill descent control, and a reverse camera are all standard, which is more kit than some of the competition.
There’s a good reason why Isuzu has made a name for itself as the brand to trust when looking for a vehicle that can handle the countryside grind. And with improved creature comforts, an impressive feature set, and a reliable, capable engine that is built to last decades, the D-Max will always be ready for a lifetime of punishment, and do it all with a smile on its face too.