Review: how Isuzu's new ute goes for maximum impact
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Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain
- Detail touches bang-on for a 'lifestyle' ute
- Impressive on-road manners
- Safest ute you can buy according to ANCAP
- Isuzu lacks urban brand cachet of Ford or Toyota
- Annoying lane-keep assist system
- Nice infotainment screen, but clunky graphics
The upmarket new Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain is a little confusing for some people, for a couple of very good reasons.
First, having “flagship” and “D-Max” in the same sentence is completely new territory. The D-Max has always been a work truck first, second and third, but the all-new model launched this year has moved substantially upmarket. It’s still tough, but it’s also now a technology leader and wants to compete with all those posh “lifestyle” double cab utes.
Which bring us to the second problem. With D-Max presenting a whole new ethos to the buyer, it’s hard to know exactly where to place it. And that’s partly Isuzu’s fault, because the new model is expensive. Like, really expensive: $75,490 for our X-Terrain test vehicle.
You’d be surprised how many people we encountered thought the X-Terrain was a rival for the dune-hopping Toyota Hilux Mako or Ford Ranger Raptor. That’s partly because it’s really dressed for status and success, but also partly because of the price. It’s just $4500 cheaper than the Toyota – although admittedly still well shy of the Raptor’s $85,490 sticker.
Being mistakenly put in such exalted company is both a compliment to the look of the X-Terrain and an inherent criticism of the price, which has had a lot of attention since the model’s launch.
In reality the X-Terrain is squarely aimed at the hugely popular Ranger Wildtrak ($72,490-$73,490 depending on the engine) and Toyota’s latest SR5 Cruiser (“no haggle” TDP of $47,990-$58,990 depending on 2WD or 4WD). It certainly belongs in that conversation much more than with the Mazda BT-50 (the two share a platform and powertrains), which has gone in a more SUV-style direction.
In that context it makes perfect sense and Isuzu seems to have hit the design detail bang-on. The X-Terrain sports the obligatory “sailplane” behind the cabin (the one thing that really identifies any Ranger as a Wildtrak), leather upholstery, power-adjustable driver’s seat, bi-LED headlights, standard roof racks, tonneau cover (a Wildtrak-style roller, naturally) and tray liner, smart proximity key, remote engine start, special gunmetal 18-inch alloys and dark finish for exterior elements like the doorhandles. And of course parking sensors front/rear for those tight city spaces.
It’s everything the urban warrior needs – and needs to be seen by the neighbours.
That’s a lot of frilly stuff, but D-Max is also a great base to work with. The new model retains a characteristically strong 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine and the on-road ride and handling are right up there with Ranger and Hilux – although our test vehicle was somewhat undermined by a ghastly set of aftermarket wheels and more off-road-oriented tyres. Somebody seems confused about where these types of vehicles are driven.
D-Max boasts the full suite of driver-assistance technology right across the range, so X-Terrain has everything from smart cruise control to lane-keeping assist. Admirable, although the latter is pretty fussy and not that easy to disengage unless you go hunting in the infotainment system sub-menus.
The cabin is a stunner by ute standards - still appropriately durable but very car-like and comfortable.
Like the lesser LS, the X-Terrain serves up a generous 9in touch screen. While the graphics and interface are a bit classic-Atari, phone projection is standard so you don’t necessarily have to deal with that.
The X-Terrain is an entirely credible rival for the Wildtrak or SR5 Cruiser. The only thing that might hold it back is buyer perception that a D-Max can justify this kind of dough. Then again, there’s certain appeal in not being the same as everybody else – and there’s no question the X-Terrain has status, because people have been talking about that $76k pricetag for months.
ISUZU D-MAX X-TERRAIN
ENGINE: 3.0-litre turbo diesel
GEARBOX: 6-speed automatic, part-time 4WD