Car reviews - Isuzu Ute - D-Max - 4x4
Isuzu Ute models
Bulletproof reputation, tows like a beauty, goes almost anywhere, totes nearly a tonne in the tray, locking rear diff’, selectable 4WD with high and low range, full size spare, 800mm wading capability, 240mm ground clearance, steel underbody protection, tough looks, plenty of kit for the money
Room for improvement
No power-up engine for top model, dated interior, no paddle shift, can be thirsty, deselected ADAS reverts to on after ignition off, driver side roof grab rail an issue in the rough, fiddly intermittent wiper operation, needs rock sliders, upgrade model on the way
We put Isuzu’s flagship D-Max X-Terrain through its paces on the stunning K’Gari / Fraser Island
23 Oct 2023
ISUZU Ute Australia has a new MY 2024 model D-Max ute in the pipeline with detail changes encompassing exterior and interior appearance, equipment, safety kit, new comfort features and upgraded infotainment among other alterations.
No doubt it will cost more but, in the meantime, we were able to sample the top of the range MY 2023 D-Max X-Terrain priced from $67,500 plus on road costs, on K’Gari / Fraser Island to find out first-hand how good this highly regarded dual cab fourbie ute really is in an iconic off-road paradise.
If the number of D-Maxs on K’Gari is an indication, Aussie 4x4 punters must hold a lot of store in the popular Isuzu product as they were everywhere, outnumbered only by vehicles from the big “T” and Ford’s Ranger/Everest.
Similar money gets you into the likes of the Ford Ranger Sport V6 and Wildtrak Bi-Turbo, Mazda BT 50 SP, Nissan Navara Pro 4X Warrior, VW Amarok TDI 500 Style but Toyota’s similar spec HiLux Rogue will set you back an additional $5K.
Not the most powerful or torquey of the one-tonne ute brigade, the D-Max has enough grunt to get you where you want to go and to tow up to 3500kg. The 140kW/450Nm 3.0-litre 4JJ3 turbo diesel four pot engine has been around for yonks and is under the cab of many small Isuzu trucks.
In the test vehicle, it was hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission that's earned respect for reliable, well metered performance in arduous conditions. The drive system provides dial-selectable 2WD and 4WD H and L modes and of particular note is the standard locking rear diff’ that takes the X-Terrain to another level in off road capability.
For the ask, and specifically for people who go off road a lot, the X-Terrain is fitted with a goodly amount of luxury, safety and practical kit such as hydraulic tailgate assist, a roller tonneau cover, side steps, front and rear aero spoilers, dark grey body hardware, 18-inch black alloys, tow bar receiver, plastic tub liner, heated exterior mirrors, sports bar, the rear locking diff’ a full size spare and remote engine start.
Luxury kit includes red stitched leather, premium eight speaker audio, piano black fascia, soft feel dash and touch points, carpet, power lumbar adjustment for the driver, proximity key with walk away locking, a 9.0-inch infotainment screen with voice activation, Apple and Android applications and native satnav.
A comprehensive suite of primary and secondary safety along with ADAS is fitted in line with ANCAP five-star crash rating requirements.
K’Gari is a bucket list tick off for many Aussies and when you visit, you’ll understand the attraction. Much bigger than you’d think, the island demands a relatively high level of sand driving competence, a reliable “proper” fourbie vehicle and a common-sense approach with the tides (and dingoes).
The X-Terrain was perfect for the job at hand which entailed zig zagging up through the middle of K’Gari to visit the numerous crystal-clear (and tannin red) freshwater lakes with pure white silica sand accessed on extremely rough sand tracks riven with tree roots and deep with sequences of whoopdee bumps caused by the many vehicles that drive over them.
With around 240mm clearance, the X-Terrain rarely bellied out its bash plates on the centre sand mound, however, we found the limits of suspension travel often as we bounced along at a sensible clip of 25km/h in stark contrast to the up to 80km/h speed limit on the open beach. Though we thought traction control was switched off, the brakes occasionally and annoyingly dabbed on particularly when running up the side of deep sand ruts. That's because TCS fully off is a six second push on the button.
You have to adopt a high degree of caution on K’Gari and expect the unexpected as the terrain is in a constant state of flux depending on the wind, weather and tidal movement. On one beach drive up the east coast at low tide, K’Gari was nearly freeway smooth as we zipped along in the X-Terrain only occasionally getting “small air” over humps and wash aways. Hours later, on the way back, it was a much harder slog in the dry back beach sand that saw the X-Terrain’s fuel consumption ratchet up a tad (9.8 litres per 100km).
The engine’s power and torque were never in question as we literally blasted our way out of trouble in soft going and not once was low range or the rear diff’ lock required.
The rev counter rarely exceeded 2000rpm mostly sitting on 1500rpm on the numerous trips we made from our digs at Eurong up and down the “75 mile” K’Gari east coast to superlative locations like Champagne Pools, The Pinnacles, Maheno wreck, Cathedrals on Fraser and the sublime, freshwater Eli Creek famous for adults and children alike floating down to the ocean in inflatable “doughnuts” or car tyre tubes.
Despite rolling onto the Inskip Point barge with a full tank, our fuel reserves were dwindling but we didn’t want to cut the fun so paid the $3.10 a litre of diesel at Eurong and kept smiling.
The X-Terrain made an ideal choice for the trip because of the sealed tub into which we threw all manner of swimming and snorkelling equipment along with retrieval gear and a tyre pump/deflator. We found the best pressure for K’Gari was 18 psi cold all round which was fine in the loose driving style required in the sand but is problematic in K’Gari’s paved resorts and back at Inskip Point.
The carpets copped a heavy dusting of sand and the wipers worked overtime as we splashed through the countless freshwater creeks that constantly flow across the beach into the ocean.
A tighter turning circle would have been handy in some instances but that’s about the only real criticism we can make about the X-Terrain’s K’Gari stint.
On the sealed road back on the mainland, and after we ran it through an underbody carwash at Rainbow Beach, the X-Terrain proved to be a comfy touring vehicle generating minimal noise or vibration at freeway speeds, absorbing some nasty potholed roads and having enough underfoot to despatch the endless procession of semi-trailers encountered on the drive up and back to Brisbane.
It recorded an average fuel consumption of 8.8 litres/100km for the 1400km round trip and took about three hours to thoroughly clean.
We like the angry frontal styling, the gorgeous deep red tone of the test vehicle with dark grey contrast and the comfort it afforded across seating, HVAC, noise and vibration suppression, overall engine performance and surprisingly, the way it acquitted itself on winding roads out the back of Brisbane despite being long and high with leaf springs and a rigid rear diff.
Makes you wonder how they get it all together so well…
10th of October 2023
Isuzu D-Max EV in the works: report
A battery electric version of the Isuzu D-Max is in development for Europe, says UK report
9th of October 2023
Updated D-Max outed ahead of ’24 launch
Isuzu’s Thai website reveals new-look D-Max with mild infotainment and spec upgrades
9th of October 2023
Market Insight: Isuzu eyes 40,000+ sales for ‘23
Market growth continues solid performance, MU-X best-selling ute-based SUV since 2013
All car reviews
Click to share