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Exclusive: Isuzu trademark points to flagship D-Max

D to the Max: An upgraded D-Max flagship could cause a few headaches for Ford and Nissan with Mazda also set to join the flagship pick-up party.

Is Isuzu readying a flagship D-Max to take on Ranger Raptor & Navara N-Trek Warrior?

4 Feb 2021

A NEW trademark application filed by Isuzu Ute Australia (IUA) could be the strongest indication yet that a flagship D-Max designed to rival the Ford Ranger Raptor and Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior is in the works and nearing completion.


Originally filed on October 9 last year, the Class 12 application revolves around the term ‘V-Cross’, a D-Max nameplate offered in Thailand with similar specification levels to the current X-Terrain flagship offered locally.


IUA has made no secret of the fact it has been monitoring the popularity of flagship pick-ups in Australia and while there is nothing concrete to suggest the new nameplate will be attached to a more capable D-Max, it could indicate the X-Terrain is set for a spec-upgrade to make it more of a match for the aforementioned Ranger and Navara.


That would leave a sizeable gap in the range between the X-Terrain and the second tier LS-U, one that could be plugged neatly by the generously specced V-Cross.


The convenient timing of this new patent is also enough to raise a few eyebrows given Nissan is launching its updated Navara later this month – an updated N-Trek Warrior has been confirmed for a later release – and that Mazda announced just last week it was developing a flagship BT-50, a vehicle that uses the D-Max as its basis.


For reference, news of Mazda’s BT-50 announcement broke on the same day (January 27) IUA’s application was accepted by IP Australia.


Despite the wealth of evidence building up, IUA has played down the notion of an upgraded D-Max, telling GoAuto the V-Cross nameplate “was trademarked for potential future use in Australia” but that it had “no plan to use it at this stage”.


“We’ll continue to monitor the market and consumer habits to provide the best product for our customers,” a spokesperson said.


While IUA remains coy about the possibility for now, Mazda was more forthcoming about its looming BT-50 flagship, telling GoAuto its new top-spec ute “will have a strong ‘sports truck’ appeal” with more information to be provided “in due course”.


With two distinctly different paths able to be followed, only time will tell whether Mazda will go down the solely cosmetic route – a la the Toyota HiLux Rogue and Ford Ranger Wildtrak X – or go all out and upgrade the BT-50’s underpinnings in a similar ilk to the Raptor and Warrior.


Given the current D-Max X-Terrain already comes with a spate of visual enhancements over the rest of the range – metallic grey trim, flared guards, unique front bumper, sports bar and rear aero spoilers – we would expect IUA to go with the latter option and upgrade the D-Max’s underpinnings, a move that would make sense for both it and Mazda given the shared platform.


What is less clear however is if either brand will make the modifications in-house or outsource the task to a third-party company like Nissan did with Premcar when developing the Warrior.


Either way, any mechanical upgrades to the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine are unlikely given the D-Max’s 140kW/450Nm outputs are already competitive for the class, if a little behind the Ranger (157kW/500Nm) and HiLux (150kW/500Nm).

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