IAIN ROBERTSON 

Isuzu D Max XTR

Isuzu D Max XTR

Introduced originally as a ‘concept’ by International Motors Group, the official importer of Isuzu pickup trucks to the UK market, Iain Robertson is only too delighted to suggest that scoring an ace on the value front is what makes Isuzu tick.

While I can comprehend the rash of pickup truck operators that has developed over the past few years, egged on by vehicle taxation benefits, a built-for-purpose warning sign should have been erected alongside them. Pickups are intentionally hardcore. Unlike some stretched SUVs, their primary role is load-lugging, especially of items, or materials, that you would not wish to mix with people. Yet, a tranche of buyers still believes that a high-spec, leather-clad crew-cab equates to SUV creature comforts and SUV capabilities. Not so. Pickups are workhorses.

However, it does not mean that they should be charisma-free zones, which underscores the added value factored onto models such as the XTR for Isuzu. As the consummate workhorse, Isuzu is an understandably revered brand. The farming community loves them and it is not alone, with utilities, garden centres and workshops appreciating the intoxicating blend of total dependability and near unbreakable nature of the vehicles. However, there are limits and, to qualify for specific tax advantages, the load deck must be of generous proportions and remain capable of carrying a one tonne payload. Any increases in cabin size can corrupt such intentions, as highlighted by my test of the Ford Ranger last year, to which normal car road tax was applied at wallet-busting levels. As a workhorse, a one tonne pickup truck can be written down in a business’s books, as an item of plant, which can be a valuable asset.

Isuzu D Max XTR

Isuzu D Max XTR

Naturally, car company marketing departments love the all-round appeal to the off-roading sector of their 4×4 pickups and it is true that a percentage of annual pickup registrations does go to it, but the compromises attached to most passenger carrying vehicles simply do not apply. For a start, the handling of most pickups can be challenging to say the least. Suspending a pickup deck that is intended to transport weighty and bulkier loads demands heavy-duty springs and dampers, which result in a ride quality much choppier than a 4×4 estate car. This can affect all aspects of the vehicle’s dynamics, including cornering, ride quality, braking and even traction levels that chucking a couple of bags of cement on its load-lined floor will not remedy.

The XTR variant is still the most sophisticated and authentically capable pick-up in the Isuzu D-Max range but an extra twist, with a colour coded body kit and green Isuzu badge, serve to refresh its appearance. The XTR kit was custom designed for D-Max and is normally coated in a durable black finish. The fog light surrounds and grille have remained black, in contrast with the body colour sections and, to provide a more aggressive look, it is finished with a shocking green grille badge standard on the Colour Edition. While the wheel-arch extensions are in body colour, the same reflective green is flashed in each of them.

Black painted, six-spoke, 17.0-inch diameter alloy wheels feature a fluted, deep dish design and are fitted with 265/70 profile Pirelli Scorpion All-Terrain Plus tyres, which create a moderate amount of on-road noise, although the multi-surface grip is outstanding. The durable side steps feature an angular bar framework that is designed to prevent debris damaging the bodywork, while being self-draining and clearing mud, sand and snow readily. Black door mirror covers and door handles complement the side steps and tinted rear windows provide a darker aesthetic appeal.

Isuzu D Max XTR

Isuzu D Max XTR

If you are following the XTR, additional flashes of vibrant green, from the Pedders branded rear anti-roll bar and dampers, are visible. Pedders is an Australian aftermarket specialist. Actually, the rear viewing angle does highlight the purposeful nature of the pickup, as its 250mm ground clearance and 25-degree ramp departure angles are blatantly obvious (32-degrees approach angle at the front). However, in formulating a model to satisfy the marketing department, the interior benefits from heated front sports seats that are upholstered in leather, suede and ‘carbon fibre’ leather, with the contrasting green overstitching on the side bolsters and an embroidered XTR logo. It is a usefully grippy combination of materials, noticeable especially when tackling severe angles, either laterally, or fore and aft. The colour combo continues on the sporty steering wheel, which is moulded for comfort and grip…just keep your thumbs out of the way, when negotiating the off-road ground!

The braking system has been designed for greater consistency of pedal feel, again with Pedders modifications intended to provide high wear resistance and better anti–corrosion protection. The discs are vented and slotted radially for improved heat dissipation and braking performance, while Kevlar ceramic front brake pads give unerring stopping power. The Pedders suspension enhancements provide greater suspension articulation to raise the XTR’s off-road potential. Available in Splash White, Titanium Silver metallic, Obsidian Grey mica and Cosmic Black mica finishes, the colour palette works well with the vibrant green flashes.

Isuzu D Max XTR

Isuzu D Max XTR

Powered by a punchy, 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine, the D-Max delivers a useful 161bhp, allied to a tree-stump pulling 265lbs ft of torque from a lowly 2,000rpm. The XTR has a towing capability of 3.5 tonnes, a maximum payload of 1,161kg and a 4×4 drivetrain. Interestingly, the engine attains a frugal 40.4mpg (Official Combined) and meets the stringent Euro 6 exhaust emissions standards, emitting 183g/km, without a need for AdBlue. Each new Isuzu is supported by a 125,000 miles/five years warranty and five years of UK and European roadside assistance.

Totally ‘at home’ with the most gruelling of off-road conditions, the XTR is less contented on the public highway, although its well-equipped, air conditioned and moderately roomy cabin does feature the latest levels of connectivity and a decent stereo system. It is what the consumer demands, apparently.

Conclusion:      Unless you truly need the space and off-road potential of an Isuzu pickup truck, perhaps for launching a boat off a slimy slipway, or to reach an inaccessible motocross track, I would advise opting for a Jeep, or any one of several oriental SUVs instead.

Isuzu D Max XTR

Isuzu D Max XTR