Isuzu D-Max utes have been around for a few years now and, to keep up with a very competitive market, each successive model or variant seems to be better than the last. In this review we’ll be looking at the most up-market of the D-Max models, the highly specced but hard to come by X-Runner. Why hard to come by? Only 360 are on offer this year.
Based on the D-Max top-of-the-range LS-Terrain, the highly optioned X-Runner is offered as a dual cab, auto, 4WD ute likely aimed at the suburban owner rather than dyed-in-the-wool 4WD enthusiast. That said, the X-Runner could hold its own in virtually any off-road situation that you could subject it to, thanks to the ample ground clearance, powerful engine and the efficiency of the auto transmission linked to both high and low range 4WD. Isuzu utes are renowned for their gentle ruggedness and easy road manners, and nothing has changed in that regard.
On the new model’s exterior there have been changes to streamline the ute’s appearance (as the result of wind tunnel testing) which sees the latest D-Max as the most aerodynamic to date. Its fuel consumption figures and reduced cabin noise levels are testament to the effectiveness of the changed body shape.
The D-Max X-Runner has a well set out dark grey cabin interior, and it was enjoyable to bask in the ambience of leather seating (the driver’s seat has six-way electric adjustments) plus enjoy the passive entry and start buttons. Other features include a very large touch screen infotainment and SatNav navigation system, Blue Tooth phone and audio streaming, reversing camera, rear park assist, roof mounted audio system, climate control air, electrically operated functions throughout, and wheel mounted controls for both audio and cruise control systems.
There’s also paired upper and lower glove boxes, drink holders in doors, cup holders in the console plus a bin between front seats. In all, there’s a pretty good amount of storage.
The X-Runner’s exterior sported roof rails, a tub liner at the rear, 17” alloy wheels, side steps, plus front and rear lower body kits to add additional bling.
The Isuzu’s 3L, four-cylinder, turbo-charged diesel engine turns out 130kW of power 380Nm of torque. Admittedly some of the opposition in this market niche have more of everything, but the torque figures and gearing see the Isuzu’s common rail, fuel-injected oil burner hardly working at any pace. Low revs torque is the secret – peak torque is reached at a mere 1800rpm. And, with the five-speed sequential shift auto making things easy, the ute is equipped for all manner of towing chores, bush or beach travel and school or shop runs back home.
Around the city the gear selector knob would stay in 2WD high, and off the road there’s 4WD high, or low range, depending upon the severity of the application.
Consequently the D-Max, whether top or mid specced, has earned a reputation as a great tow vehicle. A 3500kg tow rating for a braked trailer, and 750kg for unbraked, will see a lot of vans, trailers or boats heading happily along the highway. Fuel frugality is the Isuzu big seller: with a claimed 8.1L per 100km claimed by Isuzu. This situation always depends on the weight behind the tow ball, plus the weight of the right foot. When towing my 5.5m GaleForce centre console I achieved 10.5L per 100km during highway work. The power of the 3L diesel and its effortless torque meant that highway work was a breeze, and overtaking where necessary was quite effortless as well. As a stable, willing, tow unit I gave the D-Max full marks.
The ride is pretty much work ute in some respects, as there’s leaf suspension and shock absorbers at the rear, coil springs shock absorbers and upper and lower wishbones plus a stabiliser bar up front. Remembering that the rear payload is rated at around the 1 tonne mark, it makes sense that the ute, if unloaded, can be a bit jiggly on some surfaces. However, on sealed, well-formed roads the ride is no big issue at all.
With a load in the rear everything changes, and the ride improves to be far more car-like all round.
Handling is fine. The D-Max travels along quite confidently with tiny amounts of body roll, as expected, but with remarkably little exterior noise intrusion other than the engine. It tends to rattle a bit at start up but soon settles into a gravelly monotone once revs build up.
A five-star safety rating is enhanced by EBD, ESP, a dual air bag package, traction control plus ABS. Owners will enjoy the D-Max 5 year, 130,000km warranty and 3-year capped price service program.
In all, the prestigious X-Runner enhances the standard D-Max LS-Terrain model and packs in a few extras at no extra cost. As reviewed, the X-Runner (in either blue or white colour tones) would sell for around $52,000.Reads: 2002