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Car Review: 2019 Isuzu D-Max LS-T X-Runner & LS-U

This Car Review Is About: The 2019 spec Isuzu four door D-Max utes in LS-T and LS-U trim. The range was given a largely cosmetic upgrade in early 2019. The LS-T was fitted out in the limited edition X-Runner kit. The LS-U in standard trim is $45,990 driveaway and the X-Runner is $54,990 driveaway. Isuzu have increased the prices through the range, with the LS-T in non-X-Runner trim up by $1,000 to $51,990. The LS-U also came fitted with a lockable roller tonneau, snorkel air intake, and a “roo-bar” with LED spotlights. The LS-T has restyled wheels and gains, along with the LS-U, Highway Terrain or H/T tyres, as opposed to the All Terrain or A/T as previously fitted. These have had the effect of affecting handling. The roof rails and the lower strakes to the grille are now black, and the side steps are subtly different.Under The Bonnet Is: The rackety clackety 3.0L that makes 130kW and a thumping 430Nm of torque. In context, that’s below the 500Nm from a slightly smaller engine as found in the Holden Colorado…At just under 1000rpm there is 300Nm and that peak torque is on tap through a narrow rev range of just 500rpm. There’s still 350Nm available at 3,500rpm but it’s a very noisy exercise taking the engine past 3,000rpm. It’s possibly one of the noisiest diesels available in a passenger vehicle when pushed even moderately. It bolts to a six speed auto with sports shift and an electronic low range locking system.Economy is quoted as 7.9L/100km for the combined, 9.5L/100km for the urban, and 6.9L/100km for the highway from a 76L tank. We tested the X-Runner on a drive loop to Thredbo, Bega, and return, covering just over 1260 kilometres. Economy stayed at around 8.0L/100km throughout the whole trip, a decent figure considering the weight of the ute (1930kg dry) and the extra 300 kilos of passengers and baggage. Isuzu rate the towing capacity as up to 3.5 tonnes.On The Inside It’s: Cloth seats for the LS-U, leather appointed for the LS-T. There is no seat heating, no seat venting. The LS-U’s front seats are manually adjusted, with some electric motion for the driver in the LS-T. Rear seat passengers have plenty of leg room, and there is a USB port for the rear passengers at this trim level. The LS-T is a push button starter, with a traditional key for the LS-U. Both cars came fitted with rubber floor mats front and rear. Only the driver has a one touch window up/down switch in both. The centre console houses the dial for the two or four wheel drive modes, and there are two bottle/cup holders. The driver and passenger have a pull out cup holder, and each door has bottle holders.Sounds come via an 8.0 inch touchscreen, with AM/FM, Bluetooth, no Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, CD, USB and 3.5mm inputs, and even a HDMI connection. There is no DAB or Digital Audio Broadcast. The screen’s display is in dire need of a redesign and revamp, with one of THE most outdated looks seen in a passenger oriented vehicle. It’s lacking in visual appeal on every single screen. Hit the non-Auto headlights and there is no adjustment for the screen for day or night time driving. It also has a driver alert warning on engine startup and annoyingly will NOT switch off after a delay.The driver faces a basic looking but functional dash, with a pair of dials bracketing a display screen that shows trip distances, economy, expected range, and the diesel particulate filter status. Australian spec cars have the right hand stalk as the indicator and the left as wipers, and each has a button at the end of the stalk to access the screen info. The wipers themselves aren’t auto nor is there an Auto headlight setting. This is an oversight in the interest of safety, as a driver can too easily not switch the lights on.Actual switchgear is reasonably well laid out and accessible. The centre stack features Isuzu’s standard aircon controls, with a huge dial for temperature as the hub. Fan controls are on one side, mode on the other, and the dial itself shelters a small LCD screen to indicate what’s going on. the dash itself is a double scallop design, with a stitched leather look to the materials. Fit and finish is mostly ok however the leading edges of the doors have a gap of about a centimetre to the plastics wrapping the windscreen. There is a centre of dash storage locker that Isuzu don’t seem to have found a fix for in regards to the latch. It repeatedly failed to open.On The Outside It’s: similar but different. the X-Runner came in pearl white and has blackouts and logos spread over the metal. The nose has a bright red Isuzu as do the centre caps for the 255/60/R18 rubber and wheels. The LS-U has 255/65/17s. There are sidesteps here also on both and only the LS-U gets rear parking sensors. The LS-T had a lockable roller tonneau, a standard rollbar, and came fitted with a heavy duty steel roo-bar complete with LED spotlights. Otherwise it’s the same blocky profile with a wedgy looking nose.The rear of the LS-U had a lockable metal cover. It’s a roller mechanism which, on this particular vehicle, failed to allow itself to be pushed back. Something in the lock mechanism appeared to have jammed and although the key and button would allow a push and turn, the cover itself refused to move. the X-Runner LS-T has no cover fitted to the test car but there are tie down hooks, which came in handy for the long drive.The cargo section is 1,552mm in length in the four door utes. A maximum width of 1,530mm is here also and allows just over 1,000 kilos of payload.

Out On The Road It’s: Rackety clackety noisy. Think of being in a passenger jet on take-off where it’s fire and brimstone. Get to cruise altitude and it’s quieter. Landing where it’s off-throttle and there’s the background idle. That’s the 3.0L in a nutshell. It’s a determined load lugger too, and in no way can it be considered sporting. There’s a moment of turbo lag before the engine gets lively, and even then it’s a relaxed, don’t hurry we’ll get there, proposition.The transmission is mostly smooth, will drop a cog or two for downhill runs and engine braking, but will exhibit moments of indecisive shifting as well. On a normal acceleration run it’s slurry with hints of change, will downshift after a pause when the accelerator is pushed, but it’s a leisurely progression forward.

On the upside it’s a brilliant highway cruiser. That relaxed attitude sees the legal freeway speed ticking the engine over at 1800rpm and it’s here that it’s in airplane cruise mode. You know it’s there but it’s settled into the deep thrum that eventually becomes background noise. There is some road noise and the handling shows that the mixed terrain tyres are a compromise at best on tarmac. The front end of the D-Max is prone to running wide and it’s not helped by a steering ratio that has the nose move barely from a quarter to half turn of the wheel. It’s great when off-roading where that flexibility is needed, but normal driving needs something tighter. Also, the steering isn’t as assisted as that found in the MU-X, meaning more arm effort is required.The nose lifts as the D-Max goes into a turn with an uphill inclination, and occasionally this had the steering lighten to the point that a back-off from the accelerator and dab of the not-that-excellent brakes brought the rear around and shifted the weight to the front. In one particular turn of this nature the nose ran wide enough that it threatened to pull the vehicle into the bushes on the opposite side, and this was at the posted limit for the turn.

Brake pedal feel is numb, with an inch or so before there’s a sensation of grip, and the actual pedal travel and feel lacks communication. With a vehicle weight of over two tonnes there needs to be more confidence fed through to the driver.Ride quality varies from average to too jiggly. On highways the pair show reasonable manners as long as the surfaces are flat. Hit jiggly surfaces and the D-Max becomes less sure footed, less confident. Tighter corrugations confuse the coil sprung front and leaf sprung rear suspension completely and the ute wanders around, riding the tops of the corrugations but has not grip to stabilise and lock in a direction.

The four wheel drive system is electronic and Isuzu call it Terrain Command. Up to 100km/h the car will accept a change to 4WD high range, but for low range it must be stopped, and the transmission placed in neutral. A push of the cabin dial, a clunk as the transfer case engages, and the D-Max shows its chops. Although high range was engaged coming into Thredbo, it was close to the village itself due to a lack of snow. Therefore in Bega some river fording showed the ability and if there is a highlight of the driveline it’s the willingness to pull and push the ute in situations like this. By the way, this is the only drive mode change available, there are no programs for Snow, Mud, etc.Approach angle is 30.0 degrees, with a departure angle of 22.7 degrees. Rollover angle is good too, with 22.3 degrees available.

The Level of safety Is: Average. The mandated safety systems are here, there are six airbags, Hill Start and Hill Descent control are here but there is no Autonomous Emergency Braking, no Blind Spot Detection, no Rear Cross Traffic Warning. However, the ABS is a properly sorted four channel system and the reverse camera is of a reasonable quality.And The Warranty Is: Now up, to counterbalance the price rise, to six years/150,000 kilometres. Roadside assistance is also six years, up from five. According to Isuzu their research says most drivers don’t go over the 20,000 kilometre mark in a year. In regards to service: the D-Max sees 12 months or 15,000 kilometre service intervals with the first service just $350. Second year service is $450, with year three $500. Make it to Year 4 it’s down to $450, then it’s $340, $1110, and year seven is $400.At The End Of The Drive.
Isuzu has seen increased sales of the D-Max range, ahead even of its sibling by any other name, the Colorado. It’s a vehicle that really wins on price, a modicum of ok good looks, and possibly an appeal to those that don’t need what others seem to see as required. It’s an earnest, basic, no frills machine, and with pricing now backed by an extended warranty, there’s more appeal there. Those looking for a higher level of safety, a quieter driveline, and ride quality need to look elsewhere. If it still grabs your attention, go here.