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New 2009 Isuzu D-MAX - (Australia)

October 3rd, 2008
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One of the world’s most popular utes, the Isuzu D-MAX, is being launched to Australian one-tonne ute and light truck customers at very competitive prices* through a newly-appointed national network of Isuzu UTE dealers.
*recommended retail

The 11-model D-MAX range is all 3.0 litre diesel-powered with class-leading fuel economy prominent in its attractively chunky design package.

Recommended retail prices span from just $23,300 — which includes air-conditioning and limited slip rear differentials in all models — to $42,500 for a fully kitted automatic 4x4 LS-U crewcab ute.

D-MAX variants include single and crew cab, ute or cab/chassis and 4x2 and 4x4 drive trains.

All D-MAX 4x4s are equipped with high-ride suspension, sump and transfer case steel guards, wheel arch flares and 16” x 7” wheels shod with 245/70 tyres.

Significantly, the D-MAX platform is the only one in the ute/one-tonne class that offers a longer wheelbase in its cab/chassis variants than in its ute variants, to allow a superior load balance for special body fitments. All cab/chassis variants stretch along a 3200mm wheelbase, equal-longest in the class. Consequently D-MAX has the longest cab-to-axle dimensions in the class for single and crew cabs, permitting more load length ahead of the rear axle line than in other maker’s chassis and less hanging out as rear overhang.

Isuzu’s D-MAX range comprises three trim levels:  EX, SX and LS.

SX is the expected volume seller, its four variants offering the widest choice. All are equipped with ABS with EBD, dual front airbags, power windows with driver’s window one-touch auto-down and remote entry via a single integrated key/pad.

In SX 4x2, there are single cab/chassis and crew cab ute, while in 4x4 there’s single cab/chassis and crew cab/chassis offered, all with five-speed manual transmission and twin bucket front seats with a full length central floor console and pull-up handbrake. SX wheels are drilled silver steel with hubcaps, 16” x 7” in 4x4 while the SX 4x2 runs 15” x 6½” with 215/70 tyres and conventional height front coil suspension.

The sole D-MAX EX model is a single cab/chassis manual which targets the basic farm truck niche and swaps the SX’s ABS and airbags for its 4x4 drivetrain, seating for three, a load-sensing brake proportioning valve, hi-ride suspension, flares and the bigger 16”x 7” drilled silver steel wheel/245/70 tyre package.

The top D-MAX model is badged LS and is a trio of crew cab utes: LS, LS-U and LS-M. 
They are all very well-equipped with the following additions over SX:

  •  Automatic option (includes Adaptive Grade Logic, Sport and 3rd [gear start] modes)
  •  Cruise control
  •  Wheel arch flares
  •  Alloy wheels (16”) ---including the spare
  •  Leather steering wheel rim and shift knob
  •  Electro-luminescent instrument cluster
  •  Five-function trip computer (trips A &B, instant & average fuel usage and outside temp)
  •  Projector headlights and front fog lights
  •  Rear step bumper
  •  Power-adjustable and remote fold back door mirrors with LED turn indicators
  •  Flush fascia CD/FM/AM audio with MP3/WMA and six speakers
  •  Overhead console with twin map lights and a flip-down sunglasses case
  •  Centre-front roof ‘bee-sting’ aerial
  •  Raschel quality fabric seat trim
  •  Vanity mirror in LH sun visor, pocket in RH visor
  •  Variable intermittent wiper mode
  •  Pockets on front seat backrests and a lid on the centre console bin
  •  Satin alloy-look dash centre stack, outer vents, auto quadrant and door trim.

D-MAX LS and LS-U look identical except for the ‘4WD’ decal on the LS-U tailgate. As a high-series, high-riding 4x2, the LS is targeted to emulate the appeal of 4x2 SUVs where buyers can enjoy the elevated ride height and off-road look without the extra cost of 4x4. Both are identifiable by their:

  • body colour front bumpers, grille surrounds and flares
  • chrome grille, exterior hardware and rear step bumper—with black step caps
  • aluminium side steps added, and
  • carpeted floor replacing vinyl.

D-MAX LS-M is the more off-road-themed LS variant, distinguishable by its:

  • 4x4 dual-range drive train only, available as automatic or manual
  • cabin protection frame in the cargo tub
  • scratch-resistant grey front bumper, grille surround & wheel arch flares
  • grey gloss finish grille 
  • black finish for the rear step bumper and exterior hardware and
  • vinyl flooring instead of carpet.

Isuzu UTE Australia managing director Hitoshi Kono said: “We at Isuzu UTE Australia are excited to bring the excellent global and local reputation of the Isuzu commercial vehicle brand name to the light commercial sector in Australia, with the launch of the highly regarded D-MAX one-tonne ute and cab/chassis range to Australian consumers.

“D-MAX has a strong global heritage of hard work and reliability and will be at home with many Australian businesses, ‘tradies’ and families, including towing many a caravan or boat.

“Our network of Isuzu UTE dealers is still growing to cover the nation and as experienced multi-franchise new car dealers, they will provide focussed attention to the specialised needs of ute and one-tonne truck buyers or lessees.

“We expect to start sales at a moderate level and as the already excellent truck brand of Isuzu becomes also known for its D-MAX one-tonne range, we forecast its popularity will increase steadily in the next few years,” Mr Kono said.

Fuel economy
With its best ADR 81/02 fuel consumption figures of 7.9 litres/100km for combined urban and extra-urban (6.5 extra-urban, 10.4 urban), D-MAX 4x2 is the most fuel frugal of all the 3+ litre entrants in the one-tonne ute class and sips even less fuel than all 2.5 litre contenders (except D22 single cab) and the sole 2.0. In 4x4s, D-MAX is the best one-tonner at 8.1litres/100km (7.0, 10.0).

D-MAX proved its fuel frugal credentials in two recent fuel economy runs, both withrefuelling
supervised by the RACQ and NRMA as appropriate.  Striving for maximum distance on single tank fills, an SX single cab manual 4x2 with an aluminium dropside tray body achieved 1528 km
from Birdsville to Brisbane outskirts for an average of 4.698 litres/100km. Separately, a 300+kg heavier LS 4x2 manual got to Gatton from Broken Hill, 1448km averaging  4.854 l/100km.

However, fuel economy doesn’t defer to performance with D-MAX powered by Isuzu’s reputed 4JJ1 Hi-Power 3-litre common-rail, direct injection VGS turbo-diesel engine.

Maximum torque is a healthy 360 Nm from 1800 to 2800rpm in manual while in the automatic it maxes even lower at 1600 to 3200rpm at 333 Nm. With peak power of 120 kW arriving soon after at just 3600 rpm, all this translates into satisfyingly strong acceleration at everyday engine speeds and the ability to haul freight up to its maximum of around 1.1 tonnes---depending on body fitted and occupant mass.

Engine features beyond its common-rail technology include:

  • roller rocker arms to reduce friction between cam lobes and valve stems;
  • Variable Swirl intake charge to facilitate more complete combustion;
  • Variable Geometry System which tunes the turbo’s air intake vanes to maximize fuel economy or torque according to the driver’s throttle command;
  • Melt-in Liners:  an Isuzu-patent special cylinder wall protection, which reduces friction without needing separate sleeve bore liners, a boon for durability;
  • the cylinder head  cast in an Isuzu-patent special alloy, with double-chamber water jacketing;  
  • a short stainless steel timing chain and gears which help avoid the costly and crucial poly-belt replacement at around 90,000km intervals in some other makers’ engines, and
  • the Turbo Inter Cooler is mounted high and back from the front crash zone.

Both the manual MUX five-speed and Maximatic III four-speed automatic transmissions are special low-friction designs to help save fuel and run quietly.

The automatic has Adaptive Grade Logic, which holds third gear during varied-gradient ascents and on steep descents to help hold speed.
‘Power’ mode upshifts at higher revs while ‘3rd’ starts in third gear to avoid wheel spin on very slippery surfaces.

Shifting between 2WD to 4WD High Range is conveniently done on the fly at speeds of up to 100 km/h with the simple in-dash push button Drive Mode Selection panel.

D-MAX towing capacity is three tonnes of braked trailer with 4x4 models and a still hefty 2.5 tonnes with 4x2. Endorsed accessory tow kits and load equalizing hitches are available.

It can be argued that D-MAX makes for a better tow car proposition than a big SUV because:
1)  D-MAX rear suspension is more purpose-designed for big loads; 
2)  luggage, supplies and/or sports gear can be packed in the ute tub separate from occupants 
and where it optimizes load distribution more than if stowed in the towed vehicle or in the
SUV’s rear cabin space, and 
3)  D-MAX is more affordable to buy and run.

Endorsed accessory hard tonneaus or a canopy are available to lock and secure such kit.

Tough chassis
D-MAX’s big truck DNA shows in its tough, box-section full-length chassis, with eight cross members (most others have seven) including its unique K-brace rear rails body support.

Over the rough, D-MAX 4x4 assures with sturdy steel skid plates under the engine sump and transfer case. The sump guard is a unique Isuzu-designed Australian spec fitment.

In D-MAX’s front suspension, double wishbones keep the wheel camber true and a stabilizer bar keeps the cornering flat.  There’s coils for comfort in conventional ride-height SX 4x2, or tough torsion bars for all 4x4s and the high-riding LS 4x2.  Double acting gas shock absorbers keep it all under control.

Rack and pinion steering gives D-MAX car-like road feel and accuracy through its tilt-adjustable (not in EX) soft-feel wheel and rpm-sensitive power assist eases the tiller’s task.

A limited slip rear differential keeps D-MAX moving when the ground is slippery or very uneven, by transferring drive to the rear wheel with traction rather than to the one that’s lost it.

Front overhang is the class shortest except for the Pik-Up, and this allows an acute 34.6° approach angle, so D-MAX 4x4 can nose into and climb out of some deep’n’steeps where others may snag their longer noses.

D-MAX 4x4’s top gradeability sees it idling up a 55° paved hill and down a 60° slope—all without  braking or throttle, such is its engine torque and low-range manual first gear engine braking.

D-MAX’s cabin is roomy & comfortable. Dark charcoal, black and grey tones lend sophistication to its car-like ambience.

In the LS variants, quality Raschel fabric seat trim looks and feels luxurious, as does the leather-trimmed steering wheel rim and gearshift knobs. The floor is carpeted in LS and LS-U while practical vinyl is in all other models for easy cleaning and rough conditions durability.

The D-MAX dash has Audi-esque round elements for a classy look.  In LS models, there’s satin alloy- look finish on the dash centre stack, the outer air vent housings, door pull tops and on the auto trans quadrant to lift cabin ambience.

Electro-luminescent instruments are a lights show on their own, with muted multi-coloured legibility fit for a luxury car. The trip computer has five functions including two trip readouts.  The instant fuel readout graphically shows one of the elements of D-MAX’s great fuel economy: nil consumption on overrun in gear.

The LS audio fascia is fully integrated into the curvature of the centre panel for an up-market look.  It has 12 pre-settable FM and six AM stations, MP3 & WMA capability, four-way directional tuning and six speakers including  tweeters.

Safety in D-MAX is provided with standard ABS and EBD and dual front airbags in all models except the farm-truck EX, plus anti-submarining front seat steel pans, height adjustable head restraints for all window-side occupants, retractable lap-sash seat belts including for the crew cab’s centre rear occupant, and three child seat top tether strap anchorage points in the crew cab’s rear seat area.

Protecting the rigid cabin cell, there’s controlled deformation-rate front-end structures, front wheel anti-intrusion chassis rail extensions, a collapsible-section steering column and side impact anti-intrusion bars built into the front doors.

All D-MAX models carry a three year/100,000km new car warranty and are backed by 24/7 roadside assistance during this period.

Pricing:  4x2
Recommended retail pricing  (rrp) of D-MAX starts with the SX single cab/chassis 4x2 at $23,300, $6,390 less than HiLux SR TD which lacks D-MAX’s standard air-conditioning , ABS and LSD.

D-MAX SX 4x2 crew cab ute is $31,800 rrp, $3,790 less than the HiLux SR TD version which lacks a centre rear 3-point retractable seat belt as well as air-con, ABS and LSD. 

The high-riding, highly-equipped D-MAX LS 4x2 is $34,800rrp (auto $36,800rrp), and is $4,430 less than the conventional ride-height HiLux SR5 with its smaller 15”x6” wheel/205 tyre package, steel spare, two less speakers, 250kg less tow capacity and whose petrol V6 consumes 12.6 litres /100km versus D-MAX LS’s 8.4 in the ADR 81 test.

Pricing:  4x4
The 4x4 range in D-MAX starts with the $27,800rrp EX single cab/chassis manual, which is $7,190 more affordable than HiLux SR TD 4x4 which omits air-con, tows 750kg less and runs a narrower 6”/205 wheel/tyre set but has SRS.

The probable most popular D-MAX, the SX single cab chassis 4x4 manual, is $32,000rrp, still $2,990 less than HiLux SR TD despite out-equipping it with standard air-con, ABS, its superior wheel/tyre package and towing 750kg more. With the same equipment advantages in crew cab chassis 4x4, D-MAX SX’s $36,700rrp stretches its price savings over HiLux SR TD to $4,190.

D-MAX LS-M 4x4 crew ute manual is $38,700rrp (auto $40,700rrp), which is $3,190 less than HiLux SR TD crew ute which lacks a litany of standard D-MAX LS-M kit: standard air-con, ABS, cruise control, alloy 1” wider wheels including the spare, four extra speakers, projector-lens headlights, roof console, electro-luminescent cluster, wider tyres and 3-tonne tow capacity.

At the top end, D-MAX LS-U 4x4 crew ute is $40,500rrp (auto $42,500rrp), which is just $70 shy of $10,000 more affordable than HiLux SR5 TD.

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