D-MAXimum Payload iz Moar Important Than Speed
First of all, we must excuse ourselves from using a grammatically incorrect title. For the Internet-challenged out there, the title of this article is partly written in LOLspeak, which was the closest thing to funny we could find, considering this whole diatribe is actually about a Japanese mid-size truck built in Thailand (read: boring).
Second of all, this isn't exactly a test drive, since, albeit we're going to give you plenty technical details about the car(s) in question, we're not going to score anything. Truth is, we were invited by our local Isuzu representative to test-drive their D-MAX medium-sized truck on a relatively-long session of different types and surfaces of road. By the way, some of you guys might know this car as the Isuzu Rodeo. After around 700 kilometers (435 miles) of highway and national roads, muddy forest paths, serpentine roads through the mountains and some driving in a traffic-congested city, we can honestly say that the Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 Double Cab is one heck of a working mule.
The "working mule" is also a part of the first stereotype we had about this car, besides the "OMG, it looks slow!" impression got upon first laying our eyes on it. Apparently, both stereotypes were put to sleep after driving the thing in all the right situations.
Equipped with a 2.5-liter oil burner with Common Rail, the D-MAX Double Cab we experienced is slower than a Galapagos turtle on paper, but being put to work on the twisties can really change a man's opinion about what "slow" or "heavy" actually means. And trust us, we're saying this in the good way.
OK, to give you a better impression about the car, let us give you some specs, which are a really interesting mix of "oldschool" details and somewhat modern pieces of technical gibberish. For example, the model's overall layout is body-on-frame, but the rear half of it is not rigidly connected to the rest of the chassis, thus giving a much more relaxed feel when carrying heavy goods, driving off road or... tackling hairpins. Technically, just like in almost all midsize and full-size trucks out there, there are two different chassis which allow flexing between the cargo bed and the cabin in order to prevent warping of the sheet metal.
The front suspension is independent while the rear one is rigid, and equipped with leaf springs. This, along with over 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) of ground clearance and four wheel drive translate into a pretty capable piece of machinery in off road driving.
The interior space is obviously not very efficient for four or five passengers to travel comfortably. This happens because, even though the D-MAX Double Cab provides an intimidating 5035 millimeters (198.2 inches) of length, much of that is occupied by the cargo bed. Speaking of the interior, almost all the basic comfort features were present. Four electric windows, an efficient (manual) air conditioning unit and a CD-player with MP3, auxiliary features and remote control. Sadly, the audio system was equipped by the dealer and had that "aftermaket" look and quality. Also, we didn't quite get why the driver's side window was automatic in just one direction...
As for the 2.5 liter four-banger under the hood, although we didn't expect much of it when looking at the figures, it probably provided the biggest surprise. When talking about a vehicle which weighs 2208 kilograms (4868 pounds) unladen, 136 horsepower and 280 Nm (206.5 lb ft) of torque should translate in a vehicle that barely moves and is probably only good for carrying a few construction workers from here to there.
Experience has taught us that is highly unproductive to judge a car just by reading a bunch of specs, and real world performance is usually very different than the one on paper. In our case, what we failed to read in the specs but found out the "hard way" was the range on which the maximum torque figures were available. From 1800 to 2800 rpm, which is a record comparing with all the cars we've tested until now, along with the BMW 330d xDrive ground-to-ground diesel rocket. Apparently, Isuzu really is a diesel specialist.
The only thing left to mention is probably the all-wheel drive system, which is classic one, with all-wheel drive lock. Most of the time we only used rear-wheel drive, since most of the driving was done in decent conditions of grip. Thankfully, the system can be switched from RWD to all-wheel drive just form the push of a button on the dashboard. For the hardcore trail-addicts, there's also a 4x4 "low" option, which can transmit just the right amount of torque to the wheels when tackling some serious off-road terrain.
Anyway, on the whole, we're ashamed to admit that we were expecting the D-MAX to provide only a minimum from almost everything. Need we say it again, we were dead wrong. The D-MAX Double Cab is more than just a bargain-priced mid-size truck. Apart from the killer price, the payload is decent, the on-road behavior is exemplary right when it shouldn't (on serpentine roads, ed), while the off-road performance is just what you'd expect from a 4x4 mid-size truck. It's not exactly a panacea of the automotive world, but it sure delivers more than you'd expect.
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