New D-Max improves driving dynamics
Isuzu D-Max. Picture: Mark Horsburgh

After slightly more rugged family vehicle are now being flooded with a range of models that drive better and are equipped with the latest safety technology and features.

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In the past six months or so we have seen four new-generation dual-cabs launched in Australia - all of them a significant improvement over their predecessor and most of their competitors.

Go back a bit further and you can also add the Volkswagen Amarok, the German car maker's first foray into the ute market.

The latest ute on the scene is the Isuzu D-Max, a vehicle that shares much with the Holden Colorado that was launched just a week earlier. But the D-Max comes with one point of difference from all of its competitors - it has been built by a manufacturer that specialises in trucks.

Isuzu has been Australia's leading medium-truck brand for 23 years. It is an outstanding record that has been established on the back of a range of vehicles renowned for their reliability and durability.

And Isuzu is hoping the combination of an all-new model, its first in 10 years, and its reputation for building rugged, reliable trucks will help it grab a bigger share of the growing dual-cab market.

While Isuzu was keen to show off the rugged capabilities of its dual-cab at last week's national launch in Port Douglas, Queensland, it is much more than a one-tonne truck.

With more private buyers moving into this market segment, there is a greater expectation that dual-cabs should have the same features and driving dynamics as a passenger car.

While there is not a vehicle in the segment that could lay claim to having achieved passenger car-like driving dynamics, the latest batch of new models, including the D-Max, are getting close.

The interior is also bigger than its predecessor, the seats (especially the back) are more comfortable and the cabin is far quieter.

And for those shopping at the top end of the model line-up, features like leather upholstery, a reversing camera, satellite navigation and electric seats are all standard on the 4x4 LS Terrain.

From the entry-level Isuzu 4x2 SX single cab, which starts at $29,990, through to the top-spec $51,700 4x4 LS-Terrain, features like air-conditioning with a fine-particle pollen filter and a new audio system with iPod and Bluetooth connectivity are standard.

All D-Max models come with six airbags as well as a full suite of safety technology that should ensure that it scores a maximum five stars when crash-tested.

All are powered by the same 3.0-litre common-rail turbodiesel used in the previous model and Isuzu's N Series trucks.

The engine has been retuned to produce slightly more power and torque at 130kW/380Nm, with a fuel consumption figure of between 8.0L/100km and 8.3L/100km depending on the model. The redesigned engine also provides an improved maximum towing capacity of 2500kg for 4x2 models and 3000kg for 4x4s.

Isuzu has also introduced a new 4WD select dial, allowing the driver to adjust between two and four-wheel-drive modes while travelling at up to 100km/h.

The engine is mated to a five- speed automatic with sequential sports mode. A five-speed manual is also available.

While the D-Max is not as powerful as some of its competitors, it was never found wanting on a gruelling test drive that included a series of extreme off-road tracks, lots of gravel and dirt roads and highway cruising.

The new D-Max will be available in five specification levels and three body configurations, with the addition of a space-cab body with reverse-opening rear doors.

It goes on sale on Monday and will be sold alongside the outgoing model for the next few months.

The West Australian

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