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The Isuzu D-Max 4x4 LSE taming the muddy terrain at Gerotek. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The Isuzu D-Max 4x4 LSE taming the muddy terrain at Gerotek. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

With each day that passes our long-term test Isuzu D-Max fortifies the belief that bakkies are indeed the near-perfect motoring solution for this country.

Useful with a wide set of applications, they can carry and tow cargo up to 1-tonne and 3,500kg respectively, this while accommodating a family of five. Or you can fit a canopy and pile in more people.

Their height and robust tyres also mean potholes or pavements don’t stand in the way and if it’s had in 4x4 guise like our D-Max LSE specification it brings  the element of exploration as you can climb mountains of rock, sail over mud or sand and cross rivers with confidence.     

I could have wished for the range-topping V-Cross model, which at R814,700 is a R43,000 step up from the R771,700 LSE 4x4. The V-Cross gets an extra airbag, active cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, high beam assist, auto dim interior mirrors, leather trim as standard, electric lumber support for the driver and black body cladding that makes it 10mm wider than the LSE, but it’s rated with a lesser 970l cargo bay rather than the 995l of the LSE.

Have we been short-changed? Not at all, but I’d have liked the V-Cross model’s sportier and darker grille and the rear cowling, while the active cruise control and automatic high-beam would be useful for comfort and safety on long journeys. The rest aren’t deal breakers while lane-keep assist can be an annoyance.

The new D-Max feels an emphatically big step up from the previous generation, which lives on as the Isuzu Gen-6 pandering to farmers and industry. The luxury bakkie tag fits well as the analogue setup of the past model has been dumped for a modern cabin.

The new D-Max has digital radio, Bluetooth, and USB ports for charging. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The new D-Max has digital radio, Bluetooth, and USB ports for charging. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Long-term experience also helps to identify some of the nuanced joys and foibles of living with a vehicle. For instance, you don’t clamber aboard the D-Max as if negotiating a cliff thanks to a footstep. But it would have been great if this tool was a little wider for a fuller purchase. It would delay egress but save the backs of my trousers from collecting dirt from the door sill.

Isuzu’s mantra of giving a balanced everything means there’s a digital outlay which is large enough to poke at menus and apps. All of today’s usual streaming options are available, including digital radio, Bluetooth and two USB ports for charging — one in front the other for rear passengers — but the audio output isn’t sensational in clarity or volume.

The new 3.0l diesel engine is a mixed bag. On the one hand it’s gruff and agricultural, particularly on morning start-up where it belches a plume of smoke. When warmed up it quietens down, not by much though but the 10kW and 70Nm increase in power and torque from the previous model is evidenced in how it’s more tractable and doesn’t struggle to reach high speeds. Fuel consumption has been averaging 9.4l/100km, which is satisfactory and a ballpark figure for the niche.

We’ve only used its two-speed transfer case and diff-locks once at Gerotek vehicle testing facilities and there have been no misgivings in daily rear-wheel drive mode on various surfaces and weather. I’m enjoying the ride quality though, even though it isn’t quite as cushy as some of its rivals.

So far so good and we are planning some interesting outings and activities with the D-Max, including perhaps a trip to an approved fitment centre for added off-road accoutrements.   

Our longterm test vehicle is the LSE 4x4, but for R43,000 more you can get the range-topping V-Cross version (pictured) which is identified by its black grille and protective body-cladding. Picture: SUPPLIED
Our longterm test vehicle is the LSE 4x4, but for R43,000 more you can get the range-topping V-Cross version (pictured) which is identified by its black grille and protective body-cladding. Picture: SUPPLIED
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