First Drive: The Isuzu D-Max XTR charges on to the lifestyle scene

What is it?

The ‘lifestyle’ vehicle segment is flourishing, thanks to buyers wanting cars which encapsulate the look of a go-anywhere vehicle with fair smattering of creature comforts. The pick-up section of the market isn’t immune to these desires, either, with cars like the Ford Ranger Raptor already appealing to those who feel even a jumped-up SUV is too ‘ordinary’. Now, Isuzu is getting in on the action with this – the D-Max XTR.

The graphics on the side of the truck are hard to miss
(Isuzu)

It’s a tougher, more look-at-me version of Isuzu’s rugged pick-up and boasts a variety of beefed-up extras. But is it any good? We’ve been out in it to see.

What’s new?

To create the XTR, Isuzu takes its rough-and-ready D-Max and adds a whole host of extras. The suspension setup, for instance, is new and brought to the truck courtesy of off-road specialists Pedders. The brakes are new to provide better performance, while knobbly Pirelli Scorpion tyres sit on all four corners.

Steep inclines are no trouble in the D-Max
(Isuzu)

And, in case you haven’t noticed already, the exterior has been given a serious amount of extra protection with bigger bumpers, wider arches and large, matte-finished sidesteps. There’s also the hard-to-miss decal set which, if you so wish, can be removed. Our truck also got a hugely powerful lightbar fitted atop it – but more on that in a bit.

What’s under the bonnet?

The XTR boasts no power upgrades over the standard D-Max, and that means the rather agricultural 1.9-litre turbocharged diesel under the bonnet produces just 162bhp – and in a truck weighing just over two tonnes that’s not an awful lot. However, it does kick out a useable 360Nm of torque, meaning it’s got more than enough shove for plugging through tricky conditions. Drive is sent to the wheels through a selectable four-wheel-drive system and a six-speed manual gearbox, though an automatic version is available too.

A large load area means there's plenty of storage space
(Isuzu)

As you’d probably expect, performance isn’t all that electric. Going from 0-60mph takes 12.5 seconds and flat-out the D-Max will do 112mph. When it comes to efficiency, Isuzu claims 40.4mpg combined with emissions of 183g/km CO2.

What’s it like to drive?

Rudimentary is probably the best word with which to describe the way the D-Max XTR drives. First and second gear are extremely short, so making even half-decent progress away from a dead stop requires a fair amount of work, while the engines reasonably low output ensures that even if you get those gear changes spot-on, you’re unlikely to out-pace anything on the road.

At low speeds the suspension is harsh, but surprisingly at higher speeds this evens out. Away from its off-road prowess, the XTR feels strangely at home on the motorway where the engine’s low revs combine with a reasonably good ride to make it far more adept at longer distances than you’d expect.

That engine’s certainly gravelly at lower speeds, but it’s not too audible elsewhere unless you’re accelerating hard. The steering is heavy but direct – this does mean that low-speed changes of direction need a lot of effort from the driver.

How does it look?

Big, brash and in-your-face, the D-Max XTR looks just like you’d want a larger-than-life pick-up to look. It’s imposing – there’s no doubt about that – and it’s a vehicle which turns heads wherever it goes. Whether it’s tasteful is down to the individual, but there’s no question that it’ll get a conversation started.

The D-Max remains formidable off-road
(Isuzu)

The green highlights may not be for everyone, but the application of this jazzy paint on certain areas such as the suspension and brakes only helps to differentiate this truck from the rest of the D-Max range.

What’s it like inside?

The XTR gains a series of notable additions over the standard D-Max when it comes to the cabin, with the most noticeable of these being the Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel and seats. In fact, that steering wheel has a big effect on the driving experience as a whole as its smaller size gives an impression of a better connection between driver and wheels.

The XTR gets a range of bold visual enhancements
(Isuzu)

The rest of the cabin features a series of harsher but hard-wearing plastics, which may not feel as high quality as the ones you’ll find on rival trucks, but offer better protection and will be far easier to clean when things get muddy. Which, if you’re considering a D-Max in the first place, is a likely prospect.

What’s the spec like?

Prices for the XTR kick off from around £35,000 which comprehensively undercuts the Ford Ranger Raptor, which sits at the £40,000 mark. That doesn’t mean that it’s a spartan affair inside, however, with air conditioning, cruise control and Bluetooth all thrown in as standard. One upgrade we’d recommend is the option for a nine-inch multifunction colour touchscreen – which comes in at £2,155 before VAT. It brings with it satellite navigation and – importantly for many users – Apple CarPlay. The Isuzu’s standard infotainment isn’t the easiest to operate, so having the option of CarPlay is a real bonus.

Then there’s that light bar, which at £755 before VAT is another great option. It provides an astounding amount of light when switched on. Something also worth bearing in mind is that because the D-Max classes as a commercial vehicle, the VAT on the truck can be claimed back. The same can’t be said for the Raptor.

Verdict

The D-Max XTR may be an old-school pick-up, but it’s bristling with a charm that is hard to ignore. Yes, it might not be as refined nor as quick as rivals, but if you’re after a truck with genuine off-road capability bolstered by enhanced looks and good levels of equipment, then it could be the one for you. Add in that it undercuts rivals on cost by some margin, and it’s likely that it’ll justify its shortcomings elsewhere as the years and miles pass by.

  • Model as tested: Isuzu D-Max XTR
  • Price: £33,999 (before VAT)
  • Engine: 1.9-litre turbodiesel
  • Power (bhp): 162
  • Torque (Nm): 360
  • Max speed (mph): 112
  • 0-60mph: 12.5 secs
  • MPG: 40.4
  • Emissions (g/km): 183
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