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2020 Isuzu D-MAX is 4X4 Australia’s new project car

By Evan Spence, 07 Dec 2020 News

2020 Isuzu D-MAX is the 4X4 Australia project car

With the Ford Ranger set to depart 4X4 HQ, there’s room in the garage for another project rig.

Well, the cat is out of the bag it seems, and what you’re looking at is 4X4 Australia’s new project vehicle.

The Ford Ranger we built up over the last year or so has been such a hit we decided to do it all over again, but this time with the latest offering from Isuzu.

Now, I’ve been lucky enough to do some serious on- and off-road kilometres in the previous generation D-MAX – Coral Coast in Western Australia, the Victorian High Country, and a week in the Flinders Ranges, to name a few destinations. I’m not trying to brag (well, a little), but point out that I know the old model inside-out.

Here are some of my first impressions of the 2020 D-MAX, a vastly different machine to its predecessor.

WHAT’S THE STORY?

As mentioned, this is the new project vehicle for 4X4 Australia, one we’ll be building up and bringing you along for the ride.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: 2020 D-MAX vs Ford Ranger Wildtrak

We had a great run of our last project – the Ford Ranger you’ve no doubt seen in the mag and on YouTube – but it was time to move that on and sink our teeth into something new, and it doesn’t get any newer than the 2020 D-MAX. Editor Matt again insisted on a manual gearbox, which suits me fine.

As the vehicle is so new, we’ll be helping key aftermarket accessory companies develop and test new products. We’re partnering with the best of the best in the industry, to show you just what can be done to a current model Isuzu, and the amazing destinations you can then take one to.

To say we’re excited is an understatement, and we’ve wasted no time getting the D-MAX off-road to see what it will do in stock form.

THE SEATS ARE GREAT

The seats are brilliant, with excellent bolstering, support and levels of adjustment. The seats of old felt like two pizza boxes stapled together and, with my dodgy back, I’d struggle after two hours in an old D-MAX.

I happily drove the 980km from Melbourne to Sydney last week, and could have kept going to Coffs Harbour, I reckon, without feeling sore or fatigued. The same goes for the whole interior, really; the dash is well laid-out and the whole package feels modern and well screwed together.

VINYL FLOORING

I was stoked to see vinyl flooring in a ute with such a modern interior. And not just any vinyl flooring, this vinyl is thick and well-made. I’ve already put it to test and it looks like new again after a quick wipe down.

It even somehow looks good, suiting the design of the interior and not looking like a pov-pack afterthought. Far from it. Full points to Isuzu here, as carpet has no place (in my opinion) in a four-wheel drive being used for its intended purpose.

LOCKED IT UP

Rejoice! Isuzu has finally put a rear locker in the D-MAX, and it couldn’t have come sooner. Off-road traction has never been a strong point in the D-MAX, thanks to a road-biased traction control system and limited articulation courtesy of leaf springs and IFS.

Not only does the 2020 D-MAX have more suspension travel, it can now keep at least three wheels spinning when required. I’ve already needed it a few times, and so far it operates smoothly and without any points of concern. We’re looking into a front locker, because two are always better than one; but so far the rear locker has been enough to get through my local tracks unscathed.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

I know it’s a ute, but the ride quality is really firm in the D-MAX. My own Hilux has extensively modified suspension and it rides like a dream, even with the camper on the back. I’m happy to put up with it in the D-MAX for now though, as it’s currently totally unladen. We will be upgrading the suspension very soon, with a full Tough Dog suspension system. That should fix the problem nicely.

Another annoyance is the newly included safety gear such as AEB and Lane Departure Assistance. In factory calibration, they are far too sensitive. Even the dash-displayed speed warning is annoying, beeping at you if you’re doing 2km/h over the speed limit. I’m not saying I drive like a speed demon, but it's exhausting being beeped at every time you overtake a truck.

I’ve since played with the settings and dulled everything down a bit to let me actually drive and still be as safe as possible.

The other issue is I now hate my 2005 Hilux, whereas last week it was the best thing I’ve ever owned … so that says something about the new D-MAX. It’s a winner, and I can’t wait for the build to start so we can hit the tracks and bring you along for the ride.

We’d love to hear from you as well, so get on the socials or comment below and tell us what you’d like to see done to our new D-MAX!