What’s new? The biggest news from the launch is the all-new, Euro-5-compliant, 3.0-litre common-rail turbo-diesel powerplant, developed exclusively for Isuzu’s Australian market.
The engine – official moniker: 4JJ1-TC Hi-Power – carries over the 130kW output from the previous-gen and significantly ups torque. The newbie’s 430Nm at 2000-2200rpm is not only 50Nm higher than previous, but is now available across a far wider rev-range, with 380Nm on tap from 1700-3500rpm.
Backing this increased grunt is a new six-speed manual (Isuzu’s own MVL-6N) and smooth Aisin six-speed automatic gearbox, along with a toughened rear diff to cope with the extra punch.
“The Australian market is crucially important for Isuzu, as the Australian market is the number one export market for Isuzu LCV. So it follows that Isuzu regards as a very high priority the development of a product fit for Australian conditions and expectations.
Therefore, purely for the Australian market, a Euro-5-compliant 3.0-litre 4JJ1 engine and six-speed transmission drivetrain – an Isuzu world first – has been developed,” said Dave Harding, IUA’s Assistant General Manager of Marketing and PR.
The new 3.0TD features a new variable geometry turbocharger and intercooler, new pistons (graphite-coated), injectors, fuel pump, robust steel timing chain, larger EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) cooler, tough cast roller rocker arms, and more. One of the most impressive pieces of technology in the new engine is the Diesel Particulate Diffuser (DPD), which was the final piece of the Euro-5 compliance puzzle.
With regards to the impressive Aisin automatic gearbox, a lock-up torque converter and adaptive shifting combine with sequential shifting to give the driver plenty of control, especially when off-road. It also ensures the 3.0TD engine works in its most effective rev-range for every driving situation.
The in-house six-speed is a close-ratio gearbox that includes triple-cone synchronisers on first, second and third gear, with the aim of improving shift quality and longevity of the ’box. With the closer ratios and more torque, Isuzu is aiming for less necessary gear changes (this applies equally to the auto) which in turn will increase longevity of working parts and boost fuel efficiency by up to five per cent.
The 2017 D-MAX’s bonnet and the grille have been redesigned, with Isuzu managing to improve the coefficient of drag by a claimed 0.4 per cent.
All D-MAX models come with six airbags as standard that, when combined with myriad electronic driving aids, help the vehicle attain its five-star ANCAP safety rating. The cabin is now a quieter place to be, too, owing to the addition of soundproofing insulation behind the bulkhead and between the fenders and body metal.
The spacious MU-X interior carries over from last year’s model but receives a reversing camera for the LS-M model. The popular wagon also gets more soundproofing with insulation added throughout the vehicle from front to back.
To celebrate Isuzu’s 100th anniversary, IUA has also released a limited-edition X-Runner model, available in either Silky White Pearl or Cosmic Black. This auto-only model is aimed squarely at the active adventurer market.
The D-MAX’s suspension is slightly biased toward its load-lugging capability but, surprisingly on the test route, the expected overly hard ride didn’t eventuate.
Our first test rig was an unladen X-Runner and it impressed both with its surprisingly compliant ride and its on-road dynamics; there was little in the way of pronounced bodyroll. Even on tight corners approached at a decent clip, the D-MAX remained composed.
The ability to switch the Aisin six-speed auto into manual mode for winding downhill sections was also appreciated. The auto kept the revs well within the optimal working range, ensuring minimal hesitation if you stomped your right foot. The NVH levels have definitely improved, with engine noise well muted and only really noticeable once you drop down a couple of cogs.
The driver’s position in the X-Runner is relatively comfortable, the only negative for taller people is that the bottom cushion on the seats is a bit short and the seat base is set quite high. The only other minor bugbear is that the steering wheel has no reach adjustment.
There’s no LSD or rear locking diff option so the updated models still rely solely on electronic traction control, but IUA has added Hill Descent Control (HDC) which worked a treat. Wheel articulation on the D-MAX is quite good, and there were only a few instances on noticeably deep ruts where the rear wheel lost contact with the ground. But the ETC kicked in quickly and, after some excessive wheelspin, got the vehicle through.
Isuzu has a lot of confidence in its ETC for these vehicles, but it would still be nice to be able to add a rear locker, especially when most of the D-MAX’s competition has them as either standard fitment or a factory option. The underbody has been beefed up with a steel sump and transfer case guards, a steel front skid plate, and protection for the fuel tank all standard.
The Isuzu D-MAX and MU-X have been the quiet achievers in the Australian 4x4 market, but they’ve been very successful for the Japanese company thanks to their toughness, reliability and great bang-for-buck factor. Isuzu also offers 12-month service intervals, five years capped price servicing, and excellent dealer service. These latest upgrades and refinements will see IUA confident of continued success in the coming years.
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