2018 Isuzu D-Max LST 4WD Dual Cab Ute Review

Road Test Isuzu D-Max 4WD Dual Cab Ute

Isuzu D-Max LST Overview

Amongst the top 5 or six Utes on the Australian market, Isuzu D-Max holds a special place. The latest Euro 5 compliant Ute heralds a cost effective, hardworking, robust Ute that is as equally at home on the road, working for tradies or on the farm and on Australia’s outback roads towing something adventurous behind.

From the first time I drove an Isuzu Ute I was impressed with their honest approach. Here was one tough Ute.

When the MU-X came along it blew away the opposition, taking honours in its segment in the OzRoamer COTY awards for a number of years running. In fact my best mate asked me what Ute to buy. I gave him a choice of two and he chose the Isuzu.

We have reviewed the D-Max and M-UX a number of times and are big fans of the ride, handling and comfort and 4WD ability.

However while it was at the forefront of design when it was launched some 5 or 6 years ago, it has started to lag a little behind the aggressive competition. So the recent upgrade was long awaited and well received but noticeable for a few things that weren’t included.

Given that Utes are now expected to be all things to most people, they are more car like and the Isuzu now has improved cabin comfort (NVH) and safety features.

What is noticeable by its absence is the reversing camera across the range, rear diff lock, some safety features and reach adjustable steering wheel.

17MY Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 - LS-T

Isuzu D-Max LST Exterior

There have been a few design modifications to the external appearance of the Isuzu. A newly designed engine hood and bold grille gives the D-MAX a bolder yet sleeker appearance.

It seems there are two schools of thought for Ute design. The truck like appearance of the Ranger and Colorado, or the more subtle sleek look of the Isuzu and Mitsubishi Triton.

As part of the front end redesign there is a new headlamp design that accentuates the flowing lines of the front facia and bumper and includes projector headlamps with LED Daytime Running Lamps.

The LS-T variant 17MY D-MAX also receives new design alloy wheels. These are 18 inch wheels, that while they look great they aren’t the best for finding true off road tyres to fit.

The D-MAX’s aerodynamic wedge shape and roof design provides one of the lowest coefficient of drag (Cd) in its class. Extensively tested in various wind tunnel test facilities around the world – including the Japan Railway Research Institute and wind tunnel facilities in Europe – the Cd of the 17MY D-MAX is 0.4% better than the previous model.

Isuzu D-Max LST Interior

Internally the D-MAX has received significant improvements to cabin comfort with the addition of new sound and vibration insulation that provides a more composed driving experience for all occupants. They certainly are quieter inside.

The front seats are now more comfortable with greater squab padding and back support. The older seats could be a little hard on the bum after a while, not so now. The driver has in front of him the dash with two large dials and a dual centre MFD.

17MY Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 - LS-T

The steering wheel is unfortunately only height adjustable, but feels great in the hands and frames the dash perfectly.

To the centre lies the 8-inch touch screen display audio system with in-built Sat Nav. Graphics are poor in sunlight unfortunately, which can cause problems reversing etc. The buttons also take a little getting used to operating.

In addition for great audio sound there are eight speakers delivering audio for all occupants: two roof mounted speakers in addition to the two front door mounted speakers, two dash mounted tweeters and two rear door mounted speakers. On top is a handy little enclosed storage area.

Below on the stack is a round dial for A/C and other features, while it look large it is handy.

Behind the transmission is the 4WD select dial for shift on the fly changes and cup holders. Storage is good with dual glove box and little door pockets etc. USB ports now number three.

Two are located in the front dash and one in the rear, providing convenient charge points for mobile phones and other portable devices with USB charge ports.

Rear seats are, as most Utes, a little flat and upright. Things are a little tight back there for taller occupants but there is some flexibility with fold up seats. Eventually manufacturers will continue the urbanisation of the interior to the rear section.

Isuzu D-Max LST Engine and Drivetrain

Let’s have a quick look at the new Euro5 compliant 3.0 litre turbo-diesel engine (world first for Isuzu) pumping out an improved 430Nm of torque. To assist with transferring the higher torque to the road there is a new 6-speed auto or manual transmission.

The main feature of the upgrade is introduction of a Euro5 emission compliant 3.0 litre 4JJ1-TC Hi-Power turbo-diesel engine. This new engine is a world first for Isuzu.

It was developed exclusively for the Australian market after exhaustive research and testing into the use and demands of existing Isuzu owners, and no other Isuzu D-MAX or MU-X market currently features an Isuzu 3.0 litre Euro5 compliant engine.

As I have mentioned previously I have little interest in what makes my vehicles go, more what they can do for me. However on this occasion I actually listened when they were espousing all the engineering changes that took place.

It was absolutely apparent that the improvements are a jigsaw puzzle of little and big changes throughout a myriad of areas to achieve the result.

17MY Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 - LS-T

Revealing the excellence of Isuzu’s diesel technology know-how, the 17MY D-MAX 4JJ1-TC Hi-Power Euro5 turbo-diesel engine has a number of new features including: New design pistons, New design fuel injectors, New design fuel supply pump, VGS turbo-charger, Larger Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) cooler, New design EGR bypass valve, Ceramic glow plugs, Intelligent Battery Sensor (IBS) and Diesel Particulate Diffuser (DPD)

All these new features culminate in a more fuel efficient and low emission turbo-diesel engine. Additionally to these engine improvements there is a new variable geometry turbocharger with intercooler, and ultra-high pressure common rail fuel injection ensures precise and efficient fuel delivery, and a newly designed differential has also been introduced to handle the increase in engine torque and ensure that Isuzu’s legendary durability and reliability lives on.

The second main story here is the new Aisin AWR6B45 6-Speed Automatic Transmission with “lock-up” torque converter. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the previous transmission, this one is simply better.

Drivers of the D-MAX and MU-X are provided the most efficient gear selection to suit a wide variety of driving conditions – further improving fuel efficiency and lowering CO2 emissions.

This automatic transmission features an “adaptive learning” function, improving both driveability and fuel efficiency. A sequential shift mode allows the driver to select gears on demand, giving the driver the same level of control as in a manual transmission, which is extremely beneficial in off-road environments.

The new Aisin AWR6B45 6-Speed Automatic Transmission also incorporates the Slip Control System Lock-up Clutch (Lock-up Torque Converter) which raises transmission efficiency in the 2nd to 6th gears (all gears except 1st and reverse) when a certain speed is reached, and improves fuel efficiency.

The lock-up clutch will be released when the accelerator pedal is pressed forcefully. This system provides increased transmission efficiency and fuel economy, and automatically operates to reduce torque converter slip loss during moderate acceleration at low speed. It also increases the efficiency effects of engine fuel-cut when coasting.

17MY Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 - LS-T

Isuzu D-Max LST What is it like to Drive

We had the opportunity to drive the new D-MAX over a range of different conditions, ranging from city peak hour, highway driving, secondary back roads, beach driving and a relatively simple 4WD track. I have always liked the way the Isuzu’s drive, they are now better.

Having towed lots of trailers with anything from an old Nissan Patrol through furniture trailer, loads of hay and camper trailers, caravans. I can attest to the real world usability and economy of the previous engine again the new engine is better. Much better.

Off road the D-Max is equal to any of the top 4WD Utes.

While its delivery was always punching above its weight the previous engines 380 Nm of torque was lacking compared to serious competitors! Thankfully now Isuzu have bumped that headline maximum torque figure to 430Nm.

However, being Isuzu and having all that truck experience they understand that a shallow peak torque figure, while sounding good, often translates poorly to the real world use.

So compared to the previous engine, 380Nm of torque (previous maximum) is now on tap from 1,700 – 3,500 rpm – which is 100 rpm lower and continues 700 rpm higher – meaning the same engine rpm provides more power and the same torque can be generated at lower engine rpm.

By producing more power at lower engine rpm, and more torque, the new “Pumped Up” D-MAX is both more fuel efficient and produce less toxic exhaust emissions – but still deliver Isuzu’s famous “tree-stump-pulling grunt”, that’s fit for the biggest of jobs.

Isuzu D-Max LST Safety

As mentioned before the once humble Ute now occupies multiple uses for the family. One pleasing aspect of that change is a renewed focus on safety upgrades.

The D-Max LST offers an extensive and impressive level of occupant protection, including,

  • six airbags (dual front, side and full-length curtain),
  • 4-channel 4-sensor anti-skid brake system (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD),
  • electronic stability control (ESC),
  • traction control system (TCS) and
  • brake assist (BA), as well as
  • Hill start assist (HAS) and hill decent control (HDC) for both 4X4 and 4X2 vehicles, plus
  • dual pre-tensioners with load limiters for the front seatbelts and
  • reversing camera.

However some of the competition has taken safety features even further with features like forward collision alert, blind spot indicators, trailer sway control, and lane departure warning.

So while the upgraded Isuzu is certainly better than previous model it still is lagging a little. There are height adjustable head restraints for all occupants along with ISOFIX child restraint points. .

Every Isuzu vehicle is backed by the Isuzu UTE Australia 555 Service Plus Program which includes a 5 year warranty, 5 year Roadside Assistance and 5 year/50,000 kilometre Capped Price Servicing program. The capped price service kilometre is a little low I believe but better than before.

Isuzu D-Max LST Conclusion

A couple of other thoughts. I am pleased that Isuzu have kept the immensely practical pull out cup holders on the dash, after Holden inexplicably removed them, even as Toyota introduced them on the Fortuner and Hilux.

Also following a general trend Isuzu has available a wide range of OME accessories like snorkel, canopy etc. Not as many as Holden Colorado but the range has increased. Finally, even though NVH has reduced you can still hear enough of the diesel rumble to provide comfort to the ears at idle.

So to sum up, the upgraded Isuzu D-MAX and MU-X have received a much needed and awaited engine that boosts not only the headline torque figure but also the spread of delivery.

They have a new Aisin 6 speed transmission in both manual and auto format. They have both external and internal design changes that improves comfort and reduces NVH. They are priced at excellent value.

Overall Isuzu deserves a number of big ticks for the upgrade.

It has always been my belief that Isuzu’s are one of the toughest Utes on the market and they don’t make enough noise about the small truck connection with their engines.

These engines are plain bullet proof. If you want an honest, robust, tough, economical, value for money and comfortable (I have run out of superlatives) Ute do not overlook any of the upgraded Isuzu’s.

17MY Isuzu D-MAX 4x4 - LS-T

What’s Good:

  • Towing ability
  • Torque band
  • Reliability and robustness

What’s Not:

  • Surprisingly pricey
  • Lacking some safety features
  • No rear diff lock

Model          Isuzu  D-MAX LST

  • Model Price       $59,632 RDAP
  • Engine         3.0L  4 Cyl TDi
  • Drivetrain   6 Sp AT 4WD
  • Power          130kW @ 3,000rpm
  • Torque        430Nm @ 2,000rpm
  • Safety          5 Star ANCAP
  • CO2              209g/km
  • Economy ADR   7.9L/100 km
  • Servicing      5 Yr Service plan
  • Tow Rating 3,500kg
  • Tow Ball Rating 350kg
  • Warranty    5 Yrs / 130,000 km 5 Yrs Roadside Assist

Overall UteGuide Rating:     90/100

  • Behind the Wheel    9
  • Comfort              9
  • Equipment         8
  • Performance             9
  • Ride & Handling        9
  • Practicality          8
  • Fit for Purpose          9
  • Towing Ability           10
  • Off Road Ability        10
  • Value for Money      9
About Rob Fraser 315 Articles
Rob first learned to drive on the farm in a left hand drive WW11 Jeep when he was 11, many years ago. He has maintained a strong interest in the industry ever since and was hooked on 4WDriving way back then.Often known for taking the 4WD in the driveway over the sports car, he has travelled pretty much everywhere in Australia and when he is bored goes for a drive.