April 20, 2021 By Kevin C. Limjoco Photos by Andréas N. Delos Reyes & Ardie O. Lopez

2021 Isuzu D-Max LS-E

Elevated Resilience

The very attractive 3rd generation flagship Isuzu D-Max LS-E mid-size pickup test unit you see here in its variant exclusive Valencia Orange exterior paint (other color options for the variant are Onyx Black, Mercury Silver, and Splash White) with tastefully contrasting grey cladding is genuinely the unexpected dark horse in the segment. The improvements throughout the new vehicle range are profound, Isuzu fans will be blown away and new customers will also rejoice. The last time I was this excited about a new Isuzu was with the unfortunately short-lived (from 1999 to 2001) and very under-rated compact SUV VehiCROSS (UGS250) which I wanted to buy in the US and import to the Philippines during its day. This time around, I can say whole-heartedly that the new D-Max is the finest and greatest consumer vehicle that Isuzu has ever built.

Isuzu Chief Designer Naoyuki Akashi and his team did a great job with the D-Max. I honestly think the D-Max LS-E looks even better than the all-new Mazda BT-50 built in the same factory in Thailand, which I reckon shares more than 90 % of the entire vehicle. The only feature that I wish the Isuzu had from the Mazda is the 5-year factory warranty backed up by a 5-year free maintenance program.

The only figure from the outgoing limited edition Boondock model that is more, but not better than the new LS-E, is the 7 mm more ground clearance. EVERYTHING else is all-new or significantly improved. Isuzu’s very strong reputation in the Philippines for durability, dependability, and appeal to the working man is enviable. With the new model, that success will certainly grow much further without orphaning traditional fans of the brand.

The new more insulated D-Max LS-E uses a 30 mm longer wheelbase, on the new body-on frame Isuzu Dynamic Drive Platform which is supposed to be 23 % more rigid while reducing weight. The optimized crossmembers allowed suspension retuning (reduced the angle of the rear shock by 7 degrees which increased rear stroke travel by 30 mm on new 3-leaf springs instead of 4), better impact absorption and improved weight distribution. The stronger new 4JJ3-TCX 3.0-liter turbodiesel engine featuring Isuzu’s “BluePower” system (which produces 13.4 bhp more and 52 lb-ft more torque than before with a Double scissors idler gear and its mated to a recalibrated 6-speed automatic) has been moved slightly behind the front axle, resulting in a “semi-midship” layout for better handling and steering response. The more aggressive new body is 10 mm shorter, but 10 mm wider, and 25 mm taller than its predecessor is. The rear tub measures 1571 mm long, 1530 mm wide and 490 mm tall with 4 tie-down points, an excellent bed liner, lockable tailgate, and model-specific special trim. The roof rail can handle up to 100 kg of weight for additional load capacity. Braked towing capacity is 3,500 kg with a payload capability of up to 1,085 kg. Another outstanding feature that needs to be highlighted is the unique aluminum rear driveshaft which is lighter and stronger than the previous steel unit.

The handsome and unique 18-inch alloys are wrapped with 265/60R18 110H Dunlop Grandtrek AT25 tires which perform very well as long as you strictly follow the factory tire pressure guide. The side stepboards are straightforward and well executed. The Bi-LED headlights with signature DRL look great and cast an excellent field of illumination further supported with LED front fog lamps. The rear light assembly has its own signature LED as well. The integrated rear two-step bumper one-piece design is practical and looks great. The brown leather seats are fabulous (the driver side has 8-way power adjustment), they look terrific, are properly supportive and comfortable. There is also durable matching contrasting synthetic brown trim on the dashboard and door panels that all look and feel great against the black cabin headliner. Refreshingly, Isuzu Philippines also packaged the new D-Max LS-E with proper floor mats too, which is often a much-neglected standard equipment item.

The prominent central 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system has navigation, a clinometer, rear guided camera, intuitive smartphone connectivity with Android Auto™ and wireless Apple CarPlay™, all through a best-in-class 8-speaker surround sound system! The nicely designed dual-zone climate control has essential rear vents with an additional USB outlet. The rear seats are quite upright yet still comfortable with dual ISOFIX mounts. The nice analog instruments have a 4.2-inch color LCD Multi Information Display now. The fully adjustable steering wheel is appropriately weighted and communicative. The recalibrated new 6-speed transmission is smoother and behaves better than some of the more complex systems in the segment.

The big new class-leading feature is the Smart 3D DUO Camera on the windshield that has the ability to detect obstacles intelligently to improve safety as well as convenience. The Advanced Driver Assist System features adaptive cruise control with stop/go, pedestrian detection, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, and traffic sign recognition. Other safety features like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert use the 4-eye sonar (front & rear). Additional active, passive, and peripheral safety measures include standard 7 SRS airbags, high tensile steel reinforced passenger cell, automatic door locks, rain-sensing wipers with built-in washer nozzles, under-body protection via front skid plate, rear skid plate, transfer case, and transmission cover, auto-dimming mirror, turn assist and driver attention monitoring. The new front and rear brakes are larger and more robust to manage the more potent powertrain as well. All of these efforts culminate to a verified 5-Star ASEAN NCAP rating for the new D-Max.

The 2021 Isuzu D-Max LS-E is a truly desirable and wonderful pick-up truck that will reward its owner and passengers with a lifetime of adventure, utility, and versatility. Philippine pickup truck buyers have never had it so good with so many great choices available in our market. We completely enjoyed and are very much enamored with the new D-Max, to the point that it could very well be my next primary vehicle thanks to its excellent design, balanced packaging, dynamic performance, utility, and confident heavy-duty dependability.

Specifications

Engine

Engine Inline-4
Location Front Semi-Midship, Longitudinal
Displacement 2999 cc
Cylinder Block Cast Iron upper with induction-hardened cylinder bores, Cast aluminum lower
Cylinder Head Isuzu-patent special Cast Aluminum, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, Variable Swirl System
Fuel Injector Direct Commonrail Fuel Injection, Intercooled Variable Geometry (VGS) Turbodiesel
Max Power (bhp @ rpm) 188 bhp @ 3600 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm) 332 lb-ft @ 1600-2600 rpm
Transmission Aisin AWR6B45 II 6-speed with sequential shift and brake shift lock electronically controlled, tri-mode with fuel-saving lock-up torque converter on gears 3, 4, 5 and 6. Primarily rear-wheel driven

Engine

Suspension System Front: Independent double-wishbone, high-ride, coil springs, gas shock absorbers, anti-roll bar / Rear: Heavy Duty Solid-axle alloy-steel over slung long-span semi-elliptic 3-leaf springs; gas shock absorbers
Brakes Front: 12.6-inch (320 mm) ventilated discs with 2-piston calipers / Rear: 11.6-inch (295 mm) drums, ABS, TCS, EBD, ESC, EBA, AEB, HAS, HDC, Misacceleration Mitigation and Turn-Assist.
Wheels 18” x 7.5J Multi-spoke Matte Dark Grey Aluminum Alloys
Tires P265/60R18 110H Dunlop Grandtrek AT25

Weight and dimensions

Length 5277 mm
Width 1880 mm
Height 1810 mm
Wheelbase (mm) 3125 mm
Curb Weight 2130 kg. (4686 lbs.)

Performance

Top Speed 192 km/h (120 mph)
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph 9.6 seconds

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Fuel Capacity 76 liters (20 gallons)
Fuel Milage (km/l) 7.9L/100km Overall

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP) PhP 1,825,000.00
What's Great The very best consumer Isuzu vehicle ever produced. Excellent fit and finish. Heavily updated. Very attractive, best cabin in its class, very full-featured, overachiever, unflappable reputation for dependability.
What's Not So Wallows a bit when unladen, no wireless phone charger, Rear Drum Brakes, E-lock differential for manual transmission LS model only. Does not have Mazda’s brilliant free 5-year service plan.
C! Editors Rating 10/10
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