Up until fairly recently the chances are that if you were in the market for an Isuzu D-Max pick-up truck you were probably either a farmer or a builder, or a fleet manager for a utilities company. Isuzu state they are the pick-up professionals and in April, the D-Max won the Trade and Van Driver Best Workhorse pick-up award - for the 8th year on the trot. The D-Max then is a truck for those with working lives rather that for those who live lifestyles. Or, at least it was…


    Although Isuzu have been a little late to join the lifestyle pick-up party, you can’t deny that the latest version of their venerable load-lugger, the D-Max XTR, does indeed make somewhat of an entrance – and especially so if it’s been “treated” to the optional, stripy graphics pack as per the example Isuzu were kind enough to lend me. Those splashy stickers certainly add a dash of something – although what that certain something is, I’m still really not quite sure. Nevertheless, with its chunky, satin black nose cone, wheel arch extensions, bespoke 17” six-spoke alloy wheels, and, wait for it… style-bar, too (read roll-bar, but not as strong), the XTR has been designed to get you noticed.


      Cosmetic surgery aside, the XTR also gets some new underpinnings. A bespoke Pedders suspension set-up comprising a new front upper arm in conjunction with newly designed dampers aid longer suspension articulation and give help the XTR 250mm of ground clearance, whilst the fitment of fully vented and slotted brake discs together with Kevlar ceramic brake pads mean the braking performance is much improved. I should perhaps also point out that neither of those additions affects either the XTR’s carrying or towing capacity; you can still put a tonne in the back, and you can it’ll still tow 3.5 tonnes should you need it to. There is also a very hefty looking sump-guard complete with XTR logo. Oh, and incidentally, they’ve painted those dampers day-glow green,


    To complete the XTR makeover Isuzu have also treated the interior to some heavily bolstered suede and leather sports seats – heated of course (but strangely not electrically adjustable) – a flat-bottomed, suede and leather wrapped steering wheel, and liberal dose of day-glow green embroidery. Bar some of the very work-a-day plastics used on the doors and centre console, the result is the XTR’s interior is all actually quite attractive. You’ll find air-con, DAB, Cruise control, and (optional, £1,500) sat-nav and Apple CarPlay. However, I would hate have to try to get any mud out of that suede after a day’s mountain biking, dog walking, or serious off-roading. Presumably, it will vacuum out once dry.


      That’s not to say the XTR is all show and no go; it will in fact go almost anywhere you choose to point it. Isuzu’s shift on the fly four-wheel drive system which enables the driver to  select four-wheel drive on the move, or a set of low ratios, via a simple rotary dial, together with the addition of a some very aggressive looking 265/70R17 Pirelli Scorpion all-terrain tyres mean you’re highly unlikely to come unstuck when the going gets tough. Be you in the sands Baja, or the winter snows of Bala, I’m in no doubt in the XTR’s ability to get you home.


    In fact, I’d go as far to say that the XTR feels more capable off-road than it does on it. Despite those plush seats and fancy dampers – and in our case the optional automatic gearbox too - the XTR simply cannot hide its working class roots. The four-cylinder 1,898cc turbo-diesel engine rattles like a trawler tackling a heavy swell. It is loud, and you’ll be lucky to better 30mpg.  In addition, on all but the smoothest of road surfaces, that expensive suspension seems almost too firm; the effects of even the most minor of road imperfections being sent shimmying through the entire cabin. The XTR then, is not a vehicle you in which one can ever relax. And it is there, as buyer, that lies your dilemma.


    If you are in the market for an incredibly tough workhorse that will no-doubt provide you with years of reliable service – Isuzu offer a comprehensive 5 year/125,000-mile warranty – should anything go wrong - the XTR might just fit your bill. However, add a few options and that bill could come to hefty £43,318 once you add the dreaded VAT. For that price, you could have a standard D-Max and change to spare. If you’re quick you might just bag a VW Amarok or Mercedes Benz X-Class (both are soon to be discontinued) instead. Alternatively, you could wait until the new altogether more refined D-Max arrives (I am reliably informed that it’s not that far away).

     If it were my money, I certainly know what I would do.



Isuzu D-Max XTR Nav+ Double Cab Auto

Engine: 1,898cc 4Cyl 16 valve, turbo-diesel  

Transmission: 6 automatic with manual mode and switchable “on-the-fly” 4x4

Power:  163 bhp @ 3,600 rpm

Torque: 265 lbft at 1,400 rpm

Max Speed: 112 mph

CO2: 205 g/km

MPG: 36.2 (combined)

Price: from £43,318 on the road.


Many thanks to Alex and Liam at ISUZU for the loan of their D-Max XTR



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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