- Fantastic value for money, even at $60k
- A massive improvement in all areas
- Excellent warranty
- No manual option for the X-Terrain
- Servicing could be cheaper
- Engine could be quieter and gruntier
Isuzu has always been a brand that Australians associate with rugged durability and dependability. Its products may not be the most luxurious, but they last forever – way longer than even Toyotas – and even though the company only offers two products, its sales have been climbing steadily to the point where the brand now sits in the top ten of sales in Australia. Its MU-X seven-seat off-roader sells strongly in its segment but it’s the D-Max ute that commands the vast majority of Isuzu sales in Australia. We’ve tested it extensively and come out very impressed, so what’s the top of the range model like? We tested the 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain to find out.
New for the 2020 model year, the Isuzu D-Max has reinvented the ute for the brand. It added safety tech, modern features and refinement to a ute that previously didn’t have them. It also added the X-Terrain model to sit atop the D-Max range combining off-road ability and premium features. Isuzu’s work has paid off as there is currently a six-month+ wait list for the D-Max.
Price & Specs: 9/10
The D-Max range kicks off with the $29,990 drive away D-Max SX, but the 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain is the flagship model for the brand and comes at a cost of $63,900 plus on road costs – although it is now permanently $59,990 drive away nationwide on Isuzu’s website. While it’s not cheap, this is a very good price point for a flagship ute considering the Toyota HiLux Rogue sets buys back $68,990 and the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X comes at a price of $67,990 – both plus on-road costs as well.
The D-Max X-Terrain’s standard kit list is quite extensive with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED front and rear exterior lighting, a 9.0-inch touchscreen with inbuilt navigation and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, auto lights and wipers, leather upholstery, a leather steering wheel and gear knob, a powered driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, remote start, a roller tonneau cover, tub liner, roof rails, heated and electric-folding exterior mirrors and a full-size spare wheel.
We would like to see the addition of heated front seats, a power rolling tonneau cover and memory settings for the driver’s seat added to the standard kit list, but otherwise, the D-Max X-Terrain is very healthily equipped.
The 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain also comes with eight airbags (including front centre and driver’s knee units), autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection and intersection assist, lane departure warning with lane keep assist, auto high beam, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, misacceleration mitigation, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, a reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, driver attention monitoring and trailer sway control.
There is just one standard colour with the 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain: ‘Mineral White’. All other colours are $500 extra and include ‘Bassalt Black’, ‘Cobalt Blue’, ‘Obsidian Grey’, ‘Magnetic Red’, ‘Mercury Silver’, ‘Marble White’ and our test car’s ‘Volcanic Amber’.
Performance & Economy: 8/10
All 2021 Isuzu D-Max models use an updated 3.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder turbo diesel engine that produces with 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque. This is not as much as the 150kW and 500Nm offered in the Toyota HiLux’s recently upgraded 2.8-litre turbo diesel, but the D-Max doesn’t feel like it is down on grunt.
The standard and only transmission option for the 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain is a six-speed torque converter automatic, which is smooth and never feels like it is hunting. It can be lazy and tries to hold onto the highest gear possible, though its behaviour is much improved compared with the last generation of the car. Unfortunately, the six-speed manual transmission that is offered on all lesser Isuzu D-Max models is not available with the X-Terrain.
The new D-Max’s grunt also lasts much longer across the rev range than the previous model – peak power hits at 1,600rpm and peak torque lasts from 1,600-3,000rpm. Because of this, the D-Max feels spritely compared with the old version of the car, and is definitely quicker than the Mitsubishi Triton. The 3.0-litre engine in the D-Max is quiet and subdued, although when accelerating onto a freeway or open road a bit of engine noise enters into the cabin.
The claimed combined fuel consumption figure for the 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain is 8.0L/100km and we averaged 8.5L/100km, which is pretty respectable. Compare this to the Toyota HiLux Rogue’s claimed figure of 8.9L/100km and the D-Max looks great, but the Ford Ranger Wildtrak X’s 2.0-litre twin turbo engine will consume just 7.4L/100km on the combined cycle. It comes with a 76-litre fuel tank (4L less than the HiLux and Ranger) for an average distance just shy of 1,000km.
The 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain comes with nearly every off-road feature available this side of the Ranger Raptor. It comes with a low-speed transfer case, electronic locking differentials, hill descent control, rollover stability control, trailer sway control, a sump guard, a front skid plate and a skid plate to protect the transmission.
The braked towing capacity of the 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain is 3,500kg, which is on par with competitors. The only other model that can tow more than the D-Max are the Chevrolet Silverado and RAM 1500 with a braked towing capacity of 4,500kg although both of these cars are significantly more expensive than the Isuzu (the Silverado starts at $114,900 and 1500 starts $79,950).
Ride & Handling: 8/10
The chassis in the 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain is all new from the previous model and when driving the old and new models back to back you can really tell. It’s much more rigid than before, and its ride quality has improved dramatically as well. Unloaded most utes can get choppy and uncomfortable, but the D-Max remains compliant and doesn’t have the loose uncomfortable feeling when going over bumps or undulations.
The active safety features do a great job behind the scenes of keeping the D-Max on the road – the lane keep assist is subtle and just nudges you in the right direction if you stray out of your lane. The adaptive cruise control also does a good job of maintaining a safe distance between you and the car in front of you.
The steering of the new D-Max is also a great improvement from the heavy system of the previous model – it’s far easier to drive at lower speeds and much smoother at higher speeds as well. The steering itself is also quite direct for a dual-cab ute. Dual-cab utes have never been known for their handling ability due to their high centre of gravity, but the D-Max seems to be quite composed and compliant when cornering. It’s definitely no Aston Martin but it is much less loose and more controllable than the model it replaces.
Interior & Practicality: 9/10
Now onto the most improved area of the new 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain: the interior. There are much more upmarket materials in the cabin such as leather, leatherette, cloth and soft touch panels, much unlike the hard and plasticky interior of its predecessor. The leather on the seats is surprisingly soft but durable and the leather quality on the steering wheel doesn’t make you think you’re in a workhorse, but rather, a well-equipped passenger car.
There is much more interior storage now with two glove boxes, a good-sized centre console, a compartment above the dash and decently-sized door bins. There are also storage bins under the rear seats to store items not wanting to be seen in the cabin – tools, wallets, computers, etc. We would like to see features such as a wireless phone charger and four automatic windows added to the spec sheet, however.
Centre of the 2021 Isuzu D-Max’s interior is a new 9.0-inch touchscreen that features inbuilt navigation with TomTom software, digital radio and even wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s easy to use once you’re used to it, with large touch icons to make it easy to use at speed and shortcut keys under the screen itself. One gripe we had with the screen was that there is no volume knob, and the screen dims as soon as your lights are switched on – what about on rainy days, Isuzu? The quality of the reversing camera is also sub-par.
The rear seats are more spacious than the ones found in the Toyota HiLux and more feature-packed as well. There are air vents, a bag hook, a USB-A charger, map pockets and a centre armrest with cup holders. The tray has a robust tub liner with two tie down hooks at the end of the tray (most utes have four) and the roller tonneau cover is manually rolled back into a pocket at the rear of the tray.
The pocket for the rolling tonneau cover does eat into some of the tray space, but it does keep items from being seen or taken. The tray on the 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain measures 5,280mm long and 1,880mm wide.
Service & Warranty: 9/10
The warranty that comes standard with the 2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain is the brand’s six-year/150,000km warranty, which is the best in class. Also standard is seven years of roadside assist, which is especially great considering the Toyota HiLux isn’t equipped with any form of roadside assist at all.
There is also seven years of capped price servicing. The D-Max requires servicing every 12-months or 15,000km, which is on par with the Ford Ranger and better than the Toyota HiLux’s six-month/10,000km intervals. The cost of servicing the Isuzu over the span of three years or 45,000km is $1,407, which isn’t as cheap as the Ford Ranger’s $897 cost over the same period but slightly cheaper than the Toyota HiLux’s $1,500 cost. The cost to service the D-Max over five-years or 75,000km is $2,215.
2021 Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain DiscoverAuto Rating: 8.6/10
We’ve been very impressed by the 2021 Isuzu D-Max in the past, but experiencing the top of the range X-Terrain has further proved to us that this is a very impressive ute that underwent a multi-generational improvement not seen often in the automotive industry. Formerly known solely for its reliability – and featuring not much more – the D-Max has been transformed from a toad to a princess, well, a princess wearing boots anyway.
While it’s not perfect – the engine is still a touch loud and it’s not cheap to service – it’s the closest thing to perfect in the ute segment, especially for the asking price. Including on-road costs, it’s around $10,000 less expensive than equivalent models from the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger lineups – yet it includes a lot more standard kit, a longer warranty, a more modern cabin with higher-quality materials and pretty decent driving dynamics as well. It’s no wonder the D-Max has a six-month wait list at the moment as it’s gone from also-ran to segment-best.