The new Isuzu D-Max wasn't even a year old in our market when Isuzu Philippines decided to launch the first of what would likely be a long series of special editions, the X-Series. The price isn't much higher than the regular D-Max, but is there enough added content to win over new customers?
People kept asking if the X-Series was a new truck. I finally gave up telling them it was simply a bodykit added to the D-Max. Versus the LS, the X-Series adds an aero-style rollbar and bed rail extensions, similar to those on the Ford Ranger Wildtrak, as well as front and rear bumper extensions and 17-inch gunmetal alloy wheels.
The kit is capped by honeycomb-patterned vinyl stripes and a bright-red Isuzu badge in place of the standard chrome item. The kit, along with the tasty metallic orange paint scheme, brings some much-needed aggression to the D-Max, or as one trick-or-treater last Halloween blurted out: "Kotse ni Bane!"
In place of the leather on the standard LS, the X-Series gets sporty buckets wrapped in durable black-and-red nylon fabric. The red-stitched leather steering wheel, with yet another red Isuzu badge, is a nice touch as well.
The cabin is otherwise identical, which isn't such a bad thing, really. It's still one of the biggest and most comfortable cabins in the class, with lots of cubbyholes and hidden bins. No Isofix, however, so any child seat will have to be installed with the center belt, facing backward.
This test unit is just a few months old, but it's obviously seen a rugged life. Unsurprisingly, the 3.0-liter CRDi diesel engine feels well broken in, hitting the magic 20km/L mark pretty easily at 80kph on the highway, and around 8-10km/L in regular traffic.
It's only in crawling 3kph traffic that I finally see the fuel economy dip down to 6km/L, yet I still managed to do the entire 100km trip on just several liters of diesel. As usual, the direct-feeling gearshift and clutch are easy and stress-free, even after three hours of gridlock.
RIDE AND HANDLING
Even with the new, lower-profile Bridgestone Dueler HT 255/65 R17 tires, the D-Max still trails the class leaders in terms of agility, with slow steering and lots of body movement. The tires do improve tracking on the highway, but they ride a tad lumpier over uneven roads.
Sound insulation is decent, but after driving the D-Max back to back with the MU-X, you certainly appreciate how much less clatter and buzz the newer 2.5-liter motor generates while under load.
Isuzu doesn't charge you a lot for the extra bling, but you give up some goodies versus the LS, such as the leatherette seat material and powered driver's seat. In-car entertainment choices remain the same, unfortunately. No touchscreen or backing-up camera here!
You do get that bodykit and a useful, durable plastic bed-liner, which increases the cupholder count from eight to 12, with coasters built into the tailgate allowing for stand-up picnics at the work site.
You'd think that the X-Series is an unnecessary addition to the D-Max lineup, but having separate "luxury" and "sports" trims can't help but broaden the model's appeal. It extends Isuzu's reach in a price range where pickups traditionally find conquest buyers transitioning from smaller sedans or AUVs. At the very least, it will help close that gap between the stylish Ranger and the Hilux in terms of buyer perception. This Isuzu certainly isn't a "daddy" truck anymore.
And yet, the 3.0-liter diesel is a throwback to Isuzu's traditional values. Most buyers will pan it for being outdated, especially considering the fact that the MU-X now gets the arguably superior 2.5-liter mill. But in terms of running costs, there's little that can beat the D-Max, even in crawling traffic.
SPECS: Isuzu D-Max X-Series 4x2 MT
Engine: 3.0-liter 4JJ1-TC iTEQ CRDi diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Power: 144hp @ 3,800rpm
Torque: 294Nm @ 1,400-3,400rpm
Drive layout: RWD
Photos by Niky Tamayo