2018 Isuzu D-Max LS-T Crew Cab Review
Dean Mellor’s 2018 Isuzu D-Max LS-T Crew Cab Review With Pricing, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Safety, Verdict And Score.
In A Nutshell Isuzu updated its popular D-Max earlier this year in a bid to maintain sales growth in the face of ever-growing competition in the 4×4 ute segment. We test the top-spec D-Max LS-T to see if those updates are enough.
2018 Isuzu D-Max LS-T Crew Cab Specifications
Pricing $54,700 Warranty 5-years/130,000km Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Safety 5 star Engine 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 130kW at 3600rpm Torque 430Nm at 2000-2200rpm Transmission 6-speed auto Drive part-time four-wheel drive Dimensions 5295mm (L); 1860mm (W); 1855mm (H) Turning Circle 12.6m Ground Clearance 235mm Kerb Weight 2026kg GVM 3050kg Payload 1024kg GCM 5950kg Cargo bed 1552mm (L); 1530mm (w); 465mm (H) Towing Capacity 750kg/3500kg Tyres 255/60R18 Spare Full-size alloy Fuel Tank 76L Thirst (combined) 7.9L/100km
The D-Max LS-T Crew Cab is Isuzu’s top-of-the-range, auto-only 4×4 ute. While lacking in sophistication compared with some of its competitors the D-Max’s rugged simplicity and value for money equation is appealing to many buyers.
What’s in the range and how much does it cost?
The Isuzu D-Max is a traditional one-tonne 4×4 ute that follows a now well established and proven formula for the class: separate body on chassis construction; independent double wishbone front suspension; live axle rear with leaf springs; large capacity turbo-diesel engine; auto transmission; two-speed part-time 4×4 system; and disc brakes up front and drums at the rear.
Earlier this year Isuzu updated the D-Max range, increasing the GVM on 4×4 models to 3050kg, which results in a 100kg greater payload capacity, and refining the rear leaf spring suspension to improve ride comfort and handling. It also added Trailer Sway Control and threw in a couple of 2.1A USB charge points (one in the dash and one in the rear console).
The model we’re testing here is the new flagship D-Max LS-T Crew Cab, which, for $54,700 plus on-road costs, comes with many of the features found on the brand’s top-spec MU-X LS-T 4×4 wagon including 18-inch alloy wheels, sat-nav, roof rails and keyless entry and start. It also receives a new premium leather-accented interior, and new soft-touch leatherette on the upper glovebox and armrest, while the door handles are finished in chrome and the air vents and window switches are finished in gloss black.
Mechanically, the 2018 D-Max is unchanged, which means it’s powered by Isuzu’s proven 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that makes claimed power and torque peaks of 130kW at 3600rpm and 430Nm from 2000-2200rpm. The engine is mated to an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission with a sequential sport mode, and the D-Max has a two-speed transfer case that’s operated via a big rotary dial located on the centre console.
As well as the features listed above, standard equipment on the D-Max LS-T Crew Cab includes an eight-inch touchscreen, colour multi-information display, climate control air conditioning, six-way driver’s seat power adjustment, a split/fold rear seat with centre armrest, headrests for all seats, eight-speaker sound system, LED DRLs, fog lights, lockable tailgate and aluminium sidesteps.
What’s the space and practicality like?
The high-grade trim in the D-Max LS-T certainly gives this ute an air of luxury compared to the lesser-grade models. The perforated black leather seat trim looks good and provides ample ventilation, while the soft-touch leather finish on the armrest and upper glovebox lid looks good and feels nice. The hard plastic on the lower part of the dash and the centre console is not so fancy.
The driver’s seat itself offers a generous base and comfortable backrest, with plenty of fore and aft adjustment and lumbar adjustment. Despite the steering wheel being adjustable for rake only, most people won’t have a problem finding a comfortable seating position.
When it comes to storage, the D-Max offers plenty of options including two gloveboxes, a small centre console bin and a covered storage compartment on the dash. There are also reasonable-size door pockets and plenty of cupholders.
The back seat will accommodate three adults, although the centre position isn’t great as the backrest pushes the occupant forwards. There’s reasonable width and good legroom, and all seats have three-point safety belts and adjustable headrests. The seat base has a 60/40 split and there’s a storage bin under there for tools, while the seat back is a one-piece unit, behind which are the three child-seat tethers. There’s also a generous fold-down armrest for when the centre position is unoccupied.
The D-Max’s tub offers reasonable length, width and depth for a dual-cab ute, although there’s no 12V power in there, and the four cargo tie-down points are up high on the tub sides rather than down on the floor where they be of more use. Like most sport bars, the D-Max’s is more for show than for securing loads. The tailgate can be locked and the test vehicle was fitted with an optional lockable hard tonneau cover and had a rubber floor mat in the tub.
What are the controls and infotainment like?
The overall dash design gives the interior a clean, unfussy look, the eight-inch colour touchscreen is up nice and high where it’s easy to see and use, and the HVAC controls are positioned in a circular arrangement in the centre of the dash, with big, clear switches and a bright temperature display.
There are steering wheel controls for the sound-system, Bluetooth phone connection and cruise control, which are all clearly marked and are logically positioned, and the trip computer on the multi-function display is easy to navigate.
What’s the performance like?
The D-Max’s modest peak power and torque claims belie its impressive performance and relaxed nature, both around town and on the open road. The engine makes plenty of torque from low in the rev range, so it doesn’t need a lot of throttle input to deliver good acceleration, which is just as well because it gets a bit noisy under load and higher up in the rev range.
The smooth shifting six-speed auto is endowed with tall fifth and sixth gears that result in relaxed highway touring, and contribute to the economical nature of the D-Max. Claimed combined fuel consumption figures are rarely (read: never) achieved with any vehicle but in the case of the D-Max’s 7.9L/100km figure, we went very close, recording an average of 8.9L/100km on test, which included more than 1000km of city, freeway, open road and off-road driving. That makes the D-Max about the most economical one-tonne 4×4 ute on the market. The downside of the tall gearing is the transmission’s reluctance to hold on to top gear, constantly swapping between fifth and sixth in hilly terrain, which our drive loop in and around the Snowy Mountains included plenty of.
Loaded up for a week in the snow we were carrying far less weight than the D-Max’s maximum 1024kg payload, but with recovery equipment, tools, luggage, food and water, there would have been around 400kg in the tub and almost 200kg (of people and gear) in the cabin. The D-Max had no trouble with that medium load on board and the new three-leaf rear springs handled the weight without exhibiting much suspension sag at all.
What’s it like on the road?
The D-Max has always offered reasonable on-road ride comfort, so it’s surprising that Isuzu saw the need to go from a five-leaf set-up to three leaves, but it seems to work well, and the D-Max is now rated to carry 100kg more than before. While the springs handle a load well, the rear-end feels a little underdamped over bumpy and corrugated dirt roads, while up front the steering feels over-assisted and a bit vague. Nevertheless, body roll is well controlled and the D-Max doesn’t exhibit any strange traits when cornering.
What’s it like off the road?
The D-Max is a competent vehicle off the road although you certainly wouldn’t describe it as best in class. While it has a reasonably effective electronic traction control, it lacks the locking rear diff of some competitors, and wheel travel is not as good as some.
While approach angle is good, like all long wheelbase utes fitted with factory tubs, the D-Max’s ramp-over and departure angles are not great, so care has to be taken on big erosion mounds or when exiting gullies or dropping off rock shelves, but at least underbody protection is better than some, with a steel bash plate under the front-end and bash plates to protect the transfer case and the leading edge of the fuel tank.
Off-road gearing is about what you’d expect of an auto ute with an overall low-range reduction in first gear of 33.3:1. While the torque multiplying effect of the auto helps the cause on steep inclines, there’s not a lot of engine braking available on steep descents, so you need to rely on the Hill Descent Control system in mountainous country.
Isuzu claims a wading depth of 600mm and the engine’s air intake is up high through the driver’s side inner guard, the alternator sits about halfway up the engine bay and there’s space for an auxiliary battery under the bonnet.
Does it have a spare?
Yes. There’s a full-size alloy spare underslung at the back.
Can you tow with it?
Yes. The maximum braked towing capacity is 3500kg with a 350kg towball download. The GVM is 3050kg and the GCM is 5950kg while the payload is 1024kg. The kerb weight of our test vehicle is 2024kg. Remember, you’ll need to determine the loaded weight of the vehicle and the loaded weight of the trailer, hopefully before it’s hooked up, to ensure you’re within the vehicle’s limits. Read this article about 3500kg towing capacities for more information.
What about ownership?
Isuzu Ute offers a five year, 130,00km warranty on the D-Max which is behind the times compared with the warranty offered by key competitors, like Mazda with its recently announced five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty which applies to BT-50, Ford and Holden too. It offers five-years capped price servicing which, for 18MY vehicles includes five scheduled services or 75,000km, on older vehicles (16.5 and 17MY) this is five years or 50,000km. Ther service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km and range in pricing from $350 to $500.
What safety features does it get?
The Isuzu D-Max was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating when it was last tested in 2013. Crash avoidance technologies such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB) are not available, but standard safety features include ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, emergency brake assist, trailer sway control, hill start assist, hill descent control, reversing camera, six airbags and three child-seat tethers.