Experienced: Isuzu D-Max 3.0TD x D-Max X-Rider Black

D-Max

“Both bakkies are capable, offer comfort and very economical when driven right!.”

Formerly known as the KB, Isuzu reintroduced its bakkie to the South African market in October as the D-Max to be in line with its international market. The name change was accompanied by exterior nips and tucks which were the brand’s way of forging forward in size, comfort, technology, performance, safety and durability in its vehicle line up.

Isuzu South Africa gave us an opportunity to experience both the D-Max 3.0TD and its sibling the X-Rider Black which is powered by the 2.5-litre turbodiesel engine famous on its workhorses. Both derivatives are capable, offer comfort and are very economical when driven right with the X-Rider Black proving more eye candy. 

Bullard – The D-Max 3.0TD

Obsidian Grey in colour and in LX trim, at first glance, the D-Max 3.0TD had already placed itself in the premium segment of bakkies with chrome accents on mirrors, the muscular grille and door handles. Bullard also features dragon eye LED daytime driving lights, Bi-LED headlamps with restyled fog lamps. 

Within Bullard is a leather touched dashboard with piano black finishes which also adds on the premium look and feel of the bakkie. Infotainment was provided by a 9-inch touchscreen entertainment system which also features a rearview camera for convenient parking in tight spaces. During the drive, a number of cup holders for both front and rear occupants added more practicality with two USB ports for charging and music or video playback. 

Driving Bullard

Powered by a 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine with outputs of 130kW and 380Nm, our test vehicle was mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox with four-wheel drive. The D-Max 3.0TD arrived with an average consumption of 6.0km/l which was an almost an on the book reading. As I was starting a new experience with Bullard, I started everything on a clean slate consumption wise and couldn’t help but think of my 10.0L/100km with the Isuzu mu-X I had experienced the previous year.

D-Max

Starting at zero, the first test was to find out how comfortable the D-Max is on tar with its large 18-inch rims enveloped by General Tyres All Terrain Grabber rubber. On tar, the ride proved to be a comfortable one and with rain pouring down on some of the days, standard driver-assist functions such as ABS and ESC to name a few added on my driving confidence. Yes of course what would Bullard be if I didn’t take him off-road?

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As it was raining on most days on the week, I took the D-Max on a 50km gravel road. The ride was still a comfy one until it got bumpy which meant one had to nurse both himself and the car to avoid whiplash as Bullard tended to bouncy. The all-wheel-drive feature also took its reigns on muddy sections of the road making it a swift drive from one end to the next.

The turbocharged engine with a displacement of 2999cc was evidently quick-witted and provided much-needed pushing power especially on steep roads where no change down was required going uphill. After having to muscle the D-Max 3.0TD for more than 1800km, my average fuel consumption was at 9.2km/L which is an equivalent of 10.9L/100km – 0.9L better than the mu-X.

A workhorse in a Tux – Isuzu X-Rider Black

Based on the X-Rider 4×2 workhorse, Isuzu launched this limited edition shaded X-Rider Black October last year with an exclusive Meet Kettle Black paint and red accents on the front badge and side panel X-Rider badges to give the workhorse in a Tux its distinctive look. Adding to its head-turning appearance, the X-Rider Black also features all-black wheels LED Daytime running lights.

Inside, the Tux wearing workhorse features standard black leather seats adorned by X-Rider logos on headrests and red stitching on the steering wheel, gear knob and seats. Door trim inserts also feature a red X with an 8-inch infotainment system completing the look. 

Riding the workhorse in a Tux

I’ve always heard people talking and name tagging the X-Rider Balck as “their favourite” and with no clue why besides its looks. Little did I know that the young buck earned being the people’s favourite. From the looks one gets when driving it to that little turbo whistle sound that makes driving the 2.5-litre powered D-Max a joy.

Powered by a smaller 2.5TD engine with an output of 100kW and 320Nm mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox, I had to quickly change my mindset from that of its bigger brother Bullard with a 3.0TD engine. For the first few moments, the X-Rider Black felt a bit slower and underpowered until I started treating it as unique as it is. 

After a stint video shoot of the Tux wearing workhorse, a 1400km trip awaits in full view. Travelling to Durban through the Ukhahlamba route, onboard the car were three adult males, 6 packets of tile cement and tiles one had to deliver at the homestead in the northern section of KZN. On-road, similar to its sibling, the ride was comfy but one could feel that there’s added weight on the load bay which was fitted with a securelid cover.

Starting the trip, a full tank of diesel was fed to the X-Rider at the engine garage on R21 southbound. Averaging 9.3L/100km, cruising at 125km/h on the N3, I was on the first quarter of my tank passing Estcourt. City cycle consumption around Durban increased and this was due to uphills and the weight of building materials we were carrying. 

Driving up to Nquthu from Durban the X-Rider’s workhorse capabilities were really put to the test especially when driving on the Ndundulu Mountain Pass heading towards Melmoth. The 5th gear was non-existent for this piece of the scenic winding road, even at 3500rpm, the gear selector didn’t even prompt me to change to 5th gear as performance dropped with the change.

Summary

Although unique in their own right, both cars can’t be mistaken for its capabilities even when put to the test. I was mostly impressed by their consumption, although I am an economical driver, I didn’t expect average figures of 10.9L/100km and 9.3L/100km with a rather heavy load and uphill roads.

As an AudioSexual Petrosexual, the infotainment system and speakers provided a much clearer sound when compared to the mu-X. Smartphone mirroring in the form of Apple CarPlay also proved to be a great option, especially when driving on unfamiliar ground that needed navigation. On both bakkies, the screen could do with a much dimmer light setting when driving at night as it reflects on the rear windscreen at night and can be frustrating when driving. 

The Isuzu bakkie range comes standard with Isuzu Complete Care, comprising a five-year/120 000km bumper-to-bumper warranty and Isuzu Roadside Assistance, a five-year/unlimited km anti-corrosion warranty and a five-year/90 000 km Service Plan. Service intervals are every 15 000 km/12 months. Extended cover can be purchased for Roadside Assistance, Service Plans and Maintenance Plans. The X-Rider Black is priced at R462 000.00 including VAT while the D-Max is priced at R637,700.

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