Isuzu’s new D-Max range starts with a single-cab option with steel wheels and goes all the way up to the Utah, which includes heated leather seats and satellite navigation. We’d been sent the D-Max Eiger, which is lowest spec model of the three range-toppers in the line-up (Eiger, Yukon, Utah), but still has heated mirrors and air conditioning, along with alloy wheels.
Isuzu have built a reputation for hard-wearing, reliable 4×4′s and pick-ups, and push their 5 year warranty to the forefront for proof of this. With pick-up saes growing in the U.K., the D-Max Eiger offers a strong, powerful engine with good economy and a comfortable ride alongside all the practicality of a workhorse pick-up. Let’s delve a little deeper eh…
Exterior. Butt ugly or beauty?
As mentioned, the Eiger is the start of the top three D-Max models, and stands out from lower spec’ed D-Max’s with a colour-coded front bumper, satin-silver grille, clear light clusters, chrome mirrors and door handles and 16″ alloys. The exterior difference in the next step up (Yukon) would be side-steps, chrome front and rear bumpers and 17″ alloy wheels.
Still, even without the extra shiny bits the Eiger looks like a nice truck. The tough, rubberised rear bumper and lack of side steps smack of practicality, rather than you just being a tight wad. The black bumper at the rear will look better than the chrome version after you’ve stood on it in muddy, gritty boots for the three-hundreth time, or dropped a load of bricks on it. The lack of side steps mean better ground clearance for those times you decide to take the short-but-rough route across the quarry site to get to the burger van before it leaves.
Let’s be honest, higher-range pick-up trucks available in the Britain and Europe tend to look similar now; rounded front end with a double cab and pick-up bed, and a square tailgate. However, comparing the design of similar-spec offerings from other manufacturers I’d say the D-Max Eiger is more modern than the out-dated Nissan Navara, more edgy than the Toyota Hilux, much less girly than the Mitsubishi L200, but quite frankly not as cool as the Ford Ranger or VW Amarok.
Especially in the darker colours does the Isuzu look menacing (at least from the front/front three-quarter view). The D-Max Eiger’s front end stares at you aggressively, the swage lines either side of the bonnet looking like a frowning brow as they meet the angular, angry eyes of the light clusters. Below those, the large rectangular air intake in the bumper is a mouth bellowing ‘Coming through! Get outta the way tiny vehicles’. If the D-Max starred in the ‘Cars’ animated movie, you can guarantee it’d be a baddie.
The rest of the D-Max is just very average in design. Nothing much to report on really, save for the bulging, flared arches over the wheels which look good. The pick-up bed is a decent size for a Euro-style truck at 1,485 mm (58.5″) long by 1,530 mm (60″) wide, so you’ll fit a good amount of gear in there.
Interior. Neat or nothing special?
Settling into the Isuzu’s interior, you’re greeted with lots of gray and black-coloured materials, plus the occasional splash of silver satin. The Eiger is clearly utilitarian, with hard but tough plastics featured anywhere there’s trim. There are zero soft-touch panels here. As I mentioned about the exterior, this is not a case of buying the lower spec’d Eiger because you’re tight-fisted – you’ll buy this with the aim of it being used. Hard.
The Eiger’s interior is one where you can jump in with your hefty boots, huge work jacket caked in mud, many pointy tools poking out of the pockets, and simply not overly-worry about the plastics getting scuffed or damaged.
Spartan would not be a fair description of the D-Max Eiger’s insides, as it includes air conditioning, electric folding and heated wing-mirrors, and all-round power windows. What it could be described as is plain. There’s a fairly basic aftermarket Pioneer stereo which has Bluetooth connectivity for your phone calls and music, but that’s as blingy as the Eiger gets in all honesty. The three round dials for the heating controls are simple, rigid rings made of plastic and there’s not an ounce of luxury about them. Again, they are just very functional, and you could use all the other buttons and controls while wearing a big pair of leather rigger gloves. I know because I did.
Inside this Isuzu it’s all use no spruce. And that’s the point here. Yes the Eiger is quite minimal, but everything is well laid out, simple to use and you’ve got the all ‘luxuries’ you actually need in a workhorse like this.
The only thing we think is a bit tight of Isuzu is the lack of speakers in the rear. On their U.K. website, Isuzu state the Eiger has ’4 speakers’. Yes, two in the dash and two in the front doors. Surely it can’t be much moolah to add a couple more in the back doors! In today’s market, I think it’s just something people expect, and so they should.
The front seats are actually very comfortable. There’s no adjustable lumbar support but they have the curves in the correct places, so your back and legs are well placed. As with most double-cab pick-up trucks, the D-Max’s back seats are at an upright angle, and there’s no adjusting them. On a longish drive the passengers said they weren’t too bad, and the leg room was ample. In the rear, you’re sat up probably a good four inches above the front seats, making the view ahead excellent.
The D-Max is quite a wide vehicle and because of that there’s a good amount of elbow room in the front, and it feels genuinely spacious. You can seat three adults in the rear, although you may find your head being used as a ball should you try to sit three large rugby players in the back for any length of time.
Engine and gearbox
No matter what model in the D-Max range you choose they all have the same engine, and it’s a rather nice one too. A 2.5 litre twin-turbo four-pot diesel powers the Isuzu. Yes, twin-turbo. For all those thinking ‘that thing has got to slurp the diesel big time’, well, you’d be wrong, but more on that in the test drive section.
With 163 PS (160 hp) and (far more importantly on diesel’s) 400 Nm (295 lbs ft) of torque, it’s no slouch once you’re rollin’. With all 295 lbs ft available from just 1,400 rpm, the D-Max has the torque available almost as soon as your right foot depresses the accelerator. Fire the engine into life and it is surprisingly smooth. I’ve heard noisier diesel engines on high-end cars and SUV’s in truth. This could be down to the fact that attached to the underneath of the bonnet there seemed to be a wedge of insulation thicker than my beds duvet though. Whatever, the engine runs super-smooth even when started in cold weather and I liked it.
Props to Isuzu on how the engine bay looks. Personally, I hate it when you open up the hood of a vehicle, only to be disappointingly greeted by a mass of hugely unexciting plastic covering almost the entire space. Boo to that. Happily, when I popped the lid on the Isuzu I was met with loveliness itself. Okay it did have have a plastic top, but redeemed itself by 1. being small, and 2. having the word ‘Turbo’ stamped in large print on each side of the cover. This is a good thing.
There are things petrolheads truly like to see. Like a large orange hose. And two actual, visible turbo’s. And many, many metal pipes and pieces of shiny mechanical beauty (such as the huuuge ABS unit) that look cool, and which mean you can spend many an hour in your garage cleaning and polishing ’til your heart’s content and your beer has run out.
Onto the Isuzu D-Max’s gearbox. The six-speed manual version I had was acceptable but noticeably agricultural. Pulling and pushing the fairly long gearstick is strangely fun though, and as our other test guy Nath pointed out, it feels like you’re clunking a huge piece of farm equipment into gear. It’s not heavy or industrial-like, but you certainly know you’re changing gear, if that makes sense. Although the Eiger we tested had only covered around 3,000 miles, the gears did sometimes need some coaxing in, second being noticeably notchy and stiff.
The six-speed ‘box is a definite plus for the fuel-consumption and makes long motorway journeys more relaxing. First and second gears are ultra-short, which is good if you’re towing or carrying something heavy, but get slightly tiresome if you’re doing a lot of round-town driving. 3, 4 and 5 are all nice long gears with plenty of range, and sit comfortably enough in the power band to allow low-speed-high-gear fuel economy without the threat of stalling.
Select 6 on that long stick at the aforementioned speeds though, and you’ll find needle on the rpm dial so low it’s ludicrous. 1,800 rpm at 70 is more relaxing and satisfying than bunking off work for a day to watch old war films, eat crisps and laugh because it’s raining outside and you are inside wearing your comfy pants. The fuel economy of the D-Max is especially impressive. On the manual, Isuzu quote 31.7 (urban) to 43.5 mpg (extra urban), which is amazing for a big beast like this.
Overall, the diesel Isuzu D-Max has a great power plant which is smooth and efficient, and even though the manual can be a tad notchy sometimes, the gear ratios are set up nicely.
Ready to roll? Let’s drive this thing!
I’d been seriously hoping for snow to arrive while I had the D-Max on test, and it did – the very day it was delivered. After doing a mini jig around in the snow in celebration (once the driver had left so’s I didn’t appear a total fool), I dived into the Isuzu, key in hand, ready to awake the beast from its slumber.
I love a good pick-up, and with good ground clearance, a long wheelbase and a wide body the D-Max Eiger is a proper one. Turn the key and the D-Max instantly fires into life. The rpm needle immediately leaps to 1,400 rpm while the engine warms, which panics you the first time it happens and you’ll frantically scrabble to think what you’re doing wrong. All good though, and the revs will die to around 900 once the engine is up to temperature or as soon as you push the clutch and select a gear.
Pulling away, the D-Max puts down all the torque right away and you’re left in no doubt there are twin turbo’s in action. Going through the gears it’s very apparent that the turbo’s in the Isuzu aren’t like the old unit’s you’d find that had heavy lag. These spool up quickly, and the power is there when you need it. Although the six speed ‘box means changing gear a fair amount around town, in lighter traffic there’s enough low down torque to get away with fewer changes by making the turbo’s work harder.
Talking of town driving, one thing I wasn’t looking forward to was the jarring ride that a pick-up usually brings. The Isuzu though left me pleasantly surprised, and even all the pieces of my spine were left intact at the end of the test period! Okay, over speed bumps it still feels a little harsh but overall the D-Max Eiger was a good ride. I’ve driven other pick-ups in the past where the rear skips and jolts harshly over even slight ridges in the road surface, making driving unpleasant and even slightly scary should the weather be wet and that back end trying jump out sideways suddenly.
None of that nonsense in this D-Max though. For the majority of road conditions the ride for both the front and rear passengers was enjoyable and comfortable, which is down to a mix of semi-decent suspension set-up and comfy seats.
Talking of the ride skipping, jerking and generally wanting to throw you sideways into a lamp post in some of the older pick-up trucks, the Isuzu is polar opposites. The D-Max Eiger has both traction control (TCS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) adding up to exceptional control in bad weather. In normal two (rear) wheel drive, accelerate hard in slippery conditions and though you’ll get a small amount of slippage, the traction control kicks in and brings things under control.
After much hooning about on a car park covered in a fresh layer of snow, we quickly realised that even if you turn the TCS off the ESC still kicks in and stops much of the silliness. So, we accelerate with much gusto in the powder and all is fun until you slide a little sideways and the ESC comes into play. This limits the power under your right foot, and fires off the ABS braking at whichever wheel is necessary until you’re back on track. The system actually works superbly.
With all the ice around while testing this truck, there was plenty of hidden stuff on the roads, and coming off a roundabout in 2WD the truck suddenly slewed sideways heavily, in a split second I panicked but within that time the ESC also started to come into play and in a couple of seconds (which feel like a lifetime when you’re sliding broadside towards a high curb) the Isuzu was going back in the correct direction again. Brilliant tech, and it’ll save your bacon when the time comes.
Driving down country lanes in the D-Max, there is of course a sense you’re driving a large pick-up because that’s exactly what it is. There’s not a huge amount of body roll though, and it never felt unsafe, or that it was going to list as much as a cruise liner in a typhoon. Isuzu have got a good balance in giving the suspension enough play for an agreeable ride while stiff enough to avoid understeering wildly on every corner.
With the weather reports getting more intense by the day and a motor show to attend two and a half hours away, the three of us chose to go in the Eiger. Good choice on our part. The Isuzu was comfortable for all, ticked along at just under 2,000 rpm at 80 mph and road noise was muted enough to have a normal conversation. Pulling out of service stations and back into the flow of traffic, the Isuzu quickly gets up to speed and there’s easily enough power to hand (or foot). Sixth gear is almost a cruising gear, but you can still accelerate – albeit slowly – from 70 upwards. If you want to overtake though, the best thing is to drop to fifth and give that accelerator the heavy boot treatment whereupon you’ll find the speed required
On the way back from the show the weather turned nasty, with sleet ramming into the windscreen so thickly we could barely see and large pools of standing water gathering on the roads. Time to slow down and engage 4WD. Engaging four wheel drive on the Isuzu D-Max is easy, and can also be done as you’re driving. The engage limit is sixty miles per hour so we slow down enough to do that, and turn the dial one click to the right into the 4H (4 High) position.
A few seconds later it’s in, an icon on the console lighting up to verify so. Immediately, the Isuzu feels different. It feels tighter, more planted and ready for action. Suddenly, my confidence in driving around long and very wet bends at motorway speed soars and I physically feel myself relaxing. More on the 4WD capability in the next paragraph.
To sum up, the on-road drive of the Isuzu D-Max is comfortable, pleasantly quiet and the safety tech enough to make you feel secure and confident.
Off road ability. Stuck or superb?
The snow comes thick and fast. My photographer phones to check I’m available, and we meet out in the countryside, gear at the ready to get some photographs of the D-max. He demands the Isuzu is shot in many cool poses before his hands get frostbite and he gets angry. Fearful of the wrath of Jason, I turn the 4×4 dial to 4H and drive off the road down a sharp embankment, the high ground clearance way above the apex, and onto what I think is solid ground from the recent snowfall, only to be greeted by waterlogged land so soft that even walking on it makes indentations inches deep.
The D-Max Eiger sinks instantly into around five inches of sodden earth, and I plan on bulldozing my way through it, power down, allowing the traction control to do its job. Jason, on the other hand, signals he wants me to stop in the middle of it for a photo. Sat there, the seconds seems like foreverness, and I feel the Isuzu physically slipping deeper slowly.
Shots done, photographer in-car, I select first gear and slowly let out the clutch. The wheels scrabble for grip, TCS working hard but to no avail. Into reverse and the same again. I try rocking the truck back and forth in first or second and reverse, but nothing works. Feeling more embarrassed than panicky, I spy a Land Rover Discovery 4 pottering about a hundred metres away and contemplate a tow.
Defeat is not an option though and I twist the dial to 4L (Low), which also turns off the TCS. Reversing out the slick mud, the D-Max starts to slow and slip again. I decide a course of action and go for it, pushing hard on the juice pedal we reverse, engine roaring, wheels spinning frenziedly and slinging mud up the Isuzu’s sides. Soon though we’re out of the bog and onto the road, high-fiving and feeling elated that we didn’t need a tow.
Of all the sticky situations most drivers of the Isuzu will be in, it’s this one. The majority will be bought for work use, not off-roading or climbing steep rocky tracks, and so any need for the four wheel drive system will be down to dirt tracks, quarries, fields or for when it snows. The Isuzu was just okay in and on mud, snow and and icy roads, but we weren’t exactly blown away by it, and we think that some of the other trucks on the market will be better. Only tests will tell though eh.
The Eiger may seem basic, but for the price you’re getting a decently-specced truck with a long five year warrenty. Similar spec offerings from Ford, Toyota and VW are either more expensive or lack the Eiger’s equipment such as heated mirrors, alloys etc. If you want a similar spec pick-up at a similar price to the Eiger, check out the Mitsubishi 2.5 DI-D 4WD Trojan.
Isuzu D-Max Eiger verdict (/10)
The Isuzu D-Max Eiger is a big, tough, ‘proper’ pick-up with a competitive price making it highly appealing. While the interior trim is plasticky and fairly basic, the seats are comfortable and you have a few luxurious still. The engine is strong, powerful and economical, and we were happy with the suspension set up. Driving the D-Max, there’s a constant sense that the Eiger is built to a high standard, and will last well under heavy use.
Score ‘n’ stats
|Engine & gearbox||7.5|
|Model (as tested)||Isuzu D-Max Eiger 2.5. 6 speed manual.|
|Spec includes||All-round power windows, radio with full bluetooth connectivity, electric folding and heated wing mirrors, air conditioning, 16″ alloy wheels|
|Options you should spec||16″ BF Goodrich All-Terrain tyres, Bed liner|
|Price||£22,144.80 on the road|
|Engine||Diesel, 2.5 litre, 4 cylinder, 16 valves, DOHC, twin turbo|
|Power, Torque, CO2||163 PS (160 hp), 400 Nm (295 lbs ft) torque | CO2: 194 g/km|
|Drive, Gears||Rear wheel drive, plus selectable 4L & 4H four wheel drive | 6 speed manual or 5-speed automatic|
|Top Speed, NCAP||Max speed: 112 mph | 4-Star Euro NCAP rating|
|Fuel economy (mpg)||Urban: 31.7, Extra Urban: 43.5, Combined: 38.2|
|Weight (tare mass)||1,890 kilograms|
|Pick-up bed dimensions, ground clearance||Size (mm): L: 1485 x W: 1530 x H: 465 | Payload (kg): 1,080 | Clearance (mm): 225|
|Websites|| UK: Isuzu UK | Australia: IsuzuUte.com | France: Isuzu.fr | Worldwide: Isuzu.co.jp