THE second generation of the Isuzu D-Max has been around since 2013 — which isn’t unusual given that the model before it was in the market for a decade. Like its predecessor the current truck can also come with frills normally associated with premium models, but all without losing nothing when it comes to its ability to perform dirty work. What differentiates the latest version of the current model from the previous one is a more advanced diesel mill.

• Isuzu’s BluePower engine makes it to the latest D-Max in either 1.9-liter or 3.0-liter displacements. The truck being reviewed here packs the latter. The higher power output — especially torque output — of the 3.0 liter means the engine remains unstressed at hauling the D-Max’s heft, not needing to rev too hard to get a quick response. In unpredictable traffic, this is quite welcome.
• As an engine with new-generation features, the BluePower mill spews out cleaner emissions — according to Isuzu, at least. What is certain is that it retains, or even marginally improves, the D-Max’s impressively frugal fuel consumption. To think that in a government-organized mileage testing done in 2016, the D-Max (not yet equipped with the BluePower engine) bested a three-cylinder, gasoline-fed mini hatchback. In daily driving, it takes an inordinate amount of time spent in traffic for the truck’s fuel gauge to delete a lighted bar from its readout (a full set of lighted bars means a full tank of fuel).
• When compared against the diesel mills of German cars, those on Japanese cars can feel crude, being more clattery and shaky. This BluePower engine though is a notch quieter and vibrates less than the previous 3.0-liter engine, getting closer to the diesel units of German-made commercial vehicles.
• The five-speed automatic gearbox bolted to the engine may be a cog — in some cases, even two cogs — down compared to the D-Max’s rivals. But it is still adequate at spreading the engine’s torque so that revs do not rise as much; this means the engine remains quiet, and less thirsty for fuel. It also shifts from one gear to another without lurching, the act passably muted.
• In this top-spec variant the D-Max boasts leather furniture, a multimedia unit that can connect with various digital devices, electrically adjustable driver’s seats, and ambient lighting. In short, the truck’s cabin rivals those of premium cars’. It also does not lack space front or rear, and the backseat isn’t too upright, so sitting on it is comfortable enough.
• Despite its many frills the D-Max is proven to be as capable off-pavement. Its suspension is quite robust and has been tested to remain free of any rattling even after years of tough use. In this top variant the truck’s bed is also lined with a protective layer of composite material, making it resistant to dents and scratches.
• Switching from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive (4WD high and 4WD low), or vice versa, only requires twisting a dial on the console.

• The roomy cabin and large bed equate to length, and as a result the D-Max is one long vehicle, with an equally big distance between the front and rear axles. This means the truck is hard to park in tight spots —thank heavens for its parking sensors and camera.
• Not helping any is its slow steering (meaning one has to spin the steering wheel more times to get the wheels to turn). Maneuvering in tight places could be quite a workout.
• The reverse parking camera is slow to switch from displaying multimedia functions to a monitor for what’s behind the truck. It’s best then for the driver to wait about a couple or so seconds before letting the D-Max move backwards when reversing it in a cramped spot.

The D-Max’s mix of usefulness, pleasant cabin furniture, styling, fuel-miser ways, grunt and capability to go off-road is already established. Putting a new-generation diesel mill under the hood only makes this truck more appealing. — Brian M. Afuang

Isuzu D-Max 3.0 LS A/T 4×4 Bluepower
Price: P1.638 million
Engine: 3.0-liter inline-four, common rail direct injection diesel with inter-cooled variable geometry turbocharger; 175 hp @ 3,550 — 3,650 rpm, 380Nm @ 1,800 — 2,800 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive
Wheels/Tires: 18 inches, 255/60
Key features: Projector head lamps with LED daytime running lights; power-folding side mirrors; LED tail lamps; multi-function display; leather steering wheel, seats and shift knob; 12-volt power socket; multimedia unit with eight-inch touch screen and USB, aux-in and Bluetooth connectivity; smart entry system; automatic climate control; Terrain Command Select dial