Sunday, 24 January 2021

Smooth, sophisticated and lots of fun to drive

Smooth, sophisticated and lots of fun to drive

IT was time to get down and dirty off-road and what better way to go about it than to drive a pick-up especially designed for the job.

But that was not the whole story when it comes to the Isuzu D-Max XTR, which was as at home on as off-road.

The D-Max XTR is what its makers call a “professional pick-up”, that is it has special mechanical equipment that allows it to tackle the most difficult terrains.

If you have never driven off-road then I urge you to give it a go. It is great fun if you remember that off-roading should not be a race.

You need to take your time to enjoy seeing how the off-roader you are driving will perform under difficult conditions. If necessary, on very tough terrain, you can even walk the route ahead to see what you might be up against.

To help in off-road endeavours Isuzu has fitted bespoke Pedders suspension and brake system engineered specifically for the D-Max XTR.

A new front suspension upper arm in conjunction with new damper units helps achieve a longer suspension articulation during off-road driving.

The suspension is set higher than a standard D-Max giving the XTR 250mm ground clearance. Isuzu says this does not compromise handling and stability. Isuzu says the D-Max XTR has been “aggressively” styled and employs a “sophisticated” body kit to achieve this design effect.

I must say that even with on-road driving the D-Max XTR is a tad smoother drive than its brother pickup, the D-Max Blade, which I reviewed in these pages recently.

But no doubt in my mind both pick-ups are great to drive, with their high riding position and commanding road presence.

The set-up of springs and shock absorbers make for a more comfortable ride. These have been specially tuned with D-Max XTR’s new wheels and tyres in mind to maximise driving quality.

The D-Max XTR is placed between the Blade and Arctic Trucks models and completes the Adventure range of Isuzu D-Max pick-ups.

New equipment on the D-Max XTR includes performance front brake discs designed for a consistent brake pedal “feel”, high wear resistance and better anti–corrosion protection.

They are also fully vented and slotted for improved heat dissipation and braking. Kevlar ceramic front brake pads work in combination with the discs give a much improved braking performance and stopping power.

Everything is big about this vehicle. For example, the 17in alloy wheels have a heavy duty, rigid design, which doesn’t compromise the vehicle’s towing and load carrying capabilities.

From a tyre perspective, the 17 x 8J XTR alloys gives you the flexibility of tyre choice if you choose to fit an off-road only tyre.

However, the Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus 265/70R17 tyre seemed to me perfectly matched to the D-Max XTR and Pedders suspension.

Isuzu is the first manufacturer to adopt these tyres as standard as they benefit all types of driving conditions. They are quiet during on-road driving, during day-to-day use, but are ready and able if you want to go off-road.

The tyres are suitable for dry, wet or muddy roads, and off-road on difficult surfaces such as rocks, snow, mud, grass and sand.

Isuzu says all improvements have maintained the pick-up’s 3.5 tonne towing and load carrying capabilities.

Inside the D-Max XTR is comfortable, too. Gone are the days when a pick-up was a mere utility vehicle. Heated front sports seats in the XTR were upholstered in leather, suede and carbon fibre leather with contrast green overstitching on the side bolsters.

Leather is added to the headrest, lower seat base and upper seat back, which has been padded for additional back support.

The ribbed central seat panel was covered in charcoal suede with shadow stitching to accentuate its contours. An XTR logo was embroidered on the back rest of each front seat and repeated on the rear centre headrest.

The D-shaped sports steering wheel has been moulded for comfort and grip and was trimmed in leather and suede with green overstitching.

Leather side panels are practical and easy to clean on the areas you hold regularly and a convenient thumb rest is located next to the steering wheel controls.

Each bespoke XTR steering wheel is individually finished with green overstitching that is sewn on by hand.