THE customer is always right.” It was this attitude that lead to the development of Isuzu’s MY18 D-Max and MU-X, with the Japanese company listening intently to customer feedback – namely from its I-Venture Trips – and making the necessary changes accordingly.
The big-ticket item revealed at the recent MY18 launch – and later tested at a waterlogged Mt Cotton Training Centre in Queensland – was the update to the D-Max’s rear suspension, often criticised by owners and the public for being rough and jittery on corrugated tracks. To this end – and in an Australian market first – IUA has taken the steps to correct this shortfall by replacing the five-leaf rear suspension with a three-leaf suspension setup (all High-Ride Crew Cabs excluding LS-M and SX Cab/Chassis variants).
Dropping from a five- to three-leaf spring softens the ride, making the D-Max more comfortable on not just long-distance outback roads, but on freeways and suburban backstreets. The setup utilises high-strength yet light materials, as well as a progressive spring rate. Larger rubber silencers are now also positioned between each leaf spring.
A day out at the Mt Cotton Training Centre, about 30 minutes’ drive from Brisbane, provided the opportunity to sample the updated D-Max’s derriere back-to-back with the outgoing model. The MY18 model feels nicely settled at the rear on undulations taken at a moderate click – 50 to 60km/h – with the rear feeling softer than the relatively firm rear-end of the MY17 model. However, due to the short nature of the course, we will need a longer stint behind the wheel for a more comprehensive judgement.
A further update to the MY18 D-Max range has seen IUA increase the GVM of the entire range. The GVM on the new 4x4 range is now 3050kg, which has paved the way for IUA to also hike up the payload capacity of all models by 100kg in comparison to the outgoing MY17 line-up.
We loaded an MY18 D-Max with 600kg in the tray – putting it at 93 per cent overall capacity – and went for a quick squirt along a closed road circuit. The heavy load was barely discernible on climbs and when thrown through a chicane, but, again, a more comprehensive test will provide greater insight. So far so good, though.
Speaking of pulling weights, IUA learnt via feedback that more than half of its customers purchase a D-Max or MU-X for the purpose of towing. To this end, it has added Trailer Sway Control (TSC) to all new 4x4 models. TSC controls (ahem…) a towed trailer if any unwanted sway occurs, and it does this by monitoring trailer movement through the ESC sensors and then modulating throttle and brake inputs to all four wheels.
We put this to the test on the closed road loop, whipping around in both an MU-X (towing a 1900kg caravan) and D-Max (towing a 1750kg boat). The brief tow test highlighted more than anything the competency of that 3.0litre engine, as neither rig showed any sign of struggling to lug almost two tonnes of weight. TSC was harder to judge due to the simplicity of the circuit, though.
In other safety news, all MY18 D-Maxe utes (not cab-chassis) are now equipped with a rear bumper and a reversing camera, but other safety features – including AEB and lane departure warning – are still a no-show. IUA has also rejigged its D-Max line-up, with the LS-T now sitting atop the model range as the flagship offering. Priced from $54,700, the LS-T crew-cab 4x4 is only available with the six-speed automatic transmission and, on top of the LS-U, receives a bunch of additional kit: Passive Entry and Start System, leather-accented seats (a combination of perforated genuine leather and polyurethane leather, which provides improved comfort and bolsters support), six-way adjustable electric driver’s seat, roof rails, 18-inch alloys, a full-size spare, and 255/60 R18 highway terrain rubber.
The LS-T has an improved payload capacity of 1024kg and a kerb weight of 2026kg. Towing capacity remains at the industry standard of 3500kg. It has 235mm of ground clearance and decent angles: approach (30.0°), departure (22.7°) and rampover (22.3°).
Isuzu’s reliable 3.0-litre Euro 5-compliant turbo-diesel powerplant – good for 130kW and 430Nm – remains the engine of choice across the line-up, with Isuzu’s attitude seeming to be ‘why change a good thing’. We agree.
In fact, Isuzu has more than 80 years of experience with diesel engines and has pumped out more than 26 million diesel donks.
As well as the addition of soft-touch leatherette throughout the interiors of D-Max LS-M, LS-U and LS-T variants, all of the USB ports for both the MU-X and D-Max have been upgraded from 1.0A to 2.1A. Striking new colours – Magnetic Red, Cobalt Blue and Graphite Grey for the D-Max; and Magnetic Red for the MU-X – are now available for the Aussie market.
So while the D-Max still utilises a ladder-frame chassis and leaf-sprung suspension, it’s noticeably more refined and comfortable. And while most of the upgrades for the MY18 range centre on the D-Max, the MU-X remains a competent and comfortable off-roader.
At the recent launch IUA made clear its intentions to reach 30,000 annual sales by the year 2020 and, with an ever-increasing dealer base around Australia, the Japanese company is right on track to hit that target with a reliable and improved product.
The MY18 D-Max and MU-X are now in dealerships nationwide.