TRUCK TOUGH

SUBTLE CHANGES MARK THE ARRIVAL OF ISUZU’S 2019 D-MAX AND MU-X.

WORDS TRISTAN TANCREDI

I SUZU Ute Australia (IUA) has subtly refreshed its D-Max and MU-X line-ups for MY19, but the trusty workhorses remain mostly unchanged bar for a few tech and cosmetic tweaks. Surprisingly, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto remains absent from the list of features, as does Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), with the most notable revision a recalibration of the MU-X’s hydraulic steering providing the seven-seater with more refined and tactile steering feedback.

A brief spurt at the Australian Automotive Research Centre (AARC) in Anglesea, Victoria - a purpose-built off-road circuit - and the surrounding roads, revealed a tighter feel to steering input, especially at lower speeds. The reliable 4JJ1 3.0-litre turbo diesel remains mated to an Aisin six-speed automatic, giving the MU-X an ample 130kW and 430Nm, which never felt wanting on AARC’s subdued off-road tracks. The range-topping LS-T’s approach (24°), departure (25.1°) and rampover (19.5°) angles also coasted over the makeshift off-road obstacle course.

Towing capacity remains at 3000kg, while the LS-T has a payload of 593kg - neither of which were tested at launch.

Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) are now optional extras available across the MU-X range, and the systems can be retrofitted to MY17 and MY18 MU-X models. BSM with RCTA will set you back $955 (RRP). Another optional extra is Front Park Assist ($545 RRP), which can also be retrofitted to MY17-onwards MU-X models, as well as MY17-onwards D-Max LS-M, LS-U and LS-T models.

Another tweak to the MU-X range includes new-look 18-inch gloss black aluminium wheels (LS-U and LS-T models) wrapped in 255/60R18 Bridgestone Dueler Highway Terrain tyres - IUA says the HT rubber is due to customer feedback, but we’d be swapping them out for a set of all-terrains as soon as possible. The front grille is bordered by chrome and gloss black on LS-U and LS-T models (it’s grey and black for the LS-M).

TIGHTER STEERING

THE most notable revision to the MU-X 4X4 LS-T is a recalibration of the hydraulic steering rack, providing the seven-seater with more refined and tactile steering feedback.

LIMITED EDITION X-RUNNER

THE D-MAX X-Runner has been revived, with the limited edition model now available in showrooms. Last seen in 2017, the X-Runner is designed to strike a more commanding presence than the D-Max it’s based on - in this iteration, that’s the top-of-the-range LS-T.

The launch of the X-Runner coincides with an ‘end-of-life’ refresh to the ageing D-Max line-up. As part of the MY19 update, the LS-T received Fibre-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) side-steps, a Passive Entry and Start system and 18-inch matte black alloy wheels. The matte-black look continues throughout the body and roof rails.

In addition, the X-Runner copped exclusive features such as head-to-tail X-Runner branding and red Isuzu badges. Also delineating the X-Runner from the LS-T are front fog lights surrounded by a dark grey trim. Genuine accessories include under-rail tub liner, rear park assist and satin black sports bar.

The interior includes piano black trims on the door and centre console and black roof lining and pillars. There’s red-stitched leatherette across the dashboard, doors, glovebox and console lid, while the seats are trimmed with red perforated leather.

The 3.0-litre turbo diesel remains untouched, as does the rest of the drivetrain - the X-Runner is hardly a Raptor fighter, but does keep the ball rolling for the brand’s ageing line-up.

STORAGE

NEAT storage options inside the MU-X 4X4 LS-T, include dual glove boxes, multiple cupholders, storage points and centre console bin.

If you’ve driven the MY18 model D-Max then you’ll pretty much have a handle on how the MY19 variant will perform, as key changes for IUA’s venerable D-Max are limited to cosmetics. The LS-U and LS-T receive Fibre-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) side-steps bolted on with steel brackets, with the LS-T the focus of most MY19 changes. The range-topper is the only model to get 18-inch matte black aluminium wheels wrapped in 255/60R18 Toyo Open Country Highway Terrain rubber - yep, HTs again - and matte black roof rails and a matte black sports bar complement the matching wheels.

The rest of the range doesn’t miss out on some tweaks, though, with the LS-M and LS-U variants receiving a splattering of black to the bodywork, as well as matte black treatment to the radiator air intake and B-pillars.

The D-Max remains a bit unpolished and rough and around the edges, but that’s also part of its appeal. It doesn’t pretend to be a passenger car-cum-ute - IUA clearly states it has truck DNA - and with its trusty 4JJ1 engine you can be safe in the knowledge the D-Max will meet expectations.

At launch IUA also unveiled its new sixyear/150,000km warranty, aligning it closer to recent moves made by its competition. IUA remains tight-lipped when asked of its nextgen models, but with one of the oldest utes still in the game that change can’t be too far off, can it?