Extreme Living – Isuzu D-Max XTR

*Image courtesy of Sprite Photography

So, it’s finally here, the first review of 2020! As you can hopefully understand, Well Driven ramped down a bit over Christmas and New Year while I spent some quality time with my friends and family, but now I’m back – and I’ve brought a great big truck with me!

This may look a bit familiar as I have already driven and reviewed 2 other trucks from the Isuzu D-Max line-up – the building site manager-spec Isuzu D-Max Blade and the ultimate, go anywhere, anytime explorer edition AT35 Arctic Truck D-Max. This, like the other 2, is not just your run-of-the-mill pick-up truck, but instead Isuzu’s latest attempt to appeal to those who live a more “extreme” lifestyle – a segment of the pick-up market currently occupied solely by the Ford Ranger Raptor. Like the Raptor, the Isuzu D-Max XTR has custom lifted suspension and new, rugged exterior styling, wide arches, and huge tyres. However, unlike the Ford, it has a smaller 1.9-litre diesel engine from the rest of the D-Max range and is nearly £6,000 cheaper than it’s blue-ovalled counterpart.

*Image courtesy of Sprite Photography

As striking as the exterior styling is on the XTR, it’s what is underneath that actually makes it stand out. Instead of the standard suspension setup found in the majority of the D-Max range, the XTR has fully bespoke Pedders suspension including uprated springs and dampers at the front, a revised upper wishbone, front and rear anti-roll bars, rear dampers, upgraded brakes and what literally seems like a tonne of underbody protection. Fortunately, a lot of this is painted a vibrant neon green, so you easily see what you’re getting for your money.

Having driven both the Blade and AT35 trucks last year and the year before respectively and knowing that the majority of the truck hasn’t really changed with regards to interior and powertrain, it seemed silly to just do another boring road review for the XTR, so to spice things up a bit, and to put it’s so-called “capable in the xtreme” credentials to the test, we decided to put this freestyle Motorcross rider’s dream transport through its paces off the beaten track in some very slippery, very muddy and very wet conditions. As soon as we came off the main road and on to the open lane, I pulled up next to Rick in his Range Rover and waited for him to press all the various buttons and switches he needed to press to raise his suspension and switch into off-road mode. I, however, just need to whack the truck into its low-range 4-wheel-drive setting. A quick twist of a dial, followed by a very mechanical sounding “clunk” from underneath, and I was ready to go.

Straight away, we are met with a bit of flooding for about 30 yards but due to the 250mm of ground clearance and massive 32″ Pirelli Scorpian tyres, the truck wades through like it was nothing but a small puddle. Next up was a fairly steep climb in some very slippery looking mud, so to make sure the route wasn’t too treacherous, I sent rick up first in his Landy. A few little slips and a bit of wheel spin later, Rick was at the top and I felt pretty confident the XTR would have no problems following – and it did not fail to deliver. Having driven big heavy SUVs off-road for years, I was expecting the empty bed at the back to create a skipping feel as the truck moved about, but surprisingly, it remained fairly level and flat as we navigated our way through the forest.

*Image courtesy of Sprite Photography

It seemed that no matter how hard we tried to get the Isuzu stuck, it pulled itself out every time with little-to-no fuss at all. The grip from those massive Pirelli tyres meant that traction was never going to be an issue, and despite the engine being a relatively small 1.9 turbodiesel with an output of 161bhp and 265lb-ft, it had plenty of poke (but don’t get any ideas on the road, this is still a very agricultural lump so you’re not going to win any drag races and it’s far from the quietest in its class!). This is one of the lowest outputs in the ever-growing truck line-up in the UK, but it can still tow up to 3500kg and the maximum payload is 1136kg. All very good stuff that becomes all the more impressive when you realise that due to its lower output, it’s far beyond Euro6 compliant and doesn’t require any AdBlue – making it a very tempting choice for any company truck user with weekend hobbies that involve getting muddy and wet!

Inside the truck, as I said before, there isn’t much difference between this and the Blade apart from some green XTR stitching in the headrests and a rather fetching chunky half leather, half Alcantara steering wheel with hand-stitched green overstitching. As non-truck as that sounds, it was one of the nicest steering wheels I’ve held in a while! Other bits include a 7-inch touch screen infotainment unit with Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto and 8 speakers with a sub-woofer option, the same manual A/C controls from the lower-level D-Max Yukon and the same goes for the manual seat adjustment, which was a bit of a shame considering the price point – which starts at £33,999+ VAT – cheaper than a Ranger Raptor – yes, cheap – no.

*Image courtesy of Sprite Photography

All in all, I have to admit that I was very impressed by the XTR. At first, I found the unique XTR styling a little bit much over the equally-as-bonkers, yet slightly more subtle, AT35, but over time it grew on me more and more, even as much to say I miss it now it has gone. Isuzu have done a great job taking a very good workhorse truck with a solid and simple design and turning it into something young kids look at in awe as you drive past without taking too much of what makes the D-Max such a good truck. The alterations and additions have only improved the XTRs ability both on and off the road with the suspension and tyre combination creating a very stable and smooth ride on tarmac but also an unstoppable force off it.

My only real reservation with the D-Max is more of a general gripe with all truck manufacturers that are constantly trying to penetrate the ever-growing SUV market – yes these trucks are cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, cheaper to tax, etc than cars like the Land Rover Discovery, but they also feel cheaper to be in. If we were talking tens of thousands of pounds cheaper than some SUVs, then fair enough, but these top-end trucks are still going £34k plus, even £50k plus in the case of a top-specced Raptor Ranger which is a lot of money however you look at it, and there just needs to be a bit more work on the interiors to justify these prices. However, if cost was no option or you were looking at a lease for one of these, the XTRs lower emissions and smaller engine mean the BiK is super-low and for that, you’ll get 5 seats, a massive load bed, unflappable four-wheel-drive, stand-out looks and a heck of a lot of fun when you decide to whack on your wellies or go exploring away from the busy and congested roads! I’d have one…

*Image courtesy of Sprite Photography

As always, thank you for IsuzuUK for loaning me the XTR, you can find more info on the XTR, and all the other trucks in the D-Max line-up HERE, and also a big thank you to the resident Well Driven photographer and 3 Car Garage co-host, Rick at Sprite Photography

I do have another D-Max coming in later this year along with some other 4x4s and SUVs so make sure you keep an eye on the website and all social media outlets for more updates.