Pickups are one of the most popular vehicles in the Philippines due to their ruggedness and durability. Over the years, however, they’ve transformed from being simply a vehicle for utility, but also a vehicle that’s perfect for those who have active lifestyles or even families. This all-new 2021 Isuzu D-Max LS-E 4×4 isn’t immune to this change, and it may probably be the best “lifestyle” pickup in the market right now.
All-new from the ground up, the all-new 2021 Isuzu D-Max LS-E looks very different from the previous model. The cab rearward design with its long hood and short front overhangs give it a dynamic stance. The full LED lighting all around the vehicle gives this truck a modern look as well. Whereas most pickups are boxy and upright, the D-Max’s silhouette is more curvaceous and rakish. This is a result of the D-Max being wind tunnel tested in the same facility where the Shinkansen was also developed. And then being the LS-E variant, there’s a smattering of gunmetal finishes, such as the extended wheel arches, door handles and mirrors, and even the 18-inch alloy wheels.
Isuzu also pulled out all the stops and gave the D-Max a completely overhauled interior. Pickups aren’t known for their plush interiors, but the D-Max tries to counteract that with its soft-touch leatherette dashboard, brown leatherette door panels, and even the nicely-grained brown leather seats. The rest of the cabin though is finished in hard plastics, but that’s to be expected in a pick-up. Do note that this applies only to the LS-E variant because the lower down you go the trim ladder, the level of plushness decreases.
Comfort levels for the Isuzu D-Max are also great. It has a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, which is a big deal because this adjustment feature is a rarity in this segment. In addition, the D-Max offers one of the most comfortable seats, not just among pickups, but among vehicles at this price point in general. There’s excellent support for the thighs and shoulders, making long road trips comfortable for those at the front.
Those at the rear don’t get to experience the same well-contoured seats at the front, but the comfort levels are still good nonetheless. There’s plenty of head and legroom, plus rear passengers get to benefit from a USB port and even rear aircon vents. And then lastly, the rear seats have hidden under-seat storage. It’s surprisingly roomy, even big enough to store a fully-inflated volleyball.
As for interior features, the all-new 2021 Isuzu D-Max LS-E 4×4 gets a 10.1-inch touch screen infotainment system–a locally sourced one at that. The resolution is clear and crisp, plus the responses are snappy. The user interface, however, looks dated. At least there’s Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and even a clinometer that is very useful for off-roading. Brightening things considerably is the 8-speaker sound system, which is the best sound system in its class. It’s still not as nice as the Bose sound system in a Mazda 3 or CX-30, but it’s still good nonetheless relative to other pickups.
The rear bed of the all-new D-Max is slightly larger than before, though Isuzu Philippines did not provide any figures as to how big it is. Either way, the D-Max always had a bed that’s big enough for most people’s needs. As for payload, the company also did not provide any specifics, but overseas models with an equivalent spec as this LS-E 4×4 says this pickup can carry 1,120 kg of cargo, which is 200 kg less than the Ford Ranger Wildtrak 4×4.
Powering this 2021 Isuzu D-Max LS-E 4×4 is a new 3.0-liter 4JJ3-TCX inline-4 turbo diesel engine that produces 190 hp at 3,600 RPM and 450 Nm of torque from 1,600 to 2,600 RPM. This is then mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels. Clearly, these aren’t class-leading numbers. That title goes to the Ford Ranger Wildtrak Bi-Turbo. These numbers, however, don’t actually tell the whole story.
What’s impressive about its powertrain is how the power and torque are delivered. Whereas the Ford Ranger’s twin-turbo 2.0-liter diesel engine delivers most of its torque in the lower RPMs, the D-Max spreads it over a wider RPM range. Revving the engine hard feels rewarding, unlike in its American rival where it’s best appreciated in the low- and mid-RPMs.
Additionally, while it doesn’t have the highest number of gears out there, this transmission is more than adequate. Even at 100 kph, the revs are kept at around 1,600 RPM, almost on par with the Ranger with a 10-speed automatic. In addition, this powertrain configuration gives excellent fuel economy. Over a week’s worth of use, I achieved 11.6 km/l, which is impressive for a pickup with a 4WD system. Do note that I live in the province, but under the same circumstances in other pickups, the D-Max is actually at the top of the class. For perspective, I achieved around 9-10 km/l in most of its 4WD competition.
As for maneuverability, D-Max models for left-hand-drive markets still use a hydraulic steering rack. An electric power steering system would definitely make the D-Max feel lighter, but among competitors with hydraulic steering, the D-Max’s is one of the lightest. On the upside, at least feedback from the wheel is plentiful, making it easy to tell whether you’re losing grip or not.
Refinement is also excellent–a huge improvement over the outgoing model. Road and wind noise are significantly improved. Engine noise is still present, but it isn’t as obtrusive as before. In addition, the D-Max in my opinion has one of the best front seats in the class. It’s so supportive and comfy for long-distance drives. Combined with the new telescoping steering wheel, and finding your ideal driving position has never been easier in a pickup.
Going off-road in the Isuzu D-Max is also good, but I’m somewhat disappointed that this top trim LS-E variant isn’t equipped with a rear locking differential. Having a locking differential significantly improves a pickup’s off-road capability, since this feature evenly distributes power to each rear wheel rather than sending it to the wheel with the least grip.
Lack of any locking differentials aside, the all-new 2021 Isuzu D-Max is one of the best pickups currently on sale this year. The Japanese automaker has pulled out all the stops in making this a pickup that offers cutting-edge driver-assist technology, a modern and reasonably plush interior, and a well-engineered and usable powertrain. This LS-E 4×4 variant we have here stickers for P1,825,000, and that doesn’t even count the P120,000 deposit Isuzu is asking due to the DTI’s safeguard measures. Yes, it’s now one of the most expensive pickups currently on sale, but then, no one says that being one of the best out there doesn’t come cheap.
Pricing and Rating
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★★
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.4 out of 5
*Pricing is correct and accurate as of this article’s time of writing.