Sure, the likes of Tata and Mahindra have been offering pick-up trucks for a while now. And while some have been quite utilitarian, and also drivable – think Mahindra Scorpio Getaway and Tata Xenon XT – none have been particularly comfortable or usable on a day-to-day basis.
So, for the first time ever, what we have here is a light truck for utility vehicle buyers that they might actually want to drive. Right from the time you first encounter its rather imposing shape, the D-Max V-Cross certainly looks the part. It’s well built and feels solid, the panel gaps are even, and the styling elements – such as the chrome grille, massive wheel arches, and 4x4 decals – make it appear muscular and dominating.
It’s much the same story on the inside too, as it offers a very civilized cabin for a pick-up truck. In fact, the dual-tone dashboard is virtually identical to the Chevy Trailblazer – with the same climate control system. The front seats are nice and supportive, but the rear bench is too short to provide good under thigh support and the backrest too upright. This is, of course, the trade-off you must make between cabin space and cargo carrying capacity.
When you crank the 2.5-litre, four-cylinder common-rail diesel engine, it comes to life with a bit of a howl and a shudder. Normally, this would be annoying – but in a big brutish pick-up truck, it’s perfectly in character. Nevertheless, refinement levels are decent for a pick-up – and the powertrain is responsive too.
But let’s not kid ourselves, the only thing a pick-up should be doing at a racetrack is ferrying your racing slicks. But we’re not ones to be easily deterred – and so, in keeping with the format of this test, we ventured out on track in the Isuzu. Surprisingly, though, body control is not bad and body roll is manageable. The steering is a bit lazy, and the transmission a bit clunky. We tried to kick the tail out, but it didn’t have enough power to do so. All said and done though, we completed a lap without incident and with a smile plastered on the driver’s face – not a bad result considering it couldn’t have been more like a fish out of water.
If you need a proper utility vehicle, here’s one that’s actually quite civilised and usable too.