We visit the biggest 1-tonne pick-up truck market in the world – Thailand – and drive the most popular pick-up there, the D-Max V-Cross, on Isuzu’s very own 4x4 circuit.
The concept of lifestyle vehicles is still developing in India. Although a lot of enthusiasts engage in weekend driving activities around the country, there aren’t too many lifestyle vehicles in India – especially at the affordable end of the scale.
Because of market dynamics, international carmakers who sell mass-market cars in India haven’t really bothered to offer their lifestyle products in the country. But that’s not to say that there are none. In 2016, Isuzu India took a bold step by launching the D-Max V-Cross pick-up truck at a fairly affordable price of ₹12.80 lakh (ex-showroom). And it was handsomely rewarded by off-road enthusiasts, who eagerly accepted the pick-up in a market marked by the conspicuous lack of reasonably affordable off-roaders. Quickly, the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross became quite a popular vehicle, achieving the cult status of being the only lifestyle pick-up in India.
Backed by this success, recently Isuzu India launched updated versions of the D-Max V-Cross with more equipment (you can read our review of the new automatic model on the previous pages). And to give us an idea about the popularity of the D-Max, Isuzu India invited us to visit their biggest market for this pick-up – Thailand. So, how could we refuse?
Land of the D-Max
Last year, 1.39 million cars were sold in Thailand, and approximately 450,000 of those were pick-up trucks. Thai folks sure love their trucks. In fact, because Thailand is a pick-up truck manufacturing hub, it’s the biggest one-tonne pick-up truck market in the world.
According to Isuzu Thailand, the D-Max has around 40% market share in the Thai pick-up truck market. Its popularity, they say, is backed by its reliability and fuel efficiency. And to ensure the D-Max’s market leadership, Isuzu offers over 30 variants of the D-Max in Thailand! These range from different iterations of the S-Cab model to the V-Cross. There is literally a D-Max to suit the needs of every type of pick-up truck buyer.
To ensure customers and fans engage with the D-Max, Isuzu runs a 4x4 circuit just outside Bangkok. The idea is to give them a taste of what it’s capable of.
Isuzu 4x4 Land
Built over 12 acres, Isuzu 4x4 Land is a tailor-made 4x4 circuit, with 7 obstacles designed to showcase the four-wheel drive capabilities of the D-Max. Personally, it’s the cleanest four-wheel drive track I’ve ever seen. There wasn’t even a speck of dust to be seen anywhere! Instead, you have these well-designed concrete obstacles, some of which are quite intimidating.
The first of these is called the V-Curve, which is essentially a cross axle obstacle that’s designed to allow the front suspension on either side to compress differently. As the vehicle goes over it, it causes one wheel to rise up in the air.
Next is the Rugged Route obstacle, which is similar to the V-Curve but is less steep, while the ridges are designed to provide a different traction experience. Then, there’s a Rock Canal obstacle that involves some water wading, followed by a waterfall cliff, which sees the D-Max climb up and down a wet rocky hill.
Taking the difficulty level up a notch are the Side Slope obstacles – these are 40-degree side inclines, with ridges, that allow you to explore the limit to which you can safely drive sideways on an incline. And then comes the really challenging stuff – a zig-zag curve that sees the D-Max go over sideways inclines, with cross axle articulation. Just looking at the performance here makes you respect the D-Max’s abilities, and when you experience it, well, you can’t help but become a fan!
The most challenging obstacle at Isuzu 4x4 Land, though, is the High Hill – a 15-metre, 40-degree vertical incline. This daunting obstacle demands a few tries even from experienced Isuzu 4x4 driving instructors, but the raw torque of the mighty 3.0-litre Isuzu diesel engine, and of course the four-wheel drive transfer case, allows the D-Max to scale this immense obstacle in an impressive manner.
All in all, 4x4 Land sure is a great initiative by Isuzu to showcase the 4x4 prowess of the D-Max and MU-X. Moreover, it also allows owners to feel very proud of their vehicles.
Built over 12 acres, Isuzu 4x4 Land is a tailor-made 4x4 circuit, with 7 obstacles designed to showcase the four-wheel drive capabilities of the D-Max.
Also, read - Isuzu D-Max V-Cross Automatic Review