India’s most popular pickup truck – the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross – is back on the market; however, it’s become quite pricey now, and it isn’t the all-new version sold in overseas markets. So, why would you buy it then?
Given how terrible 2020 and 2021 (thus far) have been for everyone, it’s no wonder that almost all of us want to go back to 2019 – the last year in the collective memory of mankind that isn’t blemished by masks, collapsing health systems, travel restrictions, and so on.
Now, Isuzu seems to have taken this sentiment a little out of context, as for its 2021 line-up, it has actually gone back to the 2019 version of the D-Max V-Cross. Globally, the all-new 2021 D-Max range is out, and it looks fantastic – go look it up on the internet – but the 2021 version you get in India is the same old model with a BS6-compliant engine. If that wasn’t enough, Isuzu made life even more difficult by hiking the prices of the updated model by as much as ₹4 lakh. Double whammy!
The thing is, what else can you buy if you want a badass pickup truck in India? Exactly! There’s nothing like the D-Max on the market. Also, it’s not that there’s nothing new in the D-max. For starters, there are now more variants to choose from – you now have a bare basic entry-level Hi-Lander version, an automatic version with 4x2, and a new range-topping Z Prestige 4X4 AT variant. With 161bhp and 360Nm on tap, the 1.9-litre diesel engine also produces more grunt (13bhp and 10Nm more) than earlier – minor but important updates.
Unless you are looking at the chrome-deficient and under-tyred Hi-Lander version, the styling of the 2021 version is unchanged. The Z variants we tested are in fact identical to the old model. Do they turn heads? Hell yes! However, when you have the image of the real 2021 version stuck in your head, this one will look slightly dated.
Inside, the Z variants, which are your only option if you want it with 4x4 MT or 4x2 AT, are similar to the outgoing version. While the plastic quality and fit-and-finish are good, the cabin does look dated. The 7.0-inch touchscreen is ancient and comes without Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, and the seats are fabric and also not electrically adjustable – you do get a dual-tone leather interior with an electric driver’s seat in the top-end Z Prestige variant though.
Equipment-wise, there’s a parking camera and sensors – quite useful while reversing, considering that it’s a 5.2m-long vehicle – bi-LED projector lamps, front airbags, automatic climate control, and more. The space at the back is decent for three adults, but the backrest is a little too upright. However, it’s not the seats but the bouncy ride that will bother occupants more.
As desirable as the D-Max is, there’s no hiding the fact that it’s a crude body-on-frame pickup truck. The rear suspension features leaf springs, while the front gets independent suspension with coil springs. For the most part, the ride is acceptable, but when you hit a sharp bump at low speeds, it’s really bumpy – so much so that you can, to your amusement or dismay, see the occupants being tossed at the back in the rear-view mirror. With no load in the cargo bed, the D-Max also feels skittish over bumps and big speed breakers if you don’t slow down on time. Not to mention, it struggles for traction for the same reason on slippery surfaces.
On the flip side, the D-Max has its benefits. Thanks to its crude underpinnings, the D-Max feels tough as nails, especially the 4x4 version. Although we didn’t get to do a proper off-road test this time, its 4WD came in pretty handy when we went mud-plugging with it for a short duration. The manual gearbox has slightly long throws, and the clutch has a long travel. The 6-speed automatic, however, is a gem – it’s smooth shifting and seamless in operation and complements the diesel engine very well. The overall refinement is also very impressive. The engine sounds coarse and has some lag at low revs, but from 1,500 to 3,000rpm, the torque delivery is strong and linear, while the NVH levels also drop considerably. Rev it any higher, and it gets noisy without offering any real top-end punch.
Last but not least, its handling is simply brilliant – I was genuinely surprised by it. You can carry it at shocking speeds through corners, and it remains planted and predictable – as long as the road surface is smooth and you don’t encounter mid-corner bumps, that is. Honestly, for the kind of vehicle it is, the D-Max has no business being that good around corners!
Ultimately, it all boils down to whether you want a pickup truck or not – yes, it’s more of a ‘want’ than ‘need’ situation with the D-Max. Having said that, the pricing of the updated version will definitely make you think twice. As irresistible as it is as a lifestyle product, it has now become a costly affair. Not to mention, for a ₹25 – 30 lakh vehicle, it doesn’t feel that well-equipped or modern inside. And the fact that there’s an all-new version on sale in other parts of the world makes it all the more difficult to justify the D-Max.
But then, let’s ask ourselves this question again – what else can you buy if you want a badass pickup truck in India? Exactly! And as long as that’s the case, the D-Max will continue to lure buyers.
- BS6 Isuzu D-Max V-Cross
Engine: 1,898cc / 4-Cylinder / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed AT (RWD) & 6-Speed MT (4WD)
Power: 161bhp @ 3,600rpm
Torque: 360Nm @ 2,000 – 2,500rpm
Price: ₹20.06 Lakh (4x2 AT); ₹21.07 Lakh (4x4 MT)
X-Factor: A capable pickup truck that’s not only the coolest in the country but also quite badass and desirable.
• All-round capability
• Bumpy ride