The D-Max V-Cross finally gets an automatic gearbox and brings with it Isuzu’s new 1.9-litre diesel engine. We go for a road trip in one to put it through its paces.
Off-late, Isuzu India has been busy improving the comfort and convenience quotient of its D-Max V-Cross pick-up. Earlier in June this year they launched the Z variant that brought with it a host of convenience features such as an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, reverse camera along with a few comfort enhancing ones such as leather seats and full LED projector headlights. Ensuring the safety aspect wasn’t left behind it got a host of driver aids such as traction control, stability control, hill start assist and hill descent control. While all of this was appreciated, there was one avenue for the D-Max V-Cross that was left unchartered - an automatic gearbox model. So, hot on the heels of the launch of the Z variant came the new D-Max V-Cross Automatic featuring a new engine and an equally new Z Prestige badge that brings with it six-airbags and more supportive leather seats.
Now a new engine from Isuzu should be big news, they are diesel engine experts after all. This new unit is a 1.9-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine that is (on paper) more powerful than the larger 2.5-litre unit we are familiar with here in India. The problem that Isuzu faced with this new, relatively small capacity motor in its biggest market for the V-Cross –Thailand, was that people were apprehensive about such a small capacity engine. This is because down in Thailand, they are fortunate enough to be driving around in the 3-litre engined version of the D-Max V-Cross.
To tackle this problem, Isuzu came up with a radical idea, they made a few V-Cross customers and loyalists drive the new 1.9 automatic model all the way from Thailand to China on a 5,700 kilometre non-stop journey during which they were (and here comes the highlight) never allowed to turn off the engine, even when they stopped for a break. Needless to say, the new Isuzu diesel engine performed flawlessly and now Isuzu states that their new 1.9-litre D-Max V-Cross automatic has gone on to become an absolute hit in Thailand, where the D-Max has a claimed market share of close to 40 per cent in the pick-up truck market.
Naturally then, it must be good! So in order to put this new powertrain through its paces here in India, we decided to take a road trip for ourselves (albeit a much shorter one) to the jungles of Ranthambore from our headquarters here in Delhi.
Now I am familiar with this six-speed automatic gearbox as I have driven the Isuzu MU-X which sports the famed Isuzu 3.0-litre diesel engine along with the automatic gearbox. But what I was eager to find out was the real world driveability and performance of this engine considering that it makes more power and torque than the 2.5-litre engine and the responsiveness of the gearbox in this smaller engine.
So on a relatively pleasant summer morning in Delhi, I got into the more comfortable leather driver’s seat of the V-Cross Z Prestige and thumbed the starter button for the new engine. It comes to life in a similar manner as the 2.5. Only this time it was missing a clutch pedal, so I engaged Drive on the automatic gearbox and was happy to find out that under gentle acceleration NVH does seem to be a little lower than that of the larger engine. Step on the long pedal a little harder and you will notice that there is some turbo lag and power comes in strong at the 2,000rpm mark. 2,000 – 4,000 rpm range is the operating range for this engine and it's here that engine NVH is evident, like in the 2.5-litre D-Max. But I have to say that on-paper power and torque figures aside, the 1.9-litre engine does not feel as punchy in the meat of the powerband as the 2.5-litre model. Of course, you have to keep in mind that an automatic gearbox saps some power from the engine. But even so, as the saying goes – there is no replacement for displacement.
That said it’s not like you really miss the additional punch when you are driving around normally in this 1.9 litre V-Cross for there is more than enough of it for driving around in the city. What you are thankful for the automatic gearbox as you no longer have to constantly work the clutch pedal and the short ratio gearbox to stay on the power. Urban driving is fairly easy as you can cruise around town effortlessly thanks to the smooth-shifting gearbox. In fact, gear changes go undetected by the driver as they are always on point and smooth and you can only tell them when you pay attention and look out for the changes. All in all, Isuzu seems to have got this spot on.
Roll on to the highway and the smooth shifting nature of this gearbox continues at higher speeds, making the task of mile-munching a walk in the park. In fact, I was rather thankful for the automatic as the Delhi-Jaipur highway is packed with truck traffic and making your way through a network of trucks can be quite taxing otherwise. I am also happy to report that NVH is kept well in check while cruising at 100 – 120 km/h and you can comfortably have a conversation while going along. The only issue here was the slow kickdown response of the gearbox. When you come out from behind a truck and demand more power, the gearbox takes what feels like over a full second to find a lower gear.
As I drove along and went off the Jaipur highway towards Dausa and on to the single-lane highway, I had become more accustomed to the transmission and learnt to make up for the delay by depressing the throttle pedal earlier than required for overtaking manoeuvres by timing the upcoming gap based on the speeds of oncoming traffic. So if you want to make the most out of the gearbox, that’s an initiative well worth and so is the Tiptronic mode which can be more responsive.
The roads then opened up to some nice sweeping bends and the V-Cross once again displayed its confident drive dynamics as you can take highway bends at 100 km/h with confidence. But as we progressed further and came across broken roads, the V-Cross’s bumpy ride became evident especially over tarmac bumps where jolts to the rear leaf spring suspension are evident. I would recommend that you get the rear flatbed cover that Isuzu offers and pack your luggage, supplies and a couple of sandbags if you have to in order to keep the pitch and bounce in check.
And that brings me to the joys of going vacationing in a pick-up such as the V-Cross, for you can pack all of your luggage, camping equipment, barbecue grill and the works onto the flatbed while you and your friends travel comfortably in the cabin. And considering how much people love going out for weekend getaways these days, the D-Max V-Cross really is a great tool for those adventure getaways.
- Isuzu D-Max V-Cross 1.9 AT
Engine: 1,898cc / 4-Cylinders / 16 Valves / DOHC / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic / Four-Wheel Drive
Power: 145bhp @ 3,600rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 1,800-2,600rpm
Price: ₹ 19.06 Lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-factor: Automatic gearbox makes it far easier to live within the city, makes for a comfortable driving experience on highways too.
• Smooth gearbox
• Comfortable to drive
• Slow kickdown response
• Ride can get bumpy
Also read - 2019 Isuzu D-Max V-Cross Review: First Drive