If you have a ₹20-lakh budget (give or take) and a thirst for adventure, which would you choose – the BMW R 1250 GS or the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross Automatic?
For many, off-roading is not just an adventure but also much-needed respite from the chaos of their ‘always-connected’ city lives. Of course, the chance to explore some unchartered terrain in an adventure-focused machine is an added bonus. So, for our 13th-anniversary issue, we decided to do something special, by pitting an immovable object against an unstoppable force – the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross automatic and the BMW R 1250 GS.
Now, some may say that we’ve lost our minds by comparing these two, but a closer look reveals that they’re a lot more similar than they appear – both are ideal for off-roading and are actually similarly priced. So, we (Abhishek and Arup) decided to take a break from the office and headed to the Ranthambore National Park – the perfect place for us to explore broken roads and dirt tracks. Moreover, the highway to the park would also allow us to test the on-road performance of these machines as well.
As I’ve always been intrigued by the GS, the BMW was my vehicle of choice, while Abhishek, who doesn’t really ride much and is also our in-house 4x4 off-roading expert, was at the helm of the Isuzu. And just like that, this unusual comparison between a pick-up truck and an adventure bike was all set to begin.
The alarm went off at 3:45 am. But, unlike my usual cursing and struggling to drag myself out of bed, I was already awake even before my phone starting buzzing – all thanks to the R 1250 GS of course. The plan was simple – I was to rendezvous with Abhishek and Jared at the McDonald’s in Manesar and then we’d hit the highway all the way to the national park.
After polishing off our ‘healthy’ breakfast, it was time to hit the road. As intimidating as this colossus of a bike is, it’s not at all difficult to ride. In fact, it’s quite easy. I first chose Road mode, by using the toggle on the left handle and selecting my mode of choice on the 6.5-inch colour display. Even with the 1,254cc engine’s 134bhp, the GS allowed me to ride at a steady pace instead of bullying me to further explore the depths of its vast power reserves.
Once I got used to the weight and power, and with a smooth stretch of tarmac at my disposal and hardly any traffic, I decided to take things a notch higher and opted for Dynamic Pro Mode. I twisted the throttle gently, and the GS yanked me forward. The engine now had gained a sudden urgency. The GS was no longer a gentle giant, it had become an angry beast.
It responded more like a sports bike and less like an ADV. Naturally, I managed to make the D-Max eat my dust thanks to the massive 143Nm of torque, but eventually, I had to slow down and wait for them, as I didn’t know the route. After some reasoning, we decided that I’d ride patiently behind the pick-up truck.
Still, in that short span, the GS had shown its mettle – as it carved through corners with composure, automatically making adjustments based on the rider’s weight, throttle response, and lean angles.
Finally, we reached Ranthambore, which welcomed us with no tarmac and a lot of water crossings. I switched to Rain mode and decided to overtake the pick-up once again. This is where the GS came to its own. Even though the tyres are road-focused, it offered enough grip to traverse rocks and streams with ease. The only thing I had to keep in mind was the weight of the GS. There was slight wheelspin, but the way the traction control and the tyres were in sync, it was nothing more than a tease. It gave me so much confidence that, for most of the ride, I was standing on the foot-pegs. I was even able to manoeuvre it around corners effortlessly.
As I was having a blast on the GS, I could see Abhishek and Jared bouncing around all over the place, as the D-Max needs some cargo in its pick-up to balance its weight better. I agree that the GS lacks the luggage space and the luxury of an air conditioner, but in terms of comfort and capability – both on and off-road – it’s simply in a different league altogether, not to mention the sort of attention that it commands on the road, which is embarrassingly delightful.
Tough as nails
No, it’s not me who’s tough as nails, as the sub-heading might suggest. I’m talking about the Isuzu D-Max. Underpinned by a battle-ready ladder frame chassis, the D-Max V-Cross is built to take on the worst that the roads – or the lack of them – can throw at it. Halfway after we veered off the Delhi-Jaipur highway, we were continuously accompanied by road-construction almost all the way to Ranthambore.
And while Arup shot past us, literally like a bullet, Jared and I were left bouncing around on the road – like the leaf-spring rear suspension of the D-Max makes the unloaded rear-end of the truck prone to some violent pitching and bouncing. While the D-Max simply gobbled this up, out of concern for our backbones, I eased off the accelerator – allowing Arup with the GS’ magical adaptive dampers to disappear into the horizon. There was simply nothing I could do about it.
But, soon enough, he needed navigation guidance and had to follow us – and, thus, it was time for him to eat our dust instead! Ha, you simply can’t beat the practicality of four wheels. Something emphasised by the fact that the rear seat of the D-Max was loaded with our luggage and supplies, including a crate of life-sustaining water bottles. While I do wish the V-Cross came with a flatbed cover as standard for carrying our cargo, I wasn’t really complaining, as the climate control was keeping us nice and cool while the sheer size of the Isuzu ensured that people stayed clear of our path.
That’s the beauty of the D-Max V-Cross, people everywhere turn around for a second glance to admire the simplicity of a design that gives it a truly rugged and adventurous image. We had spent the early part of the morning cruising along the highway, with the D-Max’s automatic gearbox making light of the Delhi-Jaipur truck traffic. But now we were finally approaching the jungles of Ranthambore.
Soon enough, we had crossed over to the other side of Sawai Madhopur, the town bordering Rahtmabore, and entered the premises of the rather huge Jhoomar Baori castle hotel. Here, we were at the liberty of driving into the woods of Ranthambore for leisure.
Over such terrain, engaging 4WD High on the transfer case of the D-Max provides more than enough traction for some intense adventure. You can go on a driving holiday in a two-wheel-drive car without any problems, but four-wheel drive simply expands the possibility of adventure to such a huge extent that you truly have to experience it to believe it.
This journey was a quest to find out what mode of adventure vehicle you should go for if you have ₹20 lakh to spare. Yup, the GS costs ₹20.5 lakh, while the V-Cross automatic will set you back by ₹19.06 lakh (ex-showroom). The Isuzu makes a strong case for itself, with its tough and dependable nature and four-wheel drive. Also, it has enough convenience features to keep you dry and comfortable, while keeping your cargo safe.
The GS, on the other hand, definitely makes for a more thrilling machine for touring, with its insane power and clever electronics that place it in a league of its own. But there’s no denying the fact that a car allows for a level of comfort and practicality that a motorcycle simply cannot. On a motorcycle, fatigue comes into play more quickly from the fact that you’re either left dusty and perspiring under your riding gear or wet and cold from the rain.
But, hey, if you’ve got a pal who thinks along the same lines, you can have both these machines to enjoy some truly epic adventures…
The BMW R 1250 GS and Isuzu D-Max V-Cross aren’t just great adventure vehicles, but they look really imposing & impressive as well. The GS can disappear into the distance, with its powerful engine, while the V-Cross ploughs on relentlessly.
The Isuzu is as tough as nails, and its 4WD system gives it great go-anywhere credentials. The BMW, on the other hand, is a thrilling, high-tech, adventure machine.