In the second half of 2019, Isuzu South Africa launched its new D-Max X-Rider Black. The bakkie is not all that new, but it is the latest in a long line of special edition bakkies coming from the Japanese automaker.
The Black, if we’re entirely honest, might be the last, or one of the last, special edition bakkies scheduled for the current generation D-Max. A new bakkie will arrive towards the end of 2020, marking the end of a decade-long run for this generation.
Realising that this will be one of the last chances to spend some extra time with the D-Max, we approached Isuzu SA for an extended test on the D-Max. Specifically, the X-Rider Black.
Following a few weeks covering more 3000km, we came to a few conclusions regarding the bakkie and can we, with genuine conviction, give a just opinion on what it’s like to live with it.
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The X-Rider Black benefits from a few visual enhancements that not only differentiates it from the rest of the D-Max range but also its market rivals. The black 18-wheels, with their unique design, could be classified as the vantage point from where everything begins. They are wrapped in big off-road tyres that fill the wheel arches quite well.
At the front, the X-Rider Black has a bold face with the Isuzu nameplate sitting smackdab in the middle. Unlike other D-Max’s where the nameplate is finished in silver, on the Black, it’s finished in red. This does make quite a difference as to how onlookers perceive the bakkie. Fog lights have been brought on to the front bumper, as well as a set of roof rails.
At the rear, things are pretty straightforward in terms of bakkie design, but a cargo-cover has been fitted as standard. While this does add to the aesthetics of the bakkie, it also serves a practical purpose. When closed, the tailgate can’t be opened unless the cover latch is released – definitely a thumbs up. Following extensive gravel driving, dust crept into the loading area. In this regard, better dust insulation for the cargo area is something that the all-new D-Max should address.
An old system
Admittedly, Isuzu does not have the greatest of interiors in the motoring world at the moment, and their vehicles are showing it. Both the D-Max and mu-X are a testament to that. And interestingly, while the automaker does have a more modern infotainment system on the market, they are implementing both it and the old unit on new bakkies/SUVs.
If you’ve sat in one of Isuzu's products lately, you’d have noticed the relatively user-friendly infotainment system. It has a touch colour screen, is easy to navigate through, and one can connect your smartphone with it. Why, then, does the X-Rider Black have the very old and basic media system? This when other Blacks are fitted with the newer system?
The answer is quite simple: the model in question was built before the eight-inch multimedia screen was made standard on the X-Rider in October. In that regard, one has understanding for the two infotainment variants.
Image: Charlen Raymond
Given that the D-Max X-Rider Black rides on what is effectively a very old architecture, we will not be divulging too much on the matter. And while moving away from the topic, let’s be clear that, for the most part, the X-Rider Black can’t compete with the Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger in terms of overall ride quality.
Be that as it may. Our bakkie saw plenty of action both on tar and gravel. While it saw most of its in and around Cape Town, the Black spearheaded its way northward on the N7 on a couple of occasions and also made little effort of the mountainous areas between said road and the Atlantic Ocean.
One can feel the bakkie’s shortcomings. It’s not as easy to drive as its rivals, but you are okay with it - because you understand. Mash the throttle for an overtake, and the five-speed manual gearbox has to be worked to perform the action in the best way possible. The turbocharged 2.5-litre diesel engine may have 100kW and 320Nm available, but it feels tiresome outside its performance window. We did, however, register a fuel return of 9.8km/litre. In other words, 10.2-litres/100km, which is not bad. All things considered.
The D-Max is not the easiest bakkie to steer and has it lost substantial ground to its rivals in this department. It’s an almost tedious task to manoeuvre in and out of a parking space. All the while contending with a very mechanical gearbox.
On the open road, away from city traffic, the bakkie is much easier to steer, mainly because the body tends to become lighter as the speeds increase.
But where the bakkie shines is on gravel roads. While it’s not the best on-road, it does not let up on gravelly bits. How the bakkie carries itself is commendable, and is it one of the characteristics the D-Max can flaunt. We managed to reach good speeds on this type of road and were left impressed by the level of sure-footedness. Again, the Isuzu D-Max X-Rider Black is not the best on the market, but it will continue to impress when the going gets tough.
When the D-Max range is replaced in the closing stages of 2020, there will be some of us who’ll miss the current generation. The realisation is there that this bakkie is in dire need of an upgrade, but despite its shortcomings, it remains one of the default options in the market. The Hilux, Ranger, and even the slow-selling Mitsubishi Triton, have upped the game, and does it leave Isuzu with plenty of work to do.
The X-Rider Black is a fine choice to close out the D-Max’s book. It has the looks, it has that Isuzu-tough aura, and it owns it position in the market as best it can.
Price: Isuzu D-Max 250 X-Rider Black D/C 4x2 – R471 300Image: QuickPic