Isuzu is proud of its reputation for producing rugged, hardworking pick-up trucks for customers, such as farmers and small rural-based businesses, who need a no-nonsense working vehicle they can rely upon to get the job done in often challenging terrain and inhospitable conditions.
Unlike the majority of pick-up brands, which are focused solely on double-cab models, Isuzu produces single-, extended- and double-cabs and wins much of its business from utility fleets and working or dual-purpose customers who are content with low- or mid-specification derivatives.
Nevertheless, with ambitious growth plans, Isuzu UK needs to make greater in roads into the lifestyle market, which is the key battleground in the UK’s pick-up sector, and this is where the new XTR comes in.
William Brown, Isuzu UK’s boss, says the target is to hit 10,000 sales within the next six years and of these he wants 2,000 to be going to lifestyle customers who require a pick-up primarily for leisure activities.
Brown admits Isuzu will not compete with what he calls the “ultimate lifestyle” models, such as the Ford Ranger Raptor, the VW Amarok and Mercedes X-Class, but has the XTR’s sights trained on the high-end variants of the Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi L200 and Ford Ranger (excluding the Raptor) ranges.
The XTR sits between the extreme off-road AT35, of which only a handful are made, and the flagship of the regular D-Max line-up, the Blade. It will be the last version of the first-generation D-Max, which arrived in 2012 and was revised in 2017, before the next generation arrives towards the end of 2020.
In terms of volume for the XTR, Brown says: “We’re talking hundred of units only.”
He claims the model will act as a ‘halo’ in attracting customers to the D-Max line-up – in particular the Blade, which is where the “big volume opportunity” lies.
The XTR uses the same 164hp 1.9-litre diesel engine that powers the rest of the D-Max range, and Brown admits “there’s nothing we could do with the engine”, as the UK importer has to tow the line decided upon at Isuzu’s Japanese HQ, so the most significant changes are the introduction of Pedders suspension, which is raised by 25mm to provide 250mm ground clearance for better off-road performance, and the addition of bespoke specification.
“You can’t replicate it [the specification] in the aftermarket,” Brown claims.
An XTR badge on its nose, front bumper guard, bonnet protector, tailgate spoiler, rear bumper, six-spoke 17in alloys, 32in tyres and graphic decals help the XTR to stand out.
Green flash colour coding in ‘lozange’ cut-outs in the wheelarches and on the braking and suspension systems that can be glimpsed from the rear and through the alloy wheels add to the visual effect, and the theme is continued in the cabin with green overstitching on the leather steering wheel and seats.
The XTR’s side steps have an angular bar framework and lozenge-shaped infill that acts as a drain point for mud, sand and snow. A textured black finish is designed to prevent rocks and stones damaging the bodywork and to provide extra grip to the step surface.
Off-road tyres can be selected but Isuzu has gone for Pirelli Scorpion all-terrain tyres.
The interior is considerably more luxurious than you’ll find in lower-specced D-Max versions.
Heated front sports seats are upholstered in leather, suede and carbon fibre and the upper seat back has been padded for additional back support. The ribbed central seat panel is covered in suede, which Isuzu says offers both comfort and functionality as it provides extra grip and works in conjunction with the side bolsters to keep the driver in position. Carbon fibre leather has been applied to the side bolsters for its hard-wearing qualities, and the vehicle boasts a D-shaped sports steering wheel.
The XTR is available in four derivatives with either six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
On-the-road prices, excluding VAT, span from £33,999 to £36,149 for the Nav+ Automatic driven here. Brown claims this represents good value compared to the £36,149 Ford Ranger Wildtrak DV8 he names as a rival.
A 7.0in touchscreen with Bluetooth is standard and Nav+ adds satnav, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and DAB radio.
The XTR’s transmission comes with three settings: two-wheel drive high for most on-road surfaces, four-wheel drive high for rougher terrain, and four-wheel drive low, which can be engaged with the excellent hill-descent control, for the most demanding assignments. The on-road ride can be bouncy without a load in the back and performance lacks oomph when accelerating from about 60mph. The steering is precise enough, although slightly prone to understeer, and the slick auto ’box is a better choice than the manual. But it is off-road where the XTR comes into its own, coping with the harshest conditions, whether this be sodden, muddy woodlands or steep, rocky, mountainous terrain.
Isuzu D-Max XTR Nav+ Automatic
Price (ex VAT) £36,149
Price range (ex VAT) £16,909-£36,149
Insurance group 42A
Service intervals 12,000mls
Load length 1,485mm
Load width (min/max) 1,110/1,530mm
Gross payload 1,125kg
Engine size/power 1,898cc/164hp
Combined fuel economy 36.2mpg
The XTR is the most sophisticated D-Max to date and highly accomplished off-road, but it may be beyond the price bracket of Isuzu’s traditional pick-up customers.