Hot on the heels of storm Ciara, storm Dennis hit the UK hard, causing further flooding, felling of trees and generally resulting in more of the devastation that leads to treacherous driving conditions.
But the twin tempests did little to knock the newest recruit to What Van?’s fleet, an Isuzu D-Max Blade, out of its stride, even when the weather was at its worst during a cross-country drive with the family from London to Herefordshire.
The Blade is available with a six-speed manual gearbox but I opted for the six-speed auto, which is wedded to the 164hp 1.9-litre engine that is installed in the whole D-Max range.
The 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.
Despite the wet and windy conditions, when on motorways and A-roads the Blade for the most part coped serenely enough in two-wheel drive mode.
The windscreen wipers offer sufficient speed-adjustment settings to keep vision clear even against driving rain. Sudden gusts of wind, however, do sometimes push the comparatively high-sided vehicle out of its comfort zone, meaning you have to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel, and side-wind assist, which is becoming more common in LCVs, would be a useful addition.
Adaptive cruise control would also be a welcome enhancement to safety and driver comfort with its ability to keep the vehicle a safe distance behind the one in front.
The rivers Severn and Wye are notorious for flooding, and once we ventured into more rural environments I was grateful to be able to switch into four-wheel drive high (via an easy-to-use central dial) to ensure safe passage through the amount of water that rapidly accumulated on B-roads and country lanes.
Our final destination was on higher ground but well off the beaten track and involved traversing steep rocky terrain covered in slippery mud. Once more the Blade coped with the conditions with aplomb when four-wheel drive high was engaged.
The D-Max is, of course, renowned as a rugged workhorse so we expected nothing less than this no-nonsense competence across all surfaces, but in recent years Isuzu has focused on supplementing the line-up, which covers single-, extended- and double-cab formats, with high-end, double-cab versions in a bid to gain a firmer foothold in the lifestyle sector that is dominant in the UK.
Most of these new additions started life as limited editions and the Blade is no exception. It takes its place in the Adventure category of the line-up alongside the more niche hardcore off-road offerings the XTR and the Arctic Trucks conversion, the AT35.
The All Purpose group consists of the Eiger, Yukon and Utah and covers extended-cabs as well as double-cabs, and the entry-level Utility D-Max models include two-wheel drive and single-cab derivatives as well as the other two bodystyles.
Three years ago Isuzu swapped the twin-turbo 2.5-litre diesel engine, producing 163hp and 400Nm torque, with which it launched the D-Max in 2012, for a more refined 1.9 turbo diesel unit delivering 164hp but only 360Nm torque.
While this engine is decent enough it is a little slow off the mark and can be prone to noisy whininess when accelerating through the gears. It does, however, retain the 3.5t towing capacity of its rugged predecessor.
Report Card: Off road = 4/5
The D-Max copes competently in all conditions
Isuzu D-Max Blade 1.9 Auto
Official combined consumption 36.2mpg
Our average consumption 28.4mpg
Price range (ex VAT). £16,094-£35,334
Price (ex VAT) £29,809
Service intervals 12,000mls
Load length 1,485mm
Load width (min/max) 1,110/1,530mm
Gross payload 1,101kg
Engine size/power 1,898cc
Gearbox 6-spd auto
Options (ex VAT)
Lazer lights sports bar £810