Isuzu D-Max 3.0 V-Cross: When Bigger is Better

By Lee Pang Seng
THE bigger engine displacement option is sometimes the better alternative when you need the added power and torque for your mode of transportation. You need a ‘friendly’ price levy environment as well to make it an affordable choice and this is applicable in Sabah and Sarawak.

That is primarily the reason why the 3.0-litre pick-up is preferred over there and this is not ignored by the car companies that are trying to gain inroad into these markets. Isuzu Malaysia continues to offer the 3.0-litre option as soon as it was available and with the recent addition, expects to improve the pick-up’s good sales numbers further.

As it were, Isuzu Malaysia is targeting 70 per cent of the D-Max 3.0-litre sales to be sold in Sabah and Sarawak. Demand in the peninsula is expected to come from those who can afford the higher road tax for the privilege of owning a bigger displacement diesel engine pick-up; a small price to pay for enjoying one-upmanship over the others, so to speak.

The D-Max 3.0-litre model made available is called the V-Cross, along with a Safari version that panders to those who wouldn’t mind paying a premium price for a better equipped pick-up that stands out on its own in looks. The individual quality is carried further by having its own unique colour, the bright and bold hue of the Venetian Orange Mica.

The Safari’s slew of exclusivity is carried by the Italian leather seats with orange stitching (to complement its body colour perhaps) and a dedicated logo on the front seatbacks; bumper guards, door claddings and side step in matte grey; matte black roof rails; dark grey alloy wheels; rear aero spoilers; and a lockable v-lid for the rear covered wagon.

Without these items, the standard D-Max 3.0 V-Cross would look pretty much the same as the smaller displacement 2.5-litre model, save for the model badging at the rear folding panel. While the 3.0-litre models may appear to have a similar colour range with the 2.5-litre D-Max, there are subtle differences. The D-Max 3.0-litre pick-ups are brought in from Isuzu Thailand, which makes the pick-up for export and local consumption, and they carry colours that are said to be formulated for international markets. Thus, the tincture would vary slightly to those applied at the Pekan plant for the locally assembled D-Max 2.5 models. The colour options for the D-Max 3.0 are Cosmic Black Mica, Garnet Red Mica, Titanium Silver Metallic and Splash White.

If you wondering why Isuzu Malaysia did not add the 3.0-litre model to the assembly line here, it is because the sale of the bigger engine displacement model is not expected to be very high. It is therefore not cost effective to have the D-Max 3.0-litre put together here. Nevertheless, its sales volume is expected to lift Isuzu’s current 11 per cent market share in the pick-up segment.

The engine belongs to the improved new-generation in-line four series that we first saw in the 2.5-litre model with VGS (variable geometry turbo system), double overhead camshafts, 16 valves, common-rail direct injection and melt-in anti-friction cylinder liners that are durable. Unlike the smaller displacement engine, the 3.0-litre’configuration is undersquare with 95.4mm bore and long 104.9mm stroke to displace an exact 2999cc. The compression ratio is also lower at 17.3:1 against 18.0:1.

With the higher displacement, output is naturally higher at 130kW (177PS) at 3600rpm and 380Nm torque from 1800 to 2800rpm: the 2.5-litre engine delivers 100kW (137PS) and 320Nm.  With an additional weight difference of about 10kg, the D-Max 3.0-litre has enough output to compensate for the slight weight disadvantage in performance and fuel consumption. It is said to provide 10 per cent better mileage than the previous D-Max 3.0-litre and the difference to the current 2.5 is less than 10 per cent.

There are two transmission al options: the five-speed manual that is available with the D-Max 3.0 V-Cross and the five-speed sequential shift automatic (V-Cross and Safari). As a part-time four-wheel drive, it runs primarily on rear drive in two-wheel mode. Four-wheel drive high mode can be selected on the run up to 100km/h via a knob on the centre console, while it is recommended that four-wheel low be selected while stationary.

Our drive experience from the Klang Valley to Penang was in the D-Max 3.0 V-Cross Safari, covering about 25 per cent of secondary roads. We decided to skip the secondary route on the second leg and took the highway to Penang after the lunch stop.

The higher output was put to good use when we had to pass other vehicles quickly. There was little engine pause when we stepped on the accelerator, due mostly to the strong torque available from an early stage of the engine speed. The power surge took over soon after and we found plenty of room to spare in our overtaking manoeuvres. The low-end grunt of the higher displacement engine also helped.

At highway cruising speeds of 110-120km/h, the engine ran leisurely at 1800 to 2000rpm, which was similar to that in the D-Max 2.5. By 2500rpm, the road speed was 140km/h and increasing (we did 175km/h during a few hot runs). This gave us a pleasant and quiet drive as we hardly heard much of the engine, except when flooring the accelerator to pass slower traffic.

For a tall vehicle with an aerodynamic factor that can’t match that of a car, we didn’t hear much of the wind turbulence around the door mirrors or roof. The road roar was the only intrusive noise over the different surfaces and that too was nicely muted to allow normal conversation and the enjoyment of music with the audio system.

The D-Max 3.0 continued to give us the confidence when taking to winding stretches at a fair charge, with mild understeer. This is the result of the i-GRIP (Isuzu Gravity Response Intelligent Platform) design approach. It works on a combination of high ground clearance (235mm), long 3095mm wheelbase, and wide 1570mm wheel tracks, front and rear, to offer a low centre of gravity and thus, higher stability.

Of course, the ride comfort did suffer a little when going over successive road dips as the single leafspring rear, which is meant for heavy loads, had a harder rebound action that led to some pitching. As long as the roads were decently paved, the ride was generally good and appreciated. The all-terrain tyres fitted on the D-Max 3.0 were Bridgestone Dueler 255/65 R17.

We might not have any off-road drives during the recent impression run but we could still recall our experience at the Isuzu 4x4 Land in Thailand, near the factory in Rayong, with the D-Max 2.5 last year. It’s without a doubt that the D-Max 3.0 would perform even better in various off-road conditions with the additional power and grunt.

And the D-Max 3.0 V-Cross still comes attractively priced for buyers in Peninsular Malaysia: the V-Cross Safari that we had our drive impression in is at a premium of RM115,208.40 on the road without insurance. The 3.0 V-Cross automatic is priced at RM104,468.40 and the five-speed manual model is RM98,508.40.

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