Mazda and Isuzu are currently working on a factory-backed off-road pack and a 10 per cent boost in power and torque for the 2021 Mazda BT-50 and Isuzu D-Max, according to sources with knowledge of the plans.
The move is expected to bring about new variants above the top-specification Mazda BT-50 GT and Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain that are expected to focus on off-road performance, with lifted suspension and more off-road hardware.
The BT-50 GT and D-Max X-Terrain currently retail for $59,990 before on-road costs and $62,900 before on-roads (or $58,990 drive-away) respectively.
An increase in power and torque is also likely to come as a factory option in the next six-12 months, or as part of a midlife update to bridge the gap between the BT-50 and D-Max’s 450Nm torque output and the 500Nm on tap in their most powerful four-cylinder rivals.
Our sources suggest Mazda has already commenced planning and market research into the off-road package, studying the work done by Ford on the Ranger Raptor and Ranger FX4 Max and by Nissan on the Navara Warrior.
Both vehicles offer significantly more capability off-road thanks to greater underbody protection, off-road suspension, and all-terrain tyres to match.
The BT-50 and D-Max off-road packages are expected to include additional ride height (potentially pushing ground clearance from the current 240mm to around 270mm), all-terrain off-road tyres, and extra underbody protection.
Like in the Ranger Raptor and Warrior, an off-road package is likely to rob the vehicle of some payload capacity and potentially some towing capacity – although the Navara Warrior and Ranger FX4 Max prove you can retain a 3500kg braked towing capacity with an off-road ready suspension.
The mooted power and torque increase would add 10 per cent to both outputs, pushing figures up from 140kW of power to around 155kW and torque from 450Nm to around 500Nm.
The BT-50 and D-Max both use a second generation Aisin AWR6B45 transmission, which is almost identical to the transmission used in the eighth-generation Toyota HiLux, which also sports a newly revised 500Nm torque output.
Toyota owns 51 per cent of Aisin, but markets the gearbox in the HiLux as the AC60, despite it being almost identical to the second-generation AWR6B45 unit.
It’s unclear at this stage how far away a factory off-road kit and performance upgrade is, and whether Mazda and Isuzu will wait until a mid-life facelift to launch them. But our source suggests both changes will be fully warrantied, which means five years of coverage for the BT-50 and six years of coverage for the D-Max.
Our artist’s impressions give you an idea of what the off-road kit could look like on the BT-50 and D-Max. Personally, we reckon they look pretty decent. With the new D-Max platform now sporting a standard rear differential lock, along with high- and low-range, they should also be fairly capable off-road with added ride height and all terrain tyres.
We asked both Mazda and Isuzu to provide comment with regards to our information above. While Isuzu didn’t get back to us at time of publish, a Mazda spokesperson said the brand is happy with the current power output and accessory range.
“No plans at this stage [for an off-road package]. Our accessories list will comfortably exceed 100 options once fully implemented. There will be items on there that suit the more serious off road space as well,” a Mazda spokesperson said.
“The new engine is inherently more efficient and emissions-friendly. That, with the weight reduction (around 50kg spec for spec) means performance levels remain on-par [with the previous-generation car]. There are currently no plans to alter this specification.”
Let us know in the comments below – do you like the potential designs, and would you opt for an off-road version of the BT-50 and D-Max? Or would you stick with the on-road version?