Isuzu Ute has given its well-regarded D-Max a refresh for the 2023 model year – nothing radical, but perhaps enough to keep it in the headlines alongside the all-new Ford Ranger.
The MY23 update brings more D-Max SX workhorse options, further refinements to the driver-assist systems with towing at the front-of-mind, some minor cosmetic upgrades outside and in, and new features including tailgate assist with gas struts.
The version we’re driving here is the D-Max LS-U+, which sits one rung below the range-topping X-Terrain show pony and to my mind is the pick of the range.
Think of it as the variant for those who want all the mod-cons, but don’t want the overt body kit that defines the X-Terrain and in my view reduces practicality.
Close to 50,000 current-generation Isuzu D-Maxes have found their way into Australian households since the local late-2020 launch – a figure that could have been higher were it not for ongoing shortages which continue to be a factor for the MY23 model.
“This is the most significant update to the Isuzu D-Max range since debut — with each model set to receive a bolder design aesthetic, new features, and three new models added — giving customers more choice,” reckons Isuzu Ute Australia managing director Hiroyasu Sato.
“In a market where some brands have removed features to meet delivery timeframes, we’ve listened to the feedback from customers and the media and have introduced new features to keep the Isuzu D-Max towards the top of the segment; features that appeal to the modern ute driver, and the towing and touring adventurer.”
Let’s gear up for a revisit and put this claim to the test.
Lower-level grades come in single-cab and extended-cab forms with two diesel engine options, some offering dropside trays (cab-chassis). You can view the full range price list here.
But the Isuzu D-Max LS-U+ is available solely as a 4×4 dual-cab (Crew Cab in Isuzu parlance) with the 3.0-litre diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission. It sits between the LS-U and the X-Terrain in the price list.
As such its recommended retail price (RRP) before on-road costs is $63,500 – $2500 pricer than the RRP of an LS-U, and $4000 cheaper than the RRP of an X-Terrain.
But it’s not that simple. See, Isuzu Ute offers special drive-away pricing on the X-Terrain of $64,990 on the road, whereas using the drive-away pricing calculator on Isuzu’s site shows a price of around $69,000 on the road for the LS-U (RRP plus state taxes and delivery costs).
You should not be expected to pay more for the LS-U+ than a better-specified X-Terrain, so we’d advise you to talk about this with your dealer.
At a $63,500 RRP, the D-Max LS-U+ competes against price-point competitors such as the Ford Ranger Sport Bi-Turbo and V6 ($63,690-$66,690), Toyota HiLux SR5+ ($64,430), and the Isuzu’s twin-under-the-skin Mazda BT-50 GT ($60,390).
2023 Isuzu D-Max 4×4 pricing
- SX Crew Cab Ute 4×4 1.9 6AT: $50,200 (NEW)
- SX Crew Cab Ute 4×4 3.0 6AT: $52,200
- LS-M Crew Cab Ute 4×4 3.0 6MT: $53,300
- LS-M Crew Cab Ute 4×4 3.0 6AT: $55,300
- LS-U Space Cab Ute 4×4 3.0 6AT: $58,000
- LS-U Crew Cab Ute 4×4 3.0 6MT: $59,000
- LS-U Crew Cab Ute 4×4 3.0 6AT: $61,000
- LS-U+ Crew Cab Ute 4×4 3.0 6AT: $63,500
- X-Terrain 4×4 3.0 6AT: $67,500 ($64,990 D/A)
Prices exclude on-road costs unless specified (D/A)
It’s not as flashy as some, but the Isuzu D-Max LS-U’s cabin gets a lot of the basics right.
For instance the front seats have a particularly generous amount of shoulder, side and thigh bolstering, are heated, and in the driver’s case electric. The leather also feels of good quality, soft and plush without being easily damaged.
Ditto the steering wheel, with reach and rake adjustments, easy controls, and tasteful white stitching. It also has a button on the right spoke which, when pressed for three seconds, disengages the lane-keeping assist system that re-activates each time the vehicle is turned on.
The instrument cluster comprises analogue dials with a small screen between, on which there’s a digital speedo, fuel economy readout, basic multimedia controls, 4×4 mode readout, and settings for the driver-assist features, the latter of which can only be modified when the ute is stationary. There are Trip A and B monitors.
Storage is paramount in a ute and the D-Max delivers, with 1.5-litre bottle holders in each door, sliding cup holders at each end of the dash ahead of the outboard vents, two stacked gloveboxes, a closing cubby above the touchscreen, and a transmission tunnel with a phone storage area, cup holders, and a smallish square console.
The dual-zone climate controls are run by handy rocker switches that correspond to a small digital readout, below which sits a dial to select high- and low-range 4×4. No naff touchscreen controls for A/C here…
The centre touchscreen covers the basics: satellite-navigation, a decent reversing camera with a good view of the towball, a surprisingly decent sound system including roof speakers, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. But it feels like an afterthought rather than a fully integrated screen, since it controls no vehicle functions beyond multimedia.
Overall build quality feels pretty good actually, with a sturdy console, pretty even gaps and joins, and a few padded surfaces such as on the door armrests, console lid, and dash top.
There are a few grievances though. For instance there’s too much glossy black trim surrounding the gear shifter and touchscreen surround, which acts as a magnet for scratches, dust, and sun glare. There is also just the one USB-A plug up front too, although there’s a 12V point for an adapter.
But what’s the sole utterly bewildering issue? Every time you pull down or put up the sun visor, it knocks the rear-view mirror out of position. How did something this basic get through all those engineers and designers? And how wasn’t it addressed in the latest update? Baffling.
The back seats are pretty roomy, with my 194cm frame able to fit (just) behind my own driving position. Rear occupants get their own air vents, one USB point, map holders in the seat backs, a bag hook on the back of the passenger seat, a pull-down centre armrest with cup holders, and bottle holders in the doors. There are also sturdy grab handles on each B-pillar.
The seat bases (60 per cent on the right and 40 per cent on the left) flip upwards to create more storage, and cover two lidded floor cubbies. The seat-back pulls downwards to reveal the child-seat top-tether anchor points which are paired with two ISOFIX anchors.
One handy new addition is the soft-closing tailgate, which uses pneumatic tubes on each side like a fly screen door. The fitted bedliner in our car was a drop-in unit rather than a spray-in one, but felt tougher than many of its type. There are also four bolted-on tie downs.
I kind of like the absence of a sports bar, or a try-hard sailplane – this is a work ute through and through.
There are no driveline changes for 2023, to either the base 1.9-litre diesel or flagship 3.0-litre.
The LS-U+ runs the 3.0-litre, a four-cylinder turbo-diesel producing middling (by class standards) outputs of 140kW (at 3600rpm) and 450Nm (at 1600-2600rpm).
It’s mated to a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission and a part-time 4×4 system with low-range and a locking rear diff.
Fuel consumption under ADR testing is rated as 8.0 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, and the fuel tank stores 76L of diesel.
Braked-trailer towing capacity is 3500kg with a 350kg download (using Isuzu’s tow kit accessory).
While Isuzu Ute doesn’t publish official 0-100km/h acceleration times, our test vehicle (with very low mileage, barely run-in) returned a time of 11.3 seconds on our V-Box – one-tenth slower than a HiLux managed on the same surface in the same weather.
The fitment of a proximity key system that unlocks the car without needing to push a button is a good touch at this spec level, and the driving position as flagged earlier is excellent.
The 3.0-litre diesel doesn’t lead the segment when it comes to refinement, although it’s neither as coarse or clattery as the engines used in older-generation D-Maxes.
While its outputs (140kW and 450Nm) aren’t all that flash, it’s certainly punchier by the seat of the pants (and against a timer) than one rival with the same on-paper outputs: Nissan’s Navara.
Indeed, it’s generally a match for Toyota’s 150kW and 500Nm 2.8-litre HiLux, if not Ford’s benchmark new V6, when it comes to punch off the mark and rolling acceleration. It’s also still a fairly effortless tower, lugging a 2.5-tonne caravan without fanfare.
Even though I picked up our test vehicle with barely any mileage on the odometer, it felt run-in and was highly fuel efficient – over 500km of driving (both highways and suburban) it stubbornly refused to consume more than 8.2L/100km. Quite the teetotaller.
One function it does lack is full-time 4WD, instead running as a rear-wheel drive on tarmac and offering low- and high-range (50:50) 4×4 driving modes in the rough stuff.
It’s capable off the beaten path, though our test vehicle’s road-biased tyres aren’t as grippy as some, and the traction control system took a little while to activate on a lighter-duty trail test.
Dynamically it’s up there for the class, ironing out road and gravel imperfections nicely, with good noise suppression, and a relatively settled tub thanks to its comfort-biased leaf springs.
Another great feature is its electric power steering, which is feather-light and makes the D-Max feel wieldy around town in daily driving.
The driver assist features for the most part worked well – meaning the adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. The lane-keeping aids are ok if not class-leading, though I tended to keep them off via a single button-push when outside the city limits with their well-painted lines.
In short then, the D-Max really isn’t a benchmark anywhere in particular, but anyone coming out of a previous-generation ute will find it a revelation, and it sits in the upper percentile of the segment when it comes to performance and comfort.
Tech Specs (D-Max LS-U+):
- Power: 140kW
- Torque: 450Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed auto
- CarExpert fuel economy: 8.2L/100km
- CarExpert 0-100km/h: 11.3 seconds
- Drive type: Part-time 4×4 (2H, 4H, 4L)
- Maximum towing: 3500kg braked
- Kerb weight: 2115kg
- Payload: 985kg
- Tub dimensions: 1570mm long, 1122mm between arches, 490mm deep
- GVM: 3100kg
- GCM: 6000kg
- Front suspension: Double wishbones
- Rear suspension: Leaf springs
- Power steering type: Electric
- Turning circle: 12.5m
- Ground clearance: 240mm
- Front brakes: 320mm ventilated discs
- Rear brakes: 295mm drums
To give you a better idea of the full range, here’s the specification ‘walk’ across the grades.
Bear in mind this list applies to dual-cab models, with the two-door cab chassis grades having a few small differences.
D-Max SX key features:
- 17-inch steel wheels
- 255/65R17 Dunlop AT25 tyres
- Rear diff lock (4x4s)
- Tailgate assist (gas struts for assistance) (NEW)
- Automatic wipers
- Halogen headlights with auto high beam control
- Redesigned grille in two-tone black (NEW)
- Vinyl floor
- Cloth seat upholstery
- Manual air-conditioning with rear vents
- 7.0-inch infotainment display
- Reversing camera
- Voice recognition
- DAB+ radio
- Wireless Apple CarPlay
- Wired Android Auto
- Four speakers
- 2 x USB ports (NEW)
D-Max LS-M adds:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Automatic Bi-LED headlights
- LED daytime running lights
- LED fog lights with dark grey metallic trims (NEW)
- Rear parking sensors
- Body coloured mirrors, door handles and tailgate handle
- Redesigned grille in two-tone black and grey (NEW)
- Redesigned high-grade cloth trim upholstery (NEW)
D-Max LS-U adds:
- 18-inch alloy wheels (NEW)
- 265/60 R18 Bridgestone 684II HT tyres (NEW)
- Tyre pressure monitoring system (NEW)
- Tow bar receiver
- Tub liner
- Side steps
- Chrome door handles and tailgate handle
- Chrome heated door mirrors (NEW)
- LED rear combination lights trimmed in dark grey metallic (NEW)
- Redesigned grille in two-tone chrome (NEW)
- Proximity ‘smart’ key fob
- Walk-away auto door locking fob
- Piano black, silver and chrome interior trim accents
- 9.0-inch infotainment display
- Satellite-navigation Android Auto
- 8-speaker sound system
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Vanity mirrors for driver and passenger
- Carpet flooring
- Powered lumbar support for the driver’s seat
- Leather-trimmed gear knob
- Soft-touch door trims and central armrest lid
D-Max LS-U+ adds:
- Leather-accented seats with black stitching (NEW)
- Heated front seats
- 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat
D-Max X-Terrain adds:
- 18-inch alloy wheels in dark grey (NEW)
- 265/60 R18 Bridgestone 684II HT tyres (NEW)
- Front parking sensors
- Remote engine start
- Matt black roller tonneau cover
- Aero sports bar in dark grey metallic (NEW)
- Front and rear underbody spoilers in dark grey metallic
- Dark grey metallic accents
- Door and tailgate handles
- Roof rails
- Sports bar
- Fender flares (NEW)
- Redesigned grille in two-tone dark grey (NEW)
- Leather-accented seats with red stitching (NEW)
- Red Stitching on steering wheel, interior trims and gear knob
- Blacked-out instrument cluster with X-Terrain insignia
- ‘X’ badging on tailgate and instrument cluster
- Red and black interior accents
- Vanity mirror lights
The 2023 D-Max range is available in the following colours, with all but Mineral White incurring a $650 premium:
- Mineral White
- Basalt Black mica
- Neptune Blue mica (NEW)
- Mercury Silver metallic
- Obsidian Grey mica
- Granite Grey metallic (NEW) (X-Terrain exclusive)
- Moonstone White Pearl (NEW) (LS-U, LS-U+ and X-Terrain only)
- Magnetic Red mica (LS-U, LS-U+ and X-Terrain only)
- Volcanic Amber metallic (X-Terrain exclusive)
Australian crash testing authority ANCAP just re-tested the D-Max and MU-X SUV, again awarding them a five-star safety rating against outgoing 2020-2022 protocols.
Models built from July 2022 received a design change to the driver’s knee airbag and instrument panel.
Standard safety features include:
- 8 airbags
- Rear-seat ISOFIX and top tethers
- AEB with Turn Assist
- Forward Collision Warning
- Adaptive Cruise Control
- Traffic Sign Recognition
- Lane Departure Warning
- Lane Departure Prevention
- Lane Keeping Assist
- Emergency Lane Keeping
- Blind Spot Monitoring
- Rear Cross Traffic Alert
- Trailer Sway Control
The D-Max now automatically disables Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert when a trailer is hitched and detected via the genuine trailer wiring harness.
This update comes just a year after Isuzu introduced the Lane Support System switch that allows the driver to switch lane keeping functions on or off, at the singular push of a button.
Isuzu Ute Australia provides a six-year, 150,000km warranty with seven years of roadside assist and capped-price servicing
2023 Isuzu D-Max service pricing:
- 3-month inspection: Free
- 12 months or 15,000km: $435
- 24 months or 30,000km: $445
- 36 months or 45,000km: $665
- 48 months or 60,000km: $555
- 60 months or 75,000km: $335
- 72 months or 90,000km: $799
- 84 months or 105,000km: $455
The Isuzu D-Max is an honest workhorse, a work ute that gets on with the job without much flash and fanfare.
The LS-U+ brings to this mix some welcome interior plushness, and while aspects have been made to feel old by the knockout new Ranger, it still delivers in plenty of ways.
The interior is practical and has good ergonomics, the engine is very honest and punches above its weight, there’s the gamut of driver-assist aids, and its light electric steering and decent suspension tune makes it a comfortable daily.
It’s lost its mantle as class topper, but it still has plenty to offer, even if we’d like to see some easier-to-understand drive-away deals on offer.
Click the images for the full gallery
MORE: Everything Isuzu D-Max