THE ISUZU D-MAX HASN’T JUST carved a niche for itself in the Indian market, it pretty much gave birth to the entire lifestyle pick-up segment. Wait let me rephrase that. It is single-handedly running the lifestyle pick-up truck segment. And for 2021, Isuzu has added a new entry-level Hi-Lander variant to the D-Max lineup and updated the 1.9-litre diesel engine to meet BS6 emission norms. Oh, and prices have been hiked by quite a bit, but let’s first talk about that engine.
While the outgoing D-Max lineup featured two engine options — 2.5-litre and 1.9-litre diesels with the latter reserved for the top-spec models, the BS6-compliant D-Max range now gets a single-engine, the 1.9-litre diesel. It has got a bump in power and torque by 13bhp and 10Nm respectively, which brings the total up to 160.7bhp and 360Nm. In terms of the transmission, you still have the option of either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic depending on the variant you pick. What’s it like to drive? In a word, better. There’s noticeably less noise coming into the cabin, even though the engine is still audible above idle and gets more impolite as the revs climb. That said, the engine still feels smoother than before and while you don’t get a shove in the back when you step on it, it also does a decent job of moving the D-Max along. The thick end of the torque band comes on at 2000rpm and sticks around till 2500rpm — quite narrow which reflects in how it drives as well. Cruising at 80 - 100kmph is effortless in sixth gear with the needle in the meat of the rev range, and it gives you the feeling that it could do many highway miles without breaking a sweat. Rev the engine out though and the noise quickly overtakes the performance. But short shift, keep the needle under 3000rpm and the D-Max can easily attend to sudden torque demands. Mind you, this is an experience that can vary depending on the gearbox so let’s talk transmissions.
The 6-speed manual’s shifter is long and while there is a lot of play in the lever, it goes with the character of the D-Max. This isn’t a hot hatch where you need to be banging every gear home. Recline your backrest, set your bum a little bit ahead and take it easy — that’s the mindset you need to have behind the wheel of the D-Max. The clutch isn’t too heavy and takes little effort to modulate, especially because there’s a lot of low-end torque. Setting off doesn’t really require you to feather the throttle. And, the ratios aren’t set so close together that you need to be shifting all the time. However, the 6-speed automatic would still be our pick. First because it is quite smooth. There’s no jerk associated with the shifts and if you aren’t asking for too much, the gearbox does its business in the background. When you do need to make a quick overtake, the torque converter can take a second to react, but thanks to the low-end torque you aren’t left hanging as much as just waiting for some additional grunt to come through. Of course, the added benefit of the automatic is that it cuts down quite a bit of the effort needed to manoeuvre the D-Max through the city.
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