It's Wednesday and I'm driving an Isuzu D-Max V-Cross around a quarry. It is masterful over shale, stone and rock, cruising through a three feet deep river, gliding up a 42 deg sandy hill with ease and managing serious ruts and bumps smoothly.
You may not be familiar with Isuzu as the pickup truck is their only offering in the UK, but they have quite an illustrious history which include racing cars as well as commercial vehicles and buses. They produced 650K vehicles in 2019.
William Brown, Isuzu UK Managing Director, is justifiably proud of the new V-Cross luxury lifestyle model. It broadens the appeal from workhorse to adventure travel and even luxury lifestyle at a very affordable price.
The V-Cross comes as a double cab only, so two seats in the front and room for three in the back, or all your travel gear. This new pick up looks the business too, the front grill is large and sports menacing double fanged stripes with six frowning headlights. It’s all curves and sharp lines with neatly fitted body panels. A very pleasing simplistic design with a touch of gravitas. The rear space is 1.5 metres by 1.5 metres and 0.5 metres deep, the tailgate is damped too, a nice touch.
The interior is surprisingly good with plenty of room, comfortable and supportive black leather heated lumbar supported seats with an appealing finish on the dashboard and compartments. The trim, doors, buttons and knobs are work solid whilst maintaining a luxury feel. Anyone jumping into this pickup truck is going to be pleasantly surprised.
The ride on the road is excellent for a pickup, equivalent to the lower end hatchbacks produced by VW or Renault, which is pretty smooth for the off-road master that this is. Plus the ubiquitous black cab diesel engine sound is muted in the new V-Cross, more reminiscent of old Land Rovers. A pleasant acoustic reminder of its off-road credentials rather than irksome.
It has an RZ4E 1.9-litre turbocharged four-cylinder inline Diesel engine with 164 bhp. The six-speed automatic gearbox is satisfactory on roads though it is better off-road, with a selectable four-wheel-drive system that will get you through any terrain. It will do 0-62 mph in 13 seconds with a top speed of 112 mph. The fuel economy is competitive at 30 mpg.
The locking rear differential is splendid, I drove over two feet high sand bumps over two feet low ruts, which were handled with ease. The hill descent assist is outstanding too, just pick the speed you want with the accelerator and it will maintain that down a 42 deg slope. Place it in low gear mode and it roars up any shale hill and over sand and rocks with enthusiastic confidence. The speed-sensitive electronic power steering is light to the touch and keeps you in total control.
Standard equipment on the V-Cross includes the ‘Gun Metal’ exterior styling on the radiator grille, side steps, door mirrors, door handles and 18” alloy wheels. The cabin boasts a 9” multifunction colour touchscreen with a CD player and eight speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and automatic headlight levelling, and the smart leather interior is complemented with V-Cross branded carpet mats. Reversing camera and forward twin-lens stereo cameras to detect bikes, cars and people ahead. Plus keyless entry and eco stop-start.
Safety features are top of the range, with an e-call system that auto dials emergency services in case of an accident, 8 airbags, rear-facing radar, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and intelligent speed limiter. The braking system will also kick in automatically if it senses an obstacle straight ahead.
I tested this in the quarry going 25 mph directly at a wall and it stopped completely by itself, my feet were nowhere near the pedals. Don’t try this at home. The Isuzu pickup received a leading five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP.
Then I drove il full tilt through a river that was at least 2.5 feet deep, creating a bow wave that washed up against the sides of the doors, but we stayed dry and cosy. The Isuzu is rated to a depth of 0.8 metres, though I recommend adding a snorkel if you intend to go deep aquatic.
Also noteworthy is the car weighs under 2040 Kg so unlike other pick trucks that weigh more it's not bound by road regulations to stay ten miles below the speed limit, it can do the full permitted passenger speed on all roads. So it's actually faster than its rivals. That's a nice example of alternative Gordian Knot thinking. And it can still carry a tonne in the back and tow 3.5 tonnes. You’ll be pulling your colleagues' cars out of the river.
It sold out in Australia and has sold out in the UK in the first month of its release, so Isuzu has a winner on its hands. The V-Cross comes in a unique pearl white, but I would plump for the Valencia Orange or the Obsidian Grey myself.
All in all the comfort level is impressive at this price point and make it a worthy contender as an off-road explorer against the Land Rover at a lower price. Whilst the pickup exterior may be a drawback for some on the road, it is a positive advantage travelling through deserts, across frozen wastes and over mountain passes. This is potentially a magnificent safari car, one for adventure travellers.
A pick up is a better passe-partout and indeed safer in many areas where a Range Rover would paint you as a wealthy target. Plus you can get a camper conversion for the rear. So you have a comfortable insulated cabin with all the mod cons upfront and beds in the back. A minimalist travel wagon. The Isuzu D-Max has its cool factor, both practical and purpose-built for adventure.
Anyone up for a drive through the Zagora and Merzouga areas of the Saraha into the Atlas Mountains? It's on my bucket list.
I’ll leave the last word to Aussi legend and Isuzu rally champion Bruce Garland when asked if a serious brush with death would slow him down.
“The way I see it, if you hoon around as a youngster, you’ve got so much to lose. Better to do it when you’re old like me and you’re not gambling with such big stakes.”
The Isuzu D-Max V-Cross Automatic starts at £31,249https://www.isuzu.co.uk/vehicles/isuzu-d-max-v-cross/