There was a plan. Load up the 2022 Isuzu D-MAX LS-U+ 4×4 with bags, food, the small human’s new surfboard, and the rest of the family. Unfortunately, however, this New Year celebration was cut short by a spicy cough and inconsiderate virus.
Seven days of quarantine later, it was time for a do-over down at Gloucester. No surfboard required. Everything else, including the family was loaded up, and away we went.
What we learned from this little experience was to always have a backup plan. We also learned that the D-MAX is a very capable bit of kit. It’s comfortable to drive, great to holiday in, and it performs exceptionally well on a mix of dirt tracks, rocks and farmland.
The LS-U+ is a new variant for 2022 and is pitched as a dual-purpose dual cab, because it offers premium black leather-accented upholstery and interior trims, while still maintaining its tradie roots, with rubber floor mats, a tub liner, and a roller shutter tonneau.
The last of these is a cool powered unit that seals off the tray area at the push of a button. LED lighting fires up the instant you open it, so you can see inside the tray in the dark. It even has an emergency release in case you lock your kids in there. It’s an optional extra.
A cabin fit for a modern tradie
Sitting between the flagship X-TERRAIN and the mid-spec LS-U, the LS-U+ 4×4 offers an 8-way power-assisted driver’s seat with power lumbar support and a premium-leather bound steering wheel, equipped with reach and rake adjustment.
Perched in the centre of the dash is a 9.0-inch high-definition infotainment system, featuring voice recognition, satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, with wired Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. Although, the last of these had a few moments where it worked best when wired.
There’s also an 8-speaker surround sound system, which offers some good but not great audio out of the box. Tweak the settings and you can achieve some improvements. You’ll also find dual zone air conditioning.
Interior storage is very generous too, with two glove boxes, a dash storage space, pop out cup holders under the air vents plus cup holders in the centre console, decent door pockets, map pockets behind both front seats.
Rear passengers benefit from their own air vents, and there’s a decent amount of head room and average leg room back there. Although, the seats aren’t comfortable in the second row, feeling almost concrete in nature. The front seats could do with some depth too.
Among other cool features are smart keyless entry, push button start (although you might have to pump the brake more than once to get it to realise you want to fire it up), welcome lighting, and the uber-cool walk away door locking.
The LS-U+ is loaded with a metric tonne of safety technology too, including Isuzu’s intelligent driver safety and assistance system (IDAS). It utilises a state-of-the-art Hitachi 3D stereo camera that actively detects other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
The long list of safety goodies that supports includes autonomous emergency braking with turn assist, adaptive cruise control (which worked extremely well), traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and lane keep assist.
There’s also lane departure warning and prevention, and emergency lane keeping. We found ourselves disabling some safety gizmos, as they were a little overzealous in their zeal to protect occupants.
For instance, lane keep assist had a few dodgy moments, especially on poorly marked roads. The handbrake was temperamental too, with the sensors sometimes not recognising that it had been disengaged. That meant we had to pull the old school lever a little and re-release it to calm the alert system.
Thankfully, though, the 2022 Isuzu D-MAX LS-U+ 4×4 is rubber-stamped with a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Designed to conquer the outback and suburbia
It’s powered by a 3.0L turbo diesel four-cylinder engine, generating a cool 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque. While the 6-speed automatic transmission smoothly delivers these figures to all four wheels, we wonder what the D-MAX would be like with a quieter V6.
The LS-U+ has a 3.5-tonne braked towing capacity, and it is equipped with a factory-fitted tow bar as standard. Off road is where it performs though, as we found in our testing across multiple scenarios.
Draped in Marble White Pearl, our test vehicle cut a pretty snazzy path in the grass and over rugged terrain thanks to Isuzu’s Terrain Command 4×4 with 2-High, 4-High and 4-Low drive modes, and an electromagnetic rear differential lock.
It has a sizeable ground clearance of 240mm, and the all-important trifecta of angles for approach, departure and ramp-over measure at 30.5-degrees, 19-degrees and 23.8-degrees respectively. It has a wading depth of 800mm too.
The stability control capabilities, traction control, hill descent control and hill start assist all saw time during our testing, as we traversed some cool little off-road getaways around Gloucester, Barrington, Stroud and Dungog.
On the road, the suspension offers a comfortable driving experience, while the handling feels sturdy. It’s not dissimilar off the tarmac either, which means Isuzu have come reasonably close to nailing the balance between two worlds. The big ute rides on 18-inch machined-face alloy wheels that you’ll either love or hate, shod with 265/60R18 Bridgestone 684II HT tyres.
Driving at night is a breeze though, thanks to automatic bi-LED headlights with auto-levelling and automatic high beam control. Should things get misty, there’s also LED fog lights and LED combination taillights. You likely won’t wake the neighbours either, as engine noise has been vastly improved over previous generations (prior to 2020). That said, it still sounds a little tractor-esque.
The 2022 Isuzu D-MAX LS-U+ comes with Isuzu UTE Australia’s Service Plus 6-7-7 package, which encompasses a 6-year 150,000km warranty, up to 7-years roadside assistance when serviced through IUA dealers and 7-years capped price servicing.
Priced at $61,900 (plus on-road costs), it can be had in Mineral White, Basalt Black mica, Cobalt Blue mica, Mercury Silver metallic, Obsidian Grey metallic, Marble White pearl and Magnetic Red mica.
You can build and price your own on the Isuzu Ute website.
Our test vehicle was provided by Isuzu Ute Australia. To find out more about the 2022 Isuzu D-MAX LS-U+, contact your local Isuzu Ute dealer.
To read the original version of this story, visit Exhaust Notes Australia.