September 06, 2014 @ 02:33 PM

Isuzu D-MAX V-Cross - We go on a rampage with it

How much fun are you allowed to have in a truck? Asks Arvind Kumar.

How much fun are you allowed to have in a truck? Asks Arvinda Kumar.

Right about now, I’d imagine that there’s a 276bhp hot hatch blasting its way around the SIC. And here I am stuck in a truck. 

Editor, Chris attended that one, while I succumbed to the fact that I was going to be in a utilitarian load-lugger on a congested motorway instead of barreling down turn three in Sepang with the tyres screeching and the wastegate howling in anger. However, the events that ensued with the V-Cross were anything but boring.

Picture this, the lights go green, you plant your foot on the go pedal and swoosh. The V-Cross scampers with surprising gusto so much so the last set of traffic lights swiftly become past tensed. I keep doing this for another two hours, barreling over highway stretches and haphazardly patched B-roads. Fun. But this bags the question: do I really need a hot hatch to have this much fun?

The method; Isuzu’s all new 4JJ1-TCX powerplant with 3.0-litres of displacement combined with an improved high pressure common-rail system to produce 175bhp @ 3500rpm and a whopping 380Nm from a meager 1800rpm. 
Respiratory aids consist of a variable geometry turbine mated to an updated common-rail system to improve mileage figures and the boost’s threshold. On the drive to Penang; being subjected to typical journo type abuse, the D-Max still reached our final checkpoint with around half a tank to spare. Normal driving should return nigh on 1,000km for a full tank.
It’s a gem of powerplant, mated to an equally competent five-speed auto gearbox equipped with three modes, two-and four-wheel high ratio and a four-wheel low ratio at the twist of the knob on the centre console. 

The gearchanges are surefooted and slick but having the shifter in semi-manual requires unnecessary effort to get up to speed. Acceleration is urgent nonetheless; one random dart from standstill to 100kph was done in an urgent 10.6s. The unofficial timing courtesy of a smartphone app may not sound like much on paper, but the slug of G-force will have you believing otherwise. For overtaking, plant your foot, wait for the brisk downshift, and surf the predictable and luscious torque curve. 

The body sits on a ladder chassis with independent double wishbones with coils springs and stabilizers up front. At the back, you get typical leaf spring items.  At speed, the V-Cross’s 2,600kg kerb weight always feels planted and composed. Even during twisty sections, body roll was readily contained and mostly free of scuttle shake movements. At the back though, un-laden, the V-Cross still reserves spring-board motions when it catches a pothole or speed bump.
 
The rack and pinion steering is pleasantly well-weighted and talkative. However, output is slightly dull around dead center positions. Although, for off-road conditions, the slight dullness will allow more stable inputs to maintain the V-Cross tracking straight. Otherwise, under normal driving conditions the steering feedback is composed and adequate.

The two-pot calipers upfront and drum numbers at the back are positive and effectively modulated. On the highway cruising well into three figure speeds, a gentle prod does shed momentum off instantly without the front end getting squirmy.

The safety repertoire consists of ABS, EBD, brake assist, and an ESC system which work in tandem with traction control in case things get hairy. The cabin also receives two airbags upfront and anti-whiplash seats.
Two trim levels are on offer, the standard V-Cross 3.0L in manual and auto guises priced at RM98,508 and RM104,468 respectively, while the top-trump V-Cross Safari is priced RM115,208.  

The cheaper variants get fabric seats, a 2-DIN audio player with Bluetooth connectivity. All models receive four speakers and two Exciter speakers which hide within the roof lining for surround sound quality. The V-Cross also receives a new climate control air-conditioning and refreshed digital display on the dial counters.

Four colours are on offer for the standard V-Cross variants and owners have to add RM1,200 for the optional spoiler. Otherwise, one would struggle to differentiate the standard 2.5L and 3.0L variants.

The Safari version adds to that supple Italian leather seats, reverse camera, and Navigation beamed through a 6.2” multimedia player. In-cabin fit is satisfactory and finished with hard-wearing plastic required to stand the test of time.
On the outside, it receives the unique Venetian Orange Mica hue. Along with matte finished front grille, front bumper guards, side door cladding and a spoiler which spans from the cab towards the end of the loading bed. The whole package really sets the car apart from the rest and it does lend a T2 Class Paris-Dakar racer silhouette from the rear quarters.

Not sure if Isuzu had known this all along, but by simply engineering a potent powerplant and shoehorning it into a capable yet sedate four wheeled package, they have inevitably delivered an intangible yet vital parameter of any driving experience…the fun factor. Does the formula sound familiar? Here’s a hint: hot hatch.  
 
 
 
To the point
Love Fuel efficient and powerful drivetrain, Safari's looks
Hate Engine drove at low revs, slightly bumpy back end
Verdict
(4 stars)
Ford and Toyota watch out, the Isuzu is finally here
 
Price RM115,208 (V-Cross Safari)
Engine 2999cc, 4 cyl, VGS common-rail diesel turbo, 175bhp@3600rpm, 380Nm@1800rpm – 2800rpm
Gearbox Five speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Performance n/a
Weight 2600kg (gross)
On Sale Now

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