Since its launch back in 2012 replacing the Rodeo, the Isuzu D-Max has achieved huge success, particularly with the agricultural community. A frequent sight in rural areas often towing livestock trailers or other farm equipment, its reputation for being tough and no-nonsense has made it the go to choice in this sector. Although with perhaps fewer ’bells and whistles’ that some of its competitors, it still remains popular and regularly wins industry awards.

Most of its peers have undergone facelifts (sometimes multiple) in the last 8 years but D-Max has so far remained fundamentally unchanged. Perhaps recognising this and in an effort to refresh its image Isuzu unveiled the XTR at the 2019 Birmingham Commercial Vehicle show. It’s heavy on visuals, with a full body kit at the front end, wide wheel arches, 17 inch branded alloy wheels with 32” Pirelli Scorpion tyres, a tailgate spoiler and new side steps. Bright green flourishes are evident on the brake calipers, front springs, dampers, and also within the black side mouldings. There are optional decals, one style of which was fitted to the test vehicle. It’s certainly striking (and perhaps a little ‘marmite’), but there’s more under the skin. A ‘Pedders’ suspension kit with revised dampers, springs and control arms coupled with an increased ride height offer in theory a much improved off road experience to those working in challenging conditions.

The XTR shares the same 1.9 litre diesel engine fitted to the rest of the D-Max range. With an output of 164hp it remains reasonably competitive, particularly with the recently announced demise of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class and Volkswagen Amarok together with their V6 engines.  Manual and automatic gearboxes are on offer, both 6 speed.

Specification and features:

Only available in double cab form, two trim levels are available in the XTR, Standard and, at a £1000 premium the Nav +. Both models get the basic levels of equipment you’d expect to see these days, including manual air conditioning, 7 inch media display and some safety features such as Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control. You’ll have to specify the Nav+ model however to get DAB radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and, unsurprisingly, satellite navigation.

The cab environment:

The highlight of the cab has to be the seats. Firm but comfortable, leather and suede trimmed and manually adjusted they sport green stitching with a prominent XTR logo. Otherwise, the environment is standard D-Max, relatively uninspiring and basic but functional. The media unit, with XTR branding on start up isn’t the easiest to navigate and is now looking a little dated in operation. There’s plenty of storage available, including a pop up lidded area on the dash, and an additional lidded area above the glovebox.

The load area:

At 1485mm long, the load bed on the D-Max isn’t the longest but, perhaps more importantly it has a payload over the all important 1000kg, and offers a 3500kg towing capacity.

On the road:

Unfortunately, for insurance reasons off road appraisal wasn’t possible. On road however, the XTR didn’t disappoint. Ride quality, whilst obviously firm was comfortable and despite the increased ride height there was no evidence of roll when pushed into corners. Steering, whilst precise was noticeably heavier than other pickups tested. Whilst at cruising speed there was no excessive noise, but getting up to speed isn’t the quietest of operations with plenty of engine noise. This perhaps was made worse by the 6 speed automatic transmission fitted to the test vehicle which allowed the engine to rev to quite high speeds before deciding to change up. Undoubtedly, this is a result of the lack of ratios compared to more advanced transmissions in other pickups, such as the sophisticated 10 speed unit fitted to the Ford Ranger Raptor. A minor but very important oversight – this is the first vehicle driven for years where the lane changing ‘three flash’ nudge on the indicator stalk remains a factory option…


At first sight it’s perhaps hard to understand the target market for the XTR. Visually, it’s unlikely to have specific appeal to the usual demographic but these, combined with the suspension improvements under the skin may well put D-Max on some customer shopping lists. Indeed, for those whose appetite for something a little more capable off-road has been whetted by the launch of the Ford Ranger Raptor, the XTR may well be worthy of serious consideration. It’s a lot cheaper, it carries a 1 tonne payload and, perhaps most importantly is a commercial vehicle for taxation purposes – the Ford isn’t and this is something which is undoubtedly restricting Raptor sales.

All in all, a good, no nonsense and capable off roader with some bling, the appeal of which is perhaps subjective!