Isuzu delivers beefier warrior

By LEE PANG SENG | 10 July 2014
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The latest Isuzu D-Max has obviously made a good impact since making its entry into the market last year, winning awards and more importantly, driving up sales numbers.
The clamour for more of the new D-Max had not gone unheard and Isuzu Malaysia felt that the time was ripe to introduce a bigger engine displacement alternative.
This is the 3.0L model that is promoted as the V-Cross and which is heightened further in appeal with the Safari edition and its premium features.
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The V-Cross Safari comes with Italian leather seats, enhanced with orange stitching and dedicated logo on the seatback; chunky matte grey bumper guard, door cladding and side steps; matte black roof rails; dark grey alloy wheels; aero spoilers at the rear and a lockable V-lid for the rear wagon.
For the V-Cross 3.0, there is no discernible difference with the D-Max 2.5 in body styling, but the former comes with its special colours: there are four to choose from – Cosmic Black Mica, Garnet Red Mica, Titanium Silver Metallic and Splash White – while the Safari is available with a unique Venetian Orange Mica.
As the V-Cross and Safari are brought in from Isuzu Thailand, the body colours differ slightly from the locally assembled 2.5L models.
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The paint selection at the Isuzu factory in Thailand is made to international market preferences while those applied at the Pekan plant in Pahang are formulated locally with slightly different tincture.
The reason why the V-Cross and Safari are brought in from Thailand is because Isuzu Malaysia does not expect the 3.0L models to match the 2.5L in sales volume.
It is also not cost effective to add a 3.0L variant to the local assembly line although the D-Max output is not at the maximum of its allotted capacity yet.
Nevertheless, Isuzu’s market penetration had been strong and according to Isuzu Malaysia chief operating officer Daisuke Ishida, its share of the pick-up segment had grown steadily to about 11%.
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Another important note is that more than 70% of the V-Cross and Safari sales are expected to be made in Sabah and Sarawak, where the road tax is more conducive to vehicle ownership of higher diesel engine displacement, such as the 3.0L models.
Bigger engine displacement pick-ups are also the preferred choice in those two states for the stronger grunt in taking to off-road terrain more effortlessly.
Yes, pick-ups are really made to perform more off-road duties over there than they are over here, where off-roading is largely a leisure pursuit than for workhorse roles.
The 3.0L engine in the V-Cross is a newly developed unit, sharing similar details with the new-generation 2.5L unit, the most significant of which is the Variable Geometry (turbo) System (VGS).
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With a bigger engine displacement, the output is higher, by more than 40PS at 177PS at 3,800rpm and 60Nm more torque at 380Nm that is available over the same engine rev range from 1,800rpm to 2,800.
In fuel consumption, Ishida says the improvement over the previous 3.0L is more than 10% better fuel mileage while the difference to the new-generation 2.5L is less than 10%.
The D-Max V-Cross is a part-time 4X4 pick-up: that means it runs in two-wheel drive mode for tarmac motoring and all four wheels can be engaged for off-roading with high and low ratios as per the difficulty of the terrain.
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Our sampling of the D-Max V-Cross 3.0 was in the Safari with five-speed automatic, complete with sequential manual shift mode: A five-speed manual transmission model is also available with the standard V-Cross model.
The route from Petaling Jaya to Penang was all tarmac driving with about 30% of secondary road as we opted to take the highway rather than the secondary road course in the second leg.
The extra oomph was clearly felt when we needed to overtake quickly on secondary roads as the V-Cross Safari picked up the speed quickly.
With the maximum torque available early in the engine speed, power development with the variable geometry system built up strongly with matching gains in road speed.
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On the highway, the engine speed appeared almost similar to that of the D-Max 2.5 – at 110-120kph, the engine was turning leisurely at between 1,800rpm and 2,000rpm.
This low engine speed cruising made for a quiet and relaxed drive and we hardly heard the engine except for the muted roar when we kicked down on the accelerator for some quick overtaking.
Wind noise was also well subdued for a pick-up, which usually have higher wind resistance compared to cars.
This had to do with good insulation around the doors and thick bushings at the suspension mounting points to reduce road roar picked up by the all-terrain tyres from coming through.
Ride was generally good for a pick-up although the V-Cross Safari pitched noticeably when running over a series of road dips, displaying the rigid nature of the single leafspring rear suspension.
Adding to the travel comfort is the automatic climate control with a single command centre on the central dashboard area, a new feature that is exclusive to the 3.0L models.
Body roll was adequately checked for the winding stretches and we could carry a fair bit of speed through the milder corners.
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We couldn’t vouch for the extra grunt in off-road drives but we believe the higher torque should come in handy when tackling challenging terrain.
For the peninsular, those who like the added flair and performance of the D-Max 3.0L variant might find these prices appealing: the V-Cross manual is priced at RM98,508.40 (on-the-road without insurance), the automatic is RM104,468.40 and the premium V-Cross Safari goes for RM115,208.40.

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