D-Max adapts to changing tastes

By THOMAS HUONG | 2 April 2015

With almost 100 years of automotive experience, Isuzu Motors continues to be renowned for its commercial vehicles that are fuel-efficient and robust.

In a recent interview, its general manager (light commercial vehicle – product planning and vehicle engineering) Makoto Tamazawa said that in the last decade, the demand for interior comfort from pick-up truck buyers had increased significantly.

This is in tandem with the evolution of the pick-up truck, from an austere utility vehicle to a dual-purpose leisure vehicle-cum-workhorse.

The Japanese automaker’s new-generation pick-up trucks feature an interior with executive car-like ambience, and a ride quality geared towards passenger car comfort.

“In the market, there are pick-ups with all-round coil springs and even multi-link rear suspensions which can provide better comfort.

“On the other hand, the rigid leaf-spring rear suspension is better for hauling heavy loads or business usage,” noted Tamazawa who is based in Fujisawa city, Japan.

He said the higher demand for occupant comfort meant that pick-up truck engineers faced an increasingly daunting challenge in achieving a balance between ride comfort and commercial needs.

As a result, the second-generation Isuzu D-Max has a stylishly-finished cabin with features that are geared towards passenger comfort and ease of use.

These include a top-notch audio system where Isuzu engineers embedded a pair of class-first ‘exciter’ tweeters into the roof lining to create a spatial soundstage.

Isuzu D-Max acting as transports for the media during the Borneo Safari (2013) where it earned the Vehicle of the year award.

However, Tamazawa emphasised that Isuzu’s approach has always been about durability and reliability.

“Isuzu Motors is a commercial vehicle manufacturer with a long and illustrious history.

“We have the benefit of using this DNA when developing pick-ups. We are different from other pick-up marques,” he said.

In designing the second-generation D-Max, Isuzu engineers focused on the pillars of “Reliable Buddy”, “Comfortable”, “Sporty” and “Durability” to meet the demands of the global marketplace.

“With the four pillars as a framework, the D-Max is able to satisfy the needs of buyers.

“Other equipment or features can be added to the pick-up, depending on the unique requirements of different markets,” said Tamazawa.

Although pick-ups are sporting larger storage space these days, such a trend says Tamazawa, might not be feasible in the long run.

“It is true that even the second generation D-Max is bigger, compared with its predecessor.

“However, you should note that we need to improve performance and fuel-efficiency, and yet at the same time, cater to current demands for more cargo carrying capacity and cabin room.

“So, it is difficult to balance all these requirements,” he said.

Tamazawa foresees that the size of future generation pick-ups will be similar to current sizes, with the exception of North America, “where the demand for extra large pick-ups is very strong”.

Meanwhile, the second generation D-Max has improved aerodynamics thanks to research work done using wind tunnel testing at sites such as the Japan Railway Technical Research Institute, which is known for Japan’s bullet train designs.

Tamazawa pointed out that extensive wind tunnel testing was carried out to enchance vehicle performance and fuel-efficiency.

“Although it is expensive and time consuming, we can optimise a vehicle aerodynamics through a rigorous battery of wind tunnel tests,” he said.

Before its global launch, the current D-Max had undergone durability testing of over four million kilometres.

Tamazawa said while CAE (computer-aided engineering) is essential in designing vehicles today, conventional methods are still employed.

“Actual vehicles need to be driven by humans under harsh conditions, different terrain and weather.

“Drivers come in all types – tall, short, petite, big and small.

“We do all kinds of tests in order to develop the best product,” he said.

Concerning hybrid powertrain technology, Tamazawa said the concept was expensive and mainly available for passenger cars.

“Hybrid pick-ups are not suitable at the moment.

“We also look at customer demand, and if the trend moves in this direction for pick-ups, we will be ready.”