STRONGER and more powerful, Isuzu's updated 2017 D-Max ute and MU-X family wagon combination is flexing new muscle for which the brand is renowned.
Under the relatively unchanged skin is a turbo-diesel drivetrain engineered especially for the Australian market.
Equipped to meet tightening emissions standards, the key change is a "bigger and fatter” torque curve which offers extra grunt down low for towing, climbing hills and off-roading - the three key areas for Isuzu buyers.
Isuzu Ute says the new engine offers improved efficiency and further strengthens the marque's reliability credentials.
Prices have risen slightly across the range (from $1000 up to $1700), an expansive line-up which incorporate cab chassis and ute models across four grades, as well as a trio of specification grades for the seven-seat MU-X large sports utility vehicle.
Isuzu did its homework Down Under before this latest release.
A range of owners were interviewed, their car's diagnostics analysed, and the upgraded turbo diesel is the result. While a 2.5-litre unit was available from Europe, they opted to retain a 3.0-litre here to meet buyer usage and expectations.
Compared to the outgoing model, power remains 130 kilowatts, but torque lifts to 430Nm (an extra 50 torques). For number gurus, the new Isuzus hit the previous peak torque levels at 1700rpm and that's available up to 3500rpm.
In short, you get more low down grunt with the engine doing less work - and yes, it's the same donk that also motivates the N Series light truck.
The transmissions are also new, including an in-house six-speed manual as well as a Aisin six-speed automatic.
For those who love detail, Isuzu hasn't just tweaked the four-pot engine. The pistons have a new design, while also changed are the fuel injectors, fuel supply pump, VGS turbocharger, ceramic glow plugs, while the exhaust gas recirculation cooler is larger and there is also a new differential to handle the extra torque delivered by these alterations.
While the SUV remains unchanged outside, hence its 16.5MY moniker, the ute gets some minor tweaks.
Apparently the designers use animals as inspiration, and the Orca was motivation for the latest changes. Interesting choice...a panther was the previous subject.
There's a different D-Max grille, headlamp design and hood. But that's about the upside of changes.
Utes have eight colour options, white, beige, black, blue, grey, silver, green and red. The SUV has six hues, black, grey, bronze, pearl and standard white along with silver.
On and off road
According to Joshua Dowling, who put the D-Max through its paces on and off road this week, it has a familiar feel with the steering and suspension are unchanged from the most recent model.
"The D-Max is still the most truck-like of the utes on sale, jiggling over seemingly small bumps in the road. Isuzu says that's the trade-off for heavy duty load-carrying, towing and off-road ability,” he said.
"Most tradies won't mind the bounciness of the suspension - especially if they've not experienced anything else - but it's worth noting other brands have managed to deliver a more comfortable ride from heavy duty suspension.
"The extra grunt is most noticeable in freeway driving, where the engine is ticking over closer to the maximum torque range.”
All LS and above variants in both the D-Max and MU-X have a reverse camera, while SX and EX models can add the capability for about $460.
Inside, and apart from the seven-inch touch-screen (LS-U and LS-T variants get an eight-inch unit with sat nav), most of the changes are hidden.
Improving cabin comfort has been a focus and there is new better insulation to reduce engine noise.
There are three USB ports in LS variants - two in the front and one in the rear. But there is no Apple Carplay of Android Auto.
What do you get?
Basic gear includes full-size spare, air con, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, seven-inch touch-screen stereo with full Bluetooth connectivity for phone and audio streaming, cab chassis offerings get heavy duty rear leaf suspension, while safety incorporates hill descent control (new addition across the range), six airbags, stability and traction control, emergency brake assist along with anti-lock brakes.
The working heritage of Isuzu is prominent with vinyl flooring across all utes except range-topping LS-U variants, which also get climate controlled air con, the better stereo with larger eight-inch touch-screen with sat nav, while MU-X variants also get grey leather seat trim.
Supporting the off-road capabilities are a range of accessories, such as canopies, rack kits, roof bars, canvas seat covers, snorkel, side steps and bull bars.
Celebrating the new model year launch, 600 special edition D-Max X-Runner offerings have been produced with a drive-away price of $46,990.
Available in black (180 units) or pearl white (420 units), the X-Runners are aimed to attract a younger audience and get a range of trinkets to sex-up the dual cab ute.
Standard kit includes red badging, grey grille and sidesteps, black sports bar with heavy duty tub liner, black and red seats, climate controlled air con, 10-year badges, as well as touch-screen display with reversing camera.
What matters most
What we liked: X-Runner looks the goods, reliable reputation, delivers true off-road ability.
What we'd like to see: Extra tech like blind spot monitoring and rear camera standard on all dual cabs, more modern interior.
Warranty and servicing: Five-year 130,000km warranty with roadside assist for the same period. Capped price servicing available for the first five services with an average price of $300, with intervals annual or 10,000km.
Model: Isuzu 17MY D-Max and 16.5MY MU-X.
Details: Two and four-wheel drive single, space and crew cab utility, as well as seven-seat large sports utility vehicle.
Engine: 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 130kW @ 3600rpm and peak torque of 430Nm @ 2000-2200rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Towing: 3500kg (braked), tow ball 350kg. (Single cab low ride SX 2500kg, tow ball 250kg).
Consumption: Varies depending on model, 7.2 litres/100km (combined average) for single cab ute up to 8.1L/100km for LS-U Crew Cab and MU-X.
D-Max bottom line plus on-roads
Single cab chassis
4x2 SX (m) $28,500
4x2 Hi-Ride SX (a) $31,700
4x4 Hi-Ride EX (m) $34,800
4x4 Hi-Ride SX (m) $38,000
4x4 Hi-Ride SX (a) $40,100
Crew cab chassis
4x2 Hi-Ride SX (a) $37,300
4x4 Hi-Ride SX (m) $43,200
4x4 Hi-Ride SX (a) $45,300
4x2 SX (m) $34,500
4x2 Hi-Ride SX (a) $38,000
4x2Hi-Ride LS-U (a) $43,600
Space cab chassis
4x4 Hi-Ride SX (m) $40,700
4x4 Hi-Ride SX (a) $42,800
4x2 Hi-Ride SX (a) $35,500
4x4 Hi-Ride LS-U (a) $48,300
4x4 Hi-Ride LS-U (m) $46,200
4x4 Hi-Ride SX (m) $43,900
4x4 Hi-Ride SX (a) $46,000
4x4 Hi-Ride LS-M (m) $46,400
4x4 Hi-Ride LS-M (a) $48,500
4x4 Hi-Ride LS-U (m) $48,300
4x4 Hi-Ride LS-U (a) $50,400
4x4 Hi-Ride LS-T (a) $54,200
LS-M (a) $41,800
LS-U (a) $43,800
LS-T (a) $47,500
LS-M (m) $47,000
LS-M (a) $49,100
LS-U (m) $49,000
LS-U (a) $51,100
LS-T (a) $54,800