Isuzu D-Max Utah long-termer – Country Life

  • Isuzu D-Max long-termer helps our man to blend in with the Lincolnshire locals
  • Carpeted load bed makes it more car-like, but takes shine off utilitarian abilities
  • Comfortable enough on-road, but D-Max proves especially capable off it

Living in rural Lincolnshire for the past 18 months, it’s become clear that there are three vehicle types to help blend in with the locals.

I’m not a biker so that rules out the powerful, two-wheeled option and having been spoiled by a rich vein of sports cars in the Parkers office in recent weeks, I fancied a change.

That change came by way of the Isuzu D-Max Utah, Parkers’ long-term pick-up, which had just returned from our Van Editor’s convalescence home (having just broken his leg).

Along the arrow-straight narrow roads north of Lincoln, joined together by right angled bends every mile or so, if you’re not straddling a powerful bike or overtaking dawdling tractors in a sports car, you’re behind the wheel of a double-cab pick-up, complete with load bed canopy out back.

There’s something post-apocalyptic about the D-Max’s looks that wouldn’t look out of place in a Terminator movie, assuming that is, that Arnie could be persuaded to film for a couple of days in the Lincolnshire flatlands.

It’s suitably elevated with chunky tyres surrounding the black alloys and a smattering of chrome-look mouldings to reinforce this Utah version sits close to the top of Isuzu’s hierarchy. Even the Tundra Green paintwork has a hint of ‘military wannabe’ about it.

Commuting back up the A1, the Isuzu felt comfortable, if a little bouncy, but already I was wondering how easily it would negotiate the numerous B-road bends for the final 15 miles of my drive.

Looking at the space in the wheel arches around the tyres, you’d be forgiven for imagining the D-Max might handle like a blancmange on a fairground waltzer, but no.

Turning the knob behind the gear lever to engage four-wheel drive maximised traction and allowed the Isuzu to corner and maintain speed, much to the dismay of the aforementioned biking and sports car driving fraternities behind me. The only notable point was feeling sidewall flex in the tyre as we did so, though it wasn't bad enough to cause genuine concern.

Not that I was going to trouble the D-Max’s 1,058kg payload but I did have three bikes I needed to cart about at various stages of the weekend. Our Utah’s been fitted with the optional BedRug for £385 (plus VAT), a fully-fitting carpet for the load bay. It’s not practical if you intend to use the Isuzu to lug building materials around, but it ensured the bike frames didn’t get scratched and was easy enough to vacuum off all the dried mud that had shook itself loose from the tyres.

While Utah specification does its best to lift the D-Max’s commercial vehicle origins to something resembling luxury 4x4 heights, it doesn’t quite manage it. Yes, automatic transmission, heated, leather seats, electrically-adjustable on the driver’s side and climate control make it comfortable but you don’t exactly feel cosseted by the experience. And there’s the trap: it’s easy to forget it’s a workhorse with some fripperies to make it feel more amenable.

One item from the D-Max’s optional equipment roster which impressed was the £930 (plus VAT) Pioneer multimedia and sat-nav unit, dominated by a large touchscreen with a row of physical shortcut buttons along the left side.

Initial impressions are that it’s a little fiddly and sound reproduction from the speakers isn’t the best, but the mapping graphics are superior to many in-built systems, while other displays, such as for the iPod player, are sophisticated with large graphics and scrolling text.

The screen also doubles as a display for the reversing camera £245 (before VAT), which is another worthwhile option given rearward vision’s badly restricted.

What impressed most about the Isuzu D-Max was how it seemingly takes everything in its stride: a jaunt to the city centre was handled as easily as an uphill shortcut across a rough field (with permission).

I won’t pretend these green-laning Goliaths have long-appealed to me, but now I’m living out in the sticks I understand why they’re so prolific: fit for purpose, their appeal with my neighbours is obvious.