Isuzu D-Max
(2012 - 2019)

  • Great value for money and near class leading standard features.
  • Huge range to choose from.
  • Good reputation for reliability.
  • Solid performer on and off-road.
  • Old school engine isn’t the most refined or powerful unit.
  • Average at best infotainment.
  • Early base models lacking in some safety equipment.
  • Some reported problems are very concerning.
Overview

The second-generation ‘RT’ Isuzu D-Max, launched 2012 and sold until 2020, was a bit of a ute segment outlier. It was always considered the tough nut, featuring a truck derived engine and unpretentious manner in a segment increasingly frillier and more ‘lifestyle oriented’ in its pricier 4×4 dual-cab offerings. Its particular swagger garnered a groundswell of many diehard Aussie fans.

And yet it’s similar, in important ways, to the related Holden ‘RG’ Colorado. Same chassis, mostly the same body, largely identical core cabin outside dash and detailing. The nutshell history is: GM and Isuzu fell out in 2008 (when Rodeo was D-Max’s twin), Isuzu Ute Australia was formed, and each went different directions in executing their co-op developed pick-up lines. The arguably ‘nicer’ new Holden launched one week ahead of the ‘tougher’ D-Max back in June 2012.

The gen-two D-Max was a larger, more powerful, generally safer and more efficient machine than is predecessor, built on a (42-percent) stiffer “iGRIP” chassis. But its badges of honour are its big truck-derived 3.0-litre and tough five-speed auto, pegged by its importer as being the more robust off-road and towing-friendly choice against the 2.8-litre six-speed-auto Holden and, well, any other ute for that matter. Whether there was truth to the claims or not.

Indeed, the big 3.0-litre early tune saw its 130kW/380Nm down against much of its competition, though there was no torque penalty (ala Colorado) in opting for a five-speed manual.

Braked towing varies between 2500kg and on-the-money 3500kg depending on variant and vintage, though early examples top out at three tonnes. Despite not boasting big outputs, the diesel’s lazy nature makes for friendly circa-8.0L/100km claimed consumption that doesn’t plummet when under stress. Payload is up to 1.3 tonnes.

Its double wishbone and leaf rear suspension, too, is much firmer than what would come in the arguably more family-friendly Rangers and Navaras offered on the dual-cab 4×4 map. A plus is the dual-range on-demand 4×4 system that could engage/disengage (from 4×2) at up to 100km/h. The markdown is no rear diff lock usually opted for serious off-road work. But you do get solid underbody protection for the beaten track. At least, that’s the form guide for the 4×4 stuff.

The RT lobbed with some 22 different variants – too many to pick through individually here. Initially, the range spread from tradie-spec single-cab chassis manuals at around $27k to the flagship dual-cab 4×4 auto LS-Terrain at around $52k. In gen two’s twilight years, there were no fewer than 49 different versions available at one point.

That’s not counting Isuzu Ute Oz’s other model, the MU-X wagon version of the same technical recipe.

The D-Max offered in single-, extra- and double-cab body styles, as cab chassis or pick-ups, and there are High Ride versions offering big ground clearance and smart looks even in 4×2 guise. No matter how thrifty you went in range, D-Max still fitted air-con, power windows and mirrors, and a CD player. Scale upmarket and you’re treated to gear such as 17-inch alloys, leather trim, electric driver’s seat and sat-nav-equipped infotainment.

A key arrived in late 2016 for MY17, bringing minor exterior remodelling with better headlights, some powertrain fettling (for Euro 5 emissions compliance) to liberate a jump to 430Nm and, finally, the adoption of six-speed manual and auto transmissions to keep up with the ute Joneses.

The fanciest of the crop is perhaps MY19’s X-Runner, with 18-inch wheels, stripes and full-fruit fit-out to suit its nearly $55k ask.

RT bowed in mid 2020, replaced by the current RG gen-three that’s technically twinned with Mazda’s BT-50.

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What goes wrong
  • In terms of the exterior, there have been a few reports of failed body mounts and the front guards cracking from the inside just above the wheels. The culprit for this will vary depending on who you talk to, some say it’s because of incorrectly installed mods, others say it was a blatant design fault, whatever the cause, it tends to be a hefty repair job, generally involving the engine to be removed entirely. We’ll let you do the maths in terms of labour costs but let’s just say taking an engine out of a car and putting it back in usually isn’t a 5 minute job.
  • In some cases this has been repaired under warranty but in other cases, owners have had to make an insurance claim. If you’re stuck with the repair bill, it can cost upwards of $7000 to fix properly.
  • Some more serious off-road enthusiasts complain that the bash plates and underbody protection aren’t up to the task and highly recommending fitting more substantial aftermarket protection.
  • Also under the D-MAX, if ever a D-MAX needs to be towed out of a bog or sand, it may run foul of the non-rated tow points on the vehicle’s front chassis rails. These two closed loops make a static tow do-able, but we’d be very hesitant to attempt a snatch-strap recovery.
  • The Solution, you’re far better off with a couple of dedicated aftermarket recovery points triangulated into the chassis rails if you plan on doing anything extreme.
  • The D-MAX side steps are especially vulnerable on ramp-over angles and you’ll find that plastic and aluminium don’t usually respond to trackside repairs so if you’re going off-road, either take them off or replace them with dedicated rock sliders.
  • If you plan on doing some serious off-roading or towing, we need to talk about the suspension.
  • Chances are the standard set up won’t do it for you as the D-Max sits too close to the ground in standard trim for proper off-roading and will sag with any serious load when towing.
  • In terms of off-roading, neither the addition of adding leaf helper-springs or fitting airbags are any good. Both of these can play absolute havoc and potentially risk chassis failure.
  • The only real solution is to take the vehicle to a suspension specialist and replace the lot with a spring set-up calibrated for your realistic loads.
  • In terms of towing, do not go down the path of a GVM upgrade!
  • A GVM upgrade will result in an overly stiff and rigid ride when unloaded that just is not compliant, and it will be inflexible off-road. Plus it’s likely to cause fatigue in the driveshaft components, the chassis and the body metal, and especially when driving with overinflated tyres.
  • As far as lifting the D-MAX goes, the maximum safe lift on a D-MAX is 2”. If you are desperate for a 3” setup you will be bitterly disappointed because it will be a pig to drive and will most likely give you a pogo stick-like ride on rough surfaces which can result in CV joint failure.
  • Next, the wheels and tyres. Yes 33’s look awesome on a D-MAX but realistically, fitting anything larger than a 32” will make the thing slower than a wet week, you’re fuel economy will a nightmare, the brakes will suffer as they were never designed for that much wheel mass and you’ll probably break more CV joints. If you’re comfortable with all of that, fine but you have more money than sense but if anything goes wrong, your insurance company won’t be so understanding.
  • Also on the subject of tyres, check the wear and tear patterns, especially if it has been lifted. If the tyres are worn on either the inside or outside edge or the wear patterns are all over the place on all four tyres, best case scenario it just needs a wheel alignment, worst case scenario it may have damaged suspension components or the lift kit is dodgy or has been installed incorrectly.
  • Besides that in terms of exterior issues, there are loads of sporadic reports of problems but the vast majority we could find were either related to aftermarket equipment fitted incorrectly, vehicle abuse or a lack of mechanical sympathy from the driver or all of those things combined.
  • In terms of the interior, there are reports of the air conditionings evaporator failing or air con parts in general calling it quits. Unfortunately the solution involves pulling out the dash which can be a full day job and therefore, become very expensive. Luckily a revised part, once installed, should eliminate future problems.
  • There are also reports that the infotainment systems can become glitchy or fail. Apparently it’s usually down to a blown fuse thanks to a shortened circuit but it may be an opportunity to upgrade the entire system.
  • Mechanically, the D-MAX comes with the reputation that it is one of the more reliable 4×4 Dual Cab Utes on the market. This may just be clever marketing because when you look at the list of common problems, statistically the D-MAX is really no more reliable than it’s competition.
  • D-Max are having ongoing problems with their turbos which in most cases are being covered under warranty, but, in some cases the upgraded replacement turbos are having issues too. This is all well and good while the vehicle is covered under warranty but eventually, a future owner is going to have to foot the bill.
  • The D-MAX also suffers from all of the same EGR and DPF problems that all modern-day common rail diesels have. To help reduce the likelihood of these problems it’s highly recommended to always use high quality oil, never miss or cheap-out on a service and fit a good quality catch can.
Model range, pricing & features

EX

  • Price when new: $30,400 - $35,000
  • Price used: $21,000 - $32,000

The EX was the base bare-bones (say that five times fast) model.

While the EX featured some comfort features such as air conditioning, sound system and a comprehensive list of safety features, it lacked features like front cup holders, cruise control and electric windows and mirrors.

The EX was only available in single cab chassis with a 5-speed manual transmission in 4×4.

Features:

Steel wheels
Under-front steel plate skid/splash shield (High-ride variants)
4-star ANCAP safety rating – tested 2012 (5-star ANCAP safety rating for 4×2 high-ride crew cabs and 4×4 crew cabs – tested 2013)
6 Airbags: dual driver and front passenger, side impact and curtain airbags
3-point seatbelts for seats
Height-adjustable seatbelts for front seats
Pre-tensioners with load limiters from front seats
Height adjustable head restraints
Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
Electronic stability program (ESC)
Traction control
Brake assist (BA)
Halogen headlights
Intermittent wipers
Terrain Command 4WD dial (4×4 models only)
Power steering
Tilt-adjustable steering wheel
Trip computer with odometer, trip odometers A & B
Manual air conditioning
Pollen and fine particle air filter
Manually adjustable windows
Manually adjustable mirrors
2-speaker sound system
FM/AM radio
CD player
MP3 compatibility
AUX, Micro USB and iPod input
Bluetooth connectivity
12V power outlet in glovebox
Front door storage compartments
Upper and lower glovebox
Vinyl flooring

SX

  • Price when new: $25,100 - $46,700
  • Price used: $16,000 - $53,000

The SX was traditionally seen as the actual base model for the D-Max range, given the EX was offered in a niche style and mechanical setup.

In addition to the EX, the SX featured: cruise control, electric windows and mirrors; as well as front and rear cup holders.

From 2017, the SX also received a 7-inch touch screen infotainment system and a 6-speaker sound system (8-speaker for crew cab models).

Features:

Child seat top tether points
Cruise control
Electric mirrors
Electric windows with driver’s auto up/down
Front cup holders
Rear cup holders (crew cab and space cab variants only)
Split fold rear seat (crew cab variants only)
4 cargo tie-down hooks (crew cab variants only)

2017 update:
7-inch touch screen infotainment system
6-speaker sound system (8-speaker for crew cab models)

X-Rider

  • Price when new: $39,990 - $41,990
  • Price used: $16,500 - $55,000

Released in 2019, the limited edition X-Rider model was a limited edition model offered at a cheaper price-point in comparison to the X-Runner limited edition model; and was based on the SX model.

It featured predominately cosmetic enhancements such as 16-inch gun metral grey alloy wheels, satin black sports bar and X-Rider badging.

Features:

16-inch gun metal grey alloy wheels
Satin black sports bar
Blacked out B-pillars
X-Rider badging
X-embossed door mouldings

LS-M

  • Price when new: $40,800 - $53,000
  • Price used: $19,000 - $75,000

The LS-M is the mid-range model of the D-Max range, and adds alloy wheels, chrome stylings, projector headlights, front fog lights, LED tail lights, 6-speaker sound system and 4 cargo tie-down hooks on space cab and crew cab variants.

From 2017, the LS-M received daytime running headlights and a reversing camera, and in April 2018, the model was further enhanced with soft-touch leatherette trim for the interior, leather seats, keyless entry, push button start and 2.1amp USB charge points.

Features:

16-inch alloy wheels
Chrome radiator grille
Projector lens headlights
Front fog lights
LED rear lights
Trip computer with odometer, trip odometers A & B plus fuel economy, range and maintenance distance
Leather steering wheel with audio controls
6-speaker sound system
FM/AM radio
CD player
MP3 compatibility
AUX, Micro USB and iPod input
Bluetooth connectivity
4 cargo tie-down hooks (space cab and crew cab variants)

2017 update:
Daytime running headlights
Reversing camera

April 2018 Update:
Soft-touch leatherette trim for dashboard, glovebox, armrest
Leather seats
Keyless entry and start
2x 2.1amp USB charging points

LS-U

  • Price when new: $38,880 - $50,900
  • Price used: $17,000 - $80,000

The LS-U is the upper mid model of the D-Max range and adds to the LS-M by offering additional comfort features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome door handles, mirror covers, electrically folding side mirrors and carpet flooring.

From 2017, the LS-U also received climate control air conditioning and satellite navigation.

Features:

17-inch alloy wheels
Chrome door and tailgate handles
Chrome door mirrors
Lockable tailgate
Electrically folding side mirrors
Carpet flooring

2017 update:
Climate control air conditoning
Satellite navigation

X-Runner

  • Price when new: $46,490 - $54,990
  • Price used: $37,000 - $70,000

The X-Runner is a special edition model of the D-Max range, and is typically based on the LS-U model, and features a variety of additional features.

These features have varied from year to year, from general cosmetic additions and decals to features like climate control air conditioning and rear parking sensors.

Features:

2013 edition:
Unique pearl white metallic paint
Three-piece hard tonneau cover
Black rear sports bar
Tub liner
Floor mats
X-Runner decals

2014 edition:
17-inch gun metal-grey alloy wheels
Gun metal-grey steps
Front and rear body kit
Black sports bar
Black tub liner
Two-tone red and black seats
Red contrast steering wheel stitching and badging
High-gloss piano black dash trim

2015 edition (based on LS-Terrain):
Climate control air-conditioning
Satellite navigation
Rear parking sensors
Reverse-view camera
Keyless entry and start

2017 edition:
17-inch gunmetal-grey alloy wheels
Gun metal grey grille
Black sports bar
Black tub liner
Red Isuzu badging
“100 years” years motif
Rear parking sensors
Climate control air conditioning
Two-tone red and black seats
Red contrast steering wheel stitching and badging

2019 edition:
Rear parking sensors
X-Runner badging on rear doors and scuff plates
Sports bar
Tub liner
Push button start
Leather seats with red stitching
Red trim highlights in the cabin

LS-Terrain

  • Price when new: $49,500 - $54,200
  • Price used: $25,000 - $65,000

The LS-Terrain is the top-of-the-range model and in addition to the LS-U, it features: roof rails, reversing camera, auxiliary USB input, leather seats and an electrically adjustable driver’s seat.

From 2015, climate control was made standard on the LS-Terrain.

Features:

Roof rails
Reversing camera
Auxiliary USB audio input
Leather seats
Electrically adjustable driver’s seat

From 2015:
Climate control air conditioning

LS-T

  • Price when new: $46,900 - $54,800
  • Price used: $38,000 - $66,000

With the introduction of the 2017 update of the D-Max, the LS-T made its appearance in 2018, replacing the LS-Terrain as the top-of-the-range model.

In addition to the LS-U, the LS-T featured larger alloy wheels, soft touch leatherette materials across the interior touch points, leather seats, keyless entry, push button start and 2x 2.1amp USB charging points.

Features:

18-inch alloy wheels
Soft-touch leatherette trim for dashboard, glovebox, armrest
Leather seats
Keyless entry and start
2x 2.1amp USB charging points

Should you buy it?

Well see the thing is, these are all a bit shit, and they are all pretty good and we’re not talking about just the Isuzu D-MAX, we’re talking about all 4×4 dual cab utes and pick-ups.

The HiLux can have fuel injector woes. The Amarok apparently fails at off-roading. The 3.2 litre Ranger and BT50 twins can suffer melted pistons and crook transmissions, the Triton cops plenty of criticism for bending chassis on big enough bumps and apparently the Navara can’t tow anything larger than a mountain bike yet, all have owners that will fight to the death to defend their chosen steeds pride and honour.

The Isuzu is no different. Yes there is plenty to criticise but the D-MAX is a simple, solid almost old school truck and if cared for, serviced on schedule and not abused, can be a reliable thing.

We get asked all the time “What is the best 4×4 dual cab ute out there” but the honest answer is, in the used market, there is no overall best.

Which one you should buy comes down to your circumstance, your needs and your budget but before you dive in, do you actually need a 4×4 dual cab ute at all?

If you genuinely do, the D-MAX offers an honest no nonsense alternative that is no better or worse than the next option.

Again, it’s a bit shit, but it’s also quite good. Just ignore the marketing hype because the D-MAX, like all the Utes in its class do have their fair share of problems.

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:

3 years/100,000kms
5 years/130,000kms (from January 2013)
6 years/unlimited kms (from May 2019)

Servicing:

12 months/10,000kms
Seven-year capped price servicing (from May 2019)

Tech specs

Body Style:

2-door single cab chassis (EX, SX)
4-door space cab chassis (SX)
4-door space cab (SX – 2015-17, LS-U)
4-door crew cab chassis (SX)
4-door crew cab low-ride (SX)
4-door crew cab high-ride (SX, LS, LS-M, LS-U, LS-Terrain, LS-T)

Engines:

3.0 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel

Power:

130kW (3.0 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel)

Torque:

380Nm (3.0 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel) – 2012 – 2017
380Nm (3.0 litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel) – 2017-2020

Transmission & drivetrains:

D-Max RC.I (2012-2017)
5-speed manual, 4×2 (SX Single Cab Chassis, SX Crew Cab High-Ride, LS Crew Cab High-Ride)
5-speed manual, 4×4 (EX Single Cab Chassis, SX Single Cab Chassis, SX Space Cab Chassis, SX Crew Cab Chassis, SX Crew Cab Low-Ride, SX Crew Cab High-Ride, LS-U High-Ride, LS-M High-Ride, LS-U High-Ride, LS-Terrain High-Ride)
5-speed automatic, 4×2 (SX Crew Cab Chassis, SX Space Cab High-Ride, SX Crew Cab High-Ride, LS Crew Cab High-Ride)
5-speed automatic, 4×4 (SX Single Cab Chassis, SX Space Cab Chassis, SX Crew Cab Chassis, LS-U High-Ride, LS-M High-Ride, LS-U High-Ride, LS-Terrain High-Ride)

D-Max RC.II (2017-2020)
6-speed manual, 4×2 (SX Single Cab Chassis, SX Crew Cab Low-Ride)
6-speed manual, 4×4 (EX Single Cab Chassis, SX Single Cab Chassis, SX Space Cab Chassis, SX Crew Cab Chassis, LS-U Space Cab High-Ride, SX Crew Cab High-Ride, LS-M Crew Cab High-Ride)
6-speed automatic, 4×2 (SX Crew Cab Chassis, SX Space Cab High-Ride, SX Crew Cab High-Ride)
6-speed automatic, 4×4 (SX Single Cab Chassis, SX Space Cab Chassis, SX Crew Cab Chassis, LS-U Space Cab High-Ride, SX Crew Cab High-Ride, LS-M Crew Cab High-Ride, LS-T Crew Cab High-Ride)

Fuel Consumption:

8.0 – 8.3L/100km (depending on variant)

Length:

5040mm (Single Cab Chassis)
5020mm (Space Cab Chassis, Crew Cab Chassis)
5295mm (Space Cab)
5190 – 5295mm (Crew Cab)

Width:

1775mm (Single Cab Chassis, Crew Cab Low Ride)
1860mm (Space Cab Chassis, Space Cab, Crew Cab Cab Chassis, Crew Cab High-Ride)

Height:

1685 – 1780mm (Single Cab Chassis)
1690mm (Crew Cab Low-Ride)
1780mm (Space Cab Chassis
1790mm (Space Cab)
1785 – 1795mm (Crew Cab Chassis, Crew Cab High-Ride)

Kerb Weight:

1601 – 2026kg (depending on variant and spec)

Towing

750kg (unbraked)
2500kg (braked – 4×2 models)
3500kg (braked – 4×4 models)

Disclaimer

Information correct as of May 13, 2022.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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