There was a plan. Load up the 2022 Isuzu D-MAX LS-U+ 4×4 with bags, food, the small human’s new surfboard, and the rest of the family, and head to Forster on the NSW mid-north coast.
That was the idea. It was how we were meant to spend our Christmas/New Year break. And then, there was the spicy cough, the virus better known as COVID-19 for the uninitiated. It came, and wreaked havoc, and delivered 7-days of isolation.
Time for a do-over. Well, a shortened version of holiday fun. This time, it was off to Gloucester (again in NSW, but far less mid-north coast). No surfboard required. Everything else including the family loaded up, and away we went.
What we learned from this little experience was to have a backup plan. What we also learned was that the D-MAX is a very capable bit of kit. It’s comfortable to drive, great to holiday in, and performs super well off road, on a mix of dirt tracks, rocks and farm land.
The LS-U+ is a new variant for 2022 and is pitched as a dual purpose dual cab, because it offers premium black leather-accented upholstery and interior trims, while still maintaining its tradie roots, with rubber floor mats, a tub liner, and a roller shutter tonneau.
The last of these is a cool powered unit that seals off the tray area at the push of a button. LED lighting fires up the instant you open it, so you can see inside the tray in the dark. It even has an emergency release in case you lock your kids in there. It’s an optional extra.
Sitting between the flagship X-TERRAIN and the mid-spec LS-U, the LS-U+ 4×4 offers an 8-way power assisted driver’s seat with power lumbar support and a premium-leather bound steering wheel, equipped with reach and rake adjustment.
Perched in the centre of the dash is a 9.0-inch high-definition infotainment system, featuring voice recognition, satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, with wired Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. The last of these had a few moments, and works better wired.
There’s also an 8-speaker surround sound system, which offers some good but not great audio out of the box. Tweak the settings and you can achieve some improvements. You’ll also find dual zone air conditioning. There is storage literally everywhere you look.
We’re not kidding either, with two glove boxes, a dash storage space, pop out cup holders under the air vents plus cup holders in the centre console, decent door pockets, map pockets behind both front seats. The list goes on.
Rear passengers also benefit from their own air vents, and there’s a decent amount of head room and average leg room back there. But, the seats aren’t comfortable in the second row, feeling almost concrete in nature. The front seats could do with some depth too.
Among other cool features are smart keyless entry, push button start (although you might have to pump the brake more than once to get it to realise you want to fire it up), welcome lighting, and the uber-cool walk away door locking. That’s definitely a favourite feature.
It’s loaded with a literal metric tonne of safety technology too, including Isuzu’s intelligent driver safety and assistance system (IDAS). It utilises a state-of-the-art Hitachi 3D stereo camera that actively detects other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
The long list of safety goodies that supports includes autonomous emergency braking with turn assist, adaptive cruise control (which worked extremely well), traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and lane keep assist.
There’s also lane departure warning and prevention, and emergency lane keeping. But here’s the thing. Safety is one thing (and yes you can turn most of it off), but it can be a little overzealous in its zeal to protect occupants.
Lane keep assist had a few moments, especially with poorly marked roads. The handbrake was temperamental too, with the sensors sometimes not recognising that it had actually been disengaged.
That meant we had to pull the old school lever a little and re-release it to calm the alert system. To be fair, the 2022 Isuzu D-MAX LS-U+ 4×4 is rubber-stamped with a 5 star ANCAP safety rating.
It’s powered by a 3.0-litre turbo diesel 4-cylinder engine that generates 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque. It’s paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission, and yes, like you, as you read this, we can’t help wondering what the D-MAX would be like with a quieter V6.
The LS-U+ has a 3.5-tonne braked towing capacity, and is equipped with a factory-fitted tow bar as standard. Off road is where it performs though, as we found in testing, across multiple scenarios.
Draped in Marble White Pearl, our test vehicle cut a pretty snazzy path in the grass and over rugged terrain thanks to Isuzu’s Terrain Command 4×4 with 2-High, 4-High and 4-Low drive modes, and an electromagnetic rear differential lock.
It has a sizeable ground clearance of 240mm, and the all important trifecta of angles for approach, departure and ramp-over measure at 30.5-degrees, 19-degrees and 23.8-degrees respectively. It has a wading depth of 800mm too.
The stability control capabilities, traction control, hill descent control and hill start assist all saw time during our testing, as we traversed some cool little off road getaways around Gloucester, Barrington, Stroud and Dungog.
On the road, the suspension feels pretty good and ride and handling feel sturdy, while still offering a comfortable driving experience. It’s not dissimilar off the tarmac either, which means Isuzu have come reasonably close to nailing the balance between the two.
Engine noise is vastly improved over previous generations (prior to 2020), but it still sounds a little tractor-esque. Automatic bi-LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, with auto-levelling and automatic high beam control will light up the night.
Should things get misty, there’s also LED fog lights and LED combination taillights. The big ute rides on 18-inch machined-face alloy wheels that you’ll either love or hate, or love to hate, as the case may be, shod with 265/60R18 Bridgestone 684II HT tyres.
The 2022 Isuzu D-MAX LS-U+ comes with Isuzu UTE Australia’s Service Plus 6-7-7 package, which encompasses a 6-year 150,000km warranty, up to 7-years roadside assistance when serviced through IUA dealers and 7-years capped price servicing.
Priced at $61,900 (plus on-road costs), it can be had in Mineral White, Basalt Black mica, Cobalt Blue mica, Mercury Silver metallic, Obsidian Grey metallic, Marble White pearl and Magnetic Red mica. You can build and price your own on the Isuzu Ute website.
Our test vehicle was provided by Isuzu Ute Australia. To find out more about the 2022 Isuzu D-MAX LS-U+, contact your local Isuzu Ute dealer.