Isuzu’s rugged D Max Utility is not the kind of Chelsea tractor you are likely to see parked outside Sainsbury’s or being used to drop Jessica and Tarquin off at the village school. This is a serious, no-frills workhorse of a four-by-four, and in that context it’s difficult to find fault with it.
There is a clue to the nature of the beast in the ‘top features’ list on the Isuzu website, where “power windows” make an appearance. Useful, yes, but in 2021 surely only a ‘top feature’ in a pick-up that’s designed to do a job rather than impress the spec-hunters.
When it comes to doing the job, the Isuzu excels, with thoroughbred handling, plenty of torque and a no-nonsense cab that puts the driver in control of both the vehicle and the task at hand. The technology sits behind the scenes but doesn’t need to cry out for attention.
In two-wheel drive mode, this all-terrain twin cab delivers its considerable power through the rear wheels, which is the best configuration for towing, something at which the D Max excels. With an industrial grade tow hook at the rear, the Isuzu can tow a class-leading 3.5 tonnes safely and without fuss.
It also boasts a reversing camera, making hitching up to the trailer a simple affair, as well as providing reassurance when manoeuvring around a busy farmyard. Top-spec electronic stability control is another vital addition when towing that kind of weight, and an impressive anti-lock braking system makes stopping in a hurry as fuss-free as the journey itself.
Still with the technical side, the Isuzu of course includes hill assist and hill descent control and a ‘proper’ full sized spare wheel, the absence of which on so many other vehicles is surely a matter of regret.
The optimistic spec list refers to ‘manual air conditioning’, which feels a bit like referring to a jar of coffee, a kettle and a mug as a ‘manual automatic coffee machine’, but the heating is certainly efficient and capable of doing the job on early morning runs to the lambing pens in the spring.
With low and high speed four-wheel-drive options, getting to those lambing pens should be trouble-free even in the most taxing winter conditions, while engaging those options is reassuringly fuss-free. The D Max feels as solid and well-planted as it looks, with a purposeful poise that is backed up by good handling and plenty of controllable power.
The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth, the turning circle feels impressively tight and all the switchgear is purposeful if unsophisticated. This is a pick-up that means business, though sadly that does mean that white van man will just keep coming at you down that country lane, even when the layby is on his side and all you have on yours is a foot of verge and a hedge.
Despite its off-road capabilities, this is also a useable vehicle for other situations and cruises comfortably at motorway speeds, while the twin-cab set up is more than just an afterthought, accommodating my six foot seven inch son and his six foot girlfriend in the back with considerable ease.
I confess that some of the pick-up’s more basic features did catch me out. I was disappointed with the reception from the RDS radio until I realised that there was an aerial I needed to extend (remember those?) but the Bluetooth connectivity and USB port provide useful additional entertainment options.
Meanwhile, back at the village school, the rear tailgate highlights just why this vehicle isn’t ideal for transporting the kiddies’ games kit in the back. Built as solidly as the rest of the Isuzu, it drops like a stone once released and could break the wrist of the unsuspecting novice.
And while on the subject of breaking things, it could be me, but I found it too easy to smack my left elbow on the capacious central console when changing into fourth or sixth gears, but that’s a minor complaint. I also found the condensation on the outside of the windows a trifle annoying on damp mornings, but remembering to wipe the windows is a small price to pay for such a dependable, go-anywhere farm pick-up.
Overall this is a no-frills twin cab that knows its audience. Isuzu knows what matters to the farmers who make up much of its customer base and they continue to focus on that aspect of this rugged and reliable workhorse.
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