There are days when we want to break through the monotony of our daily life and do something exhilarating. A drive, a road trip, even a review for that matter makes things so much better because, you are behind the wheel and having fun, aren't you? Perfect timing then, as the 2019 Isuzu D-Max V-Cross pick-up found its way into our garage and so we decided to have our share of fun taking it out on the road and off it too! There were quite a few talking points this time though, as other than the subtle upgrades in its appearance, the 2019 Isuzu D-Max V-Cross also gets a new drivetrain- an all new engine and gearbox combination.
First things first! You just can't ignore it. Its robust and poised demeanour, bold and butch looks and its sheer size ensure enough stares. It's 5295 mm long and compare that to your big SUVs like the Endeavour (4903 mm) and even the Fortuner (4795 mm), and you understand how big it really is. The face was always imposing, in fact, almost intimidating to look at and now a healthy dose of chrome adds to its style.
There are solid chrome elements around the grille and fog lamps along with minimal sculpting on the face adding aggression. Interestingly, the chrome on the grille also extends to the new bi-xenon headlamps in a bull-horn like design on the top, complementing the DRLs.
Among other additions are side steps, a shark-fin antenna, new tail-lamps with LED inserts and a size bigger- 18-inch alloy wheels. Now all those revisions don't necessarily make the D-Max look too different but bring in a sense of freshness while keeping its daunting looks very much intact.
The facelift sees updates made to the cabin as well. For starters, you get an all-black cabin now with soft touch materials on places your hands will frequently touch, like door pads, the upper glovebox and on the instrument console hood. Then you have piano black inserts on the central console and on the door pads. Even the quality of the interior, be it the soft touch materials, door-pads or leatherette seats is of high standard and the seats are well-bolstered offering good comfort and lateral support.
The cabin also scores high on practicality with multiple cup holders, twin glove boxes and with each door having a dedicated storage for a 1-litre bottle. But just one grouse that I have is with the ergonomics. For instance, the elbow-rest is quite high for my liking and even the door armrest could have been positioned a bit low.
Then, getting in and out of the V-Cross is bit of a task as it's quite a high climb and rear doors don't open wide enough. But once in, you find yourself in reasonable comfort and the cabin is wide enough for three at the rear. The knee room is adequate and the headroom is decent for someone my height which is 5 ft 10 inches. However, I would have preferred a little more under thigh support. The floor at the rear is flat and the seat is foldable for storage. Rear passengers also get, centre armrest, cupholders and USB port integrated into the central console, though it misses out on rear air-con vents which a car that costs around ₹ 18 lakh, on road should ideally have.
The V-Cross doesn't really fall short in the features department as well, save for some. Segment standard features like auto climate control, powered wing mirrors and 6-way electrically adjustable driver's seat among others are very much part of the package and with eight speakers including two mounted in the roof, your acoustic needs are taken care of. That said, you get a very elementary 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, USB & AUX connectivity, but no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. While that still doesn't disappoint, the lack of an in-built navigation surely bothers knowing its touring purpose and also given its price. But we'll talk about that a little later.
Let's get into talking about the new motor under its hood and the automatic transmission. It's a brand new 1.9-litre four-cylinder engine mated to an all-new six-speed automatic gearbox which in-turn is paired with a shift-on-the fly four-wheel drive system. The engine is BS4 as of now but Isuzu has already announced making its models BS6 compliant by January 2020 with an expected price hike of almost ₹ 1.5 lakh. The engine belts out 146 bhp at 3600 rpm which is 12 bhp more than the 2.5-litre mill does and at 350 Nm at 1800 rpm - 2600 rpm, the torque is up by 30 Nm.
The V-Cross is now about a second quicker to triple digit speeds at 13.22 seconds and the engine offers a strong mid-range surge. However, we would have liked to see a little improvement in the initial acceleration as well, a thing many complained about even in the previous 2.5-litre unit. Even the new motor isn't that quick off the line and you want a little more grunt at the low-end.
However, this brand new six-speed automatic gearbox holds onto the revs quite well. So up to 3000 - 3200 rpm, it won't upshift and when you switch to manual mode it will follow your command without upshifting automatically even when revved to the red line. That certainly gives a reassurance while overtaking, but when you kick-down trying to make a quick move, there is a hesitation before it downshifts and the engine gets vocal as revs go up.
Then as you pick up the pace, the build-up is quite linear and that's actually a good thing for an SUV of this size as the passengers won't be jolted and unnerved because of that kick-in of the torque, making it quite the highway cruiser. The suspension set-up too is not exactly firm, but biased on the firm side making it feel very cushy over rough patches. In fact, I was amazed at how silently it did the job even while gliding over some deep potholes. Passengers on the rear seat too won't feel the sharp bumps, more so thanks to the tall profile of the 18-inchers.
But show it a corner or a sharp bend and you get to know how wobbly this mammoth SUV can get. Then it gets drum brakes at the rear which feel really spongy and the feedback is not confident inspiring at triple digit speeds.You'll also have to slow down for speed-breakers as the unladen deck lifted on leaf springs tends to bounce. The hydraulic steering too doesn't offer any feedback at higher speed but is well weighed up so you don't lose confidence while manoeuvring and the traction control intervenes only when you go too wide. However, with an empty deck, which can carry up to 235 kg, it's easy to slide its tail with all power going to the rear axle when driving in two-high mode and the electronic stability control (ESC) comes to rescue only after a skid. Yes, it's oodles of fun!
Also remember, it's anything but a runabout for your daily commute. The steering is cumbersome at parking speeds and turning radius won't favour pottering around. Moreover, with no parking sensors you got to park it cautiously as chances of bumping it are high despite you get a rear parking camera.
Having done with all the practical aspects of the V-Cross, let's get down to the stuff it's popular for- taking on the rough! It's kitted up with all the essentials like heavy-duty axles, a dependable 4x4 system, independent double wishbone suspension upfront with coil spring, high approach angle and for safety it gets hill-start assist, hill-decent control and brake override assist which cuts the power when you mistakenly accelerate while braking. There are six-airbags as well, just in case you do the forbidden. But tipping the scale at 1935 kg it's not a nimble SUV, so I started with an obvious question in my mind. Is this engine powerful enough for off-roading?
Well, it can take you across most of the tough climbs or get you through some rocky terrain without much hassle. Admiringly, it was a cakewalk for the V-Cross at the mild off-road terrains we took initially. But just when the going got a little tougher and I switched to four-wheel low, I was again left wanting for a little more grunt from the low end of the rev range. The motor feels stressed when you encounter the wicked and it's then when you feel the need of more power down the rev-range. Moreover, the long rear overhang eats into the departure angle as well.
The Isuzu D-Max V-Cross has its flaws, sure! It could do with a tad more on creature comfort and probably performance too. But there is a lot that it offers! The intimidating size and its go-anywhere ability is a big draw for people who love exploring the outdoors and the countryside. It can seat 4 in comfort and pack gear for a cross-continent drive too in its cargo bay or a motorcycle, whichever you choose. Isuzu never went looking for volumes with the D-Max V-Cross and the updates only do good to further build upon its cult following. But in case you are looking to lay your hands on one, we suggest you wait for the new-generation model, which should come to Indian shores this year, probably earlier than later.
|2019 Isuzu D-Max V-Cross||Dimensions|
|Kerb Weight||1935 kg|
|Deck Load Capacity||235 kg|
|2019 Isuzu D-Max V-Cross||Specifications|
|Engine Capacity||1898 cc|
|No. Of Cylinders||4|
|Engine Type||Common Rail VGS Turbo Intercooled Engine|
|Maximum Power||146 bhp at 3600 rpm|
|Maximum Torque||350 Nm at 1800 - 2600 rpm|
|Transmission||6-Speed Torque Convertor A/T|
|Transmission Channel||Shift-on-fly 4 Wheel Drive|
|Front Suspension||Independent Double Wishbone Suspension With Coil Springs|
|Rear Suspension||Soft Ride, Leaf Spring|
|Front Brakes||Ventilated Disc Brakes (ABS + EBD)|
|Rear Brakes||Drum Brakes|
Photography: Rakesh Singh