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Isuzu D-Max LS-U+ Review

City rains to bone-dry plains: we travelled 2,700kms in Isuzu’s newest addition to the D-Max ute line-up – the LS-U+

When you’re going rural, you want something reliable.

But while there’s an overload of LandCruisers and HiLuxs throughout country towns, slowly and surely, Isuzu is starting to get more of a foothold in the bush.

I’ve already driven Isuzu’s aggressively styled X-Terrain and think it’s a winner. And while we would have had no hesitation taking that on our adventure to the opal mining town of Lightning Ridge, the opportunity arose to take Isuzu’s new offering.

So, we packed up and hit the road on a 2,700km journey that would take us through tiny rural towns and the middle of nowhere. Our journey also took us to some far-off pubs before heading back through central NSW.

What’s it like inside the 2022 LS-U+

For a trip like this, you want to be comfortable. This wasn’t just due to the roads and the heat, but also because the sheer bum-in-seat hours alone would be enough to send your legs to sleep if you weren’t.

The best thing about the LS-U+ is that it’s not only capable and durable, but it’s also a bit more upmarket inside.

Features like heated seats may not be needed on 36-degree days in the bush, but a tradie warming their rump for a 4:30am winter start in Sydney will definitely appreciate them.

Rubber floor mats also mean that mud and dirt from work boots and kids’ soccer boots alike is easily removed – the mats simply unhook so you can take them out and hit them with the hose.

Seating is appointed in leather and the driver’s seat is electronically adjustable. Having sat in it for the better part of 3,000kms, I can tell you that it is comfortable on both long and short trips.

A digital trip computer sitting between 2 analogue dials gives you all the information you need about your trip as well as access to other information like media options.

As you can imagine, there was a fair bit of snacking done on a trip like this. Luckily, there’s plenty of space in the centre console for a large pack of flamin’ hot Cheetos. Most of the time, I was the only one travelling in the LS-U+, so the 4 cup holders up front allowed me to have a variety of options to choose from.

There are 2 deeper cup holders located centrally between the driver and passenger, while the other 2 are shallower and sit on either side of the dashboard next to the door.

These shallow cup holders are the ones you would use for your morning coffee since the central ones are too deep to get a coffee cup in and out of on the go – for my small cup of coffee anyway.

But they also sit right in front of the air conditioning vents which, I found out the hard way, do their job very, very well.

It wasn’t long before my nice warm coffee was an iced frappe.

The infotainment system hasn’t changed much since this new generation of D-Max was introduced, and while it does its job, it could have been designed a bit more intuitively and skinned a bit more bright and invitingly. You do get satellite navigation and DAB+ as standard though.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity more or less render the interface critiques negligible though since once you plug your phone in, you get back to those more familiar systems.

Only 1 USB point is up front, so while you’re using Android Auto, other devices will need to be charged in the back.

While we’re talking about the back, there is plenty of space. With the driver’s seat in my driving position, I had plenty of leg and headroom.

More than this though, it was a comfortable place to travel, both laden and unladen, which is a big plus – you won’t find dents in the roof where passengers have been bounced and shaken.

2,700kms on the road with the LS-U+

The Isuzu LS-U+ gets the same drivetrain as the X-Terrain – a 3-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel engine that has been refined for this generation of the D-Max.

It packs 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque under the bonnet, and while it isn’t as powerful as its competitors in the form of the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux, Isuzu has worked hard on the unit to ensure that it is as refined as possible.

It’s worked well too – gone is the familiar knock of the diesel engine. In fact, we fired it up side-by-side with an older Isuzu and the new unit was as quiet as a mouse … relatively speaking.

A fair amount of time, it would seem, has been spent refining and sound deadening the cabin as well, with road and tyre noise well buffered. You’d expect on a trip like this for the interior to get covered in dreaded red dust, but it didn’t – not even close to it. This means, unlike the rubber floor mats, you won’t have to take a hose to it.

Another tick for those outback drivers.

As standard, you get a lot of safety tech, which helps around town and on longer country drives. Functionality, such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and lane follow, help you to keep the panels straight.

Interestingly though, with the torrential downpour we experienced as we headed up the M1 and out of Sydney, there is such a thing as too much water.

At points during the drive, when the deluge was at its peak – as if I wasn’t focussing on everything around me and wondering where the car in front had disappeared to – the safety systems turned off and we found ourselves slowing down once the adaptive cruise, among other features, was gone.

In defence of the LS-U+, the rain was torrential, and I am sure that something similar would have happened in other vehicles – I just haven’t experienced that amount of rain on the road in them.

With that being said, Sydney's roads are becoming more pothole-laden than ever, but I had few complaints when it came to ride comfort around town. In fact, I had few complaints anywhere, as no matter what surface we threw at it during this ute review, it seemed to eat it up.

Granted, the ride isn’t as plush as more family-orientated vehicles, but it’s not meant to be. This is meant to move and tow things so that things can be built and memories made.

This, in part, allows it to move a lot of weight in one trip.

With a payload of close to 1 tonne and towing a braked capacity up to 3.5 tonnes, it could be a bit jittery on unsealed roads. But that is to be expected and the price you unfortunately have to pay to achieve these numbers.

It is comparable with the Ford Ranger and HiLux in terms of towing capacities too, with the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux also capable of 3.5 tonnes.

That means you could easily drag a camper trailer or caravan along with you on a trip like this.

As we look back on the trip though, the LS-U+ travelled winding highway roads, dead-straight country roads and unsealed roads out in mine country with few problems. Some of the places this car went are truly unique and incredible, and it was comfortable getting there.

141 kms until the next petrol station

As we were leaving a small town called Wee Waa (not a Borat reference), there was a sign that signified we were really in the middle of nowhere. It read “next petrol station is 141 kms”, and at that point, you look down and think, “With diesel prices at the moment, do I risk it?”

It's a fair thought – a tow is probably cheaper than a tank right now. However, the D-Max has an 80-litre fuel tank, which is good news because that means out there where the engine is consuming less diesel, you can travel around 1,000kms and breeze past many petrol stations without a worry.

Over the course of our trip, we registered 7.6 litres per 100kms with economy dipping to numbers slightly lower than this on long stretches.

Miner problems

After we had made it to Lightning Ridge, located our accommodation and pub crawled through all 2 pubs in town, it was time to call it a night.

The next day, we took the D-Max LS-U+ to an opal mine where we would be able to get a good feel for its off-road capability.

Now you might be wondering how we were able to get into a private opal mining field.

Thankfully, country folk are much more trusting than us city slickers. Simply saying that you are testing a car can get you into a lot of places.

Perhaps someone from the city might have then asked, “Have you driven around a mine before?” or “Is the car a 4-wheel-drive?” but no such questions came our way.

They even said we could keep any opals we found. To my surprise (and in hindsight, not theirs), we didn’t find any.

But we did learn that the LS-U+ is every bit as capable as you would expect. With good approach and departure angles of 30.5 and 19 degrees, an electronically locking diff and functions like hill descent control, you could take this anywhere.

So if you were working in a mine, the D-Max would be a good choice because it can easily get in and out as well as over hills and mounds. If you work at a different mine to the one we visited and actually find some opals, it can carry many hundreds of kilograms too.

As a side note: if you do make it out to Lightning Ridge, make sure you take a designated driver and get out to the Club in the Scrub and the Glengarry Hilton for a great experience.

Loading up the D-Max LS-U+

We’ve established that it is capable of towing and carrying, but there were a few more observations we made from our trip.

The first is that the electric tonneau is very handy. Controlled by the key, it makes it very easy to load when you have your hands full as the cover is removed by the time you get there.

It is watertight too, so bedding, camping equipment and other things that you may not want drenched will be safe inside.

With that being said, it isn’t airtight, so as we travelled over unsealed roads, it collected a fair amount of red dust in the tub. It’s easy to clean out since you can just hose down the lined tub, but you won’t want to be throwing your finest frock in there without covering it.

Surprisingly, there was no 12-volt socket, so you will need to look at alternative power sources to run esky fridges and the like.

Note: With all that being said, Isuzu is currently offering the X-Terrain on its website for almost $4,000 less than the LS-U+ model, which is a fair and honest deal if you ask me.

Is the Isuzu LS-U+ safe?

Despite the hiccups at the very beginning of our trip, we were able to make use of the various safety features that the LS-U+ has to offer. Adaptive cruise control meant we didn’t have any awkward conversations with the Outback cops nor did we get our picture snapped by any mobile cameras – all while maintaining a safe distance from any vehicles in front of us.

AEB is also there if any large animals or people happen to wander into your path. There were countless of these too, from cows and horses meandering along the side of the road to a ridiculous number of emus.

Other standard inclusions include the following:

  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Forward collision warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Automatic high beam
  • Reversing camera
  • Driver attention monitoring

The verdict

We were already impressed with the D-Max after driving the X-Terrain and also the MU-X more recently. The reliability of Isuzu is a known factor and the LS-U+ adds more of a value proposition for those wanting a top-of-the-line offering that foregoes some visual elements and none of the capability.

We were able to see some incredible scenery, some obscure animals that you would only see in a zoo cityside and some incredible places. We were able to go in and out of mining land and up rocky dirt hills, all without an issue.

The best thing I can say about this D-Max is that I would have no qualms or concerns about taking this car and doing a similar trip. Nor a longer trip, nor one further off the beaten track.

If you’re in the market for a ute, you should be taking a D-Max for a test drive.

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