Isuzu D-Max

Urgent towing job allowed this Isuzu bakkie to splendidly strut its tugging stuff

We had an urgent racing mission come up and had to travel up to Jozi to pick up a trailer and tow a car back. There was little notice and while we dreamed of taking the trip in a GLS 580, a Wildtrak or a Legend, we were confined to the choice of one vehicle. A humble Isuzu D-Max 250 DC X-Rider automatic.

Better than a kick in the butt I suppose, but we were a touch apprehensive at having ‘just’ 100 kW and 330 Nm on tap from its humble, archaic old faithful 2.5-litre turbodiesel. And I was keen to see how the old-school 5-speed automatic coped, too. D-Max is however reasonably safety appointed, so we were happy to have the assurance of ABS with EBD and Assisted braking, ESC and Traction Control, as well as driver and passenger airbags, seatbelt pre-tensioners and more.


The trailer we were collecting came in at 800 kilos and we had to put a ton’s worth of car on top, so X-Raider 250’s 2100 kg braked trailer towing ability would do it comfortably. Somehow we thought the D-Max 300’s 3.5-ton pulling ability would be better, but so be it. The optional roller-deck was also a bonus as we had a good few spares to pack in and that would keep it all safe and over a ton’s carrying capacity was welcome, too.

We were supposed to take a leisurely ride up on the Monday, but faced with an unknown impending upgraded lockdown measures, we headed off on the crisp Sunday morning instead. The up trip was trailer free and we were soon comfortable and happy as we took top the N1 en route to Bloem for our overnight stop. And the entertainment of that dreaded family meeting and some great Euro soccer on the TV.

Happily, business travel was still allowed, but we still set off as early as possible in case we had any lockdown challenges into embattled Gauteng. Our D-Max did us proud — comfy and warm in spite of the sub-zero outside, we were averaging just off ten litres per hundred. That in spite of heavy truck traffic and our haste. Isuzu tells us that this 2.5 D-Max X-Rider is equally suited to business or family use, as it brings greater driving comfort and convenience to market. Spot on!


The guy who buys one of these will not be fussed that it’s not the latest or greatest of bakkies. He’s after decent value in a reliable and well proven double cab that offers enough extra and different to keep him happy. D-Max 250 is not the latest or greatest bakkie and looked at like that, our red machine was already excelling in its mission. But the big test was still to come…

We stopped for a refuel and a cup of coffee before transing the Vaal, where I had a gap to behold our Isuzu in the dawn light. Still bold and great looking bakkie in spite of its decade’s service, Mr. X has a striking black front bumper and radiator grille grinning with a bold red Isuzu badge. Projector-style headlamps have LED daytime running lamps too. The black treatment spreads to the Isuzu’s B-pillars, tubular side steps and sports bar and slick diamond-cut 18-inch alloys.

Stepping back inside X-Rider’s red stitched black leather bucket seats were still comfy after another three hours behind the leather multifunction wheel. The Bluetooth-enabled Car Play and Auto six speaker infotainment and audio system on the high-gloss piano black and bold red trimmed dash has its challenges. It likes to mirror even if you don’t want it to while charging the phone and is a little backward in some respects, but it does the job.


We arrived at our destination fresh after an easy trip in a comfortable vehicle. And happy to just be able to hitch the trailer, load the car and turn tail back to the Cape. First towing impressions were great as we dodged the surprisingly mad Jozi traffic considering the refreshed lockdown status. After stopping to check the double axle trailer’s tyre pressures and top up.

Out of the glut we were soon back on the open road. And more than impressed by our towing tool. Our trailer proved a win too, which made it far easier. It towed a treat — straight and solid, even under braking. And Big Red, our D-Max 250 just got on with the job as if the trailer wasn’t even there. So we had to keep reminding ourselves it was — it’s pretty wide so lest us forget!

We stayed over in Bloem again and set off early. Trouble free, our Isuzu cruised splendidly just on the speed limot, overtook easily and boxed completely out of its shoes. The weather deteriorated inversely proportionatly as we approached the Cape and we were into a mad Northwester by the time we reached de Doorns. It was increasingly bucketing down and blowing up a gale as we progressed.


No hassle for our Isuzu — it chugged along as if it was perfect outside. Our progress was slowed by the traffic but we were home just after dark. A bit frazzled by the conditions. But not the bakkie.

The down run is always easier on fuel, so to compare fuel use towing back versus up is actually academic. But we were still impressed by the fact that it only ticked up less than two litres per hundred, heavily laden and towing close to its maximum braked capacity, versus our free and easy up run.

To be honest, we had absolutely no reason at all to be concerned by towing with this fine truck. Yes, it’s power, torque and braked towing ability lag far behind some other bakkies out there. Aeons adrift to the top SUVs. But it did the job brilliantly. Leaving us to conclude that annything beigger to do the towing job we needed to do is unnecessary and superfluous. Especially at the money.


Its engine may be agricultural, its gearbox old fashioned and its towing capacity short of some of its more extreme rivals. But this Isuzu D-Max 250 DC X-Rider automatic did the towing job we asked of it, better than well. — Michele Lupini

Images: Giordano Lupini

TOW TEST: Isuzu D-Max 250 DC X-Rider automatic
Engine: 100 kW 330 Nm 2.5-litre turbodiesel I4
Drive: 5-speed auto RWD
Kerb Mass         1945 kg
Payload:          1025 kg
Towing capacity:  2100 kg
0-60km/h:         4.77 sec
0-100km/h:        11.93 sec
0-120 km/h        16.77 sec
400m:             18.1s @ 122 km/h
80-120km/h:       10.38 sec
Towing fuel       101.9 l/100 km
Fuel:             8.1 l/100km
CO2:              214 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y 120K/5y 90K km
LIST PRICE:       R527K
RATED:            8
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