A weekend adventure in an Isuzu D-MAX
My first car had an Isuzu Badge, it also had a Holden badge but it stuck with me. My first import was a JDM Isuzu Gemini I should never have sold.
Between Moog and myself we've tried out a few different dual cab utes. There's many reasons why they are so popular in Australia and i'll rattle off a few that might seem obvious. Firstly, Australia is HUGE and some of the roads are not great, a bigger vehicle with bigger tyres and decent power means you can go just about anywhere and these days, you can do it comfortably in a dual cab ute.
And after a decent trip, they often end up looking like this one:
Which is what I had the opportunity to try out for an extended test drive. It's a D-MAX LS-U tray back. Having recently jumped out of a similar vintage Navara I was keen to see how this would compare and an invite for some off-roading with my mate Isaac was the perfect opportunity. This one is a 3 Litre Diesel, can tow 3.5 tonnes has a driver assistance package, hill descent and basically all the tasty fruit a modern ute provides.
Why not take the Kei Truck - i hear you ask. Well, that thing is HEAPS of fun off road and makes some incredible noises but the reality is all the good 4wd tracks are hours of highway driving away which is not much fun in a truck that small with heavy muddies on it, and I had never really driven a dual cab like this for a trip that is primarily off road so I was keen to try it out.
It rained for most of the trip but that was good for keeping dust down!
We headed to the glow worm tunnel in the Wolgan Valley, it's mostly state forest access roads to this point with just a few muddy sections to navigate through.
Trusty Bunnings umbrella did an excellent job of holding off a waterfall too.
Did I mention I did the entire trip on the stock standard H/T Highway Tyres that the Ute comes with? Pretty impressive as all the other vehicles I was with had all terrains. It was a little more slippery on these access roads but 4WD mode, low range where necessary and a bit of diff lock here and there got me by ok - and in comfort!
This sight can turn a relaxing drive into something very anxiety inducing. All that rain had to go somewhere - and it went into the creek, which was between us and our camp ground.
We measured it out, it wasn't flowing all that fast thanks to a diversion built further up into the creek to slow the water down, and was lower than the maximum wading depth of the Ute. Both my car and Isaac's Sierra didn't have snorkels so it was important not to risk engine damage. With low range engaged and the diff lock on, I steadily sent the D-MAX through the creek and it made it out the otherwise without too much fuss on a very slippery and steep track.
An hour or so later we're set up! The tranquility of a 4WD-only spot like this has to be experienced in person, it's quiet, you're outdoors, there's stars everywhere (when it's not too overcast of course) and it's great to spend quality time with your mates.
Especially when your mates bring Bacon.
With a carefully hung tarp i managed to keep most of the overnight rain off my swag.
Usually you exit this camp ground continuing on down the trail through two more river crossings. We checked the depth and they were both deep AND fast, and a few other people got stuck so we decided to head back out the way we came, which was easier than the previous afternoon thanks to much less rainfall in the area!
The return crossing gave the wheels a wash and we could then hit the highway back to Sydney. Overall it's a pretty impressive vehicle considering you can use it all week for work, towing stuff around, seating multiple people in comfort with all the conveniences of CarPlay and a modern infotainment system.
I think a modern dual cab ute build is on the cards in the not too distant future, and it could very well be one of these!