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Pick-up power: Isuzu takes D-Max to next level with rugged new XTR model

First drive by Paul Connolly

Isuzu has spotted another niche in the expanding pick-up sector - and the XTR is the model to fill it.

What's new?

Isuzu continues to make waves in the growing lifestyle pick-up segment with a rugged-yet-stylish version of its popular D-Max workhorse.

Known as the XTR (short for Xtreme Terrain Rider), the new trim blends go-anywhere ability with a comfy cabin and attention-grabbing looks.

It's a UK-only model, trimmed with UK-specced parts, aimed at buyers who love both the off-road capability but also want a vehicle that fits everyday lifestyles.

What does it look like?

The XTR's styling is aggressive, but not overly so that it ruins the kerb appeal. The standard D-Max interior gets extra oomph with some bold external enhancements that include a big front bumper guard, a bonnet protector and new headlamp styling.

The commanding feel continues with flared wheel arch extensions, Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus tyres and textured black sidesteps specially designed not to scratch as they fend off bumps, rocks and anything else terrain throws at it.

You'll also find additions like model-exclusive mirror covers, door handles and some neat green XTR detailing around the vehicle, including on its exclusive six-spoke satin black, 17" alloys and neat tricks like visible bright green front brake calipers.

Under the bonnet

For all its enhancements, the XTR is still a D-Max, which means all its capability remains. There's Isuzu's latest 1.9-litre turbo diesel engine that meets Euro 6 emissions standards without the need for AdBlue, a 3.5 tonne towing capacity, and a payload of 1,136kg.

It also weighs 1,975kg, which means it is under the 2,000kg limit that restricts drivers by 10mph in certain circumstances (e.g. form 70mph to 60mph on dual carriageways). Most of the D-Max's pick-up rivals are over 2,000kg.

What does it drive like?

The XTR is more than just for show, however; it's a seriously capable vehicle that's also practical and comfortable.

It doesn't of course deliver a completely car-like experience, but the XTR shows how the pick-up world is increasingly - and successfully - absorbing the comforts and driving experience of mainstream motors.

Isuzu don't make cars, just commercial vehicles, and every ounce of its experience and passion seems to have been poured into the XTS.

This was evident courtesy of Isuzu when we tested the vehicle in extreme off-road conditions in north Wales; it coped with conditions few other off-roaders could have managed.

It's not just Isuzu's 80+ years' experience with diesel engines and terrain driving, although that's there in spades.

The XTR comes uniquely equipped with a bespoke Pedders suspension and brake system both engineered specifically for the model.

The Pedders set-up gets a new front suspension upper arm in conjunction with newly designed damper units for better off-roading.

The array includes a range of the company's best components including Pedders TrakRyder Foam Cell Shock Absorber, TrakRyder Heavy Duty Spring and TrakRyder Strut Mount, all designed to improve ride quality in laden and unladen, and in particular off-road.

The Peddars brake system features Kevlar ceramic pads and specially designed discs for improved breaking and cooling. Suspension is set higher, giving the XTR a hefty 250mm ground clearance.

In short, the combination works. On a mud-filled off-road track newly gouged from deep forest, in the most gruelling of conditions, the XTR took everything in its stride.

Equally, in a slate quarry with extreme inclines and declines, and slippery rocky terrain, that would defeat all but the most capable vehicles, the car barely skipped a beat.

First gear feels quite short, but that can be an advantage in the rough stuff. If proof were needed of its ability, this was it.

Cabin and tech

Ah, you might be thinking, the price for this terrain capability was being thrown around in a sub-standard cabin: not a bit of it.

The double-cab interior is a quality place to be in pick-up world, with leather, suede and carbon fibre leather, contrast stitching, a moulded D-shaped sports steering wheel, and bespoke XTR detailing - the kind of refinement that makes this vehicle a real competitor in this growing segment.

The cabin fits the XTR's personality perfectly. Pick-up s don't, of course, provide car-like luxury (well, not yet anyhow) but rest assured all your main comforts are here, and then some.

Who would buy one?

There are currently seven D-Max variants: Utility, Eiger, Yukon, Utah, Blade, XTR and Arctic Trucks AT35.

The XTR sits between Blade and the very large Arctic Trucks model (£38,555+ vat - the 35 in its name refers to tyre size).

The XTR is aimed at the increasing leisure/daily work-life corner of the pick-up market, which is itself growing at pace.

This is a growing trend that Isuzu is feeling increasingly comfortable with, clearly aligning its models to fit the emerging sub-sectors in the pick-up segment; Business (capable workhorses like no-frills Utility trim from £16,909 +vat) ), All-Purpose (work and home use) and Adventure (work, lifestyle, off-roading).

There's also a great benefit in kind ratio, VAT advantages and Isuzu's 125,000 mile/5 Year warranty and 5 years UK and European roadside assistance.

The XTR costs from £33,999 +vat, is available to order now, and will officially land in local dealerships in the next couple of weeks.

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