Review: 2019 Isuzu D-MAX X-Runner

So let’s say you’re after a rugged yet handsome, dependable and capable work ute. But you also want something that looks the part when it’s crawling through the car park at Westfield, or even taking the partner out for a nice dinner. Your choices are pretty endless with most ute manufactures putting out “special editions” on a regular basis.

We’ve been driving the 2019 Isuzu D-MAX X-Runner for the past two weeks, and we think it’s definitely one that should be on your radar.

So where exactly does the X-Runner fit on Isuzu’s model line up? Well, unlike some other “special editions” from manufacturers that are based on entry/mid level models, the X-Runner is actually based on Isuzu’s range topping D-MAX variant, the LST. Models below this include the LS-U, LS-M and then the entry level “mining-spec” SX.

The X-Runner is more of a “limited edition” that most, with only 645 units available at the time of launch nationally, and you have a choice of two colours only – Magnetic Red Metallic, or Silky Pearl White (which is exclusive to the X-Runner, but available on the MU-X range). So what exactly do you get in the X-Runner over the range topping LS-T, for a price difference of $3,000? ($54,990 X-Runner compared to $51,990 LS-T)

  • Red Grille Badge and badging on alloys.
  • Black and red leather appointed upholstery.
  • Piano black and X-RUNNER red interior trims.
  • Black roof lining.
  • X-Runner red stitching throughout interior; seats, console lid, dash, doors and steering wheel.
  • X-Runner exclusive decals, scuff plates and badges.
  • Satin Black Sports Bar.
  • Under Rail Tub Liner.
  • Rear Park Assist

Even though the X-Runner is, for the most part, a sticker pack on top of the LS-T, it is refreshing to get some sort of contrast and those X-Runner exclusive alloy wheels definitely help bring the aesthetics a bit into the 21st century.

The interior could do with a bit of a re-fresh (which thankfully will be coming courtesy of the new Isuzu D-MAX that is due toward the end of the year) but whilst it’s still playing in the current league of utes available from other manufacturers, it misses the mark for keeping up with the current crop. One detail that was sorely missed was the lack of ISOFIX anchor points. There are also no changes to the 8.0-inch touch-screen infotainment system (7.0-inch screen for SX and LS-M), with a very basic and user friendly menu layout with big buttons to access the various applications. Sadly though, there is no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. On the positive side though, it does include sat-nav and a rear-view camera.

But if you’re more of a no frills, just need something to get the job done kinda guy, the D-MAX X-Runner will be a ute you can depend on for years to come. At the end of the day, like it’s MU-X SUV sibling, Isuzu does a great job in fitting out their vehicles with everything occupants would need, rather than some of the fancy tech stuff that some people merely want. Not to mention that it comes with one of the best warranty plans on the market at the moment – Isuzu’s new six-year/150,000km warranty coverage, which includes six years roadside assistance, and seven years capped-price servicing (up to 105,000km). Scheduled servicing costs total up to only $3600 over the course of seven years. That service plan alone is going to win some buyers over.

Driving the X-Runner around for a couple of weeks, we found it to be pretty comfortable (for a ute) – it takes a while for your body to find a good driving position but when you do, you definitely get the feeling that you wouldn’t be too sore after a long road trip.

There are also quite a number of storage compartments and drink holders for those long road trips too, with fair size bottle holders in the doors, pull-out cup holders from the dash, and two more cup holders in the centre console. There is also a fair-sized storage box that doubles as an armrest between the front occupants.

Rear seating was definitely adequate in terms of legroom, headroom and facilities. Rear occupants will also find a discreet USB port in the back of the centre console, and there is also a flip-out cup holder for all rear occupants to make use of.

Whilst we’re on the subject of storage though, it must be said that we did find the tray in front of the gear selector a bit hit and miss. It will hold your smartphone, but as soon as you come to a corner or some speed bumps, you can almost guarantee it will slide out. Tough and hard-wearing plastic are certainly a great offering from a durability point of view, and is probably expected in the lower model variants, but I can’t help but feel it does take away the sense of prestige and “uniqueness” that should be presented in a flagship variant. Even just a neatly fitted, non-slip rubber pad there would have been a nice addition. It’s the little things.

Engine: 3.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder
Output: 130kW at 3600rpm / 430Nm between 2000 and 2200rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto
Drive Type: Part-time four-wheel drive
Wheels: 18×7.0, 255/60/R18
ANCAP: Five Star Safety Rating
Tare Weight: 1970kg
Power-to-Weight: 15.15:1 (kg:kW)
Official Fuel Economy: 7.9L/100km
Fuel Capacity/Type: 76L/Diesel
Price: $54,990 Drive Away

So how does the X-Runner stack up in terms of driving and handling? In short, very well. It feels somewhat lighter than some of the it’s competitors to drive on the road, and there is surprisingly a decent amount of feedback through the steering wheel, even though the steering itself can feel a bit on the heavier side at low speeds. Ride quality as a whole we’d say is pretty decent, keeping in mind that it is a leaf-spring live axle arrangement, and body roll is definitely kept to a minimum.

The highly trusted 3.0-litre (4JJ1-TC) does tend to be a bit noisy past 2500rpm (which appears more apparent in stop start traffic and pulling away from stop signs) but majority of buyers and loyal owners are happy to take that if it means they get a solid, trustworthy, hardworking Ute in return, and it we’re being honest, once you are cruising along the highway at 110km/h – it’s pretty easy to have a conversation without shouting across the cabin.

But then that mechanical, agricultural and dare way say it, superb engine is exactly what the D-MAX is renowned for. There was actually a lengthy discussion amongst colleagues when we took the D-MAX to Bribie Island along with a Volkswagen Amarok Highline, a Ford Ranger XLT and a Toyota Hilux. I made the comment that one of the things I liked personally about the D-MAX is that it’s honest. “What do you mean it’s honest?” was the response from my colleagues. What I mean by it’s honest, is that there are no frills, no fancy gadgets, sensors, and other gizmo’s to make drivers lazy and think they can get through everything on autopilot. The D-MAX does exactly what it says in the brochure and what you’ve read online. It will go where you need it to go, in relative comfort, and bring you home safely, ready to do it all again tomorrow – without any warning lights along the way.

Off the tarmac the X-Runner is very capable, straight off the showroom floor, with ground clearance of 235mm, an approach angle of 30 degrees, a ramp-over angle of 22.3 degrees and a departure angle of 22.7 degrees. If it’s your first taste of a dual cab 4×4 Ute, you will definitely enjoy the simplicity of the drive modes and running gear, while more experienced drivers will enjoy making use the available High and Low range transfer case, as well as the electronic brake-style rear differential and the standard hill descent control. One down side that we do have to bring up is the fact that both differentials are completely open, there is no differential locker or LSD in available. However, the D-MAX’s overall ability through fairly challenging and dedicated off-road tracks is definitely sufficient and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

In the end, it’s no surprise the Isuzu D-MAX continues to find buyers in the dual-cab 4×4 segment, looking for a highly dependable and durable Ute. Yes, it is showing obvious signs of age in some key areas (don’t worry, a new model is on the way), however, the 3.0L turbo-diesel engine continues to be a one of the best engines around, and makes the Isuzu D-MAX a very strong contender in its class. If you can get your hands on some of the remaining X-Runners around, we think it’s a no-brainer to step up to it from the LS-T.

Even if you didn’t spend the extra on the X-Runner, save some money by going for an LS-U or an LS-M, and spend whatever you managed to save on modifications such as some Locking differentials to help solve the traction issues off-road (if you’re a bit more serious), and some beefed up suspension and all-terrain tyres would definitely improve its ability even more.

  • 7/10
    Value for Money (Price, Packaging and Practicality) - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Driving Dynamics (Engine, Chassis and Drivetrain) - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Exterior Styling - 7.5/10
  • 6.5/10
    Interior Styling and Technology - 6.5/10
  • 7/10
    X-Factor - 7/10
7/10

Summary

The Isuzu D-MAX X-Runner is a solid contender and should be on your list to check out, should you be in the market for a dual-cab 4×4 Ute.  Beyond the cosmetic add ons, there is not much to distinguish it from the regular D-Max line up – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But for now, until the new D-MAX arrives, the X-Runner definitely makes a suitable limited-edition for the rugged and dependable brand’s Ute line up.

What we liked:

On and Off-Road Ride and Comfort.

X-Runner Package adds some style and a bit of ruggedness.

Warranty and Service Plan.

The Reliability of the 3.0-litre Turbo Diesel.

What we didn’t like:

The engine can be a bit noisy, especially higher in the rev range, and does feel a bit lethargic at times. 

Lack of Dual Zone Climate Control – even in top of the range, limited edition trim level.

No ISOFIX.

Definitely some updated tech and standard safety features such as AEB, Adaptive Cruise, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, Lane Departure Warning (hopefully in the near future for the next version)

Interior is starting to look a bit dated, especially compared to it’s competitors. 

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